740.00119 Control (German)/5–1049: Telegram

The British Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs (Bevin) to the Secretary of State 1


I have just paid a short visit to Berlin and to the British Zone in order to see the airlift. During my visit I saw both British and United States aircraft, crews and ground staff and I was very much impressed with the splendid cheerfulness and skill shown by all engaged in this tremendous task, I felt that the airlift was another outstanding example of the way in which the men and women of our countries can work together in the cause of peace.

I was glad to see General Clay during my visit and to congratulate him and the United States Air Force and ground staffs on their great achievement. I also saw General Noiret.

2. While in Berlin I saw Oberbuergermeister Reuter and other leading members of the Magistrat. I was very much encouraged by the measures of self help which they have taken to assist the airlift. They expressed to me their determination not to allow any ill advised accommodation with the Communists to rob them of the reward which their steadiness and restraint have entitled them to expect.

3. On my return home through the British Zone I saw Adenauer, Schumacher and Arnold,2 all of whom had specially asked to see me before I left. I had talks with these three Germans separately and consecutively and questioned them about the present position in Germany and their views about the forthcoming meeting of the Council of Foreign Ministers. I was very careful to allow them to express their views freely and not to suggest to them in any way what their answer should be. The following are the main points which emerged from the discussions and upon which they all agreed:—

They all said that they, in common with nearly all Germans in the Western Zones, had very little confidence that the meeting in Paris would lead to really satisfactory results or to the Russians agreeing to a unification of Germany upon terms which are likely to be acceptable to Western German opinion. They claimed that they had a long experience of totalitarian methods of thought, which they felt that others without that experience did not really understand. Their view was that the Russians had no idea of what we all meant by freedom [Page 871] of movement or free elections. And in any case, even if they had, they would never operate them.
The Western Germans were united in their determination that the fundamental principles upon which the future political and economic arrangements for Western Germany would be based, should be applied also to the Eastern Zone. As an example of their keenness on this point they had accelerated the passing of the basic law at Bonn and, provided the military governors gave their approval swiftly, they expected to be able to ratify the Constitution before the 23rd May.
They made it clear that if the three Western Foreign Ministers stood firm in support of the adoption for the whole of Germany of sound and democratic constitutional arrangements similar to those contemplated for Western Germany, they would get solid support from the Western Germans and from many in the East. Adenauer indicated to me that they would not be willing to accept any compromise which would compel them to sit down at the same table as representatives from the Volksrat or any other unrepresentative Communist organisation in the Eastern Zone to work out a solution for the whole of Germany. They were not prepared to deal with Germans who were merely slaves for the Soviet Union. They each said that if there was to be a solution of the East-West problem in Germany, it must involve the complete restoration of the C.D.U., S.P.D. and other non-Communist parties in the Eastern Zone, who must be given exactly the same liberties as they had in the West. There must also be firm guarantees that elections would be really free and that Soviet domination of the Eastern Zone would be completely withdrawn.
They each expressed concern lest the three Western Foreign Ministers should agree to any arrangement for Germany as a whole which might leave the Germans at the mercy of the Soviet-organised police in the Eastern Zones and the Communists in the Western Zones, who they said had arms and were ready for a coup if the opportunity occurred. I did not in any way refer to the question of secret arms in the West, but they repeatedly expressed fears that they did exist and in fact constituted a menace.
I asked them about the question of the withdrawal of the occupation troops. They said that this was a very difficult question from the point of view of public opinion in Germany and that they realised it would have to be carefully handled. They made it clear, however, that they were not in favour of the withdrawal of troops until a properly organised democratic state had been established in Germany and the dangers to which I have just referred no longer existed.
They asked that we should give them information about the way things went in Paris and I assured them that I should bear this in mind.

4. There were a number of other points which were raised, such as electoral law, the date for the holding of the elections and other matters of internal German interest. Although, as was to be expected, there was some divergence of view on these points between Schumacher and Adenauer, I detected nothing which in any way countervailed against [Page 872] the close identity of view which existed between them on the fundamental points set out above.

5. The three German leaders asked me whether I could give them any assurance about the attitude of the three Western Foreign Ministers towards the fundamental conditions for a united Germany. I replied that I could only speak for myself and that I had not yet had an opportunity of speaking to you or M. Schuman. I said the test which I should apply to any proposals put forward was whether they would establish for Germany a fully democratic system. If the proposals did not satisfy this test or jeopardised our objectives, I would be unable to accept them. I went on to explain that this was not purely a German question but one which affected the security of the whole of the West.

6. I hope that you will agree that in the circumstances it was useful for me to have had a talk with these German politicians. I am convinced that there is a very clear understanding among them of the issues to be faced in Paris and if we make a firm stand I do not think we need be too fearful of the effect of Russian propaganda on the Germans. They seem to be quite clear about the tactics to be expected from the Russians.3

  1. The source text was transmitted to Secretary Acheson as an attachment to a letter from Ambassador Franks, May 10, not printed, which explained that Secretary Bevin had asked him to deliver the message. (740.00119 Control (Germany)/5–1049) Also attached to the source text was a note from Acheson to Franks, May 18, not printed, in which the Secretary of State thanked the Ambassador for his letter. (740.00119 Control (Germany)/5–1049)
  2. Karl Arnold, Minister-President of North Rhine-Westphalia.
  3. In telegram 1848, May 11, from London, not printed, Douglas reported a conversation in which Bevin expressed great satisfaction over his trip to Germany. (740.00119 Control (Germany)/5–1149)