60. Letter From Chancellor Adenauer to Secretary of State Dulles0

My Dear Friend Mr. Dulles: This morning Mr. Smirnov, the Ambassador of the Soviet Union, called on me to inform me officially that the Government of the Soviet Union intends in the next few days to denounce the “Occupation Statute” for the city of Berlin. The reason given for this is known to you from the statements of the Soviet Russian Prime Minister, Mr. Khrushchev, and from the statements in the Soviet Russian press, especially Pravda.

Ambassador Grewe, acting on my instruction, has already conferred with you about the consequences of the announced actions. I have his report on his conversation with you.1

Herr von Brentano received the British Ambassador, Minister Trimble, and Minister Leduc this afternoon and informed them about the conversation with Mr. Smirnov.2

The close and friendly relations which link us together prompt me to tell you in all frankness about the grave anxieties that I feel on account of this impending development. The status of the free sector of the city of Berlin is of such decisive importance that I am certainly not putting it too strongly when I say that termination of the occupation of Berlin could not but have incalculable political consequences. I need not tell you in so many words how gratefully the entire German nation has noted the repeated statements by the Governments of the United States of America, the United Kingdom and France to the effect that the preservation and protection of the freedom of Berlin is one of the imperative tasks of these three countries. The political actions announced by the Soviet Union are obviously designed to test the firmness and trustworthiness of the joint policy of the free world. I say the free world advisedly, for in the communiqué issued at the conclusion of the deliberations of the chiefs of government of NATO last December all the member states of the Atlantic Community without exception committed themselves to this obligation.3

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I am fully aware that we will all be taking a political risk if in the face of the impending decision of the Soviet Union we commit ourselves to this task without wavering, and are determined to act accordingly. However, I make no secret of my anxiety lest we impair the faith in this joint policy and the solidarity of the free world if the Soviet Union succeeds, possibly by roundabout ways or by stages, in undermining this policy. I am convinced that the Soviet Union will proceed astutely and warily. It will to begin with pretend that the transfer of the rights under the Four Power Agreement to the government of the so-called DDR will not in any way alter the present status. And it will, I believe, instruct the authorities of the DDR to keep up this pretense for the time being. If we acquiesce in this, a second step will follow. The DDR will, for example, take the position that free civilian traffic by air is no longer permissible but requires the consent of the authorities of the DDR. This would make it impossible for hundreds of thousands of people to find their way to freedom via the city of Berlin. At first the DDR will probably not cause any difficulties for the representatives of the three Western Powers and the troops stationed in Berlin; it will restrict the freedom of traffic between Berlin and the Federal Republic and finally halt it, on the alleged grounds of its sovereignty.

The political, economic and in particular the psychological reactions in Berlin and in Germany are incalculable. But in other parts of the world as well, including the members of the Atlantic Community, the fear will arise that an initial concession will not be the last. In the historic world-wide conflict between communism and the free world the Soviet Union would thus easily win the first and perhaps decisive battle.

I consider it urgently necessary that we face these dangers with all frankness and seriousness. I am also writing to the British Prime Minister, Mr. Macmillan, to the same effect.4 As you know, I am meeting with the French Premier, General de Gaulle, this coming Wednesday; we have already placed this question on the agenda of the conversation. Furthermore, I consider it highly desirable, even necessary, that we come together immediately in a meeting of the four Governments when the Soviet Union announces its action. We can then quickly agree on the time and place of such a discussion through our Ambassadors.

With sincere greetings,

As ever,


  1. Source: Department of State, Presidential Correspondence: Lot 66 D 204, German Officials, 1958/59. Confidential. The source text is a Department of State translation. Attached were a brief transmittal note of November 21 from Grewe to Dulles and a German-language copy of the text. Grewe handed the message to Merchant during their conversation on November 21 (see Document 59) for delivery to Dulles.
  2. See Document 42.
  3. See Document 53.
  4. For text of the NATO communiqué, December 19, 1957, see Department of State Bulletin, January 6, 1958, pp. 12–15.
  5. Regarding Adenauer’s message to Macmillan, see Macmillan, Riding the Storm, pp. 571–572.
  6. Printed from the English translation that indicates that Adenauer signed the original German-language copy.