740.0011 E.W./4–1145: Telegram

The Minister in Sweden (Johnson) to the Secretary of State


1356. My 932 of March 9, midnight.4 Olsen had a several hours conference with Kleist5 yesterday afternoon on the same prearranged understanding as his discussion with Hesse;5a i.e., that the exchange of views would be exclusively on humanitarian subjects and would be entirely personal without political implication. As a matter of fact, Kleist indicated every possible inclination to restrict the discussion precisely to that basis. He spoke with the outward assurance of a person having extremely solid connections at the highest policy levels, expressed his views with the competence of a person intimately familiar with a subject matter from which he did not intend to be diverted, and in general Olsen found him considerably more difficult to penetrate than Hesse.

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Olsen suggested that he did not consider it inappropriate to express his inability to understand Germany’s objective in continuing a war which all its top leaders including Kleist readily concede is [Page 754] hopelessly lost. It was added that the stubbornness of the German High Command not only was exacting a murderous toll of German civilians and property but soon would create a situation where the High Command would not have even the honor and dignity of surrender. Reference was made to General Eisenhower’s recent statement that perhaps the Allies themselves would have to declare that a state of war no longer existed in Germany, and that the small groups of isolated resisters would simply be hunted by an international posse as we hunt and corner bandits in the United States. Kleist, his fingers tightening slightly on the arm of the chair, replied that surrender was simply out of the question—even among the civilians. He added that Allied propaganda had been “too frank” to afford the Germans any delusion of hope for the future. He said that the German civilian knows that he is eating today, perhaps not very well, but that he has no idea what he will get in exchange for surrender tomorrow. He then made specific reference to the Allies inability to feed even the friendly areas they had liberated. Olsen replied that, on the basis of a personal humanitarian point of view, he certainly couldn’t see how a senseless prolongation of the war would improve the situation and that as a matter of fact Kleist had supplied the strongest possible support to General Eisenhower’s recent advice to the Germans to resume planting of crops as quickly as possible. On the contrary, prolongation of the war was only destroying any possibilities of Germany being able to feed itself.

The discussion swung briefly to the occupation of Germany and Kleist described as the “purest nonsense” propaganda about Germany continuing underground resistance as “werewolves”. He stated that in the first place if the Allies establish any intelligent type of administration and secure the cooperation of accepted German civilian groups the “werewolf” problem can be stamped out promptly—simply by putting a clamp on a city and insisting that these undesirable elements be apprehended and delivered say within 48 hours. In the second place he added, the German mentality is completely unsuited for underground activity—it must be more open and flamboyant to appeal to the German sense of dignity. He pointed out that the National Socialist Party has never had to function as a suppressed underground group such as political movements in certain other European countries and therefore has no background at all in this type of activity. He emphasized that the Allies would encounter no serious administrative problems at the outset, from underground elements, but that its real test would come a year or two after occupation. Any failure to provide order and workable living conditions would by then produce a resistance movement of proportions which [Page 755] would present serious administrative problems. He mentioned particularly the problems of food supply adding that the German population had moved in large numbers into the western provinces, first in order to get away from the Russian military advance but more recently to get into areas which have been designated for British and American occupation. This would present a critical problem of congestion and food supply since the eastern areas vacated were the source of Germany’s food products in normal times.

Kleist then mentioned his own experience with the administration of occupied countries. He said that in both Russia and Europe the Germans repeated the same fatal mistake—that of attempting to control an area by a government composed exclusively of German party members. He said that nowhere could the Germans maintain order by these methods and that it spawned underground resistance. Furthermore the Germans never were able to obtain “workers” only “slaves”, which were a constant menace to internal order. He said that entirely different results would have been attained had the Germans searched out acceptable local elements and used them to enlist local cooperation. As a matter of fact he added it was precisely on that point that he had sharp clashes on administrative policies in the Baltic countries. He concluded that it is a very important lesson for the Allies to learn in the occupation of Germany.

Olsen feels that these discussions have progressed to the point where it is now possible to identify the following objectives of at least some high level groups in Germany:

They are obviously terrified of Russian occupation of Germany and are hoping that, by demonstrating certain humanitarian inclinations at this time, perhaps the British and Americans will endeavor to lighten the more severe and repressive measures proposed by the Russians in occupying Germany.
They are sending certain ace representatives out to establish contact with the Allies, more or less as a “putting best foot forward” proposition, with the hope that such persons will be able to demonstrate their usefulness in the occupation of Germany.
Certain groups are establishing for reserve a possible non-military channel of offering unconditional surrender. They would be inclined to consider such channels perhaps more desirable from the point of view of prestige and face saving.
The ever present hope of compromising the British and Americans with the Russians has become rather remotely considered. Kleist made virtually no reference to the Russians.

  1. Not printed.
  2. Bruno P. Kleist, Deputy Director in the Reich Ministry for Occupied Eastern Territories.
  3. Fritz Hesse of the German Foreign Ministry, on special mission in Sweden.