862B.03/5–1153: Telegram

No. 707
The Acting Director of the Berlin Element, HICOG (Maynard) to the Office of the United States High Commissioner for Germany, at Bonn 1


BN–2677. From EAD.

Although press reports here not entirely clear, appears Fed Rep may be planning send relief shipments of food to GDR as well as encourage shipping food under IZT agreement and sending gift parcels. We understand relief shipments would be relatively small, totalling only 46.5 million DM. Assume US will be approached for assistance connection relief shipments.
Fed Rep fears re mass influx starving refugees may make it more susceptible than is justified to arguments in favor such action. Desire West German food firms export to GDR may also have strengthened “humanitarian” attitude Fed Rep govt.
We believe conclusions our D–608 Jan 272 in general still valid. We do not believe GDR population starving, although food shortage undoubtedly exists and has probably worsened since January. Recent rationing changes in GDR essentially shift of food from some groups to others, not evidence serious new shortages. Even groups deprived of ration cards on May 1 must be getting food, since no appreciable change number or composition refugee flow. We believe West press has for months painted much too gloomy picture of GDR food situation.
According DAD report Apr 1 (EGQ–66),3 on Jan 15, when West press (and, we suspect, Min All-Ger Affairs) believed famine imminent, GDR had in state reserves two months supply meat, eggs equivalent to two weeks supply meat by ratio officially established, three weeks supply fats (mostly butter), considerable quantities grain. In December, Soviets refused let GDR draw on reserves to alleviate shortages, policy which so far we know still in effect. 1953 plan calls for doubling refrigeration capacity for meat reserves, significant increases for other foods. Until good evidence presented these reserves exhausted believe relief shipments to GDR unnecessary.
Re imports from West, would seem preferable have GDR spend foreign currency on food rather than on commodities which aid industrialization and military-economic potential of Soviet bloc.
Food shipments on large scale would ease transition to socialized agriculture, now one of major GDR problems. Seems fairly clear food shortage acts to slow down liquidation large farmers as class and necessitates less repressive GDR policy toward non-socialized small farmers. Also, transfer labor from farm to factory hampered, could even be reversed if shortage becomes more acute.
Re propaganda potential current shortages, East press constantly publicizes aid received from abundantly supplied Soviet Union but never mentions food going into reparations and supply of occupation troops. Present situation seems well suited undercut such propaganda, or, better still, force USSR actually deliver. Also, we question whether small shipments without significant effect on amount of food received by individual consumers would necessarily be good propaganda.
Best positive propaganda action by West would seem be to note with concern precarious food situation in Soviet Zone (perhaps in published reply to Fed Rep request for assistance re relief shipments) and then call on Soviets to equalize delivery quota burdens for farmers, provide all farmers with labor, draw food from reserves, cut reparations and deliveries to Red Army in GDR, restore ration cards recently withdrawn, ration all food instead of channeling sizable quantities into HO for sale at high prices, buy food instead of industrial items in West, and provide additional relief if necessary from USSR. Believe publicly tracing shortages to Soviet policy in GDR more effective propaganda than offering free food, especially if latter action based on belief Soviets will refuse accept offer.
We are not concerned about gift packages, soup kitchens in West Berlin for Easterners or sales of food to GDR by West. We consider first two good enough propaganda to outweigh benefits GDR receives and third economically disadvantageous to GDR. We do believe, however, it would be mistaken policy assist Fed Rep (by approaching Sovs, or otherwise) in making genuine offers large relief shipments to GDR and we question desirability establishing precedent by assisting with small ones. If offer to be predicated on assumption Soviets will refuse, believe more advantageous propaganda exploitation as suggested paragraphs 7 and 8 being overlooked.
  1. Also sent to Washington and Moscow. The source text is the copy in Department of State files.
  2. Despatch 608 concluded that the food supply situation for 1953 appeared to be “one of scarcity rather than absolute famine.” (862B.03/1–2753)
  3. Not found in Department of State files.