235. Report Prepared by the Operations Coordinating Board1

PROGRESS REPORT ON UNITED STATES POLICY TOWARD EAST GERMANY (Supplement to NSC 160/1)2

(Policy Approved by the President September 12, 1956)

(Period covered: December 6, 1956 through July 17, 1957)

A. Summary of Operating Progress in Relation to Major NSC Objectives3

1. OCB Recommendation Regarding Policy Review. See para. A1 of Progress Report on Federal Republic of Germany.4

2. Summary Evaluation. The intransigence of the Soviet Union has prevented progress toward achievement of the basic objective of the reunification of Germany in freedom. However, progress has been made on interim objectives as follows:

a.
Placing the Soviets on the defensive by measures in support of reunification. See para. A1 of Progress Report on Federal Republic of Germany.
b.

Undermining Soviet control over East Germany through exploiting the Western position in the Federal Republic and Berlin. Our position in free West Berlin constitutes our most valuable and effective weapon for undermining Soviet control over East Germany. Our contribution to the remarkable reconstruction of the City’s economic and political welfare, coupled with our continuing active support of the position [Page 599] of West Berlin as exemplified by the presence of our troops and or continuing aid, have been effective in demonstrating our conviction that Germany will eventually be reunified in freedom with Berlin as its capital. In addition, our efforts on behalf of the City’s economic recovery, in support of the active role played by the Federal Republic in this regard, have been instrumental in setting up in the very center of the Soviet Zone a visible and continuing demonstration to the people of East Germany of the superiority of the free world system over the Communist system.

RIAS (Radio Station in the American Sector of Berlin) broadcasts and other U.S. programs for maintaining contact with the East German population have kept the population informed of the internal struggles and contradictions within the Communist system and of the contrast between steadily improving economic conditions in West Germany and West Berlin and those in the Zone. This information contributes perceptibly to the continued large flow of refugees from Eastern Germany, which affords a convincing demonstration of the regime’s failure to indoctrinate and gain the support of the Zone population. U.S. help has also been instrumental in maintaining the large-scale flow of visitors from the Soviet Zone to the Federal Republic (about 2,400,000 in 1956). West Berlin has been maintained as a show window for further millions of visitors from East Berlin and the Soviet Zone (see paragraphs 2–e and 2–f–(3) below).

c.
Diminishing the reliability of the East German armed forces. RIAS and other U.S. programs have constantly reminded members of the East German armed and para-military forces that these forces are in essence instruments of the Kremlin designed to further the maintenance of Soviet control over East Germany. Continued disaffection in the East German military establishment is reflected by the continued and steady defection to the West of members and former members of the East German armed forces (over 200 a month, including security policy forces). Despite all efforts by the regime the East German defense establishment has not overcome its inherent weaknesses of poor morale and low political reliability.
d.
Minimizing the East German contribution to Soviet power. As a result of developments in Hungary and Poland the Soviets have been compelled for political reasons to turn away from rapacious economic exploitation of the satellites, including East Germany, to a program of more moderate demands combined with a limited amount of actual economic aid to the countries concerned. The resulting decrease in East Germany’s contribution to the economic power of the Soviet Union has been intensified by dislocations in the East Zone economy arising from curtailed deliveries from Poland and Hungary. Establishment of new Polish trade patterns which would result from increased trade with Western countries might create further difficulties for the [Page 600] Soviet Zone economy, which is highly dependent on Polish fuel and other commodities. RIAS and other U.S. programs which help to maintain discontent among East Zone workers have contributed to the present lower productivity rate in the Zone and to the heavy refugee flow, which has over the years represented a considerable loss to the Zonal economy. (The Zone is losing people, most of them in their productive years, at the rate of over one quarter million a year.)
e.
Conserving and strengthening the assets within East Germany which may contribute to US. interests. U.S. programs have been successful in contributing to maintaining the high level of popular dissatisfaction with the East German regime without, however, inciting the population to the point of violent resistance. While there has been some increase in realization by the East Germans that Western intervention in Hungary could have meant world war, the main Western effort has had to be directed toward overcoming their disillusionment by emphasizing the continued interest in and support of the West for the situation of the people of East Germany. This is being done through RIAS and through U.S. assistance to West German programs designed to give material assistance to the East Zone population, to maintain the flow of East German visitors to the Federal Republic and Western Berlin, and to maintain the morale and prestige of the Protestant Church in East Germany as a center of spiritual and ideological resistance to the regime.
f.
Additional actions. Additional actions taken by the U.S. Government in fulfillment of these objectives and in line with specific courses of action are:
  • 1. In connection with German reunification. All information media in Washington and overseas are under standing instructions to emphasize at every opportunity the dangers and injustice of a forcibly divided Germany.
  • 2. Against recognition of East Germany. The U.S. Government has successfully continued its efforts to prevent the East German regime from improving its international standing in international organizations and obtaining diplomatic recognition from uncommitted countries.
  • 3.

    Soviet Zone projects. The U.S. has continued to support special German programs designed to maintain Western contact with the people of the Soviet Zone and to keep alive their spirit of resistance to the Communist regime. The U.S. contribution has, in fact, been of greatest significance as a means of stimulating and guiding the programs instituted by the Federal Republic. It has introduced new ideas and encouraged the Federal Republic to increase its expenditures in this field. For 1957, for example, these are estimated to be about $20 million, or four times the amount spent in 1955. In addition, private German expenditures both for relatives and friends, as well as special groups in the East Zone, for activities of a similar nature, may run as high as $100 million.

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    U.S. aid continues to be channeled into those programs designed to assist in maintaining the spirit of opposition to Communism in East Germany, by facilitating travel of East Germans to Western meetings and conventions, and by providing scholarships and food and clothing for deserving East Germans.

  • 4. Progress in meeting program schedules. The local currency proceeds generated through sales of surplus agricultural commodities and which are utilized for support of the FY 1957 special East German programs have been obligated and will be spent as scheduled.

B. Major Operating Problems or Difficulties Facing the United Slates

3. The Division of Germany. The brutal repression of the Hungarian uprising by the Soviet Union aggravated the problem of maintaining the basic hope of the East German population that Germany will eventually be reunified in freedom—a hope that constitutes the main psychological barrier to acceptance of the Communist regime by a majority of East Germans. The maintenance of contacts with the East German population continues an important element in surmounting this difficulty.

4. Non-Recognition of East Germany. The East German Communist regime is continuing to make determined efforts to increase its international standing and prestige by endeavoring to gain admission to international organizations and to secure some sort of recognition from countries in uncommitted areas. Current examples are the GDR’s campaign to improve its status in the Economic Commission for Europe, its maneuverings to establish full consular relations with Syria, and its efforts to obtain government-to-government trade agreements to replace prevailing clearing arrangements. (The GDR now has nine such agreements with non-satellite governments.)

5. Danger of Violent Uprising in East Zone. The possibility of a mass uprising in the Soviet Zone along the lines of the Hungarian revolt, which could spread into large-scale hostilities involving the United States, must always be kept in mind. The presence of large numbers of Soviet troops (22 ground force divisions), the recollection of the bloody suppression by Soviet forces of the 1953 uprising in East Germany and the 1956 revolt in Hungary, the increased security measures taken by the GDR regime, and the repeated admonitions of the West German Government and all major organizations in the Federal Republic to the East Zone population to remain quiet and refrain from violence combine to make unlikely under present circumstances any open revolt in East Germany, although actions of reckless desperation cannot be excluded. (See Working Group Study under Para. 25 of NSC 5616/2—Soviet Zone of Germany, June 5, 1957.)5

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C. Listing of Other Major Developments During the Period

6. Impact of Developments in Hungary and Poland. As a result of events in Poland and Hungary in late 1956 the Soviets and their puppet East German regime took steps to tighten their military control over the Soviet Zone of Germany and to eradicate, so far as possible, opposition among the population. Soviet forces were put on an alert basis, and efforts were made to increase the effectiveness of the East German armed forces and the armed workers’ militia (Kampfgruppen) established for the suppression of civil disturbances. The Soviet and East German leaders proclaimed their intention of putting down any popular uprising in Eastern Germany with armed force. The East German Communist regime further discredited itself in the eyes of the population by its slavish support of the upside-down Soviet version of the events in Hungary. Existing unrest and evidences of satisfaction [dissatisfaction] among the students and intellectuals of the Zone were greatly intensified by events in Hungary and Poland. There was continued evidence of dissatisfaction with the regime among German workers because of long hours, low wages, high prices, continued rationing and shortage of consumer goods. The East German regime has reacted sharply in its efforts to keep the situation under control. For example, it expelled a number of “heretical” students and professors from East Zone universities, and in early March of this year gave a 10-year prison sentence to Wolfgang Harich, a young East German professor known to have written in favor of “national communism”.

7. GDR Restrictions on Travel of Youth to West. In an effort to reduce the “contaminating” effect of Western influences on the youth of the Soviet Zone, the GDR regime has recently imposed a series of restrictions designed to prevent East German university and high-school students from traveling to the Federal Republic and West Berlin.6 In recent years travel of these groups to the West for recreational purposes has become increasingly heavy, particularly during summer months. While the effectiveness of these new restrictions has not yet been fully tested, reports from Germany estimate that the driving force behind the young peoples’ desire to visit the West is so strong that they will probably display considerable ingenuity in finding means to circumvent the travel ban.

8. Economic Difficulties in the Zone. The East Zone regime has had to announce the abandonment of its economic goals for 1957 and the downward revision of the goals in its current five-year plan, which was adopted only in 1956. The regime’s chronic shortages of coal, [Page 603] coke, iron ore, and non-ferrous metals, large supplies of which must be imported from undependable Soviet Bloc sources, have caused power shortages and shut-downs in many areas. Agricultural production continues to lag owing to labor shortages and inefficient organization. These various deficiencies have tended to make the East Zone more dependent on the Federal Republic and thereby increase its vulnerability to any Western economic countermeasures which it might be possible to put into effect.

9. Difficulties for the German Evangelical Church. The East Zone regime has stepped up its attack on the Evangelical Church. The formal pretext was the approval in March, 1957 by the governing body of the Church, which has authority in religious matters in both East and West Germany, of an agreement with the West German Defense Ministry concerning the provision and status of chaplains in the West German armed forces. Among the results of the present anti-Church campaign, which has extended to the Catholic Church as well, have been steps to make West German financial support of church activities in the Soviet Zone more difficult by insisting on the official exchange rate for transfers of funds, creation of a State Secretariat of Church Affairs in the East Zone Government to supervise religious activities in Eastern Germany, and the recommencement of the drive to substitute a formal pledge of allegiance to the principles of Communism for religious confirmation of the young. There have been indications that the regime may be contemplating the establishment of a separate, centrally controlled East German church in order to destroy the last important institutional link between East and West Germany. These developments indicate a realization on the part of the Soviet Zone regime that the Church is the principal organized center of intellectual resistance and opposition to Communist doctrine.

  1. Source: Department of State, OCB Files: Lot 62 D 430, Germany. Secret. Regarding the preparation of this report, see footnote 1, Document 127. A Consolidated Financial Annex to the Progress Reports for the Federal Republic of Germany, East Germany, and Berlin is not printed.
  2. Document 230.
  3. The latest NIE on East Germany is contained in NIE 12–56, dtd. 1/10/56. [Footnote in the source text. NIE 12–56 is printed in vol. xxv, pp. 115–118.]
  4. Document 127.
  5. Supra .
  6. Documentation on the ban on student travel is in Department of State, Central File 762.0221.