840.414/10–2545: Telegram

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

838. Reference my 823, October 21, 1 p.m. and Department’s 564 of September 28. In a long discussion this morning on subject Foreign Office documents, General Clay informed me that he had recently told the British General Robertson1 that he, Clay, had no objection to the transfer of German Foreign Office documents to British occupied area and British jurisdiction. General Clay feels that [Page 1125] having given a definite promise to the British he cannot agree to change this unless he is reversed by higher authority. In describing the reasons for his promise to the British, General Clay said that he had invited the Russians and French to inspect all documents at the MCC near Kassel on a truly quadripartite basis. When the British objected to showing Foreign Office documents, he saw as a solution the transfer of these documents into the British zone of occupation where the British would assume responsibility for safekeeping and the United States continue its right of complete access. General Clay feels that in this way the United States will continue to operate on a strictly quadripartite basis as far as documents are concerned and the British be forced to accept full responsibility for refusal to participate in a quadripatite exploitation of Foreign Office documents. He feels that British are entitled to elect such action by virtue of the joint nature of enterprise. He pointed out that these documents happened to be in the American zone by British-American mutual agreement. I understand General Clay’s viewpoint quite clearly, knowing his strong desires to develop a sound and workable quadripartite basis for military government in Germany. However, I did call to his attention certain disadvantages in the decision he has taken, namely:

The Russians are fully aware of the existence and present location of these documents. Any shifting of the documents into British control with continued participation on our part and to which the Russians are excluded might well be the basis of suspicion that we have not dealt honestly with them. The fact that the documents are in British control hardly relieves us from responsibility as long as we participate with the British in the exploiting of these documents.
In addition, I feel that turning over these documents to the British would in some sense be an admission that we are unable to cope with the problem.
The requirements of statutory prohibition against alienating or destroying archives should be complied with before such transfer is made. See title 44 US Code section 380. (On this point, General Clay stated as his opinion that the documents were under jurisdiction of the Allied Control Council and not the United States.)

So far as we know or anticipate, there are no documents in the Foreign Office collection which will prove embarrassing to the United States. From our present viewpoint there should be no objection to permitting Russian and French participation. However, in order to meet the British view, I suggested in my 823 of October 21 that these documents be screened, including necessary sorting, prior to release on a quadripartite basis.

My suggestion, however, did not envisage any disposition of the documents which would result in destruction or continued impounding detrimental to legitimate access for political or historical studies [Page 1126] pending final determination of policy with respect to the whole of the German Foreign Office archives. I am therefore reluctant to agree with General Clay’s decision to alienate immediate control of these documents until I see clearly what will be done with them. Unless the Department desires to take steps to reverse the decision of General Clay, these documents will be transferred to British jurisdiction. The views and decision of the Department are requested.

  1. Lt. Gen. Brian Robertson, Deputy Military Governor of the British Zone in Germany.