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

top secret

I am convinced that a real danger exists that we shall be faced, possibly in a few months’ time, with a crisis in Germany similar to but more dangerous than that in Korea, arising from an attempt by the Russians, acting through the East Zone police, to drive us out of Berlin or to secure the unity of Germany within the Communist orbit.

I feel it is essential that we should examine this question at our meeting and I therefore ask you to consider the attached paper, the substance of which I am also communicating to M. Pleven. Our Chiefs of Staff point out that there is no visible way of providing the forces needed to defend the territories of the North Atlantic Treaty Powers without German assistance. His Majesty’s Government are not however prepared at present to agree to the re-creation of a German Army. We do not wish to exclude eventual discussion of the incorporation of a German contingent in the Western defence forces if the United [Page 718] States or French Governments should wish to discuss it but in our view there are certain minimum measures which should be taken without delay. These are summarised in paragraph 3 of the paper. The most important is the creation of a Federal Police Force for which Adenauer asked on 17th August. The size and armaments of such a Force are for discussion but it is important that it should be organised on a sufficiently centralised basis to enable swift and effective action to be taken in an emergency.

I have given much thought to the question whether the establishment of such a Force would provoke the very action we want to prevent. Unless we are prepared to ignore military opinion and to risk Berlin and even Western Germany being overrun, this danger must be faced some time. It is better to face it now when the Bereitschaften are less ready for action than they will be next year and in such a form as is least likely to provoke Soviet reaction. Moreover, the creation of a gendarmerie will take time. Until it exists and until we have reorganised the German auxiliary services, our forces would find themselves liable to be hamstrung in an emergency by loss of their essential services, and by having to devote themselves to suppression of Communist-inspired disturbances or cope with mass movements of refugees. Furthermore, unless we show now that we are prepared to face up to danger that stares West Germans in the face, we shall lose the confidence of the Germans and their morale may crack in an emergency.

The problem of the defence of Berlin may prove to be more urgent and to need separate action in advance of the other measures I propose.


Paper Prepared in the British Foreign Office

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German Association With the Defence of the West

the problem

In Europe the declared policy of the Western Powers has been

to build up a position of strength in the West;
to incorporate Germany into the Western system, eventually as an equal partner.

It was recognised that this policy could only be executed in the teeth of Russian opposition, but the risk was taken in the expectation that it would be possible in time to build up the necessary position of strength in the West. It was hoped to achieve this by the Brussels [Page 719] Treaty and subsequently by the North Atlantic Treaty. Had this hope been realised, Western policy would be coherent and the prospects fair. But in the light of recent events the Chiefs of Staff have come to the firm conclusion (C.O.S. (50)305 of August 18th) that in fact we cannot build up the necessary strength to assure the defence of the territories of the N.A.T. Powers without the participation of Germany. The need to provide for adequate defence has been rendered more urgent by the circumstance that the rearmament of Germany has already begun in the Eastern Zone. There is evidence that the Russians are in process of converting the People’s Police the Bereitschaften (Alert Units) into a highly-trained regular German Army of 150,000 men which is to include a number of armoured divisions. It is accordingly clear that provision will soon have to be made against an attack on Berlin or on the Western Zone by this new Germany Army. To meet the threat the Federal Chancellor in a conversation, on August 17th, 1950, asked the High Commissioners for authority to raise a special Federal force of 150,000 volunteers trained and equipped on the model of the Bereitschaften. In the paper of 18th August the Chiefs of Staff went further and recommended that the German contribution to Western defence should consist of local naval forces, a balanced Army of 20 divisions with a reserve of 10 divisions, a tactical air component of 1,100 aircraft, an air defence force of 1,000 fighters and a substantial anti-aircraft force equipped with guided weapons.

2. If the premise is accepted that the threat from the East is real and urgent and without Germany it cannot be met, the problem is to find the best method of associating Germany so far as this is politically and economically practicable with the defence of the West.

3. recommendations

It should be recognised that it is not practicable at the moment to rearm Germany on the scale recommended by the Chiefs of Staff.
Nevertheless, the United States and French Governments should be urged to agree that the Federal Chancellor should be told in reply to his request that in view of the threat of an invasion by the Eastern German Army he may as a first step raise a federal force of 100,000 volunteers trained and equipped on the model of the Bereitschaften, the arms to be supplied by the Western Allies.
A similar force of 3,000 men should be raised in Berlin.
The proposal to create a gendarmerie on a Land Basis should be abandoned.
The auxiliary forces serving with the British and United States armies should be improved and reorganised in Units.
The German Frontier Customs Police Force should be improved and slightly expanded.
Germany should make an industrial contribution to Western strength.
The High Commissioners should be empowered to discuss the implementation of these steps with the Chancellor and with German representatives nominated by him.

4. argument

[Here follow sections on the strength of the German forces in the Soviet zone, Soviet intentions in Germany, and the attitude of the Federal Republic on rearmament.]

11. But this does not mean that nothing can be done to strengthen Western defence from German resources. On the contrary, Germany could make a substantial contribution now. The Federal Chancellor has made a strong case for the establishment of a force of 150,000 volunteers to match the Bereitschaften. He professes to be confident that he can secure the assent of the Opposition and he also believes; that he can raise 150,000 reliable volunteers. He may be unduly optimistic but he is a man of determination and of a certain political adroitness. In any event the initiative has come from the German side, and in their present situation the Western Allies would be taking upon themselves a serious responsibility if they rejected out of hand a proposal which would not only bring a considerable access of strength to the West but would tend to consolidate opinion both in Western Germany and in other countries in Western Europe in resistance to the East. Nevertheless, it is for consideration whether in view of French susceptibilities and of the difficulty of raising and arming a new force quickly it would not be better to fix the initial strength of the force at 100,000 men., It could subsequently be expanded if required.

12. The three Western Commandants in Berlin have recommended that in view of the threat of an attack by the Eastern German Army they should be authorised forthwith to raise three battalions of German gendarmerie in Berlin. They consider that such a force would constitute a valuable reinforcement of the Western Garrisons. It is recommended that they should be given the authority they require.

13. If the above steps are taken it would clearly be unnecessary and indeed wasteful to proceed any further with the makeshift proposal to create a force of 10,000 mobile police on a Land basis with a central inspectorate.

14. The improvement and reorganisation of the ancillary forces attached to the British forces has now become a matter of considerable urgency. This force was originally raised in order to economise British manpower and was organised on a military basis. In consequence of Russian representations the units were dissolved and the force placed on a purely civilian basis. As a result conditions of service have become so unattractive and discipline has so deteriorated that the force [Page 721] cannot be relied upon in an emergency. If, as is feared, defections on a large scale took place on the outbreak of hostilities, the British Army would not be able to move. It is accordingly recommended that the proposals for the reorganisation and improvement of this force which are now before the Chiefs of Staff should be approved and executed without delay. Such measures would have the full support of the Chancellor and the Federal Government.

15. There is at present in the British Zone a force of some 4,000 German Frontier Customs Police, which is armed with rifles and patrols the frontier. This special police, if increased in strength and suitably trained, could perform a useful function as a covering force in an emergency. The Federal Chancellor has also indicated that he favours strengthening this force.

16. The supply of weapons to any German formations will have to be the responsibility of the Western Allies both on security grounds and because the Germans are not in a position to manufacture weapons in any measurable distance of time. But there is every reason to insist that, in addition to continuing to pay occupation costs, Germany should supply transport, uniforms, and equipment not of a purely military character. It is also for consideration whether the German Government should not be required to make a contribution of nonmilitary equipment to the Western forces.

17. If these recommendations are approved, their execution will require the cooperation of the Federal Government, and it is accordingly essential that the High Commissioners should be empowered to discuss these matters with the Federal Chancellor and with German representatives nominated by him.

18. To sum up. The Western Allies are at the moment in a vicious circle. The French Government will not agree to any form of German rearmament until France is strong. But France will not make the effort to be strong unless there is a real prospect of assuring Western defence, which in turn cannot be done without a measure of German rearmament. It is clear that the vicious circle must at all costs be broken. Since there is no prospect of inducing the German at the moment to accept remilitarisation on the scale recommended by the Chiefs of Staff, a beginning should be made without any delay with the creation of the force demanded by the Chancellor and with the improvement of the British and United States ancillary forces. But there is little time to lose. The Eastern German Army has been in being for some time. If it would take 15 months to bring this Army to a sufficient pitch of efficiency to enable it to attack the Western Zones, it will require at least that time to train a new Western German force to play its part in repelling the attack.

  1. Attached to the source text were a note of transmission from Sir Frederick Hoyer-Millar, Minister of the British Embassy, to Acheson, and a similar memorandum from H. Freeman Matthews, Deputy Under Secretary of State, which indicated that Hoyer-Millar had left the note with him on September 5. (740.5/9–550)