Memorandum by the Director of the Bureau of German Affairs (Byroade) to the Under Secretary of State (Webb)


Subject: Possible Announcement of GDR–USSR Peace Treaty.

Reference is made to your memorandum of May 221 in which you requested our views on the likelihood of an announcement by the Soviets at the end of this month that they will conclude a treaty of peace with their puppet East German regime (GDR).


We have had under consideration several reports emanating from our intelligence authorities in Germany which indicate that Moscow may be planning to offer a “preliminary” peace treaty to all of Germany before the end of May.2 The pact, which was reported also to call for a token withdrawal of Soviet occupation forces, would be accepted by the GDR after its expected rejection by the Western Governments. These reports indicate that the text of this treaty was to have been completed by May 14, and that its provisions will be announced by Wilhelm Pieck, President of the German Democratic Republic, in connection with the scheduled Communist Youth Rally in Berlin.3 The reports further indicate that, following the announcement, a special meeting of the GDR legislature will be called on May 30 to discuss the treaty. Other reports indicate that the Soviets will [Page 953] utilize the entrance of the German Federal Republic into the Council of Europe as their propaganda justification for consolidating East Germany into the Eastern bloc.

It is difficult to evaluate the reliability of these reports. The initial reaction of HICOG, Berlin, was that due to the coincidence of their coming to US and UK attention almost simultaneously, it was possible that they constituted “planted” information. This opinion was also based upon the fact that the intelligence evaluation of the sources was not high in either case. Embassy Moscow, however, commenting upon the Berlin evaluation, stated that it had for some time regarded such an eventuality as quite possible and a logical step in intensifying the East-West struggle for Germany. Embassy Moscow further stated that against the background of bitter German reaction to the Soviet announcement of the end of prisoners-of-war repatriation, and the latest clear indication that the October elections in the Soviet Zone will be based upon a single list of candidates, it was indicated that such a treaty move, like the “magnanimous” Soviet reparations reduction just announced, would serve Moscow’s propaganda purposes quite well.4

In response to the Department’s request for evaluation of the aforementioned intelligence reports, HICOG, Frankfort, has indicated that it considers the announcement of a peace treaty more unlikely than probable. This belief is based upon the following considerations:

The Soviets have usually reacted and altered the juridical status of the East German regime only after we have altered the juridical status of West Germany. They may have a peace treaty prepared and may have intended to formalize it if the juridical status of the Federal Republic had changed as a result of the London CFM and the NAT Council meeting. Since that did not occur, a treaty may be held in reserve until the Federal Republic accedes to the Council of Europe, or in connection with the October elections in the Soviet Zone. HICOG pointed out further that a peace treaty, in addition to the possible disadvantage of closing the door tighter to a quadripartite approach to the German problem and to the positive disadvantage of bilateral finalization of the Oder-Neisse border, also poses the problem of timing of the withdrawal of occupation troops. In view of the Foreign Ministers’ announcement indicating continued occupation of West Germany, HICOG belives the Soviets would be reluctant to commit themselves to withdrawals from the Soviet Zone at this time.

HICOG stated that it seemed more likely that the Soviets would attempt a propaganda coup which would consist of a broad offer of peace to the whole of Germany and a proposal for an all-German plebiscite on the National Front program of unification, a peace settlement, abrogation of the occupation statutes and the withdrawal of troops. Such a move would be consistent with the recent Soviet [Page 954] counter proposals on all-Berlin elections,5 and might possibly be considered by the Kremlin as representing an effective method of undercutting the announcement of the Western Foreign Ministers’ policy of relaxing controls and integrating Western Germany with the West. HICOG further points out that the Soviets may read into the Foreign Ministers’ communiqué6 an indisposition on the part of the West further to sponsor all-German elections and may therefore seek to regain the initiative on the unification issue and solicit West German support by endorsing a spurious adaptation of the Bonn proposals for their all-German plebiscite.


From careful consideration of the intelligence reports and the comments of HICOG and the Embassy at Moscow, we believe that while it is entirely possible that the Soviets may issue a statement in the course of the Whitsuntide Rally in Berlin in order to recoup some of their losses in popular support, it is unlikely that they will take any concrete steps toward the conclusion of a peace treaty at this time. Moreover, it seems improbable that such an announcement would be more than a very general statement to the effect that the Soviets are prepared to conclude a “peace treaty” with “Germany” following an all-German “plebiscite” on the National Front program. It is conceivable that such a plebiscite might be combined with the October 15 elections to give an all-German appearance to the resultant East German regime, with which the peace treaty would be concluded.

Action Taken and Contemplated.

With respect to the steps we should take in the face of such a development, our reaction would, of course, depend primarily on the exact nature of the Soviet announcement. In general, however, we would utilize our information media to expose the illegality and fraudulent nature of any “peace treaty” concluded by the USSR with the puppet East German regime, pointing out that any such treaty merely constitutes an effort to establish another full-fledged satellite in the Soviet orbit.

On the positive side, we would cite our own record on the question of German unity, pointing out the manner in which our persistent efforts to achieve German political and economic reunification have been frustrated by Soviet intransigence. The information media in Germany have already been alerted to this possible eventuality, and [Page 955] a contingency guidance has been despatched covering the aforementioned points.

It is our policy to seek German unity on the basis of free, unfettered all-German elections. Our efforts at the Moscow, London and Paris (1949) meetings of the Council of Foreign Ministers to achieve German unity were frustrated by Soviet refusal to agree to guarantee the fundamental conditions of freedom which the Western Allies considered as minimum prerequisites for the achievement of German unity. This policy was most recently enunciated by the McCloy statement of February 28 calling for political reunification of Germany on the basis of all-German elections. Mr. McCloy’s statement, which the Secretary supported in his Berkeley speech of March 16, was followed by a statement issued by the Government of the Federal Republic of Germany on March 22. The Bonn statement supported the U.S. High Commissioner’s proposal and embodied a concrete program for the achievement of German unity. Neither statement brought forth a direct response from the Soviet or East German Government, but it was clear that the statements caught them somewhat short and had a considerable impact.7

Having thus regained the initiative, we have pressed this issue of all-German elections both in the Allied High Commission and at the recent London meetings of the Western Foreign Ministers. It was not possible to obtain agreement on the issuance of a statement at London by the Foreign Ministers, although the text of such a statement was approved.

At its May 23 meeting the Council of the Allied High Commission agreed, subject to confirmation by the Three Governments, to transmit on May 25 three separate identical texts of the Foreign Ministers’ statement on German unity to General Chuikov. This statement outlined the principles under which the Western Allies would be prepared to negotiate with the Soviets for the purpose of framing an electoral law for an all-German National Constituent Assembly. We have notified Mr. McCloy of our approval of this step.8

We shall continue to press for further Western Allied action in this direction, as we consider this theme one of the most effective weapons we have to counteract Soviet political and propaganda moves in Germany.

This memorandum has been concurred in by EE.

  1. Not printed; in it Webb had requested Byroade’s views on the likelihood of a treaty and the steps that might be taken to counter it. Webb felt that one approach might be to contrast Allied steps with such a development, since the latter would “merely create another Soviet satellite and … a divided Germany.” (662A.62B/5–2250)
  2. Transmitted in telegrams 732, May 12, from Berlin and 4212, May 16, from Frankfort, neither printed (762A.00/5–1250 and 1650).
  3. For documentation on the Berlin Youth Rally at the end of May, see pp. 818 ff.
  4. Telegram 1411, May 17, from Moscow, not printed (662.001/5–1750).
  5. Regarding the Soviet counterproposals on all-Berlin elections, see telegram 839, May 9, p. 852.
  6. For the text of the Foreign Ministers communiqué on Germany, released to the press on May 14, see Department of State Bulletin, May 22, 1950, pp. 787–788.
  7. For the text of Secretary Acheson’s speech on March 16 at the University of California, see Department of State Bulletin, March 27, 1950, pp. 473–478; regarding McCloy’s statement and the declaration by the German Federal Government, see telegram 1644, February 24, and the editorial note, pp. 602 and 615.
  8. For the text of this letter, delivered to General Vasili S. Chuikov, Chairman of the Soviet Control Commission, on May 25, see telegram 121, May 25, p. 641.