228. Report Prepared by the Operations Coordinating Board1


(Policy Approved by the President December 23, 1953)

(Period Covered: June 17, 1955 through May 17, 1956)

A. Listing of Major Developments During the Period

USSR–GDR Actions
Moscow Agreements between USSR and GDR were announced September 20, 1955,3 declaring the GDR to be “sovereign” and granting it police and protective powers of control over East German borders and lines of communication to Berlin except with respect to the Western garrisons in Berlin.
USSR effort to stabilize partition of Germany and prevent German unification except on terms promoting Communist control of all Germany was evidenced by ostentatious Soviet meetings with GDR representatives after the Geneva Summit and Foreign Ministers’ meetings and on the heels of the Adenauer visit to Moscow and by Soviet insistence at the Geneva meeting of Foreign Ministers and subsequently that unification could be achieved only by an agreement between the Federal Republic and the GDR which would preserve the “social gains” of the GDR.
Gradual shift to tougher GDR internal policy was evidenced by (1) shift back to emphasis on heavy industry, (2) scattered increase of work norms, (3) development of corps of armed civilians equipped to quell labor disturbances in East Germany, (4) new emphasis on the communist youth consecration program and vigorous attacks on church policies and activities, and (5) accelerated flow of refugees, particularly younger people, from East Germany.
Formal establishment of GDR “People’s Army” and Defense Ministry was announced January 18, 1956. Approximately 100,000 former Garrisoned People’s Police (KVP) already organized and equipped along military lines (7 divisions) are available to become the ground elements of the GDR armed forces. On January 28, 1956, the formal [Page 553] integration of these forces into the Warsaw military bloc was announced by the Political Consultative Committee of the Warsaw Pact. Despite continuing recruitment difficulties, the GDR announced there would be no military conscription “at present”.
The GDR economy continued to lag behind that of the Federal Republic, with food shortages, continued rationing of consumer goods, and shortfalls in planned industrial production.
External policy concentrated on efforts to expand trade and increase influence and stature of GDR outside the Soviet bloc. (1) Trade agreements were concluded with Egypt, Lebanon, Syria, India and Burma. (2) Trade missions were established in Cairo and New Delhi, and Khartoum is considering the exchange of trade missions with the GDR, but in no instance have the non-communist partners in such deals agreed to establish regular consular or diplomatic relations. (3) Commercial agents without diplomatic status were exchanged with Uruguay. (4) The GDR has attempted without success to gain recognition as a participant in various UN sub-organizations and international economic and technical conferences such as ECE, ICAO, ILO, the International Sugar Council, and the World Meteorology Organization. (5) Through the USSR–GDR Agreements of September 20, 1955, the Soviet Government has set the stage for pressures against Berlin designed to force the Federal Republic to deal with, and hence increase the prestige of the GDR regime.
Actions Taken Under NSC Policy
Toward German reunification. (1) The Three Western Powers, working closely with the Federal Government, presented a strong Western position on German reunification at the Geneva Meetings of Heads of Government and Foreign Ministers. (2) Subsequent to the Geneva Conference the Western Powers have repeatedly announced their continued support for German reunification in freedom through (a) the NATO Council Meeting in Paris last December, (b) the President’s Christmas message, (c) the President’s letter to Bulganin of January 28, 1956, (d) the communiqué of February 2, 1956 following US–UK conversations in Washington.4
Against recognition of the GDR. (1) On October 3, 1955, the U.S., U.K. and France sent notes to the USSR5 putting the Soviet Government on formal notice that they did not recognize the USSR–GDR Agreements of September 20, 1955, as affecting in any way the obligations and responsibilities set forth in existing Four Power Agreements relating to Germany and Berlin. (2) With equal frequency the [Page 554] Western Powers have made it clear, as in the New York tripartite declaration of September 28, 1955,6 and in the Berlin speech of Under Secretary Hoover on February 5, 1956,7 that they do not recognize the GDR regime as a government nor the Soviet Zone area as a separate state. (3) The U.S., together with the Federal Republic and other Western Powers, has sought the cooperation of all nations outside the Soviet Bloc in resisting GDR efforts to establish official ties with their governments, and to gain status through official representation on international organizations or at international conferences. (See Detailed Development of Major Actions for NSC 160/1).8
Soviet Zone Projects. The United States is presently supporting special programs designed to maintain contact with the people of East Germany and to encourage resistance to the Communist regime. These projects are designed to maintain a sense of identification with the West and through the provision of cultural, educational, welfare and travel opportunities, to manifest our concern for their hardships. These programs are of a grey nature and our support for them is rendered to the West German Government which administers the programs through West German and West Berlin private organizations.
Welfare Programs: (a) Food and clothing packages for political prisoners and their families in the East Zone, (b) Medical treatment for visiting East Zone residents in West Berlin and the Federal Republic, (c) Provision of medicines through church channels into the East Zone.
Contacts and Western Ties: (a) Provision of return travel costs for individual visitors from the East Zone, (b) Support for East Zone participation in professional and other conventions in the Federal Republic and West Berlin.
Support for East Zone Youth: (a) East Zone youth visits to organized programs in the Federal Republic and Berlin, (b) East Zone youth visits to West Berlin, (c) Scholarship aid for East Zone students in West Berlin and West Germany.
Support for Church Activities in the East Zone: (a) Institutional supplies for church youth and welfare organizations in East Zone, (b) Paper for church publications in the East Zone.
Educational: West German books (for visitors, for church libraries in the East Zone, or for package mailings).
Support for the Participation of East Zone residents in Catholic and Protestant lay conventions to be held in West Germany in August 1956.
RIAS tenth anniversary was made the occasion for a visit to Berlin and an address broadcast to the Soviet Zone by Under Secretary Hoover. RIAS has directed much of its broadcasting during the period against the USSR position at Geneva, against exploitation of [Page 555] youth and against the GDR armed forces. It has (1) stressed NATO solidarity and increased free world strength, (2) given assistance in locating friends and relatives of returned prisoners of war, and (3) featured discussions and conferences with visiting East Germans.
During his visit to Bonn,9 prior to his RIAS speech, Under Secretary Hoover offered to Foreign Minister Von Brentano United States assistance in increasing food rations presently available to various victims of Communist oppression who have fled to the West or have otherwise been subject to harassment by the Communists. The offer was accepted by the West German Government, and a program calling for distribution of 2,700 tons of surplus commodities through private agencies to some 100,000 persons has now been developed. The value of supplies to be distributed approximates $2,100,000, including freight costs.

B. Summary Statement of Operating Progress in Relation to Major NSC Objectives 10

Validity of the Basic Policy. The NSC is reviewing NSC 174 for which the Working Group on Germany has been assigned coordinating responsibility (June 1955) as it applies to East Germany. It is recommended that the NSC supplement NSC 160/1 with an appropriate new section pertaining to U.S. policy toward East Germany; this would package U.S. policy toward both East and West Germany in a single paper. (N.B. See paragraph 7 of the Progress Report on NSC 160/1).11
Political Objectives
Place the Soviets in East Germany on the defensive by measures in support of reunification. Some progress was made toward this objective. Although no agreement was reached by the Four Powers at the Geneva Conferences on practical steps toward achievement of German reunification, the pressure of world opinion was brought to bear on the Soviet position in Germany with renewed force. By advancing a reasonable proposal combining German reunification through free elections with a plan for European security, the Western Powers deprived the Soviet Union of the argument that a reunified Germany would endanger the peace. The Soviet Delegation retreated to the position of openly rejecting free elections because they would operate against the “achievements” of the East German regime. Subsequent soundings of German opinion indicate that a majority of Germans throughout the country were convinced by this Conference that only Soviet intransigence stands in the way of German reunification. [Page 556] Germans fully supported Western rejection of the proposals that were put forward by the Soviet Delegation for formation of an all-German Council through merger of the West German Parliament and the East German Volkskammer. They also supported the rejection of the Soviet proposal that the East German regime participate in the Conference.
Exploit Western position in Federal Republic and Berlin to undermine Soviet power in East Germany. (For details see Progress Report on NSC 5404/112 and 160/1). Actions have been effective in blocking Soviet–GDR gains.
Relative improvement in political, economic, military and international standing of Federal Republic served to increase contrast between it and East Germany to the detriment of the Soviet position.
Despite elaborate Soviet efforts to improve the facade of East German sovereignty and increase GDR prestige in the world, the USSR was prevented from creating a position of parity with the Federal Republic for its East German satellite. The GDR failed to gain access to world councils. In general Western efforts to prevent GDR achievement of international standing were successful. It has not been recognized by any nation outside the Soviet bloc.
Among the vast majority of Germans, including all non-communist political parties in the Federal Republic, the GDR has gained no respect or acceptance. It is still recognized as having no German roots.
Evidences of continued strong Western support for Berlin and our determination to remain there served to reassure East German people of our continued confidence in eventual satisfactory settlement of the German problem. By maintaining the city as a show window of Western accomplishments and as an island of resistance to consolidation of communist control in East Germany, we have been able to hamper Soviet exploitation of East Germany.
Berlin has been the base for most programs designed to maintain contact with East Germans by means of radio (RIAS), visits and various forms of aid. These have played a positive role in preserving anti-communist attitudes and basic resistance to the GDR regime. However, the factor of incessant, all-pervading communist propaganda and relative isolation from free world realities is having some discernible effect, particularly on younger elements of the population. The fact that this effect has not been universal is evident in the continuous stream of refugees of all age groups from East Germany which in recent months has been twice as great as during the same period a year ago.
As to plans for exploitation of future mass uprisings, a series of tentative proposals for action to exploit any future mass uprising in East Germany in ways advantageous to U.S. policy were reviewed and commented upon by our missions in Bonn and Berlin.13 Field comments and later developments have led to the conclusion that [Page 557] certain of these plans are impracticable. This problem is scheduled for early review by the OCB Working Group.
Economic Objectives. Actions have been effective in varying degrees. Although the standard of living continues depressed and compares unfavorably with that of the Federal Republic, the GDR has made some progress with its program of basic industrial development and socialization.
Economic progress in the Federal Republic and West Berlin and the knowledge thereof in the Soviet Zone have made it impossible for the GDR regime to convince Germans that the communist system has achieved a better life for the population in East Germany.
The exit of some skilled workers and technicians from the GDR, as a result of (1) the attractions of West Berlin and West German conditions and (2) recruitment by private industries, has caused the GDR some trouble in the development of its economy.
The Special Committee (SCOM) was established on September 9, 1955 within the structure of the Consultative Group in Paris. This created a forum within which the strategic aspects of the Federal Republic’s interzonal trade might be discussed while maintaining the West German concept that this was internal trade, and established procedures for the international supervision of German interzonal trade.
The planning and application of “countermeasures” against the GDR raises the question essentially of an embargo or restriction on shipments to the Soviet Zone outside the list of strategic items. It is therefore discussed in the progress report on NSC’ 5404/1 as a means of keeping open communications and transportation between West Berlin and the Federal Republic.
Military Objectives. FOSTER disaffection in East German armed forces and diminish their reliability. Progress has been fair.
Defection. During the reporting period KVP (now Peoples Army) members continued to defect at a steady though low rate. Draft-age youth have been more numerous among the refugees as the result of more vigorous recruiting for military service in the GDR.
Popular support and morale. There is no evidence of any real popular support for GDR military forces. So-called popular demand for an Army was entirely artificial and propagandistic. It remains to be seen whether the new uniforms patterned after those of the Wehrmacht and possible expansion of existing forces will elicit support hitherto lacking or raise morale from its present low state.
Manpower. Increasingly severe labor shortages in certain sectors of the East Zone economy, particularly in agriculture, will act as a deterrent to any major expansion of forces. Conscription and severe [Page 558] border restrictions would probably be required for such an expansion as these limits would allow (estimated variously from 100,000 to 200,000).
Para-military. During the reporting period the emergence of some 12,000 armed civilians (Kampfgruppen), originally organized as factory guards to prevent labor uprisings, as a force with offensive potentiality, became evident. They could be used to create incidents along the zonal border and in West Berlin or like the GST (organized youth “sport” groups) form a reserve of partially trained military manpower.

C. Major Problems or Areas of Difficulty

Erosion of Resistance to Communist Regime. As long as Germany remains divided, it must be recognized that there are various factors at work in East Germany which operate cumulatively to weaken the resistance of the population to the alien regime which has been imposed on them. These factors include the wholesale communist indoctrination of youth, the weakening under unrelenting police-state pressures of resistance groups now in existence, and the continuing flight to the West of anti-regime refugees.
New Soviet Line of Action. Soviet–GDR actions outlined under Section A indicate a major effort to reenforce the status quo in Germany, and to increase the acceptance of the GDR among Western powers and uncommitted nations. We must anticipate continuing efforts to increase the prestige and recognition of the GDR and to equate this with the security and welfare of Europe. Berlin (see Progress Report on NSC 5404/1) is an obstruction to completion of such a development and at the same time a vulnerable Western position likely to be exploited by the Soviet Government in furthering its program. Artificial though it is, the Soviet declaration of GDR “sovereignty” constitutes a tactical device which the USSR seems prepared to use in a variety of ways over a long period with the purpose of seeking to divide the Western powers among themselves and from the Federal Republic on the German issue and eventually to cause the Western Powers to withdraw from a disaffected and more neutral and nationalist Germany. The Soviets, having purposely killed German hopes for reunification in the near future, appear to be content with a slow pace calculated to erode rather than frontally attack the Western position in Germany. They have openly stated that recognition of the GDR by Western nations “is only a matter of time.” This new phase into which we have entered in competition for influence in Germany is less likely to be characterized by drastic actions such as a full blockade than by harassments similar to the road toll. Emerging from this background are the following major problems and difficulties.
Reunification. The last inner reserves of the East German people would not long hold out if the USSR should be able to convince them that the Western Powers were no longer seriously pressing for a solution to the division of Germany. A basic hope that reunification will somehow eventually be accomplished continues to be the main psychological barrier to full acceptance of the GDR regime by a majority of East Germans. Against the sharply negative Soviet position on reunification, it is essential that Western support, and to the extent possible, the support of non-NATO Powers outside the Soviet bloc, be made evident on a continuing basis. Failure to keep world opinion attuned to the injustices of a divided Germany would in time assist the Soviet Union in its persistent efforts to sever all meaningful sympathetic connections between their East German subjects and the world outside the Soviet bloc.
Contact with East Germans. This is a continuing problem in relation to the stimulation of resistance to communism, hope for eventual liberation and confidence in the West. Further means of contact with the East German people as distinguished from the GDR regime are being explored in order more effectively to counteract the cumulative effect of communist propaganda distortion of Western views and developments. Imagination and flexible application of projects and public affairs programs are required in a period when quick adjustment to a variety of possible changes in GDR restrictions on the access of the East German population to Berlin and West Germany may be necessary.
Making the Soviet Zone a liability to the USSR. Given the remoteness of present prospects for German reunification, the problem of making the Soviet Zone a liability rather than an asset to the Soviet bloc becomes increasingly significant. The United States Mission, Berlin, has recently recommended the development of a program designed to cause defection to the West of key GDR technicians in industry, science, administration and the professions. Shortages of such skills are already sufficiently great in many fields to make the loss through defection of a few thousand key people a severely damaging blow to the GDR economy. Such a program should be carefully devised in cooperation with the Federal Republic of Germany where appropriate arrangements to attract and place such defectors would have to be made. It would have to be executed in such a way as to minimize the risk of inspiring mass exodus or serious reduction of potential resistance leadership. It is proposed to initiate a review by Embassy Bonn of the possibilities of setting such a plan in motion.
Prevent recognition of the GDR. We shall have the continuing problem of convincing uncommitted nations of the desirability of denying recognition to the GDR in spite of the fact that this might conflict with commercial interests. On the broader scale, we must be [Page 560] prepared to fight an already discernible tendency on the part of some elements in West European countries to favor concluding security agreements with the USSR based on a divided rather than a unified Germany.
  1. Source: Department of State, S/SNSC Files: Lot 63 D 351, NSC 174 Series. Top Secret. A cover sheet, a May 25 memorandum of transmittal, and a financial annex are not printed.
  2. For text, see Foreign Relations, 1952–1954, vol. VIII, pp. 110127.
  3. See Document 218.
  4. For text of President Eisenhower’s Christmas message, December 18, 1955, see Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States: Dwight D. Eisenhower, 1955, pp. 860–861; for his letter to Bulganin, see ibid., 1956, pp. 208–212; for text of the joint communiqué, February 1, see ibid., pp. 214–218.
  5. See Document 218.
  6. See Document 218.
  7. See footnote 2, Document 177.
  8. For text of NSC 160/1, see Foreign Relations, 1952–1954, vol. VII, Part 1, pp. 510520.
  9. Regarding Hoover’s visit to Bonn, see Documents 4447.
  10. Latest NIE–12–56, dated 1/10/56 supersedes NIE–12–54, dated 1/19/54. [Footnote in the source text. For text of NIE 12–56, see vol. xxv, pp. 115118; NIE 12–54 is not printed. (Department of State, INRNIE Files)]
  11. Document 53.
  12. Document 179.
  13. Document 217.