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West Berlin Mayor Willy Brandt’s Appeal to the U.S. President (August 15, 1961)

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In this situation, I would considerate it appropriate for the Western powers, while demanding the restoration of Four-Power responsibility, to simultaneously proclaim a Three-Power status for West Berlin. The Three Powers should reiterate their guarantee to remain present in West Berlin until German reunification and, if necessary, allow that guarantee to be backed up by a referendum put to the people of West Berlin and the Federal Republic. We also need a clear statement that the German question has by no means been settled for the Western powers, that rather they will emphatically insist on a peaceful resolution that accords with the German people's right to self-determination and the security interests of all those concerned. Furthermore, I would regard it as a good thing if the West, through its own initiative, were to bring the subject of Berlin before the United Nations, at least on the grounds that the Soviet Union has violated the Declaration of Human Rights in an egregious manner. To me, it seems better to place the Soviet Union under indictment than to have to discuss the same subject along the lines established by the motions of other states.

I do not expect that such steps will bring any substantive material changes in the current situation, and I cannot think without bitterness about that declaration that rejected negotiations with the Soviet Union on the grounds that one should not negotiate under pressure. We now have a situation of perfect blackmail, and I am already hearing that one will not be able to reject negotiations. In a situation like this, it is all the more important to show at least some political initiative, when the chances for an initiative are small enough already.

After tolerating a Soviet measure that is illegal and has been designated as illegal, and in light of the many tragedies that are taking place today in East Berlin and in the Soviet Zone, none of us will be spared the risk of ultimate resoluteness. I would welcome it if the American garrison could be reinforced in demonstrable form.

Source: Willy Brandt on the Building of the Berlin Wall, August 15, 1961; original German letter reprinted in Bernhard Pollmann, ed., Lesebuch zur deutschen Geschichte [German History Reader], vol. 3, Vom deutschen Reich bis zur Gegenwart [From the German Reich to the Present]. Dortmund, 1984, pp. 242-44.

Translation: Jeremiah Riemer

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