740.00119 Control (Germany)/10–245: Telegram

The United States Political Adviser for Germany (Murphy) to the Secretary of State

666. The seventh meeting of the Control Council was held on October 1, with General Koenig presiding.

The first and principal matter discussed was the proposed law setting up a German external property commission and vesting title of the property in the commission (see my 569, September 20, 10 p.m. and my 614, September 26[25], 11 a.m. [1 a.m.]).

General Robertson stated his Government’s objections to the proposed law as follows:

Legal objections: The proposed law by itself has no effect and will be valid in neutral countries only with the cooperation of those governments and of their courts of law. As the law now stands and without assurance of support by neutral governments, it merely gives Germans in neutral countries a chance to claim that the Council is expropriating and confiscating their property, which is just what they want. The British have already sounded out neutral governments on this matter and these governments have questioned the legal basis for the law. Even if the legal grounds for the law were accepted, the British Government would not welcome the establishment of a precedent that title to property in one country could be affected by decrees of another government. Thus, the proposed law would appear to be valueless and actually harmful from a legal point of view.
Tactical objections: The proposed law would be effective if supported by neutral governments. At the present time, British Government is attempting to secure this support by arguing that this property offers some small compensation to the United Nations for the sacrifices they have made for the cause of freedom. Accordingly, all neutral governments should give the law their support on moral grounds. This moral argument which may succeed would be defeated by the present publication of the law commission raising the legal issues. Moreover, far from preventing the concealment of assets, it would give warning and strongly encourage such concealment.
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General Robertson admitted that the matter could not be postponed indefinitely, and stressed the value placed by his Government upon unanimity of action by the Control Council, which he said was worth more than any other consideration.

General Koenig recognized the force of General Robertson’s arguments and stated he was obliged to refer the matter to his Government which he would do as quickly as possible, recognizing that the matter could not be postponed indefinitely.

General Eisenhower argued: (a) That the four powers had already created one new precedent in international law, namely the Nazi war criminals trials before an international tribunal. Accordingly, he had no objection to setting other new precedents; (b) that the holders of German foreign assets were the “big shots” who must [most?] deserve punishment. It is necessary, from the point of world public opinion as well as justice, to reach these foreign assets so as to prevent such major war criminals from living comfortable lives abroad later; (c) that his reason for favoring the law is that it represents a clear move before world public opinion by the four powers jointly to punish the “big shots” as well as the “small fry”. He stated that under section III, paragraph 18 of the Potsdam Agreement, “appropriate” steps are necessary to this end, and it is necessary to determine what these steps are. He was willing to postpone the matter for a reasonable time for study of this question, and meanwhile, to press the four govts for the development of further measures.

General Sokolovsky took a strong position against legal arguments,, saying he agreed with General Eisenhower that international law is not a fixed matter. He believed that world public opinion required it.. He referred to Paragraph 18 of Section III of Potsdam Agreement which says Council must act, and asked whether we were now to ignore this section and were to wait while the four govts settled things through diplomatic channels. He argued vigorously with General Robertson as to the scope of Paragraph 18.

The matter was referred back to the Legal Directorate, with consultation with the Finance Directorate, and General Robertson stated that he would offer some legal amendments. General Sokolovsky stressed the interest of the Finance Directorate in the matter.

On the Transport Directorate’s proposal to set a central transport administration,7 General Koenig made a statement8 covering the French concern with this matter and French reservations arising from France’s exclusion from Potsdam. He said that only at the current Foreign Ministers’ meeting in London had France had an opportunity [Page 844] to exchange ideas with her Allies. General Koenig had been instructed that he could agree to no decision which might prejudice or otherwise affect the settlement of the Rhine-Westphalia regions which were considered at London.9 He indicated that the French position is that the proposed central administration might affect this question. Accordingly, he was forced to request that the matter be postponed as he could not discuss it. He applied the same reasoning to the companion proposal concerning a central administration of communications and posts. The other members of the Council could therefore do nothing.

(M. de Leusse of the German Section of the French Foreign Office attended the meeting as an observer. In a frank conversation with me after the meeting he stated: (1) that the French want an autonomous govt in the Rhineland and Ruhr; (2) that they probably would not accept annexation of the territory west of the Rhine except the Saar; (3) they consider that it should be treated on the same basis as the giving of eastern German territory to Poland; (4) that they consider this question of very great importance and will hold out for it. He indicated that French opposition to the proposed central administrations is based upon the intention to force consideration of this matter. When I asked him whether this means a delay until the next Foreign Ministers’ meeting he replied that France would not delay and would press for settlement through the usual diplomatic channels.)

General Koenig suggested that the agreed three meetings of the Council be changed to two per month, on the first and sixteenth of each month. He pointed out that the machinery is working smoothly, that the Coordinating Committee is doing the hard work and that the Council does not therefore have enough business to warrant three meetings. He admitted that the three meeting system is set up in the agreement on control machinery in Germany, but felt that the Council could make this decision subject to contrary instructions from any of the four govts. Although General Robertson agreed, General Eisenhower feared a poor psychological reaction from the change and thought no change should be made until the govts had decided. General Sokolovsky agreed with General Eisenhower and it was decided to ask the views of the four govts. The Dept’s instructions are requested in this matter.10

General Eisenhower raised the question of the return to Germany of the 150,000 or more Germans now in the United States zone of [Page 845] Austria,11 the homes of a majority of whom are in the Soviet zone or in territory now under Polish administration. He referred to the policy of treating Austria better than Germany and stated the question was becoming critical in Austria and needed speedy consideration.

The question was referred to the Coordinating Committee to consider in connection with the general question of population transfers, with instructions not to delay the matter.

It was decided that the Coordinating Committee should consider the question of an integrated Allied secretariat so as to make a more efficient use of available personnel.

General Koenig raised the question of the desire of the Swiss and Yugoslav Govts to send delegations to Berlin as soon as possible, recommending this strongly to the other members.12 He was assured that the question is now under consideration. (The matter of the first 16 delegations will be considered on Wednesday, Oct. 3, at the Coordinating Committee meeting. Further delegations, including neutrals (as suggested in the Dept’s 569, Sept. 28, 8 p.m.13) will be discussed in the Political Directorate. A paper is now in preparation on this matter.)

  1. See supra.
  2. For General Koenig’s statement taken from the minutes of the meeting, see U.S. High Commissioner for Germany, Documents on German Unity, vol. i (Frankfurt/Main, 1951), p. 9.
  3. Reference is to the meeting of the Council of Foreign Ministers in London, September 11–October 2. For discussion of the questions of central administrative machinery for Germany and the disposition of Ruhr-Rhineland regions, see pp. 861 ff.
  4. In telegram 610, October 5, 5 p.m., to Berlin, the Acting Secretary informed Mr. Murphy that the Department supported General Eisenhower’s position and felt that the Control Council should continue to meet three times a month (740.00119 Control (Germany)/10–245).
  5. For documentation on this subject, see vol. ii, pp. 1227 ff.
  6. For documentation on this subject, see pp. 1084 ff.
  7. Post, p. 1096.