Secretary’s Memoranda of Conversation, lot 64 D 199, “Germany”

No. 171
Memorandum of Conversation, by Anton Pabsch of the Office of the United States High Commissioner for Germany


Subject: Visit by Bundestag Leaders1

  • Participants: Under Secretary of State, Bedell Smith
  • Dr. Gerhard Schroeder
  • Dr. Franz Josef Strauss
  • Dr. Karl Pfleiderer
  • Dr. Hans von Merkatz
  • Mr. James Riddleberger, GER
  • Mr. A. F. Pabsch, HICOG

The visitors were introduced to the Under Secretary at 15:10. After a brief exchange of compliments, the Under Secretary invited the German deputies to raise any questions they desired to discuss and expressed his willingness to answer them.

(1) European Integration—German Unity

Dr. Schroeder, CDU, opened the conversation on the German side by stating that the Government coalition of the Bundestag favored earliest ratification of the EDC Treaty by all participating nations so that the Federal Republic could start at the earliest date with the organization of its armed contingent to EDC. He said that too much time had already been lost since the treaties were signed at Bonn and that the Russians had used this period to advantage. Schroeder expressed concern lest the French attempt to hinder or delay EDC ratification by insisting upon material changes in the Treaty as indicated by the recently introduced protocols. Schroeder and Strauss pointed out that the six EDC nations had committed themselves to the concept of an integrated European army when their representatives signed the Treaty. The Bundestag had already fulfilled its obligation by ratifying EDC and it was now high time for the other nations also to honor their commitments by getting on with ratification. The deputies stated that any reasonable French demand with respect to overseas commitments could be discussed later and satisfied through liberal interpretation of the pertinent provisions of the EDC Treaty. Strauss emphasized that the [Page 410] Germans could not accept any protocols to EDC which would materially change the spirit and meaning of the Treaty. He opposed the idea of a German national army as suggested by some French groups, stating that only an integrated European defense force could in the long run provide effective military security for Europe and Germany.

At this point Dr. von Merkatz raised the question of German unity and expressed the hope that the U.S. would continue to support a policy whose aim it was to reunite Germany. He inquired whether the recent change of regime in Russia and the insecurity which resulted therefrom in the Kremlin called for any special action designed to further German unity.

Before replying to the several questions, the Under Secretary paid tribute to the Bundestag for its prompt and courageous approval of the EDC Treaty.2 He said the U.S. hoped that the other EDC nations would soon follow the German lead and ratify the defense pact. There was reason to believe that both the Netherlands and Italy would act promptly, though with respect to the latter there was some danger that ratification might be delayed until after the elections.

The Under Secretary pointed out that in U.S. opinion it was of utmost importance for the European nations energetically to pursue the policy of military, economic and political integration. The U.S. would continue to support this policy as the only sound way to counter the threat from the East and to establish a viable Europe. The Under Secretary expressed the opinion that no change could be expected in Russian policy in the foreseeable future, and that it was therefore imperative to establish soonest a sound balance of military power between West and East. This, he said, was the most effective way to discourage Russian aggression and assure a period of armed peace, which was the best arrangement we could hope to achieve in the immediate future. However, one could hope that a sound military balance of power might eventually induce the Russians to seek a better and lasting understanding with the West.

The Under Secretary assured the Germans that the U.S. would always seek and support ways to reunite Germany. He cautioned, however, that he did not believe that the Soviets were ready to give up their zone at this time. Although it was entirely possible and even likely that the Russians would make another offer to reunite Germany before the EDC enters into force, such a bid would not be [Page 411] sincere and would be nothing but an attempt to prevent or delay the establishment of a European Army.

(2) The Saar

Dr. Schroeder made brief reference to the Saar problem and remarked that French attempts to arrive at a definitive settlement prior to French ratification could seriously hinder European integration. He stated that the coalition parties were unable and unwilling to agree to any final Saar settlement which would in any way perpetuate the present situation. Postponement of the issue was in Schroeder’s opinion the best solution for the time being.

The Under Secretary expressed the hope that France and Germany would soon find a mutually satisfactory solution to this difficult problem. In the meantime, however, the Saar should, in the opinion of the U.S., not be linked with EDC ratification. “The EDC is not an object for trade and should be accepted in its present form by all of the signatory powers.”

(3) The Refugee Problem

Dr. von Merkatz raised the refugee problem and pointed out that the ever increasing number of refugees were taxing German capacity to the maximum. He indicated that the Federal Republic would soon be unable to cope with this problem alone and that outside help was urgently needed. He inquired whether the U.S. was prepared to extend financial and other aid to provide employment for the refugees and to speed up their integration.

The Under Secretary informed the Germans that the U.S. was acutely aware of this problem and that the matter was under constant study and observation. As he saw it, the refugees presented three different but related problems: (1) immediate financial aid to receive, transport and house the newly arriving refugees; (2) a long-range program to integrate all refugees into the German economy by providing jobs and housing; and (3) a program of migration for those who could not find employment, such as farmers. The Under Secretary informed the Germans that while the Government had not yet submitted any proposal to Congress, the refugee problem was under study and action would be taken in the event the Federal Republic could no longer handle the situation.

In conclusion the Under Secretary assured the visitors that he had given them the same answers to the questions which the President himself had recently given to other visitors in response to similar queries.

  1. This conversation took place on Mar. 26. The preceding day Secretary Dulles had met with Minister President Arnold of North Rhine–Westphalia, who was visiting the United States for several weeks at the invitation of the Secretary. A one-page memorandum of their conversation, which dealt mostly with the EDC, is in the Secretary’s Memoranda of Conversation, lot 64 D 199, “Germany”.
  2. On Mar. 19 the Bundestag had ratified the contractual agreements and the EDC Treaty.