142. Telegram From the Berlin Element, HICOG, to the Office of the High Commissioner for Germany, at Bonn1

643. Bonn pass USAREUR Heidelberg. Reference Department telegram 2634 to Bonn, 472 to Berlin.2 I of course appreciate the importance of preparing measures to be taken by FedRep with or without Allied support as may be necessary, or direct actions by US such [Page 352] as those suggested in Bonn’s 2838 to Department.3 At the same time I urge caution and deliberation in putting into effect measures going beyond those that may be necessary in present stage and which might only have effect of elevating controversy to a level involving governmental prestige and of a character appearing to assume the initiation of a new blockade. As matters stand traffic is being cleared on Helmstedt Autobahn at normal rate for both passenger and freight, although higher rates of course being paid, and Senat’s action already reported insures at least temporary continuance.4 Our note5 suggests possibility of discussions in Treuhandstelle of economic justification for increased tariffs and in my opinion FedRep should take initiative in developing in this forum what are the actual maintenance costs of Autobahn roads and bridges. Even if without satisfactory result, this might have result of exposing true Communist motivation and better set stage for direct action and/or retaliatory measures. Moreover, East press line is still that there is no reason for such excitement as has been generated in West, continues to insist that reasons for increased tolls are purely economic, and that they have never said they would not be ready to negotiate about them.

I have taken the liberty to advance these personal views, shared by responsible members of my staff, and which conform to those expressed to me by some level-headed business men and Senat officials, because I feel that the Soviet response to our protest note is not likely to be immediate, or if immediate, to produce an early solution. If a possibility still exists for the Germans to work out a reasonable solution, which I still believe is conceivable, then it seems to me it would be a mistake to take the initiative in disrupting traffic patterns, thereby shaking confidence in ability of Berlin’s industry to deliver, commit the US indefinitely to direct use of its own resources, and of our own accord change the conditions under which the Autobahn access to Berlin is now used.

Having in mind the basic importance of maintaining confidence in Berlin, I feel that the wording in the proposed statement contained in Department’s 2634 to Bonn, repeated Berlin 472, namely, “which [Page 353] will interfere with the transportation of goods”, should be avoided at this time and some more innocuous phraseology substituted such as “drastically increasing the rates for passenger and freight traffic.”

This message has been shown to General Honnen and he concurs.

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 962A.7162B/4–155. Secret; Niact Repeated to Heidelberg and Washington. The source text is the Department of State copy.
  2. Not printed.
  3. Telegram 2838 transmitted the following text of a possible draft statement which might bolster confidence in Berlin:

    “The United States Government has been apprised of new measures taken by the Communist authorities which will interfere with the transportation of goods to and from the city of Berlin. The situation is being closely watched.

    “The United States is already consulting with the Germans, the British and the French to consider what measures may prove necessary to assure the flow of goods in and out of Berlin.” (Department of State, Central Files, 962A.7162B/3–3155)

  4. On March 31, the Berlin Senat decided to earmark one million Deutsche Marks to reimburse drivers for the higher tolls.
  5. For text of the note to Pushkin, dated April 1, see Department of State Bulletin, April 18, 1955, p. 648.