263. Memorandum From the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Kissinger) to President Nixon1

Here is a letter from a very well-known American novelist living in Germany. I think you will find it interesting, even though he has an obvious conservative bias.


Letter From Hans Habe to the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Kissinger)

Ascona, March 5, 1973.

Dear Mr. Kissinger:

Let me begin by saying that I have greatly appreciated your letters of June 14th and August 18th, 1971. Wie Einst David has been, incidentally, just published under the title In King David’s Footsteps in England.

Once more I would like to stay that this letter does not warrant an answer. I would, as a matter of fact, very well understand if you would consider it more opportune not to acknowledge it. I am perfectly satisfied to know that you take cognizance of the facts mentioned below.

Facts: here I already hesitate. What I have to tell you, are primarily opinions. But they are not the mere opinions of a writer, who is also an American citizen, a former officer of the US-Army and—in behalf of the American Army—the founder of the free press in the United States Zone of occupation. As the probably most read columnist of the Federal Republic—in Welt Am Sonntag and a number of other papers—it is [Typeset Page 819] my business to be informed. At a moment when American interests justly turn toward Europa, I feel it my duty to let you participate in my personal knowledge. This knowledge is certainly by far not as wide as the one transmitted to you through diplomatic sources. It might have the advantage of being personal and independent.

I am prompted by the feeling that Washington is not fully aware of the plans and intentions of the Brandt-government.

I am afraid that the ultimate aims of Willy Brandt are not fully recognized by the United States.

It sounds perhaps paradoxical if I say that the ultimate aim of Herr Brandt is the re-unification of Germany, for it was his Ostpolitik, which seem to have sealed the partition of Germany. It is, I believe, generally overlooked that only two independent countries can decide about their unification. Nobody could prevent, for instance, the unification of Italy and Switzerland, if the two countries would so decide.

Naturally, this is a long-term plan. In itself there is nothing to say against it. The utopistic idea determines, however, the policy of Herr Brandt today. He is convinced that if, in the current of time, he goes nine steps to the left, the DDR will go one step to the right, and so they two German states will meet in the middle. This looks like a very strange geometry, but it corresponds entirely to the Bismarckian dream of Herr Brandt.

For the time being it is not as absurd as it sounds—at least in the mind of Germany’s present day ruler.

First, Herr Brandt is convinced—and rightly so—that he has far more to offer to Soviet Russia than Herr Honecker. Moscow has received from the DDR all that this country has to offer. Herr Brandt, on the other hand, is able to weaken the Western alliance, he is able to paralyze the NATO and transform the Common Market. He might be wrong in assuming that for all this he will receive ultimate concessions from Moscow—I think, he is—, but in the meantime the Russians, with his help, will have achieved everything they desire.

Secondly, Herr Brandt is no different from any other German ruler pursuing the deutsche Hegemonie in Europe. It is an old rule that families, otherwise divided, immediately become very close when they happily discover a forger in the family. For Europe—whether we like it or not—America is that forger. Herr Brandt’s Europapolitik is based on anti-Americanism. For him, the former Communist, the program of Godesberg is out-dated. He is convinced that Germany will be at the helm of a Socialist Europe, primarily achieved with anti-American sentiments. Thus, he believes to have found the formula of pleasing the East and leading the West.

Let me add, in this connection, a topical item, that of the Truppenabbau. I don’t believe that Brandt at this moment is particularly keen of [Typeset Page 820] following the slogan of the left-wing of his party, voiced more and more: “Hinaus mit den Amis aus Deutschland!” This does not correspond to his time-table. As long as he wants concessions from the Soviets, he has to play both ends against the middle. Permit me to say, however, that it would be very unwise to demand high financial contributions from the Federal Republic. Such demands might prompt Herr Brandt to say today, what he definitely wants to say at a later, more appropriate date, namely that the Federal Republic, with deep regret, must agree to the reduction of American troops because their presence endangers the sound economy of Bonn. This, then, would be an extremely popular argument.

I don’t have to tell to the probably best informed man of our days and to the learned professor of history, that the foreign policy of Herr Brandt cannot be achieved without establishing an uncontested rule in Germany itself. Just to quote one example: The new Medienpolitik is aimed at the destruction of the free press and free opinion in West Germany. If Washington believes that laws of this kind, as planned by Herr Brandt and his Government, are an “internal” affair, the United States will go badly wounded and fatally handicapped into a situation, which it will then—and too late—recognize as dangerous for its own security.

It would be futile to speculate at this moment about the question, what kind of person Willy Brandt is. I shall send you in May my new book, Erfahrungen, in which you will find a few remarks about this question. Here I am reproducing a long talk I had with Herr Brandt—and I am not doing it in the scandalous manner, in which Max Frisch in his Tagebücher reported about his meeting with you. At the present time I would not like to decide, whether Herr Brandt is a well-meaning dreamer, or a cynical politician. He won his election, in any case, with his gesture at the ghetto of Warsaw, when he took upon himself the guilt of the German people, playing, from this moment on, the part of Jesus Christ. The feeling of guilt as well as of gratitude—particularly toward the United States—is gone. Herr Brandt can do what he wants. Why he wants it, is immaterial, as it is immaterial, whether he sincerely believes in a Third-Force-Europe, basically neutral, or whether he wants to join the Eastern orbit. It is, furthermore, immaterial, whether he thinks that the Federal Republic can remain independent from Moscow by being, at the same time, independent from Washington. He is, under all circumstances, in the process of a divorce-suit brought against the United States.

Who am I to tell you whether all the intentions of Herr Brandt are feasable and what can be done to prevent their realization?

All I want to tell you, is the following.

Herr Brandt was elected with the unsaid blessing of America. The majority of the German people do not think as Herr Brandt does. You [Typeset Page 821] must count to the 45 per cent pro-Western followers of the CDU/CSU at least 20 per cent of people, who, while having voted for the SPD or the FDP, are firmly opposed to all adventure and absolutely loyal to the Western alliance. It is significant that during the whole campaign the SPD did underline practically every hour that Willy Brandt has the full confidence of President Nixon and that he is hailed in America as the Friedenskanzler. It would be asking too much from the average German to realize that your own trip to Moscow means something entirely different than the flirtation between Moscow and Bonn. If in November 1972 one word of doubt would have emanated from Washington, Willy Brandt would not have been elected, certainly not with a wide margin. The extreme left, in other words, believes that America is too weak to intervene, the others think that Brandt’s policy has the blessing of the United States. If these impressions are perpetuated, the Western alliance will soon be a memory of the past. We will have first a Socialist Europe under German leadership and ultimately a Socialist Europe under Soviet influence.

While saying this I fully realize that the German question is not an isolated one. The policy of détente, as pursued by our country, has its own rules. But the American détente is wrongly translated by the German Entspannung.

Allow me to finish by saying that I have written this letter to you not only as your admirer, or as a deeply concerned citizen of the United States. I am also a European and, to boot, a German language writer. I am just as worried about the future of Europe in general and of Germany in particular as I am about the part of the United States in European politics.

I could, from my knowledge and experience, go into details, which would take up even more of your time. I could point out, for instance, that for the observer from the outside it looks as if Herr Brandt would be the defender of Western ideals against the radical Jusos of his party, while all evidence proves that the “Young Turks” only betray at the present, what Willy Brandt has in mind for a better occasion.

I remember the days when Major Habe, editor of the Neue Zeitung, was pretty helpless when confronted with the German argument that in the days of Chamberlain and Daladier German resistance could hardly be demanded. I wonder, whether we will not be faced with the same justified excuses and reproaches in the not too far future. We cannot expect opposition against the determined anti-American policy of Herr Brandt in Germany, if he can pursue his policy of Sozialisierung as well as his Ostpolitik by pretending that he commands the respect, the hope and the support of the United States.

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Please consider this letter as confidential, but please believe me at the same time that I would not have written it without considering the situation crucial to the point of a desperate development.

Respectfully yours

Hans Habe
  1. Summary: Kissinger forwarded a letter he had received from the novelist Hans Habe.

    Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Kissinger Office Files, Box 61, Country Files, Europe, General, Hans Habe. Confidential. Sent for information. A stamped notation on the memorandum indicates the President saw it. Nixon wrote on the bottom of the memorandum, “K—a very perceptive and very disturbing analysis—I think he is too close to the truth.” Nixon underlined the portion of the seventh paragraph of the letter that begins “in the current of time” until the end of the sentence and wrote in the adjacent margin, “K—very perceptive.” In the ninth paragraph, Nixon underlined the third sentence; in the tenth paragraph, he underlined the fourth sentence. In the thirteenth paragraph, Nixon underlined the sixth sentence, as well as the final sentence, and wrote a check mark in the margin. In the sixteenth paragraph, Nixon underlined the first sentence, writing in the adjacent margin, “K—one of our greatest mistakes. We must do everything possible to rectify it.” Nixon also underlined substantial portions of the fourth and fifth sentences in the sixteenth paragraph.