8. Memorandum of Conversation0


  • Berlin


  • The President
  • Governing Mayor Willy Brandt of Berlin
  • Mr. Albrecht von Kessel, Chargé d’Affaires ad interim, German Embassy
  • Mr. Raymond E. LisleGER

In response to a question from the President, Mayor Brandt explained that he was in the United States as a guest of the Ford [Page 19] Foundation and that a primary purpose of his visit was to convey the gratitude of the Government and people of Berlin for the aid and other support and encouragement given to the City by the United States. He wished to assure the President that American aid had been well used.

The President expressed his confidence that that was the case. He commented on the glowing reports he had had of the Congress Hall.1 He regretted that he had not seen Berlin for many years and hoped that when any of his friends next visit Berlin they would send him pictures of the City as it is today.

The Mayor explained the great progress made by the City since the end of the blockade. He noted one hundred and ten thousand new buildings have been constructed since 1951. Some 20,000 additional buildings are being built each year. While industrial production has not increased in as spectacular a manner as in the Federal Republic, the increase has been substantial. Since the blockade, during which industrial production was only 17% of prewar figures, the index has risen to over 120%. At present the rate of increase is greater than in the Federal Republic.

The President inquired whether the people of Berlin experience difficulty with their travel and trade to and from West Germany. The Mayor stated there had never been trouble with air travel. At various times since the blockade there have been difficulties with the Soviets over use of the railroads, roads and canals. There was no present difficulty so far as German traffic was concerned. How long the present easy situation would continue he could not say. He understood that the Allies had had occasional difficulties over the military trains.

The President agreed that one never knew what the Soviets were likely to do. It has always been clear that they would like to cut off access to Berlin. However, they realize how serious a step this would be. He, himself, had supported General Clay’s idea in 1949 that force could appropriately be used to re-establish access to the City.2 The Soviets have broken so many pledges that it is very difficult to put any faith in them. He, himself, thinks that the Soviets now would like to make and keep a few pledges. However, we need some hostage, some general type of guarantee, that any pledges they might give will be kept. He recalled the thinking with regard to Berlin and the East Zone in 1945. Allied planners in Europe had thought that Thuringia should be included in the Western zones. Subsequently, they had thought in terms of building a new [Page 20] capital in Germany at the point where the various zones came together. It had been concluded, however, that Berlin must be re-established as the capital. It became apparent soon after the war had ended that the Soviets were not acting in good faith in Germany.

The President asked what goods were exported from Berlin, and was told by the Mayor that the main exports were electrical goods and women’s clothing. Berlin has regained the leading position in Germany in the women’s clothing industry. The President inquired about the use of new synthetic fibers and was assured by the Mayor that Berlin, after a late start in this field, was now using them extensively.

The President inquired about the Mayor’s itinerary and expressed gratification that Mayor Brandt on a previous trip had seen not only the Eastern seaboard but the West as well.

The President reflected that most of his friends in Germany today were in the Government. He hoped that Mayor Brandt would convey to them his greetings and tell them again how strongly this Government and our people want Germany reunified and a strong and viable nation in Central Europe. However, strongly as we desire Germany to be reunified; this must be by free elections and not by the organization of a confederation of which one part would be controlled by the Soviets.

The Mayor expressed again the gratitude of the people of Berlin for the assistance and support of the United States. He wished to assure the President that the people of Berlin were still filled with the same spirit as during the blockade and that they remain convinced that Berlin is of importance not only because of its local problems but because of its influence upon the whole of Eastern Germany.

The President said he was convinced from the frequent oral and written reports he receives on Berlin that it has become a true show-window for the West. He asked Mayor Brandt when next he had occasion to address the people of Berlin to transmit his greetings and continuing interest in their problems.

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 033.62A11/2–1358. Confidential. Drafted by Lisle.
  2. The Berlin Congress Hall, which had been constructed from funds contributed by the United States, West Germany, and Berlin, opened on September 19, 1957.
  3. Regarding General Clay’s views in 1948, not 1949, on the use of force to re-establish access to Berlin, see Jean E. Smith, ed., The Papers of General Lucius D. Clay, Germany 1945–1949, vol. II, pp. 733–746.