Memorandum of Conversation, by the Secretary of State 1



United Kingdom France United States
Mr. Bevin M. Couve de Mr. Acheson
Mr. Barclay Murville Mr. Yost
Mr. Jessup

Mr. Bevin said that he understood that I wished to raise with him the question of lifting the suspension of Article 23 of the Bonn Constitution in order to permit the immediate attachment of the Western sectors of Berlin to West Germany as a twelfth Land. Bevin said that we had always envisaged that sooner or later there would be an Eastern German Government and that we had nevertheless opposed the inclusion of our Berlin sectors under the Bonn system. Why should we change now? I pointed out the reason why we had advocated suspension of Article 23 was because we feared that its implementation might precipitate the creation by the Soviets of an East German Government. It appeared that such a government was now about to be established anyway and the reason for suspension of Article 23 therefore no longer exists. I read from Berlin’s telegram no. 1409 of October 42 the report that the Berlin City Assembly would, immediately after the establishment of the East German Government, pass a resolution urging the immediate implementation of Article 23. I said if this happens our people feel we should agree as otherwise the Western sectors of Berlin will be left hanging in the air, unattached either to [Page 401] Western Germany or Eastern Germany, To Bevin’s inquiry as to what the Soviets might do in such a case, I replied that we favor this action only if the Soviets set up an Eastern German Government with Berlin as its capital. In this case our treatment of the Western sectors of Berlin would be no different than their treatment of the Eastern Sector.

Couve de Murville expressed the view that there was a certain practical difference in that Western Berlin is separated from Western Germany and is a mere tiny island in the Soviet zone. He said that M. Schuman is opposed in principle to the application of Article 23 because of the essential difference of the Western sectors of Berlin from the other Western Laender. To Bevin’s inquiry as to how we would maintain the Western sectors of Berlin if we do not permit the application of Article 23, Couve suggested that the effect of the two possible alternatives on problems of trade, currency, transport and so on should be carefully studied before decision is taken.

Mr. Bevin pointed out that it is extremely difficult for the Ministers to take an immediate decision without a more careful study of the facts. He felt that the three High Commissioners should confer on the subject. I mentioned that Mr. McCloy has already been instructed to take the matter up in the regular meeting of the High Commissioners scheduled for today and to urge that they report their views to the three governments. Bevin endorsed this procedure and said that we should consult further in Washington, Paris and London when the recommendations of the High Commissioners had been received. He asked Mr. Barclay to instruct Kirkpatrick to take the matter up immediately with Attlee since, as far as he could recollect, the decision to suspend Article 23 had been a Cabinet decision which would require Cabinet action to be reversed.

Couve said that this had also been a government decision in France. In answer to an inquiry from Bevin, he admitted that the present Cabinet crisis in France might well delay French action on this matter. He expressed the view that the High Commissioners should also be asked at the same time to make recommendations for dealing with the very critical economic situation in Berlin, particularly on problems created by the large deficit and by growing unemployment. Mr. Bevin said that what he fears most is that the Soviets may be able to capitalize on these economic difficulties by stirring up what would amount to civil war in the Western sectors of Berlin. He is not sure how we would be able to meet such a situation and asked that the High Commissioners also be requested to submit their recommendations for dealing with such a contingency. I urged that we should consider whether the Soviets would be more or less likely to succeed in such an effort [Page 402] if Berlin were a twelfth Land in the Bonn system. I pointed out that the State Department fears that the Berliners may well take a refusal on our part to lift the suspension of Article 23 as an indication that we intend to abandon them. Action by us is urgent in these circumstances in order to maintain the morale of the Berlin population. Couve concluded the discussion by repeating that the problem is not only one of morale but also of meeting the critical economic situation which he considers worse than that created by the Soviet blockade.3

Dean Acheson
  1. The memorandum was prepared by Yost.
  2. Not printed.
  3. A summary of this memorandum was transmitted to Washington at 5:47 p. m. and relayed to London, Paris, and Frankfurt at 7 p. m., October 6.