The Ambassador in France (Caffery) to the Secretary of State
[Received June 6—12:13 p.m.]
3318. Klieforth requests that I transmit following message for him, brought from Prague by courier.
2. June 3, noon.
Please forward code text of following message to BBC9 State:
1. The return of this mission to Prague on May 29 was greeted with real joy by all classes of people. The President and Prime Minister personally expressed to me their great satisfaction and obvious relief over our arrival. [At] the first state luncheon given by the President since his return, on the occasion of a Czech military parade on May 30, the Americans who were present with me received the major attention, almost to the point of embarrassment.
The first notice in the press of the arrival of this mission, however, was limited to a 20 word statement which appeared on May 30 that I was received by the President. Then on June 2 was published on the second pages a short account of the reestablishment of the Embassy. The news was delayed by the censor under Russian control. None of the Czech correspondents have been permitted, thus far, to interview us or even to take photographs.
2. President Beneš enjoys a high degree of popularity even in Slovakia and is the outstanding man in the country. The people regard him as the only person capable of solving the difficulties of the country. His position now compares with that of Masaryk10 in 1918. His popularity amazes and impresses the Russians. He told me that he would be able to hold this support provided the Germans remaining in Czechoslovakia are deported almost immediately. This measure was urgent and important, he said, to get the country back on its feet, as with the removal of the Germans he hoped that it would also terminate the Russian and American military occupation.[Page 456]
The President is being urged from all sides, including Communists, to seek dictatorial powers but he assured me that the “future of Czechoslovakia is in democracy” and of his firm intention of adhering to democratic procedure and to the early reestablishment of constitutional govt. I am convinced that this too is the general feeling of the people.
3. The establishment of order since liberation day of May 9 has made amazing progress and the present Govt as well as the National Committee[s]11 deserves a great deal of credit. Communication within the country is being rapidly reestablished excepting in Slovakia where it is slow due to the destruction of railroad bridges.
4. While the Red Army was greeted enthusiastically as liberators by the Czech people, its popularity has waned rapidly because of its policy of living off the country and its general licentious conduct. The Russian Army is under relaxed discipline and the average soldier is anxious to return home. Even the Russian Ambassador admitted this to me. The American forces are more popular in their occupied zone because they are well behaved and live mainly from their own supplies.
5. The Czech Government exercises a great deal of administrative authority but major decisions seemingly are controlled by Moscow or by the Czech Communists functioning in the National Committees. Local and provincial affairs are strongly controlled by the National Committees. The number of Communists in federal and local organizations is probably larger at present than is justified by the popularity of the party.
6. The first UNRRA shipment reached Prague on June 1 but the local press has given all the credit to Russia for its arrival and for any improvement in food conditions which it may bring.
7. The financial situation is exceedingly complicated due to the inability of the Govt to stabilize the currency and establish a rate of exchange. The President told me that stabilization was difficult without the aid of an American loan.12 Its delay slows the restoration of industry as manufacturers fear to unload existing stocks on an uncertain money market.
8. President Beneš told me that he greatly desires American forces to remain for the present and considers it important that their eventual withdrawal be synchronized with that of the Russian forces, although he desires to see both forces leave as soon as possible. This viewpoint is shared by all Czechs except the ardent Communists. It is exceedingly important, not only from the Czech viewpoint but from American prestige, to withdraw our troops at exactly the same time as the Russians. I trust I may be instructed to convey to the President as soon as possible your instructions on this subject. Presence of American forces in Pilsen at present is also highly useful to this mission as [Page 457] a base of communications and supplies and also contributes to the prestige in Czechoslovakia of the Western Allies thus tending in some degree to offset the predominant Soviet influence.
- Not further identified.↩
- Thomas Garrigue Masaryk, first President of the Czechoslovak Republic.↩
- Národní výbory, temporary organs of local public administration during the period following liberation.↩
- For documentation regarding the negotiations with Czechoslovakia regarding a possible loan, see pp. 549 ff.↩