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

2086. Reference: Embtels 2064 and 2079.1

Joint German Bonn and Berlin decision to treat with GDR state reps if necessary in order to settle Christmas pass issue involves fairly significant new departure. It is in fact a potential “quantum jump”, from which extensive consequences could flow aside from those connected with mere pass issue alone.
As noted reftel 2064 we do not consider that primary Allied interests are involved in choice of level for negotiating pass question, but [Page 641] that these interests are mainly engaged by form, location and mode of operation of pass offices in West Berlin. Our option to pass on this will presumably satisfy our requirements.

For Germans, however, level of negotiation is matter of principle which affects more issues than pass question. It has always been possible that Germans (as well as Allies) might achieve numerous specific gains re access and freedom of travel if they were willing to deal with state authorities designated by GDR. In past FRG has invariably declined to do so except through IZT and certain technical channels, which have largely been limited to post, rail and waterways, i.e., to areas where something like all-German regimens still exist. Germans seem to maintain rationale for pass talks that only “technical contacts” are still involved. Although this may satisfy public, it does not alter transaction.

Basic fact is that Erhard and Brandt have sanctioned type of approach which, if modified, could go long way toward satisfying substance as well as form of GDR demands on other outstanding past questions, such as (a) FRG 1962 credit offer (which involved access to East Sector for West Berliners), (b) intra-Berlin mail and (c) Hof Bridge.

In part decision about passes seems to reflect Mende’s new influence (Embtel 2079) and perhaps more pragmatic than legalistic mentality of Erhard. Brandt’s influence is major underlying factor. CDU Deputy Gradl last week commented to EmbOffs that CDU had absorbed lesson of Feb Berlin elections, which seemed to amount to popular endorsement for Brandt’s initiatives toward East without fuss about formalities. Present move seems to involve some Bonn coordination with Brandt and following of his lead as occurred last summer on Waltersdorfer Chaussee crossing point. Pattern seems on way to establishing itself.
So long as formal Allied competence is unaffected, to which we must always be alert, there seems to be no call for us to define German interest in dealings with GDR. Indeed in past we have foreseen conceivable advantages in some such dealings, although Germans have always balked at idea.
East Germans could spoil pass opportunity by excessive inflexibility, but with care they could achieve optically attractive gains as well as maneuver FRG into position of negotiating disadvantage. GDR, for instance, could offer to prolong pass issuing indefinitely as pressure on FRG to make greater concessions on oil prices, or as basis for demanding partial fulfillment of credit offer. FRG willingness to talk on passes might harden GDR resolve to press for more state-to-state contacts.
In sum, new turns could lead to changes in conduct of FRG-GDR relations, and channels used. Downgrading of IZT Treuhandstelle (Leopold) may be first result, and this is bound to lead to proliferation of [Page 642] channels. New approach could settle some problems, and create others by projecting entire new dimension of relationships.
Such development need not per se be disadvantageous, but it could pose associated problems for Allies:
We would have to be particularly alert that results do not infringe on our primary Allied authority in Berlin;
There could be increased difficulties in coordinating and keeping ourselves informed;
We would have to guard against German Bonn-Berlin cooperation developing into internal axis of decision-making which could prejudice capability of Allied representatives in Berlin to influence and, when necessary, control actions of Berlin government.
  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, POL 36 GER. Confidential. Repeated to Berlin, Paris, London, and Moscow.
  2. Telegram 2064, December 9, summarized a briefing by Carstens of officials from the three Allied Embassies on the events leading to the discussion between East and West Germans on the Berlin Christmas passes. (Ibid.) Telegram 2079, December 10, reported on oil discussions between the two Germanies. (Ibid., FT 4 E GER-W GER) On December 10, in response to telegram 2064, the Department of State informed the Embassy in Bonn that it welcomed the developments leading to visits to East Berlin by West Berliners. (Telegram 1688; ibid., POL 36 GER)