Department of the Army files, 338–78–0071. 337/1, B/P #6

No. 721
Record of the Sixth CINCUSAREURHICOG Commanders Conference, Heidelberg, June 29, 1953, 1:30 p.m.

[Extract]

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Dr. Conant:

That brings me to the question of ratification of the treaties and the whole overall strategy of the United States Government in that regard. It seems to me that within the last few months we have heard a lot of defeatism from various sources. A number of newspaper people have come into my office and have said, “Well, of course, any realistic person knows the EDC treaties are dead, and you people are behind the times. The Chancellor is riding a dead horse in his view that he could be re-elected on the whole platform of cooperating with the Allies and getting through the contractual EDC” I venture to disagree. I can report, I think, in this group—and, indeed, publicly, too—that from the highest sources—and I use that word advisably—there is no feeling at all that we have to give up our hope of the EDC; quite the contrary, the policy of the United States Government is to continue to support in every way it can the total integration of the six nations. You know that President [Page 1603]Eisenhower, before he became President, when he came over here and took that difficult assignment in NATO, said that sometime we don’t see how we can defend this European situation which we must defend if you nations don’t get together on a total basis. Therefore, he is committed to the whole concept of European integration. I had an interesting argument with some people very far down the line of planning staff, who I think had the argument just to bring it up, not to really search for alternatives but just to see that those who were scoffing at the National Security Council might have a run of their ideas. An interesting meeting one day which Mr. Draper, former SRE representative in Paris, and I were asked to report: this miscellaneous group of planners who represented the various departments, who are their heads in the National Security Council, and we had a go at this question—Was there an alternative to the EDC and the whole concept of European integration? I took the view very strongly that there was no alternative, and for the sake of arguing, one of the men there batted up the idea, well, let’s look at France. France is a difficult country, has no government, can’t seem to get it going; let’s have just a military alliance between United States and Germany. Both I—and far more effectively, Mr. Draper—pointed to a map—I’m sure I don’t have to for you gentlemen; least of all to General Bolte, who just came back from seeing ComZ—and said, just how do you expect to carry on a military alliance with a line of communication that runs through Bremen and Hamburg? We disposed of that argument, I think, in a very short time. In other words, when we got through, it was perfectly plain that the problem of the defense of Europe and the participation of the U.S. is the problem of getting, persuading the people involved, both France and Germany, to work together. That is the only run-long solution, I am convinced, and by no means one that we’ve given up hope on. For the moment, we’re in a period where perhaps nothing can be done for the next few months. The French Government has just been reformed. We’re in a period of German elections. Necessarily, we’re in a time when, politically, you can’t get forward with certain aspects of this French-German problem. You can’t expect that in a time of elections here in Germany to have realistic discussions of the problems respecting those two countries, because anything that the Chancellor might say would be used by the opposition to say, well, he’s willing to sell this part of Germany for the sake of European unity. Therefore, we just have to live through the time until the general elections are over, which I think are scheduled now for the 6th of September. But when that is over, I for one, have great hopes and even confidence that we can then get forward with the matter [Page 1604]which has been postponed and then lay the next step for getting the EDC treaties ratified as part of the total European integration.

And then to complicate the matter, as you all know, since I last met with you things have happened in the East Zone. I think I reported when I was here last1 that my appraisal of what had gone on in 12 months in the East Zone in the sovietization was that very rapid steps had been taken by the Government to sovietize that whole part of Germany. I think I mentioned what they were. When I went back to the United States just three weeks ago, that was still the story which I could tell, and I had hardly been there three or four days and, as you know, the Russians turned around, as they can on a dime, and announced that they essentially agreed with our diagnosis, that it was too bad they had done all these things and they were going to undo them all. Then, before anybody had a chance really to answer that, came the uprisings in Berlin—the demonstrations—and all through the East Zone. I’m not going to describe them because General Timberman is here and can give you a first-hand account. There’s no use of my repeating to you what he had told me. I do want to—if I may say so—congratulate him and the others in Berlin for the effective, cool-headed way in which they have handled these difficult days. I think the situation there has been very well handled, indeed, both by the Allied Commandant and by the people of Berlin and the mayor. I will only comment, if I may, on what seems to be the repercussion. It is natural that the Germans are very proud here in West Germany of the stand that was made in East Germany. Almost every German that I have talked to has said that it proved one thing, and that is that the Soviets were not able to despite 8 years of occupation to get any appreciable number of people in the East Zone to their way of thinking. They have sovietized the Zone in material matters, but not the spirit. I think that’s true, and I think we can congratulate the Germans living there on this fact and on their spirit, as shown by the demonstrations. On the other hand, there is the economic factor that we wouldn’t say too much about politically. It seems to be clear from the evidence that a good deal of the unrest is due to the fact that the food conditions in the East Zone have been even worse than some of us had imagined from what we heard. The Soviets have got a dilemma. For the first time perhaps in some time they’ve got a problem on their hands. On one hand, they’ve announced that they want to have a softening of their policy in the East Zone. They want to say this is going to be a free, democratic country; you can protest. On the other hand, they’ve got people [Page 1605]who dislike the leadership, are dissatisfied with the conditions that have been going on. And it’s never proved easy in history for a tyrant to relax his grip; and, therefore, one could predict that they will continue to have difficulty. From our side, we certainly don’t want to do anything that will cause any more bloodshed; we don’t want to incite real revolts and insurrections. At the same time, we certainly don’t want to applaud the Russians in any further attempts in repression of freedom. As to the effect on the West Germany elections, the stand in East Germany has had repercussions here. The opposition to the Chancellor, coming on as they are to a vigorous election, has made the most of it, and German unification has now become a dominant word. There seem to be some people in the opposition and in Berlin who, I believe, are really suffering from a delusion; they seem to think we can talk the Russians out of the East Zone, which, to my mind, is a delusion. Getting Germany reunified is something we can’t solve overnight. For the moment, therefore, I’m afraid we’re going to hear a good deal of fairly unrealistic discussions in West Germany about German reunification. But, after all, we’ve all gone through election years in our own country, and it’s not the time in which the most realistic and hard-boiled analysis of any problem is likely to occur. Just how that will be met by the Allies remains to be seen. Postponement of the Bermuda conference2 may or may not be a good thing. The Germans are expecting a little more than I think is possible to accomplish, from our point, and I think I’m reflecting the administration’s point of view. Eventual reunification of Germany is surely our objective, but as part of the Western European integration. Without emphasizing unduly the EDC, which we all want ratified as soon we can, by putting emphasis on the Schuman Plan, the political community, I think the majority of the Germans in the Western section will be convinced that their future lies not in the neutralized state between Russia and the West, certainly not as part of the Russian orbit, but rather as part of the Western European integration.

Well, that sums up the situation as I see it here. We’ll know more perhaps when we meet a month from now as to the German reaction. I suggest we must discount a good deal of what we read and hear in the next two months. The Bundestag will adjourn shortly. There’s going to be a great debate on foreign affairs on Wednesday, in which the Chancellor and the opposition will join issues on. The election law has been passed. I think most of the problems will be postponed until after September.

[Page 1606]

Have I left out any important matters that I should report on? Well, if not, then may I ask General Timberman to give us firsthand account of the historic events—and I think they were—that occurred in East Berlin and the East Zone a little more than a week ago?

Gen Timberman:

The disturbance in Berlin began with a few hundred workers on the Stalin Allee apartments who were objecting to an increase of 10 per cent in their norm, in their quotas. They marched down to the government building on Leipzigerstrasse, and there they were joined by a few hundred more. At that place, the minister for power did address them. He did state that possibly they did have a grievance, and at that, the meeting more or less dissolved. However, during the late afternoon and that evening, word got around about the tremendous meeting down in the middle of the city. The next morning found many thousands assembling, probably taking courage from the statements of the DDR government, as well as the apathy of the Vopos in forbidding or prohibiting their marching. Anyway, in any event, the next day by noon, many, many thousands were assembled in various parts of the East Sector. Their actions then became characterized by hooliganism and much burning. They set fire to a couple HO stores, pulled down the banners, carried banners saying we’re through with slavery; we want unity and better conditions for the workers. At that particular time the police seemed to be completely undependable. Later General Dibrova declared martial law at one o’clock, and the word went out in the early part of that evening that the 1st Mechanized Div began moving into the city. Many events took place that are hardly believable from a week before; for instance, the climbing of the Brandenburg Gate—several youths pulled down the Soviet flag right in the face of the Soviet soldiers, climbed up on a few of the tanks that had gotten in there by that time, tried to pull the aerials off, and it was rather amazing to find that the Russians didn’t shoot them. This brings in the point that the soldiers there had, evidently, been given strict orders of great restraint, and it certainly was a very moderate reaction they took to a thing they had probably never seen before in their lives. Across the way from Brandenburg Gate there were 40–50,000 West Berliners who had assembled. They were told over loudspeakers to disperse; they did not do so, and the Russians did not fire. There was a little firing by the Vopos. It spread very rapidly, and by the next day we also heard that in many other areas of the Zone they had taken up the cry—in Halle, the troops were dispatched there—in Magdeburg, [Page 1607]Leipzig, Jena—and there were some indications that they were interfering with traffic on the roads.

By the next evening, the third day, they had moved in the remainder of the 1st Mechanized Div and the 14th Mechanized Div. We found that on the third day there were two mechanized divisions completely in the East Sector. After their arrival, the situation evidently came under control. However, there did continue to be sporadic shooting, some machine gun fire, presumably from the Russian troops themselves, but mostly rifle firing. A lot of the firing of the Russian troops was over the heads of the demonstrators. On the first two-three days, of those who came to the West Sector, there were 7 killed and 123 wounded. However, there were many more. From reports coming out, there were 2–300 executed in the East Sector and the East Zone. We have no tabulations yet as to the number actually killed in the East Sector of Berlin.

The Allied Commandant, of course, immediately refuted the allegations that the Allies were instrumental in provoking the demonstration—particularly, most of it was pointed at the Americans. On Saturday the High Commissioners joined us in requesting that the free circulation of the city be established and communications be established. You know, at the moment there are only three crossing points, one in each sector. The S-Bahn and the U-Bahn does not run, nor the trolley service; and, of course, for many months the telephone service has been completely cut off.

From the West police point of view, I have great confidence from the way they acted and the efficiency with which they acted. We had some 110,000 people practically right on the border of the U.S. Zone and the Eastern Sector of Berlin. The police handled it admirably; it was dispersed. It was a quiet demonstration. A few speeches were made, noninflammatory, by their leaders. It was very encouraging to see the way in which the West Berlin police handled a very, very delicate situation. At the Schoeneberg Rathaus, where they demonstrated their sympathy for the seven who had been killed, they had the coffins there, the speeches were very moderate. As a matter of fact, the whole crowd seemed to have a deep feeling of a real religious ceremony. They moved very quietly over to the British Sector of Wedding, where they had the funeral, and that, likewise, was characterized by the same manner. You couldn’t escape the thought that there was tremendous deep feeling among the West Berliners. It was quiet, but certainly you could see that, in view of the happenings of the four-five days previous, there was a grave concern.

Of course, the $64 question is what is going to happen now. As we look at it, certainly, the Russian military have it completely under control. Secondly, although there is calmness, there is also [Page 1608]tenseness both in the East Sector and West Berlin as well. When the Russian military remove these controls and the power of the three mechanized divisions, whether that will encourage the East Berliners again to reopen the problem probably has a lot to do with how the Soviets or the GDR handle the situation. To relax is the line in which the East Berliners will probably be placated for the moment. It may keep the situation under control. On the other hand, certainly, I think their temper is such that if there are any broken promises or just some superficial reforms, we may see more trouble. Certainly, the spark of inflammable material is there.

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  1. A record of the fifth Commanders Conference is in Department of the Army files, 338–78–0071, 337/1, B/P #5.
  2. The Bermuda Conference was postponed due to Churchill’s illness.