168. Telegram From the Department of State to the Embassy in Germany1

1170. 1. Department closely following reports from Bonn and Berlin regarding travel documentation (your 1254 and Berlin’s 322, [Page 397] 326 and 336)2 and barge permits (your 1284 and previous).3 These incidents carry most serious implications. Taken together they indicate probable Soviet plan force three Powers into contact with GDR on various aspects travel and transport between Berlin and Federal Republic. It is likely we shall be faced with series of difficult decisions and it will be important approach them with consistent and carefully developed policy. Present message intended convey preliminary thinking and does not represent Department’s final views or coordination with Defense.

2. We recall most recent comprehensive expression tripartite policy this field is High Commission report dated August 23, 1954 (HICOM/P(54)5 Revised Final)4 on problems arising from Soviet declaration on GDR sovereignty. While this paper may be helpful in some specific applications, it was prepared before Soviet agreements with Federal Republic and GDR5 and is out of date in many ways. It is no longer adequate guide and should either be extensively revised or superseded by new policy statement. We assume all aspects potential GDR pressures and retaliatory action under active study with British French Germans in accordance earlier instructions (Department’s 826 and 896)6 and would appreciate word where this project stands.

3. Without attempting definitive formulation it occurs to us that certain points clearly belong among major considerations this general problem. For example, it will be essential maintain basic rights regarding free flow of air and surface traffic for both Allies and Germans between Berlin and Federal Republic. Also essential protect equally both civilian and military Allied personnel stationed Berlin. [Page 398] Assertion Allied rights must not be depreciated by protests made too frequently or without firm grounds. In raising any particular case with Soviets we must bear in mind corresponding situation our side in order avoid counter charge of inconsistent practice our part. In this connection we must give careful thought to relation this subject with status Soviet officials in Federal Republic after establishment diplomatic relations with Soviet Union.

4. Until common policy worked out and accepted by three Powers and Germans we shall have to make practical decisions as individual cases arise. In considering immediate problem travel documentation it appears to us most important distinction is whether documents are issued under Soviet authority or independently by East Germans. Substitution Soviet visas for Soviet military permits authorizing travel Allied civilian officials in GDR seems not necessarily incompatible with Soviet responsibilities under quadripartite agreements and it would be difficult make effective protest this ground alone as pointed out your 1254. We agree, however, that change in form of documentation likely to be first step in preparation give GDR authority issue visas for Allied civilian officials. While undesirable acquiesce in differentiation Soviet treatment Allied civilian and military personnel stationed in Berlin (Berlin’s 336), do not believe we can refuse accept visas in place of propusks particularly in view past practice.

5. Regarding submission travel documents to inspection by East German police (such as incident Hof checkpoint reported 1254), we agree this undesirable, but possible maintain police acting as Soviet agents. Believe principal difficulty would arise, not from inspection alone, but from failure East Germans honor such documents. While HICOM report recommends Three Powers protest such inspection immediately, we are not convinced protest need be made such cases unless East Germans refuse recognize validity documents. In event such refusal, desirability following suggestion your 1254 to restrict Allied civilian travel to Berlin–Helmstedt Autobahn (where visas and propusks not required) would be more evident than it is now. Unable determine from information available here whether such restriction advisable at this stage.

6. Agree better ascertain Soviet intentions by test cases application for travel documents than by direct inquiry, but question whether issue should be pressed until tripartite position more fully defined. Assume you will keep us currently advised all developments and progress joint planning.

[Page 399]

7. Your 13037 received since preparation foregoing. Will comment last paragraph separately.

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 962A.7162B/10–2155. Confidential. Drafted by Auchincloss, cleared with Reinstein, and approved by Barbour. Repeated to Berlin, London, Paris, and Moscow.
  2. Telegrams 1254 and 336 reported on tripartite meetings on October 19 in Bonn and Berlin to discuss Allied travel into or through East Germany. (Ibid., 862B.181/10–1955 and 862B.181/10–2055, respectively) Telegrams 322 and 326 reported summaries of conversations between British and Soviet officials concerning new travel documentation for Allied personnel entering or transiting the German Democratic Republic. (Ibid., 762.0221/10–1855 and 862B.181/10–1855, respectively)
  3. Telegram 1284 reported recent developments in the documentation necessary for barge traffic in the German Democratic Republic. (Ibid., 962A.7162B/10–2155)
  4. This 28-page report was divided into five sections: (1) Access to Berlin, (2) Passports and Visas Issued by the GDR, (3) Commercial Relations Between the Western Powers and the GDR, (4) Protection of Nationals and Interests in the GDR, and (5) Participation of the GDR in International Organizations. (Ibid., 762.0221/8–2354)
  5. Regarding the agreements between the Federal Republic of Germany and the Soviet Union, made during Chancellor Adenauer’s visit to Moscow in September 1955, see vol. v, pp. 573 ff. Regarding the treaty between the German Democratic Republic and the Soviet Union, signed at Moscow on September 20, 1955, see Document 218.
  6. Telegram 826 stated that treaty between the Soviet Union and the German Democratic Republic raised serious questions about future access to Berlin. (Department of State, Central Files, 661.62B/9–2155) Telegram 896 stated that Allied military and civilian representatives in West Germany should review the Berlin situation in light of the treaty and study measures that could be taken in the event of further interference with Allied access to Berlin. (Ibid., 762A.0221/6–2355)
  7. Telegram 1303 noted that the Deputy Commandants had not addressed the question of whether Allied personnel should submit travel documents to East German officials in the absence of Soviet representatives at various checkpoints. (Ibid., 862B.181/10–2255)