CFM Files: Lot M–88: Box 123: File—Mtg of ForMins

Minutes of a Meeting of Foreign Ministers, Quai d’Orsay, Paris, November 19, 1948, 4 p. m.1

top secret
  • Present: United States—Secretary Marshall
  • Ambassador Caffery
  • Mr. Bohlen
  • Mr. Jackson
  • France—Mr. Schuman
  • Mr. Couve de Murville
  • Mr. Alphand
  • Mr. Chauvel
  • Great Britain—Mr. McNeil (representing Mr. Bevin)
  • Ambassador Harvey
  • Mr. Nicholls
  • Sir I. Kirkpatrick

Mr. Schuman opened the discussion by saying that he wished to make it clear that the French have been kept fully informed regarding the trusteeship arrangements for the coal and steel industries which were announced in Germany on November 10th.2

He recognized that there had been discussion with the French. The particular aspect of the trusteeship laws which the French were concerned about was the paragraph in the preamble which states “Whereas the Military Government has decided that the question of the eventual ownership of the coal and iron and steel industries should be left to the determination of a representative, freely elected German Government.” The French could not accept that an important matter affecting all belligerents could be decided by two powers and he referred to the fact that after the last war comparable decisions had been made in [Page 518] the peace treaty negotiated by all the Allies. He recalled that the French Assembly in approving the London Agreements had reiterated the French view that there should be international ownership of these basic industries. The decision so stated by Military Government was in the French opinion an extremely dangerous decision, particularly since it related to a Central German Government. Never in the past had any German Government had such power and it was now proposed to bestow this important gift on a wholly unknown Government.

The French agreed on the necessity of reviving and promoting German production for the general benefit of European recovery. The French Government did not take a negative attitude. However, it felt that it was extremely unwise to take dangerous steps at the present time and to jeopardize the future. Precautions were necessary and we could not now take action which might result in Germany’s having a privileged position. These were the general problems which concerned the French.

There were two specific points:

The French felt that in the post-occupation period there should be a supervision of the management and direction of the Ruhr coal and steel industries. This was not a proposal for international management but for a power of supervision over management. Likewise, the French were anxious to be associated with the present system of controls over the coal and steel industries.
The French were concerned about the possibility that the suspension of reparations dismantling was to be applied to war industries, i.e., those which were to be prohibited or limited. The French had agreed to the examination by the Humphrey Committee but were concerned about the revival of war industries in Germany.3

Mr. Schuman said that he would supply an aide-mémoire containing the French points.4

Mr. McNeil first stated that in general the British Government understood the position of the French Government and was anxious to do anything that it could to help the French. In particular, he appreciated the moderation with which Mr. Schuman had expressed his views. There were five particular points which he wished to speak on.

Mr. Schuman had drawn the distinction between action by the Military Governors and the peace treaty procedure which had followed after the last war. Mr. McNeil expressed as his own view that it would be within the competence of any peace treaty to annul, revise or confirm the decisions made by the Military Governors. He pointed out that it was considered necessary to make the decision at the present time for reasons of German production and internal conditions. It would often be necessary for the Military Governors to take immediate action. It was his view, however, [Page 519] that any such decisions by the Military Governors could not be binding upon those who were preparing a peace treaty. If Mr. Schuman wanted to affirm the French view that the peace treaty would be a superior document, he felt that the British Government would not object. This did not mean that the British Government would necessarily agree to a change in the present status in the peace treaty.
With respect to the reservations made by the French after the London Conference last spring, he recognized that the reservations had been made but it was the British view that there had not been any agreement with respect to any such reservations and the British Government felt strongly that they had not acted in bad faith. The British felt that they were not bound by the reservations which the French had made. Perhaps the action in relation to the trusteeship had been clumsy, but it was not bad faith.
He referred to the principle agreed at London that the German Government should have a federal structure. He did not understand Mr. Schuman’s statement that the preamble to the trusteeship law was in conflict with the theory of the federal structure of a German state. He recalled that the London Agreements provided procedures to be followed in case the Germans who were drawing a constitution departed from the principles agreed in London and if this was what Mr. Schuman meant, the British would be glad to discuss the matter.5
With respect to supervision of management, it was his memory that this subject was included in the London Agreement and that the British were prepared to discuss this matter with the French and the U.S. There was another allied subject in the London Agreements, that of military security. He suggested that that matter might also be discussed.6
With respect to Mr. Schuman’s point on prohibited and limited industries, he could not make any offhand comment but would be anxious to see Mr. Schuman’s memorandum.

The Secretary first pointed out that this whole problem was one which involved many complications and that frankness in discussing it was essential. He understood the fear of the revival of the German war potential and the present complications in the position of the French Government.

With respect to the trusteeship matter, what was done in Frankfurt might have been somewhat clumsy but he wished to make clear that General Clay had represented the United States Government and had acted on the instructions of the United States Government.

Referring to the complications of the whole Ruhr problem, the Secretary enumerated the following:

The internal French political reaction to any matter involving the Ruhr.
The different points of view of the Governments involved—for example, the British Government policy favoring the nationalization of industries While the United States did not.
The German economy was recovering rapidly. Growth of German economic power posed a problem to neighboring countries quite outside the matter of war potential.
With respect to the dismantling of war plants, it was his impression that all direct war plants had been dismantled. But he pointed out that a number of plants could be used either for war purposes or for civilian purposes. As an example he mentioned plants for making nitrates. At the present time nitrate plants were being dismantled in Germany. At the same time the United States was buying nitrates to send into Germany.
With regard to the reparations removal program, the Secretary called attention to the fact that Mr. Hoffman, the ECA Administrator, had certain responsibilities imposed on him by the Economic Cooperation Act in this field. The matter was not directly in the hands neither of General Clay nor of the Secretary although of course their views would have some effect.
He then mentioned the fact that the United States was appropriating large sums of money for the support of Germany and that the recovery of the German economy was a matter of particular concern to us while we were paying the bills.

The Secretary then read the first page and a half of Department’s Telmar 175 of November 187 (leaving out certain sentences). He expressed the view that this telegram was an adequate resume of the U.S. position with respect to the Ruhr industries up to the time of the London Conference. He referred to the fact that Ambassador Caffery had written a letter to Mr. Schuman outlining the events of the summer and early fall.

Referring to the specific points made by the French, the Secretary stated unequivocally that the United States Government would not knowingly be involved in any procedure which would re-establish German power to a dangerous degree. The question of the proper steps to be taken with relation to Germany, however, involved matters of judgment. The views of those who were neighbors of Germany and who had suffered invasion would be different from those who were further away. The Secretary stressed the point that the United States always tried to recognize these differences and to take them into account.

The Secretary referred to a suggestion regarding the French joining the coal and steel control groups in Germany. He felt that the United States could agree to the French becoming parties to those groups without waiting for full trizonal fusion. The Secretary had not quite understood what Mr. McNeil suggested with regard to the Security [Page 521] Board but he assured Mr. Schuman that the United States would cooperate in whatever Mr. McNeil had suggested. The Secretary referred to the immediate political problems which were embarrassing to the French Government and stated that we would do whatever we could to assist the French Government.

Mr. Schuman expressed his pleasure at the spirit of frankness and friendliness which had prevailed ill the discussion. He felt that the basic points of view of the three countries were not far apart and that the studies which were in process on several points should continue. With respect to Mr. McNeil’s statement that a peace treaty was superior to and could supersede any decision of the Military Governors, Mr. Schuman agreed and he felt that it would be extremely helpful if the three Governments could issue a statement of that sort to be drafted later.

With regard to Mr. McNeil’s references to possible bad faith, he wished to assure Mr. McNeil that he had not intended to make any such inferences. He agreed that at London there had been no agreement to hold the question of ownership open, merely a recognition that there were divergent points of view. At that time the French had said that the matter of ownership should be settled by the peace treaty. With regard to the point relating to the federal form of German Government, Mr. Schuman had meant to say that if a German Government nationalized the coal and steel industries, they would have an economic power which no German Government in the past had ever had. If, although he considered it unlikely, the German Government were to establish some degree of private ownership in these industries, the Central Government would undoubtedly retain substantial powers over these industries. In either case the strength of the Central Government would be so increased by economic power that it would have a much stronger position than had been anticipated as against the Land or other subsidiary Governments.

With regard to the supervision and management, he recalled that that was being discussed in London. He was very grateful for Mr. Marshall’s proposal regarding the coal and steel control groups.

It was clear that there was no general agreement on all the points which he had made. He would deliver a memorandum on the point relating to prohibited industries but he was anxious to see if the U.S. and British could agree on a communiqué which stated that the action of the Military Governors with respect to ownership did not prejudice a different solution in the peace treaty.

Mr. McNeil expressed the view that he could not join in such a communiqué. The British Government had its own internal political problems and it would be extremely embarrassing to his own party, particularly in relation to its Left Wing, if such a statement were [Page 522] made, coming after the recent statement he had made in the House of Commons. If, however, Mr. Schuman were to make before the French Assembly a strong statement as to his views with respect to the superiority of the peace treaty, he believed that no objection would come from the British Government which would carry the inference that the British Government did not controvert the French position. Mr. McNeil said that he could not agree to the immediate French participation in the coal and steel control groups without further discussions but would agree to some relationship between the London Conference and the discussions of the Security Board.

Mr. Schuman said that he would not wish to embarrass the British Government although he pointed out that the distance between Right and Left in France was considerably wider than in Great Britain. He only hoped that British silence in such a statement would be interpreted as acquiescence. He agreed that some relationship might be established between the London Conference and the Security Board talks which had started in Frankfurt and suggested that the French would be willing to transfer these talks to London.

Mr. McNeil said that he had not meant that they be transferred to London but suggested that the London Conference suggested [suggest?] that the Military Governors expedite their work on the Security Board.8

Mr. Schuman agreed.

It Was Generally Agreed that a brief noncommittal communiqué would be issued, a copy of which is attached.9

Wayne Jackson
  1. These minutes were prepared by Wayne Jackson, who had been called to Paris from London to advise the Secretary of State on the Ruhr question.

    This meeting had been convened at the suggestion of Foreign Minister Schuman. At a brief meeting at the Quai d’Orsay on the afternoon of November 16 with Secretary of State Marshall and Minister of State McNeil and their advisers, Foreign Minister Schuman explained that he would like soon to have a discussion with Marshall and McNeil concerning Germany and in particular the problem of the Ruhr. It was agreed to have the discussion on November 19, by which time the Secretary would have had an opportunity to review documents on the problem.

    According to telegram 2785, November 20, from Berlin, not printed, General Clay and Ambassador Murphy visited Paris on November 19 at the request of the Secretary of State. The Secretary, Clay, and Murphy, together with Counselor Bohlen, Ambassador Caffery, and Ambassador Philip Jeseup, reviewed the Ruhr question, the Berlin currency situation, French attitudes towards the future German constitution, and possible conflicts of views among the allies on the subject of German economic recovery (740.00119 Control (Germany)/11–2048). No detailed record of this discussion, which presumably preceded the meeting recorded here, has been found.

  2. Regarding Military Government Law No. 75 of November 10, see the editorial note, p. 465.
  3. For documentation regarding the reparations and dismantling questions, see pp. 703 ff. On the question of prohibited and limited industries, see pp. 668 ff.
  4. The French Foreign Ministry aide-mémoire, dated November 19, is not printed.
  5. For additional documentation regarding the work of the West German Parliamentary Council and the preparation of a draft constitution, see pp. 375 ff.
  6. The reference here is to the Military Security Board; for documentation regarding the discussions in Berlin relative to the establishment of this Board, see pp. 665 ff.
  7. Ante, p. 509. The first two paragraphs of the telegram comprised the first page and a half of the source text.
  8. For the British view of the decision reached at this meeting with respect to the Military Security Board, see Strang’s November 26 communication to Douglas, p. 665.
  9. The attached communiqué, as translated from the French original, read as follows:

    “Mr. Schuman, Mr. Marshall and Mr. McNeil, representing Mr. Bevin, met this afternoon at 4:00 p. m. at the Quai d’Orsay to discuss certain problems concerning Germany and in particular the Ruhr.

    “Mr. Schuman explained the views of the French Government which will be set forth in detail in a memorandum to be communicated shortly to the United States and British Governments. Mr. Marshall and Mr. McNeil agreed that a study of the different problems raised by the French Government would be urgently undertaken.”