855.24/4–645: Telegram

The Ambassador in the Soviet Union (Harriman) to the Secretary of State

806 [10571]. From the Department’s 775, April 3, 11 a.m., which was apparently addressed to some other mission and repeated to Moscow,43 I note that the Department does not favor any broadening of the principles under which SHAEF44 is now authorizing exportation from Germany of commodities, including civilian supplies. The Department points out in this connection that a Restitution Commission to [Page 1191] deal with return of identifiable property taken by Germans is being discussed in EAC and that early consideration by the Reparations Commission in Moscow of interim program and machinery for reparation exports is expected. The Department lays stress on its desire to retard crystallization of independent policies in advance of agreement with the Russians.

I have no desire to enter into the question of what supplies it may be desirable to remove from Germany to other areas of western Europe, which is clearly a responsibility of SHAEF. I do wish to stress, however, that we would only be penalizing ourselves if we were to go on the assumption that by voluntarily restricting our own policies in these matters we could exercise any influence on the policies of the Russians during this interim period. We have no reason to doubt that the Russians are already busily removing from Germany without compunction anything which they find it to their advantage to remove. We have heard of numerous examples of this sort of practice. In many instances such removals are probably considered by the Russians as restitution, although there is no evidence that the items removed are restricted to those which can be proved to have been previously removed from USSR. Red Star, official press organ of the Red Army, has made it clear furthermore, that Russian soldiers are to regard material treasures captured in Germany as state property and that there will be no hesitation in turning the productive facilities of the occupied territory at once to Russian uses. There is little that is reprehensible or even surprising in this; but the point I wish to emphasize is that the Russians do not dream of placing any restraints on their policies in this respect out of a fastidious regard for possible further international engagements, and we would accordingly not be justified in assuming that any forebearance on our side would serve to retard the crystallization of an independent Russian policy along these lines.

Nor do I consider that we would be justified, from the standpoint of American interests, in banking on the achievement of early agreement with the Russians concerning restitution and reparations. While the establishment of a Restitution Commission may indeed be under discussion in EAC I am told by the British that that body has not met since the end of January and I do not have the impression here that the Russian interest in the establishment of such a commission is sufficient[ly] lively to warrant hope that it will be functioning at any early date. As far as the Reparation Commission is concerned it is not expected that its work will be completed in the near future and furthermore it is only to make recommendations to the respective governments. Therefore the crystallization of our policy in the interim period should not be delayed awaiting the results of the Commission’s work.

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Altogether, therefore, I do not think that SHAEF should go on the assumption that the interim period which must elapse before agreement can be reached on these two questions with the Russians will be brief; and I think we must reckon that as long as it lasts Russian action with respect to the removal of property of all sorts from Germany will be governed solely by what Moscow conceives to be the interests of the Soviet Union.

  1. Same as telegram 247 to Brussels, vol. iv, p. 98.
  2. Supreme Headquarters, Allied Expeditionary Force.