413. Telegram From the Embassy in Germany to the Department of State0

2875. As Embassy has reported, the embittered relationship between Chancellor and Erhard reached new peak last week, when Adenauer, during journalistic interviews, after terming his Vice Chancellor “Very talented man” proceeded to say he did not possess qualities and abilities requisite for Chancellorship.

Having already made Erhard eat one dish of crow, he now seems ready to prescribe it as steady diet. Whether Adenauer’s relentless attacks are dictated by vindictiveness or by policy cannot be determined, but probably by both. Although accusation is made they result from senility, no one close to him has observed any changes in his customary mental acuteness or physical vigor. In fact, he seems, at least outwardly, to enjoy the fight he had precipitated.

But from standpoint parliamentarians and general public, his prestige has undoubtedly suffered greatly. Even if he can again bring Erhard to heel, he will have suffered in common estimation, have afforded opportunity for denunciations his undemocratic methods, and have left permanent scars on his own party’s body.

Jealousy and dislike of Erhard’s popularity, and his consequent capacity to take independent action, may well have influenced Adenauer. However, I suspect a stronger factor is his belief Erhard is not a good European in the Chancellor’s sense, and particularly might not carry on the Franco-German rapprochement policy so obsessively dear to the old man.

I have refrained from seeing Chancellor recently. I feel if I did so, regardless of substance of conversation, action would be widely and variously misinterpreted. In my opinion, U.S. officials should abstain from comment on this domestic affair, despite its foreign repercussions. It may become even more prickly. Adenauer has compounded his original error over the presidential succession by other mistakes of judgment and in his present mood is likely to make additional ones. Critically compromised as he is, it must be remembered he is self-assured, more of a man than any of his adversaries, and will probably continue to dominate them but with diminished authority.

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 762A.00/6–2259. Confidential. Repeated to London, Paris, Moscow, Rome, and Vienna.