CFM Files: Lot M–88: Box 144: Meeting of the Foreign Ministers September 15

Memorandum of Conversation, by the Secretary of State1

top secret


Mr. Bevin Mr. Schuman Mr. Acheson
Sir Oliver Franks Ambassador Bonnet Ambassador Jessup
Sir Roger Makins Mr. Clappier Ambassador Murphy
Mr. Barclay Mr. Butterworth
Colonel Byroade
Mr. MacArthur
Mr. Satterthwaite

Bevin opened the discussion on Germany by saying that the British were worried by the onerous task of dismantling. He said the main points are (1) reparations and (2) security. Adenauer recently got word to Bevin that Schuman was ready to agree to modification of the present position. Bevin wanted to know what our and the French views now were—if they had changed or were the same as six months ago. I asked how many plants had been marked for dismantling which had not yet been done. Mr. Murphy pointed out that we had completed dismantling of all those in our zone.

Schuman said he had received a letter from Adenauer asking him to raise the question of modification of the present agreement while he was here in Washington. He had replied that the question had been settled months ago and he would not raise it again; that nothing new could be done. Schuman agreed with Bevin that the problem was one of the effects on Europe of productivity in Germany, as well as reparations.

Bevin said we had to be careful or the Germans would take whatever we give them and then ask for more. The British wanted Germany to be a part of the Western world, but they had to proceed carefully. With regard to category 1 (war plants), the British should be through dismantling about April of next year. If dismantling were stopped on the limited and restricted lists, about fifteen million tons of steel capacity would be left instead of 11.1 million. Shipbuilding plants should be dismantled by about January. They had done nothing on the synthetic oil and rubber plants so that if dismantling were to stop, [Page 600] these would remain intact. He said the German agitation centers on the steel, synthetic oil and rubber plants. Even with German cooperation the dismantling of the steel plants would take a long time, a year or a year and a half. Germany has not indicated yet what her attitude will be on the Ruhr Control, the Military Security Court [Board] and other agencies. Bevin thought that if Germany came satisfactorily into these organizations, the British might be able to take greater risks on the industrial side. The British did not want to yield on dismantling until they knew more about Germany’s attitude on the occupation statutes. If Germany worked in an honest manner, they might review some of the plants, dismantling of which has not been started.

Schuman said that the German government is always making claims, and that if we accept the present claims, they would only make new ones. He thought it would be a mistake to renounce a policy which had been established with so much difficulty. He wouldn’t like to open the policy to change. The French Government could not accept further concessions. They must wait to see whether the German government will meet its responsibilities. Germany should not complain. It was receiving help via the Marshall Plan and was well treated in spite of the war. He said that our policy should be better coordinated. For example, he knew of a case in which a dismantled plant had been rebuilt by Marshall funds. He concluded by saying that he thought the United States, Britain and France should be firm and unyielding to the demands of Germany.

I said that just this morning Mr. Hoffman had made a plea to Mr. Schuman on dismantling. There is wide criticism in the United States whenever a plant is pulled down. We are under strong pressure to change the policy. Mr. Murphy said we are sympathetic to Schuman’s point of view and we prefer to leave the agreement alone. We had hoped, though, that the dismantling would have been concluded by now. The longer it is delayed, the stronger is the pressure for review of the policy. Should we set up a working party to have another look at the problem?

I said that we are faced with a miserable choice, but that we have to make a choice. We can do what the Soviets did, take the plants down and take the consequences along with it, but we never go through with that kind of action. We are likely to yield eventually under German pressure and not because of our own policy decision. Wouldn’t it be better to yield now as a conscious move? Perhaps the situation is hopeless. Maybe Germany can’t be a useful quiet member of the European community. The best chance and hope seems to us to be under French leadership. It doesn’t work for us to take the lead. We are too far away and to a lesser degree this is also true of the British. [Page 601] In the long run if there is to be an answer, there must be a solution of Franco-German troubles under French leadership. If all plants could have been or could be dismantled very quickly, it would not be so bad. It is the long drawnout process that causes recurring and continuing troubles. What we are likely to do is to stop dismantling after we have generated the maximum of ill will.

Mr. Schuman replied that he understood what the public opinion in the United States was and that it was equally difficult in France on this problem. He had no doubt whatever that the question of abandoning dismantling would cause serious and immediate trouble in France. It was not only the trouble it would cause. There were many real reasons why the French want to continue the dismantling. He said the French were mindful that they had been much easier than Russia. They would be cut off from reparations. Schuman said Adenauer had written to him proposing that the plants be put under international ownership and he had replied that we could not go along with this since we had protested proposals for similar action which the Russians wanted to take in Eastern Germany. He agreed with Bevin that only a small number of the plants were causing agitation and that there was an artificial factor behind some of the agitation. He said he had had long talks in the French zone with his own and German officials there and no mention was made of dismantling. He realized, however, that it was more difficult in the British zone. He believed we should not get excited or the Germans would dismantle western solidarity. He would not wish the Germans to think they can get anything they want just by the asking.

Bevin then said he thought last April that everything was final, until Congress appropriated $25,000 to ECA to examine the situation again. Ambassador Bonnet said that they interpreted that as a subtle way of the Congress expressing its hope that the subject was not closed. Bevin said that the appropriation had given the impression in England that the United States was going to reopen the dismantling question with the British. He thought Adenauer was trying to play us off one against the other and stated that our High Commissioners in Germany should be warned about what Adenauer tells us about each other. Adenauer should know we have a coordinated policy. Bevin did not look with favor on the proposal for a working party now, as the British are in the middle of a series of dismantlings which will substantially reduce the problem. He did not want a working party, at least before April, when the backlog should be cleared. He said the delay in dismantling had been caused by the inquiry into the problem. Bevin went on to say that he wanted the Ministers to ask themselves whether any concession should be made before we see what the German attitude [Page 602] to the occupation will be. Otherwise, Germany will cause trouble on the occupation statutes as well. He said the British don’t want to treat the Germans badly but he did not want them to treat us badly either. He wants the Germans to think that we will be kind and firm and to realize that the game of splitting the occupation powers will not work.

I said that the agreements stand and that we are not reopening the question, but that it will be a troublesome year and the dismantling problem will have an effect on many other things. I was sure that the Germans would cause difficulty whatever happens. Nobody likes to be occupied. The Germans are surly and certainly will be difficult. They will never have loyalty to the occupation statute whatever we do. All we can do is try to create a self-interest of Germany in the statute. We would have no objection if all of the plants were dismantled right now, but I just could not believe that we would find it advisable to continue dismantling over a period of the next couple years, Bevin said that the British have been held up in completing their dismantling, that they still have the job to do. I said that we had held them up and Bevin replied “So did the Russians”. Bevin said a review after three or four months should meet the British position. Schuman said we must review all German problems and that he would talk to his Government.2

Bevin then brought up the subject of the disposition of the undelivered Soviet share of reparations from Western Germany. He stated that they had finally and with great difficulty arranged the details for the shipment of these plants to the Soviet Union, but at that time the United States had objected to any portion of these plants being sent to the USSR. He stated that this shift in policy had got them into a “terrific administrative muddle”. He stated that he hoped an early and firm decision could be made on the disposition of these plants. As far as the British were concerned Bevin stated that they had already taken what they themselves wanted and that they were not interested in receiving any share of these plants. If we wished to give them to the IARA countries Bevin was agreeable but stated they wanted to see the matter definitely settled.

Mr. Murphy pointed out that Mr. Bevin might not be aware that complete agreement had been reached between the three Western powers on this subject within the last three days. He referred to British Foreign Office memorandum signed by Mr. Kirkpatrick which had been relayed to us by cable on 6 September3 and which agreed with [Page 603] the United States position. He also stated that we had received word of the agreement of the French Government on September 12.4

Bevin and Schuman stated they were glad this matter was now agreed. Bevin stated that it was not unusual that he did not know of this development as it happened while he was enroute to the United States by ship. The matter was therefore dropped as requiring no further discussion.

  1. The memorandum was prepared by Livingston L. Satterthwaite of the Office of European Affairs.
  2. The following three paragraphs were not part of the source text. They were an attachment to a memorandum from Byroade to Satterthwaite, September 26, not printed, in which Murphy requested that they be inserted in the official record of the conversation at this point. (CFM Files: Lot M–88: Box 144: Memos ForMins and Sec Sept 1949)
  3. Telegram 3579, from London, not printed. (740.00119 EW/9–649)
  4. The French Embassy in London had telephoned Holmes its agreement on September 12 and he had in turn communicated this agreement to Washington in telegram 3672, not printed. (740.00119 EW/9–1249)