762B.00/6–1553: Telegram

No. 712
The Director of the Berlin Element, HICOG (Lyon) to the Office of the United States High Commissioner for Germany, at Bonn1


1775. From EAD. Reference my telegram June 11 sent Bonn 1757 repeated Department 1631, Moscow 222, pouched unnumbered London, Paris and satellite capitals.2

In preliminary analysis of significance SED (Soviet) decisions and actions since June 9, important to view them against background international GDR policies (plus Commie justification thereof) in force prior to decisions of SED party conference July 1952 (see pp 1–8 D–91, July 26, 19523). Prior to these decisions, SED economic and political policies were described as being conditioned by overriding goal of achieving Germany unity; with corollary that GDR therefore precluded from changing over from capitalist to socialist society until unity achieved. Politburo justification for current international policy shift (see second paragraph June 9 communiqué) very similar to foregoing. It suggests return to at least pre-July 1952 line, under more auspicious circumstances than attended Grotewohl’s September 1951 attempt induce West Germany to accept Commie unity formulas.4 Consequently even if recent tactical shift does not reflect Soviet willingness make serious concessions to West on unity now, thesis to which we tentatively inclined, can expect Grotewohl come forward again as leading GDR policy spokesman, with Ulbricht drifting temporarily into background, possibly but not necessarily losing his Government or party positions.

Examining Soviet motivations and timing internal GDR policy shift, helpful divide former into acknowledged and suspected real reasons some of which overlap on acknowledged side, we find in June 9 communiqué:

Flight of GDR refugees. It admits that mistakes in implementing economic policies decided upon July 1952 led to flight and indicates hope changes will put end to latter.
Suggestion that changes made in order facilitate reunification. However, no mention made decision build armed forces; basic decision [Page 1582] proceed with transition from Capitalism to Socialism not criticized or withdrawn, implication being that only methods and speed of implementation faulty; and GDR agreement with Evangelical Church, while in essence agreeing stop further measures vs church and render retroactively null and void some of recent antichurch actions, does not admit any past actions basically wrong or unconstitutional.

We believe real motivations and timing to be combination following:

Kremlin recognition of necessity slow down tempo and aggressiveness GDR socialization process. This irrespective whether ultimate Soviet plans include possibility giving up GDR via compromise, or rest on determination retain it until unity on Soviet terms possible. Under this consideration is probability Soviets recognition that:
Continued mass exodus refugees had to be stopped for economic, political and propaganda reasons.
Suppression bourgeoisie too rapid for two reasons: (1) regime unable as yet develop effective substitute for this group’s expert knowledge and experience in making economy actually work and (2) non-working class nationalist circles in West judge GDR regime largely on basis its policy vis-à-vis this group.
Exploitation material and human resources Soviet zone too ruthless and had reached point of diminishing returns; i.e. in social terms, feeling of insecurity and dissatisfaction on part workers and farmers as being translated into passive, verging on active, resistance, which had reached stage of endangering Soviet political and economic objectives, both from internal and external point of view.
Soviet desire to time and formulate content of internal policy changes, required in any case, in manner calculated permit maximum external exploitation for purpose of:
Influencing outcome Federal Republic elections by increasing votes for SPD and Heinemann–Wassel parties, as only effective way contribute to defeat and removal Adenauer from active political scene. This connection sudden manner in which SED changed its line vis-à-vis SPD leadership, and geared its own new policies and declared objectives to blend with those of SPD, is striking.
Increasing in minds Germany and world public impression that Soviets are meeting President Eisenhower’s conditions for 4-Power talks, namely deeds in Korea, Austria and Germany. Desire to influence Bermuda Conference may also play part here.5

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Analysis whether internal GDR policy changes reflect only tactical maneuver, without basic policy change; or preface shift in Soviet strategy which will culminate in presenting real compromise plan for solution German unity at big power conference; is difficult and hazardous predict at this stage in highly fluid situation. Really satisfied answer this question probably ascertainable only at conference, or thru publications comprehensive West plan for peace treaty settlement which had been discussed thru diplomatic channels and rejected by Soviets. Viewed against background Soviet tactics in GDR from September 1951 to date; and current West position in Europe (i.e. Italian elections, up-coming Federal Republic Election, French political crisis and no immediate prospects EDC ratification); can be said timing nature of SED retrenchment and manner in which exploited to date supports tentative conclusion that recent Soviet move in GDR, coupled with Korean Armistice and other Soviet moves on world chess board, represent a tactical and not strategic shift in Germany. Executing two steps forward and one step backward in GDR since July 1952 leaves Soviets with: (1) over 4,000 agricultural production coops; (2) national armed forces approximately 130,000 strong (land, sea and air); and (3) a chastened Evangelical Church organization (one of most important blocks to socialization process in GDR); which possibly has allowed itself to be maneuvered into more vulnerable position should severe pressure be applied later.

Foregoing does not mean West powers have no possibility successfully countering Soviet maneuver and eventually developing position which, taking advantage certain assumed international weaknesses in Kremlin and its Satellites, could bring Soviet leaders to making strategic retreat favorable to Western world. However, conclusion suggests itself that the sooner West can agree on strong reasonable peace treaty position with which to challenge Soviets for solution of German unity problem at conference, sooner and easier will it be (1) clarify actual situation in Kremlin as result Stalin’s death, (2) remove conditions in West which currently permit Soviets pursue their objectives within framework tactical rather than strategic shifts of policy.

  1. Repeated to Washington, Moscow, London, Paris, Warsaw, Praha, Bucharest, and Budapest. The source text is the copy in Department of State files.
  2. Supra.
  3. Document 704.
  4. For documentation concerning Grotewohl’s proposals of September 1951, see Foreign Relations, 1951, vol. iii, pp. 1780 ff.
  5. For documentation on the Bermuda Conference, originally planned for late June, but postponed until Dec. 4–8, 1953, see vol. v, Part 2, pp. 1710 ff.