217. Paper Prepared by the Operations Coordinating Board2



Assuming that dissatisfaction over current shortcomings and difficulties in East Germany should once again lead to riots similar to those of June 17, 1953, what action should be taken by US agencies concerned? Planning is called for under Paragraph 15, General Considerations NSC 174.3

Facts Bearing on Problem

In recent reports from the American Embassy Bonn and Berlin, it is indicated that an uprising similar to that of June 17 is not likely to take place at this time.
General economic conditions in the Soviet Zone are in some respects worse than two years ago. Food shortages exist mostly in rationed items such as butter, meat, flour and sugar. Some others including potatoes continue in normal supply. Supply of industrial items is slightly better than in spring of 1953.
Other factors contributing to scattered unrest in the GDR include work norm increases in selected factories, higher than normal discharge of workers from plants attempting to get on a profitable basis and increased pressure on young men to “volunteer” for KVP duty.
Paragraph 13, General Considerations, NSC 174, is interpreted as excluding any action of Allied troops in West Berlin or elsewhere in Germany in support of East German uprisings. It is considered [Page 534] that Allied troops should conduct normal activities insofar as practicable. Necessary security measures should be left to the discretion of the Commandants.


Despite the considered opinion of Berlin observers that the probability is slight that there will soon be another occurrence of mass revolt in the Soviet Zone, it is believed useful for planning purposes to consider what action the United States should initiate in the event of a mass uprising at some future date. Events in Austria and the Federal Republic of Germany coupled with continued dissatisfaction over internal economic and political conditions might eventually lead to such an uprising in East Germany.

It is contrary to US policy for US troops or officials abroad to instigate such an uprising or to seek to aid and abet it through participation therein. In brief, this rules out incitement to open revolt involving dangerous personal risk and restricts psychological warfare activities to the maintenance of the resistance potential of the East German population. The purpose of this paper is to suggest supplementary courses of action of a positive nature for consideration and development within the OCB Working Group.

Suggested Courses of Action


Action might be planned now here and in the field to dramatize the concern of the Western Powers over the plight of the East Germans and free world recognition of the fact that this plight can be fully ameliorated and East German hardships finally set aside only through the reunification of Germany. For instance a meeting at a high level with the Soviets should be requested and the request publicized. To be effective, the meeting should be called immediately following a general uprising in the Soviet Zone. This should not be a mere propaganda gesture based on the supposition that the Soviets would reject the proposal but should be prepared as fully as practicable in advance so that delay at the time of the outbreak could be kept at a minimum, and should be designed to bring about German settlement on terms acceptable to the West. If the Soviets should refuse to come to such a conference, it could increase East German resistance and might force the Soviets to make greater internal concessions and at the same time would demonstrate to West Germans and the rest of the world the emptiness of Soviet propaganda concerning German reunification. If they did come to such a conference it should be difficult for them to maintain the position that the twice-discredited East German regime should play a prominent part in preparing a German settlement.

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It had originally been thought that such a meeting could be held at Heads of Government level but in view of the recent decision to hold a Heads of Government meeting for broader purposes we believe that were an uprising to take place in Eastern Germany prior to the now planned Four-Power meeting, it would be inappropriate to suggest a meeting at the summit in this connection. A possible meeting of Foreign Ministers was also considered as an alternative to a meeting at the Summit. Whichever approach is made it would require advance approval of the French, British and West German Governments. It would also require preparation of a common Western position concerning a German settlement. Such a position is currently only in the preliminary process of formulation preparatory to the forthcoming talks with the Soviets some time after mid-July. The effectiveness of such a proposal later this year would in part depend on the outcome of the next conference. It would also depend on coincidence of circumstances otherwise favoring such a conference which cannot now be predicted. It is therefore recommended that this proposal be held in abeyance for the time being and reviewed in the light of the results of the forthcoming conference with the Soviets and conditions then existing in the Soviet Zone.

In the event that mass revolt should meanwhile occur in East Germany, it is recommended that a meeting of the British, the French and the US Ambassadors and the Soviet High Commissioner be called immediately. Furthermore, agreement might be reached on a statement to be issued by the Heads of Government immediately after the outbreak of such a revolt pointing to reunification of Germany in freedom as the only basic and lasting solution to this recurring problem. A brief resume of positive Western effort to achieve reunification over the past ten years and of Soviet intransigence in the matter should be included. Soviet actions which are in direct contradiction to their professed support of German unity such as current Berlin road tolls and past restrictions on East-West freedom of movement and contact should also be highlighted in such a statement. A meeting to dramatize Western concern over the plight of the East German population might in such a situation then be held at the Ambassadors level to utilize one or more of the approaches outlined under the following section.

Another approach to the problem of a positive US reaction to an East German uprising would be to propose ways and means of removing the lesser causes of discontent without implying that such measures could ever be a substitute for reunification and freedom. For example if it is common knowledge at the time of a mass demonstration that certain food items are in seriously short supply the US might unilaterally direct a campaign toward suggesting technical and organizational improvements in the agricultural system of the [Page 536] Soviet Zone. Under this we might insist on greater freedom and benefits for the farmers, adoption of machinery and modern processes which would improve both production and distribution of agricultural products and greater emphasis on the needs of the consumer as compared to heavy industry. Appropriate US agencies might explore now the possibility of making some limited offer at the time of the uprising of technical assistance with the proviso that repressive quotas and other coercive methods by which Soviet Zone authorities extract produce from the farmers be dropped. The US might also insist that special food rations for the privileged officials of party and government also be abandoned in the interest of equal distribution for all. Propaganda and other maneuvers in this field will be most effective if they offer realizable alternatives as challenges to the existing regime.
Following an uprising, a similar campaign might be directed against work norm increases by suggesting in some detail the advantages of creating worker incentive through higher wages and better working conditions. The line should be that pressure on workers was misplaced and should instead be brought to bear on the management of the plant to adopt efficient production techniques and machinery. It could be pointed out that in addition to doing away with inhumane demands upon the individual worker this combination of factors would lead to better quality production at a higher rate. Again emphasis should be placed on the advisability of satisfying consumer demand in preference to forced concentration on heavy industry. The financial and technical organization of a typical Western consumer goods factory might be outlined as a sample of what Soviet Zone authorities could do for the workers and for the consumers if they so desire. Plans should be drawn up now for technical assistance, if considered desirable and on condition that Soviets agree to reduce working hours, raise pay and expand production of consumer goods.
To remove any doubt that either of the above programs signified recognition of the GDR or abandonment of reunification, it should be repeatedly explained that improvement of the lot of the common man is a universal concern and that reunification would be made easier if the living standard in East Germany could be brought up to a level commensurate with that of the Federal Republic. All communications, which in most instances would be publicized, would be directed to the Soviets for referral to appropriate authority rather than to GDR officials.
Radio RIAS in Berlin should broadcast complete coverage of any riots and/or other disturbances taking place in Berlin and the Soviet Occupied Zone on a hard news basis. In addition to the hard news, emphasis should be given to official statements of the United States Government and its Allies including such statements as may [Page 537] be made by the Federal Republic of Germany and appropriate Berlin officials. Statements from non-official German sources may be used, if the Director of RIAS deems it appropriate. In the absence of such official statements, RIAS should issue statements expressing recognition of the courageous action of the East German people; at the same time, RIAS should caution the East German population not to place themselves in unnecessary jeopardy. West Berliners should be urged by RIAS not to infiltrate the East Sector or the Soviet Zone. The USIA Public Affairs Officer in Berlin and the Director of Radio RIAS are authorized to use their own judgment, within general policy limitations, as the situation demands.
USIA will exploit the situation in all areas through press, radio and other media available to them. Special emphasis is to be given to India and the other neutralist and communist nations. The VOA will supplement the above in its broadcasts to East and West Germany.
In the event advice is requested by the Federal Republic or German groups or if it is ascertained that the Germans are planning steps which might exceed the above outline, US officials in the field should use their discretion whether moderation should be urged.


It is recommended that the courses of action and necessary planning as outlined above be approved by the OCB and immediately thereafter referred to our Embassy in Bonn for joint consideration and detailed recommendations of the British, French and American Ambassadors and the German Federal Government.4

  1. Source: Department of State, OCB Files: Lot 62 D 430, Germany. Secret.
  2. Entitled “U.S. Policy Toward the Soviet Satellites in Eastern Europe,” December 11, 1953; Foreign Relations, 1952–954, vol. VIII, pp. 110127.
  3. At its May 25 meeting, the Operations Coordinating Board approved this paper and referred it to the Embassy in Bonn for further consideration. (Preliminary Notes of the OCB meeting, May 25; Department of State, OCB Files: Lot 61 D 385)