253. Memorandum of Conversation0


  • Vested German Assets


  • The Secretary
  • Konrad Adenauer, Chancellor of the German Federal Republic
  • Heinrich von Brentano, Foreign Minister of the German Federal Republic
  • Under Secretary Dillon
  • Under Secretary Merchant
  • Ambassador Dowling
  • Counselor Achilles
  • Assistant Secretary Kohler
  • Assistant Secretary Berding
  • Mr. Hillenbrand, GER
  • Mr. Vigderman, GER
  • Mr. McKiernan, GER/GPA
  • Mr. Miller, GER
  • Mrs. Lejins, LS
  • Ambassador Grewe
  • Mr. Felix von Eckardt
  • Dr. Karl Carstens
  • Mr. Franz Krapf
  • Dr. Franz-Josef Bach
  • Mr. Peter Limbourg
  • Mr. Karl-Guenther von Hase
  • Mr. Heinz Weber
  • Mr. Hermann Kusterer

Ambassador Grewe was requested by Foreign Minister Von Brentano to comment on the problem of the return of vested German assets. The Ambassador reported that the President had suggested, during his meeting with the Chancellor that morning, that the Foreign Ministers should try to answer the questions as to what procedures should be followed in dealing with the subject and what should be told to the public about it. The Ambassador said that there would be increased pressure on the Chancellor about the assets question after his return to Germany and that he would have to say something to the Bundestag.

Under Secretary Dillon said that we feel, after six or eight months’ discussion of this problem, culminating in the President’s reaffirmation in the meeting that morning of the principle of a commitment to make some returns on vested assets, that considerable progress has been made. We thought we had a solution two or three years ago which Congress might have adopted, but the German Government had not liked it. It had then been necessary to work out a solution to the problem of American claims against Germany, the only ones still unsettled fifteen [Page 673] years after the end of the war. We had therefore sent a claims bill to Congress, and we hoped that this bill might facilitate an assets settlement because it would help to establish the amount available for return. The bill had been passed in the House two weeks ago, and we hoped it would pass in the Senate later this Spring. We have told Congress repeatedly that the American claims bill is a prerequisite to progress on German assets.

The Under Secretary said that we now had a new idea to contribute to the problem. If the claims bill passes the Senate—as it is expected to do without opposition—we are prepared after the end of this session of Congress, in the late summer or fall, to sit down with the Germans and try to come to an agreement on a lump sum settlement. This should not be too difficult, for we already have agreement on the amount which was used for other purposes in the Pacific area and the disagreement about the amount which would be left after payment of American claims is not great. There is less than ten per cent difference between our figure and that mentioned by Foreign Minister Von Brentano during the meeting with the President. As far as procedures for return are concerned, we are quite flexible. (Chancellor Adenauer, who did not speak during the discussion of vested German assets, left the meeting at this point.)

Ambassador Grewe said that the Germans must leave it to the United States to decide questions of timing as far as Congress was concerned. He then asked whether the matter might be settled earlier if the Congressional situation developed more favorably.

Under Secretary Dillon said that this was so, but that Congress must approve any arrangement. Therefore, a new item like this would have to wait for next year. This was a controversial item. A majority of Congress was probably against the return of assets now, but Congress might be more favorably inclined once the claims bill had been passed. It would be wise to avoid any public statement at this time that we are making detailed arrangements regarding assets. Public discussion could generate a debate on the claims bill in the Senate and thus impede a settlement along the lines just mentioned. It would be best if nothing were said on the subject. However, if something must be said, for example in reply to Bundestag inquiries, it should be only that the subject was raised and that the President renewed the White House statement of 1957 regarding the sanctity of private property, even in wartime.

Under Secretary Dillon then handed Foreign Minister Von Brentano a memorandum on the subject (see attachment).1

[Page 674]

Ambassador Grewe said that he accepted the memorandum with thanks and that no public use would be made of it. He suggested that Under Secretary Dillon and he might meet later to discuss the wording of a statement the Chancellor might make to the competent Bundestag committee.

  1. Source: Department of State, Conference Files: Lot 64 D 559, CF 1610. Confidential. Drafted by McKiernan and approved in U on March 26 and in S on March 28. See also Documents 254255. Herter and Brentano also discussed Germany and Berlin at the beginning of their conversation; see Document 91. A memorandum covering the part of the conversation on German economic assistance is in Department of State, Secretary’s Memoranda of Conversation: Lot 64 D 199.
  2. Not printed. The 3-paragraph memorandum outlined the U.S. position on German assets as presented by Dillon during the course of this conversation.