5. Memorandum of Conversation0



August–September 1959


  • Private Meeting Between President Eisenhower and Chancellor Adenauer1


  • United States
    • President Eisenhower
    • Martin J. Hillenbrand
  • Federal Republic of Germany
    • Chancellor Adenauer
    • Heinz Weber (interpreter)
[Page 11]

In the private meeting lasting approximately ninety minutes between President Eisenhower and Chancellor Adenauer which took place this morning, the Chancellor began by saying that he wanted to give the President a short survey of the situation in Europe and in NATO. He noted that he had recently had a lengthy conversation with General Norstad and Secretary General Spaak at the home of the Netherland’s permanent representative, Stikker, at Lake Como. This conversation was between friends and took place, as Spaak had said, as in a family circle. President had seen yesterday evening, Adenauer continued, how the Germans regarded him and the United States. The area between the airport and the bridge over the Rhine entering into Bonn was populated largely by industrial workers. These had evidenced no difference in attitude towards the President than the population of Bonn itself. The Chancellor mentioned that the policy of his Government continued to be supported by a majority of the German electorate according to recent public opinion polls. As a matter of fact, a recent public opinion poll had shown that the CDU had the support of 51 per cent of the population of the Federal Republic. Such a high level of support was unique in a period prior to elections. The Chancellor predicted that, unless something quite unexpected happened, the CDU would win the Bundestag elections in 1961. This would mean a continuation of the policy of the present Government.

The Chancellor went on, saying that he would like to make a few remarks about the personality of Khrushchev. He assumed that he could talk as frankly on this subject to the President as he had been able to John Foster Dulles. This would also apply to what he later would have to say about General De Gaulle. In the autumn of 1955, the Chancellor continued, he had spent six days (mornings, afternoons, and evenings) in Moscow speaking to the Soviet leaders.2 At that time, of course, Bulganin was the head of the Soviet Government, but he had also had ample opportunity to observe Khrushchev. One of the main points made by Khrushchev to Adenauer was that the Germans should help him. Khrushchev expressed fear of the United States and of Communist China, but did not mention any other European countries. As to Red China, he alluded to the rapid rate of population growth, pointing out that the already huge population of 600 million was increasing each year by some 12 million. A good illustration of Khrushchev’s character, according to the Chancellor, was provided by the very long letter which he had received a few days ago from the Soviet leader.3 He (Adenauer) had the impression that this had not been drafted in the Foreign Ministry but [Page 12] largely by Khrushchev himself. The latter stated that, as a realist, Adenauer should recognize the facts of life. The point was emphasized that while, in the past, Russian-German relations had had their good periods and their bad periods, the good periods were obviously of great advantage to both countries. Economic cooperation between the Federal Republic and the Soviet Union could only be beneficial to both. In his letter Khrushchev went on to say that ideological differences should play no part between Adenauer and him and that the remains of the last war should be removed and the way opened to harmonious relations between the Federal Republic and the Soviet Union. He boasted that the Soviet Union was stronger than the United States and all its Allies counted together. However, although the world was no longer at a point where the Soviets could be threatened, he (Khrushchev) and the Chancellor had witnessed too much horror in their time to want to intimidate each other.

Adenauer noted that Khrushchev’s letter did contain a very strong personal and human touch. He had not yet answered it but had himself prepared a draft of a possible reply.4 As the President knew, it had been agreed between the Soviet Ambassador in Bonn and the German Foreign Ministry that the exchange of correspondence would only be released by common agreement. Before sending his reply, Adenauer first wanted to have his discussion with the President. His reply was likewise couched in a reasonable and moderate tone. It made the main point that the tensions in the world are not caused by the remains of the last war, as claimed by Khrushchev, but by competition in armaments. If controlled general disarmament could be achieved, this would be a decisive factor. The atmosphere thereupon would be relaxed, and it would be possible to settle other issues. Adenauer said that he would make the point that he who has the strongest weapons is not necessarily the greatest statesman. The greatest statesman will be the one who liberates the world from the pressure of mounting terror and armaments.

The President said that this was the line which he expected to take with Khrushchev. If he wanted to be the great man of his time, not just another Lenin or Stalin, he should relieve the world of these tensions, thus contributing toward permanent progress. This would be the main theme of what he would say to Khrushchev, the President repeated, with, of course, all sorts of different variations.

Adenauer continued that, in his draft reply, he also made the point that who is strongest in the world is not of interest to him, because if there were war, the victor would not enjoy the fruits of his victory. The President commented that there would be no victor in a future war.

[Page 13]

The Chancellor noted that it was typical of Khrushchev that, despite the prior agreement on the subject, he had now published his letter. The President said he would merely suggest to the Chancellor that, in his reply, he note this fact before going on to questions of substance. The Chancellor said that, when Ambassador Smirnov came in yesterday to tell the Foreign Office that the letter of Khrushchev would be published after all, he was obviously very embarrassed when it was pointed out to him that this was in violation of the agreement that the exchange would not be released without mutual consent. This unreliability was typical of Khrushchev, the Chancellor pointed out, together with his deep-seated conviction that Communism will win the world under Soviet leadership.

The President commented that, when someone is deceitful and breaks his word to achieve some specific gain thereby, we can understand his motivation if he is a Communist. But what did Khrushchev gain by conduct of this kind? Adenauer said that the letter from Khrushchev was very cleverly drafted. Its release was obviously intended to influence German public opinion during the visit of the President. In response to the President’s query, the Chancellor said that, as far as he knew, the communications of Khrushchev to Macmillan and De Gaulle5 had not so far been published. As a matter of fact, the letter to De Gaulle was in a different form. It seemed to be essentially a memorandum. As to the nature of the communication to Macmillan, the Chancellor was not aware of its contents but knew only that it had been received.

[Here follows discussion of General De Gaulle and Algeria.]6

  1. Source: Department of State, Conference Files: Lot 64 D 560, CF 1449. Secret. Drafted by Hillenbrand and approved by Goodpaster on August 28. The conversation took place at the Palais Schaumburg.
  2. President Eisenhower arrived at Wahn Airport at 6:30 on August 26. Following ceremonies at the airport, in which he reiterated U.S. support for Berlin, the President proceeded to Bonn where he was briefed by Ambassador Bruce. August 27 was spent in meetings with Adenauer before the President departed for London at 5:10 p.m. For text of the airport statement, see Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States: Dwight D. Eisenhower, 1959, p. 608; for the President’s account of the visit to Bonn, see Waging Peace, pp. 416-418; for Major Eisenhower’s account, see Strictly Personal, pp. 240–243; Bruce’s account of the visit is in Department of State, Bruce Diaries: Lot 64 D 327. Additional documentation on the President’s trip to Europe is in volume VII, Part 2.
  3. Regarding Adenauer’s visit to Moscow in September 1955, see Foreign Relations, 1955–1957, vol. V, p. 573.
  4. See Document 4.
  5. For text of Adenauer’s reply, August 27, see Moskau Bonn, pp. 593–595.
  6. Macmillan transmitted a copy of Khrushchev’s August 12 letter to the President under cover of a brief personal letter dated August 18, after seeking his permission to do so. (Eisenhower Library, Whitman File, International File) On August 20, Macmillan wrote to Adenauer telling him of the letter and indicating that it did not offer any new Soviet proposals. (Department of State, Presidential Correspondence: Lot 66 D 204, attached to a note from Hood to Herter, August 20)

    The communication to De Gaulle was an aide-mémoire delivered by Vinogradov on August 16. Representatives of the French Embassy briefed Kohler on its contents on August 20, noting that it alluded to a summit meeting, disarmament, Berlin, and Germany. (Memorandum of conversation, August 20; ibid., Central Files, 1/8–2059)

  7. Following the private meeting, the Heads of Government were joined by their Foreign Ministers and other advisers at 11:05 a.m. In addition to discussing the communiqué the expanded meeting went over the same points that had been discussed in the private session. A memorandum of the larger conversation (US/MC/2) is ibid., Conference Files: Lot 64 D 560, CF 1449.