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Three Telegrams from U.S. High Commissioner John McCloy to Secretary of State Dean Acheson regarding the "Stalin Note" (1952)

Adenauer’s reaction to the “Stalin Note” and to American efforts to ascertain his position offers good insight into the chancellor’s overall strategy vis-à-vis the Soviet Union and the GDR. He was aware that the population still had great hopes for reunification and that his integration policy, preferential toward the West, decreased the chances of attaining national unity. Nevertheless, he saw no alternative to the alliance – above all to the alliance with the U.S. In his opinion, following a Western path was the only way to keep the issue of a peace treaty and unification on the table and this, in turn, was an additional prerequisite for preventing the second German state (i.e., the GDR) from gaining international recognition. It was Adenauer’s firm conviction that the Federal Republic of Germany was and had to remain the only German state. Here, one can also see the roots of the doctrine developed by Walter Hallstein, Adenauer’s secretary of state. According to the so-called Hallstein Doctrine, the FRG would break off diplomatic relations with any state (aside from the Soviet Union) that recognized the GDR.

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I. Telegram by U.S. High Commissioner John McCloy to Secretary of State Dean Acheson in Response to the “Stalin Note” (March 12, 1952)

West German reaction to Soviet demarche appears thus far to be gratifyingly level-headed. We get this from conversations with officials and from scanning this morning’s press. Separate telegram on press reactions is being sent.

Fortunately for us, most Germans have few illusions about Russia and Bolshevism. Most Germans who learned of Soviet proposals therefore approached them with skepticism. Editors have quickly pointed out defects in Soviet note from German point of view, particularly territorial limitations. Soviet terms were in general so overdrawn as to be implausible.

Notwithstanding this, we must recognize that issue to which Kremlin directed this propaganda blast – German unity – is one regarding which German people are sensitively responsive. That no (repeat no) dramatic response has thus far been elicited is due not to error in Soviet appeal to unity issue but to ingrained German suspicion of moves originating from the East.

Dangers inherent in Soviet move appear to us as follows:

1. Many Germans feeling strongly on unity issue will, despite conscious skepticism, wishfully hope that Kremlin proposal might at least be given a try. Natural tendency of Germans to look back over their shoulders at unity as a first priority may be fortified and there develop an increased inclination to drag their feet as we seek them to advance toward integration with West. Because these sentiments are at once so deep-rooted and so amorphous, we cannot be sure that initial sane reaction which we now observe to Kremlin demarche will remain steady.

2. Soviet terms for peace treaty obviously increase Federal Republic’s bargaining power in contractual negotiations while paradoxically emphasizing provisional character of Federal Republic thereby weakening government’s position.

3. If our reaction to Soviet note appears to be negative and foreclose possibility of German unity, Kremlin proposals will come to exercise an appeal which they do not now possess and task of persuading West Germans to go along with integration will be critically impeded.

We offer following suggestions for consideration by Department in its preparation of reply to Soviet Government.

1. We should indicate that we are gratified to note that Soviet Government has come to agree with us regarding importance of taking as a first step toward peace settlement creation of an All-German Government through democratic process. This obviously means All-German elections.

2. We have participated in creating of a UN commission to examine simultaneously in Federal republic and Soviet Zone possibility of holding such elections and to report findings to the UN.

3. We have forwarded to Soviet Government a Federal Republic draft law for holding such elections.

4. We await indication from Soviet Government that it will support these moves and hope that answer will be in affirmative.

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