740.00119 Control (Germany)/3–146: Telegram

The Ambassador in France (Caffery) to the Secretary of State


1003. For the Secretary. In connection with the question of centralized administration in Germany it is becoming increasingly clear that the main French opposition now comes from Bidault and the Foreign Ministry. Although it was generally believed that the French refusal to discuss central administrations in Germany until Germany’s western frontiers were delimited was De Gaulle’s43 own policy this is not entirely correct. The French policy was formulated by Bidault and the Foreign Ministry and was enthusiastically accepted by De Gaulle. While De Gaulle was still chief of government, certain officials were inclined to place the blame for the negative French attitude on centralized administrations on his shoulders. Now, however, they admit that De Gaulle and Bidault saw eye to eye on German policy and that it is now the latter who is firmly opposed to any policy change.

Bidault’s main argument is that, if Germany’s western frontiers are not delimited before centralized administrations are set up, there will not be the slightest chance for the French views on the Ruhr, Rhineland and Saar to prevail. That is, Bidault feels that if these areas are under the jurisdiction of centralized administrations it will be impossible, when Germany’s western boundaries are finally settled, to detach politically these areas from Germany at that time. He also believes that unless these areas are separated politically and economically from Germany they will in the future, as in the past, serve as a springboard for aggression against France: not German as such but from a Russian-dominated Germany. In contrast to Bidault’s views, the Socialist leadership, particularly Blum,44 are in general opposed to the idea of a partition of Germany although, somewhat paradoxically, they favor the political separation of the Rhineland, Ruhr and Saar from the rest of Germany as a security measure. Despite this latter view they have not taken any strong stand against the establishing of central German administrations and, as I have reported, have on occasions criticized the “negative” policy of France in Germany.

With the foregoing in mind and since the Socialists largely dominate the present French Govt, I have been persuading them, particularly [Page 510] Blum, Auriol45 and Gouin,46 to go along with us on centralized German administrations. Despite the fact that the Socialists know that any apparent abandonment of the past French policy will probably be very unpopular with the mass of the French public and will expose them, at this critical moment preceding elections, to criticism from the other political groups which are interested in reducing their influence, they (particularly Blum) have made a real and courageous effort to meet our requirements.

For example, when Bidault returned from London Gouin told him that in view of the importance of America to France, the French must modify their position on Germany. Bidault protested energetically but finally agreed to submit a compromise plan. A Foreign Ministry official says in confidence that he did so several days ago but the plan offered was apparently only a slight modification of the previous French position. Gouin rejected it and told Bidault he would have to go further. Bidault was annoyed but submitted a revised plan. This was also returned to him by Gouin, since it did not go sufficiently far to meet our desires. At this point Bidault became angry and upon returning to his Ministry informed Chauvel47 and other high-ranking officials that if the Socialists tried to push him too far on this matter and tried to force him to support a plan which he considered unsound and against France’s best interests, he would resign from the government rather than go against his principles (my 923, Feb. 2648). He nonetheless submitted to Gouin, the day before yesterday, a plan which he described to one of his Foreign Ministry colleagues as his “last effort to try to formulate a mutually satisfactory compromise.” This plan is apparently along the general lines outlined in the first part of my 981, Feb 28.49

While the Socialist leadership really wishes to reach satisfactory agreement with us—particularly since they feel that if they do not the Blum mission to the United States might be less successful in obtaining substantial credits from us—they are nonetheless in a difficult position since they cannot afford to take the risk of Bidault resigning, [Page 511] which would in turn probably cause a major governmental crisis, possibly involving the withdrawal of the MRP from the tripartite coalition. In view of their heavy governmental responsibility the Socialists wish at all costs to avoid a rupture of the present tripartite truce, particularly one for which they might be held responsible. Should Bidault resign (I personally do not think he will) basing his withdrawal upon Socialist abandonment of legitimate French interests, the Socialist Party would be in a very serious position at a very critical time. (In this connection some of the Center and Rightist press have already published derogatory articles hinting that Blum may abandon French security requirements in Germany in order to obtain a substantial US loan which will enhance his personal prestige and which the Socialist Party will use for political capital in the elections.)

In the light of the foregoing and despite the efforts of the Socialists, in the absence of some new development it does not appear at this juncture that the French will be disposed to go further than as generally outlined in my Feb 28, in replying to your message to Bidault. The French reply is being discussed in the Council of Ministers today.

While I shall, of course, continue my efforts with Bidault to bring about a further evolution in French thinking, it seems apparent that a crisis involving the withdrawal of the MRP from the tripartite coalition on the issue of French policy on Germany is not at all desirable since a widening of the breach between the Socialists and the MRP would certainly be capitalized on by the Communists to urge the Socialists to go along with them, and also since elements hostile to us, in an effort to damage our position, might play it up as a direct intervention in French internal affairs.

In other words, it would definitely appear unwise at this juncture for me to press this matter further with the Socialist leaders.50

  1. Gen. Charles de Gaulle had resigned as Provisional President of the French Republic in January.
  2. Léon Blum was head of the French mission to the United States to negotiate economic and financial agreements; for documentation on these negotiations, see pp. 399 ff.
  3. Vincent Auriol, President of the French Constituent Assembly.
  4. Felix Gouin, Provisional President of the French Republic and Minister of Defence.
  5. Jean Chauvel, Secretary General, French Ministry for Foreign Affairs.
  6. Not printed.
  7. Not printed; in this telegram, Ambassador Caffery reported on press articles which made mention of a possible French compromise plan on German central agencies. The pertinent part of the telegram reads as follows: “This [compromise plan] would involve French acceptance of the creation in Germany of ‘ministerial departments whose authority would extend over all former German territory’. These Departments would be of a purely administrative and technical character and would not govern the country directly but would have an essentially consultative role, all the decisions being taken by an Inter-Allied Commission which would be a sort of extension of the actual Inter-Allied Control Council. Furthermore, the Control Council would have delegates in all the Ministries.” (740.00119 Control (Germany)/2–2846)
  8. Department’s telegram 984, March 2, 5 p.m., to Paris, replied that indeed the French “should not be pressed to a point where there is real danger of Bidault’s resignation and of a split in the coalition government which could rightly or wrongly be attributed to our intervention and which would have wide political ramifications in France.” (740.00119 Control (Germany)/3–146)