278. Telegram From the Embassy in the Federal Republic of Germany to the Department of State1

877. For Merchant from Conant. At 6 o’clock this evening Francois-Poncet, Mr. [Allen?] British Chargé and myself, together with Hallstein and Brentano had a rather lengthy session with Chancellor. Chancellor spoke 45 minutes almost without interruption, 35 minutes of which was taken up with account of what Khrushchev and Bulganin had said to him in course of long conversation, most of which has been reported previously from Moscow, also his general impressions of Russian scene and attitude of government, all of which I will report in later telegram.2

The offer to free 9,000 so-called war criminals in exchange for diplomatic relations was made at social gathering on Sunday night by Bulganin who said Chancellor would have his prisoners in eight days if diplomatic relations were established. Before this proposal Chancellor was prepared to leave Moscow feeling there was no chance of accomplishing anything. In his exposition Chancellor gave no clear reason why he accepted this proposal. But later during one-half hour of exchange of comments between Francois-Poncet and himself, it became clear that neither he nor Brentano nor Hallstein were very happy about what had happened.

In answer to Francois-Poncet’s piercing questions as to whether they were not worried about the Soviet Embassy in Bonn being used [Page 585]as an espionage and propaganda center, they agreed they were but added the size of the two embassies was to be settled by later negotiations between Hallstein and Molotov.

They then proceeded to justify their decision, the Chancellor by referring to 1957 elections and his fear of what would happen if Socialist opposition should win. Francois-Poncet pointed out that a good deal more could happen in 24 months, but all three Germans present reiterated what great difficulty Chancellor and his government would have been in if Russians had publicly announced their offer and Chancellor had refused it simply on basis that Germans were unwilling to have a Soviet Embassy established in Bonn. This they all said would have placed Chancellor in an impossible position, from which I concluded that a threat of this nature, either direct or implied, had a great deal to do in change in Chancellor’s attitude.

In reply to my question as to whether Chancellor was worried lest Soviets try again to bring his government and Pankow into relationship by one method or another, he replied in negative because they knew how strong his opposition to any recognition of Pankow would be. Brentano disagreed and said he thought they would try.

There is no question of Cabinet or Bundestag approval. Chancellor reported his party had reacted very favorably because of human element involved in release of prisoners. All three Germans felt very bitter about Soviets using 9,000 human beings as method of forcing diplomatic relations. Chancellor seems convinced that Russians require a breathing space, though is quite as firm as ever on his conviction of their ultimate objectives. He emphasized that at no time did Soviets propose that Federal Republic should leave Atlantic Pact though they said Paris treaties were an unpleasant reality for them.

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 661.62A/9–1555. Secret; Niact; Limit Distribution. Repeated to Moscow, London, and Paris.
  2. Not further identified.