740.00119 Control (Germany)/6–446

The Director of the Civil Affairs Division of the War Department (Echols) to the Assistant Secretary of State for Occupied Areas (Hilldring)

Dear Mr. Hilldring: I am returning your draft of a proposed cable to USFET59 with reference to Control Council Order No. 4 which deals with the confiscation of books60 and the related directive of the Coordinating Committee concerning military and Nazi war memorials and museums61 forwarded to me on 31 May 1946. It is recommended that the proposed cable in its present form not be dispatched.

On 22 May on its own initiative, the War Department wrote General Clay with regard to the aspects involving civil liberties inherent in Order No. 4 and the legislation dealing with the liquidation of German military and Nazi memorials and museums. General Clay’s reply in substance covered the following points:

In pursuance to U.S. policy the circulation of Nazi and militaristic books has been prevented since the arrival of the Army in Germany and it has been illegal for public booksellers to have books of the type mentioned in Order No. 4. Hundreds of thousands have already gone into the pulp mill. Hundreds of thousands of textbooks have been removed from the German schools to be replaced by books approved by Military Government, and while approval of school [Page 678] texts by the Military Government could be considered infringement on civil liberties, no one would advocate continuation of use of Nazi textbooks and teachers. All Nazi and militaristic books in libraries have been segregated since the beginning of the occupation and when the question of what to do with those segregated books was raised, it was his view that the worst of those books should not be allowed to remain in Germany but should also be placed in the pulp mills. This does not mean a destruction of all these books as copies had already been included in the Library of Congress accumulation. He said that it was obvious that there was not going to be any public book burning exhibition in the U.S. Zone. Similarly he went on to say judgment will be required in the destruction of Nazi and militaristic memorials. Actually in the U.S. Zone, the great majority of the Nazi memorials and signs have already been destroyed. Those who could condemn the Control Council Order would be equally quick to condemn a carved swastika left on a German building. He further stated that the book destruction measure seemed more unpopular in the United States than in Germany, as some responsible German liberals who have always opposed Nazism have consistently favored the removal of Nazi literature from Germany or its destruction. Finally, he was successful in overcoming the insistence of two other governments that the book measure include private libraries which would require a search of private homes. He pointed out that success in preventing the adoption of the private library section was at the expense of the destruction of public collections.

Mr. Heath of the Political Advisors Staff in a cable on the 16th of May62 said that information control services in Germany believe they have already acquired the majority of Nazi literature on booksellers’ and circulating libraries’ shelves. He further stated, “Importantly it agreed in Drafting Committee that since Order No. 4 is addressed to German people and not to zone commanders, it does not prohibit present practice of assembling collections of Nazi material in reference and university libraries for the use of qualified students. The order requires that Nazi and militarist literature be placed at the disposal of military authorities for destruction, but does not enjoin the latter to dispose of all such material. Destruction will be exclusively by pulping to provide paper for new textbooks, newspapers, modern or reprint material. Consequently no destruction in degree publicized by the press will take place and no essential changes will take place in the present procedures and policies”.

It should also be mentioned that a similar policy has already been enforced in Japan where textbooks and other publications containing [Page 679] ultranationalistic and militaristic doctrines, especially in courses in morals, Japanese history and geography were confiscated through the Japanese government and pulped as paper stock for new and democratic textbooks.

The proposed cable, if dispatched, would undoubtedly embarrass General Clay in quadripartite circles since it could be regarded as non-concurrence in his judgment by the United States Government.

Further the draft indicates that certain provisions are undesirable but does not define what those undesirable provisions are. Finally it would require that no action be taken in the U.S. Zone on an Order which has already been published and is being implemented.

It would appear that most of the objections to the Order and the directive have been caused by the poor public relations job done in allowing such an important story to be released by Miss Cox, Assistant to the U.S. Member of the Allied Military Directorate. The references in the press to “burning of books” and the likening of the order to Nazi practices were most unfortunate.

I would recommend therefore that the most feasible action at this time would be a cable to General Clay requesting that the implementation of this order be carried out substantially in accordance with the ideas expressed in both his and Mr. Heath’s cables and that a full explanation of this program be made to the American press in Germany in order that it be clearly understood that no “burning of the books” or “witch hunts” are contemplated.


O. P. Echols

Major General, USA
  1. Not printed; the first sentence of this draft cable, dated May 31, reads as follows: “Control Council Order No. 4 and recent directive on military and Nazi memorials and museums are so sweeping in import that Govt wishes to study these questions further before endorsing them as policy.” (740.00119 Control (Germany)/6–446.
  2. For text of this Order on Confiscation of Literature and Material of a Nazi and Militarist Nature, May 13, 1946, see Official Gazette of the Control Council for Germany, No. 7 (May 31, 1946), p. 151.
  3. The Directive referred to dealt with the Liquidation of German Military and Nazi Memorials and Museums, approved by the Coordinating Committee at its 54th meeting, May 13, for promulgation to the Zonal Commanders and the Allied Kommandatura (740.00119 Control (Germany)/5–2246).
  4. Not printed.