222. Memorandum of a Conversation Between Frederick J. Leishman of the British Embassy and the Assistant Secretary of State for European Affairs’ Special Assistant (Reinstein), Department of State, Washington, October 29, 19551


  • Relations Between the Federal Republic and the GDR

Mr. Leishman said that he had recently seen a letter from the British Ambassador in Bonn (apparently addressed to the Foreign Office) raising the question as to whether the Federal Republic is likely to be too rigid in its approach to the question of dealings with the GDR and whether we should take some attitude on this subject. He asked Mr. Reinstein whether he had any views on this matter.

Mr. Reinstein said that the question did not make entirely clear how it was envisaged that the problem would arise. He felt that it was a difficult one on which to generalize. He remarked that as a general proposition, the Federal Republic had not solicited our views on the subject of relations with the GDR.

Mr. Reinstein said that, speaking personally, it seemed to him that the question fell more or less into two different fields. One was the subject of contacts in the political field or contacts which had essentially a political motivation. This would include contacts concerning reunification or contacts in fields such as culture, either directly or through all-German organizations. In the past, the West Germans had been very much opposed to contacts of this character, although their attitude might conceivably change. It was contacts of such a character which the Soviet government had for a long time been seeking to promote, and any development of contacts along these lines clearly fitted into the general Soviet political objectives of promoting the two-Germany thesis and the illusion that German reunification could be achieved by direct negotiations between the Federal Republic and the German Democratic Republic. It did not appear to him that it would be in our interest for such contacts to develop, which could only result in promoting policies aimed at detaching Germany from the West. If the West Germans were rigid in excluding contacts of such a character, this appeared to our advantage.

The other general area in which the problem arose is the one in which there are now contacts between the Federal Government and the GDR. This is essentially in the field of interzonal trade, transport and communications. In this field, the matter is partly one in which [Page 545] the basic responsibility is Germany and partly one (insofar as it relates to Berlin) in which the basic responsibility is that of the Three Powers. Here again, he felt that it was difficult to generalize. However, in the case of Berlin, there are distinct dangers. If these contacts took a form which could be construed as recognition of the position of the GDR, the Allied position with respect to Four-Power agreements which had been reasserted in the note which we just sent the Soviets would be undermined.

In general, Mr. Reinstein said that he felt that the problem was one in which it was necessary to examine the position in relation to specific situations. He said that a too rigid to difficulty. For example, there had been some feeling in the Department that the Germans had been somewhat too rigid in their handling of the question of relations with the GDR in the case of the road toll situation.2 The Department had thought that the West Germans might have been a little bit more forthcoming. However, he pointed out that the particular manner in which the problem presents itself is of some importance. In the road toll case, the discussions had finally broken down when the East Germans had demanded that the West German representative present a letter evidencing his authority over the signature of West German Minister of Transport. This was not the only issue involved in the breakdown. However, the case illustrated the manner in which the problem presents itself. The West Germans apparently feel very strongly that any meeting between Ministers would be politically out of question. The question then arises as to what degree of contact between Ministers of the Federal Republic and the GDR can be envisaged without giving rise to a political problem. This can only be determined in the particular case.

Mr. Reinstein said he thought that, if the problem were to be looked at in a general way, we should direct our attention to the East in the first instance. It was not the Federal Republic which was creating problems in this field. They were being created deliberately by the GDR for political purposes, and we could expect this would be the position in the future.

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 762.00/10–2955. Secret. Drafted by Reinstein.
  2. Regarding the problem of road tolls, see Documents 141 ff.