The United States High Commissioner for Germany (Conant) to the Assistant Secretary of State for European Affairs (Merchant), at Paris1

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Dear Livie: I am taking advantage of Reinstein’s going to Paris tonight to send you a few lines about the present status of the mix-up [Page 1496] on the Saar. As of this writing (6:00 p.m. Tuesday evening), it looks as though tomorrow in the Bundestag would be relatively quiet. The excitement may come on Thursday. A great deal depends on how much of the French “explanation” is published in the press tomorrow (Wednesday morning) and Thursday morning, and whether or not the opposition speakers get hold of the full document.

As I understand it, the Chancellor will make very little of the whole Saar problem and say, in effect, that the “justification” now in the hands of the French Assembly does not agree with his own views on several points and the subject will have to be further discussed. Whether he can get away with this simple statement or not remains to be seen; and you will know by the time you see this letter whether what he says and what other Germans say tomorrow or Thursday will have upset the French so that their time-schedule is altered.

On the subject of the U.S. and British position, it is our view here now that almost certainly there will be no need for the Chancellor to volunteer any statement about U.S. intentions; but if he is challenged because of a “leak” of the French “justification,” then he may be in a very difficult position on Thursday if he cannot reply. Therefore I am still of the opinion that if possible the Chancellor should be given a statement on behalf of the U.S. and the British. I understand the British High Commission is of a somewhat different opinion.

I hardly need point out that one of the basic troubles is that from the start the German and French “explanations” of what was agreed have differed markedly. In a few words, the Chancellor has always maintained the solution was not a European solution, but was a provisional one, whereas the French seem to insist that it is a European one and is not provisional!

As to who was to blame for forcing this issue by printing “explanations” and distributing them, I am not prepared to argue at this time. Clearly the French are blaming the Germans and the Germans the French. But knowing the difficulty the Chancellor is having here, it does seem that his point is well taken; namely that if the French “explanations” were to be adopted as official by the Germans, he could not get the Saar Treaty through the Bundestag. Beyond that statement, I would not care to make any predictions or forecasts at this moment. If it would be of any assistance to you or The Secretary for me to come to Paris, of course I should be glad to do so, but I hope that this Saar problem will not come up to bother you further at this time.

With all good wishes,


  1. Merchant was in Paris as part of the U.S. Delegation to the North Atlantic Council Ministerial meeting scheduled for Dec. 17–18; for documentation, see pp. 549 ff.