ON THE WORLD TODAY
A FRENCHMAN will always tell you that he knows more about the Germans than anyone else does. For purposes of argument, counting a few minor incursions that are usually forgotten, the Frenchman figures that the Germans have invaded his country seven times in the last one hundred and fifty years. And this Frenchman is genuinely dismayed by the prospect for a revived Germany, in which he sees clearly shadowed the threat of a third world war and the eighth invasion of France.
The United States and the Soviet Union have finally determined and exposed their own individual plans for Germany. Despite great differences in detail, they both provide fundamentally for a unified German state containing the Ruhr and the Rhineland within its borders. Since that is the way the dominant powers want it, that is probably the future shape of Germany. And that is where the Frenchman sees danger.
A single sure fact in the muddle of making world peace, as of November, 1946, was that Germany had again become a major and immediate factor. The Council of Foreign Ministers approached the problem at the close of the July session in a cautious manner befitting its importance.
The four-power deliberations left two results: —
1. Clear acknowledgment that the Potsdam accord on political and economic policies during the period of Allied control of Germany was bankrupt. Unable to prevail upon the Soviet Union and France to carry out the provision for treating Germany as a single economic unit, the United States and Britain proceeded to an economic merger of their zones.
2. Full realization that further accord establishing policies for a permanent post-war Germany would involve long, difficult, and dangerous negotiations. With this in mind, the Russians would go no further than agreement for a special session of the Council of Foreign Ministers on Germany in November, which the United States interpreted as a firm and solemn promise to get going on the problem at last.
Some diplomatic observers doubted that much could be accomplished even in November. The United Nations Assembly had been postponed twice. The Paris Peace Conference had been protracted far beyond the original estimates of the time it would take. The plague of delay, they felt, would certainly spread to the Council session on Germany.
Moreover, even if the Council for Germany convened, speedy progress could hardly be expected. The United States desire to bring our army of occupation home as soon as possible was plain. But the Soviet Union was in no such hurry. Many diplomats felt that until the problem of the atom bomb was settled, Germany could not be settled: that until the United States yielded its atomic monopoly, the Soviet Union could not yield its position in Germany. And as long as there were any armies of occupation in Germany the Americans had to be among them.
The Soviet challenges the West
The most important contribution left by the Council of Foreign Ministers discussion was the clear pronouncement of Soviet policy toward Germany given in Molotov’s July 10 address. This long-pondered and carefully prepared statement ended any doubts about the Soviet attitude.
Molotov began with the familiar Soviet oratorical trick of quoting Stalin’s prophetical words uttered November 6, 1942, when the Germans were attacking Stalingrad: “It is impossible to destroy Germany, just as it is impossible to destroy Russia.” From there Molotov developed the theme that the peace should he neither hard nor soft, but medium.
Germany should be industrially strong, politically united and not federated, and partitioned no further. A central German administration should be established as a step toward a government which ultimately could be recognized after it showed, over a period of several years, that it could wipe out Nazism and fulfill its obligations to the Allies.
The Molotov speech, apart from its importance as an exposition of the Soviet point of view on Germany, contained a significant political maneuver. Russia, having satisfied its territorial demands on eastern Germany at Potsdam, was represented as the defender of the Germans against the Morgenthau plan to reduce the Reich to an agricultural state, the British proposal for a federated Germany, and the French claims on the Saar, Ruhr, and Rhineland. The Bolshevik regime, archenemy of the Nazis, had become the best friend of the Germans. The challenge to the West was clear.
The United States of Germany
This was an impelling motive for the Stuttgart speech of September 6. Lieutenant General Lucius Clay had invited Byrnes to come to Germany several times since the Secretary of State started working in Paris last April. Clay wanted the morale in his own military government personnel boosted. Byrnes finally accepted for diplomatic reasons the invitation to talk to the German people. His offer was better than Molotov’s — at least in his prepared text. It was the United States of Germany.
The text was handed out to correspondents who flew from Paris to Stuttgart the day before the speech was delivered. A blonde young woman reporter, more perceptive than any of Byrnes’s aides, Vivianne Lovell, State Department correspondent for the Agence Française de Presse, detected danger in the phrase “United States of Germany,” which implies for Europeans all the power of the United States of America. She conveyed her remonstrances to “ Chip ” Bohlen, Byrnes’s aide, and Byrnes struck the obnoxious phrase from the text, but the damage was already done. That was the phrase headlined by the European press, working not from what Byrnes said, but from what he wrote.
Even without that phrase, Byrnes offered to return the government of Germany promptly to the German people under a federal constitution; he opposed any territorial cession in the West except the Saar to France; and he challenged the permanence of cession of Silesia in the East to Poland.
The Stuttgart speech contained much solace for the Germans, with its apologetic report on the failure of the Potsdam Agreement for a centralized Germany, its polite promise to unify Germany economically as much as possible, and its encouraging prospects for a political future. The speech also held much bitterness for the Russians and the Poles, with its reopening of the question of Germany’s eastern border and its refusal to support the transfer to Poland of the Silesian territory placed under Polish administration at Potsdam.
This part of the speech drew the inevitable reply from Molotov, in a statement to a correspondent of the Polish Press Agency in Paris. Molotov maintained that although the transfer required ratification by the German peace treaty, the eastern border change was in fact final and confirmation would be a mere formality, if only because the Germans had already been moved out and the Poles had moved into the territory in question.
In a sense, both Byrnes and Molotov were correct — Byrnes de jure because he followed the strict wording of the Potsdam accord, and Molotov de facto because he referred to the actual situation. Certainly, short of another war, Poland could not be ejected from the Silesian territory which she was in the process of consolidating. The raising of the question must have made pleasant music for German ears, but it sounded like an unnecessarily strident chord to many Allied listeners.
This episode brought Soviet-American rivalry at and around the Peace Conference to its peak. There were numerous other examples, particularly in the manipulation of reparations and in the consideration of the territorial claims made by some former enemies against the Allies. All were judged, not by their performance in the last war, but by their potential use in another war. Rarely in history had the vanquished received such kind attentions from the victors.
The Paris evening newspapers are among the world’s worst — the least informative and the most irresponsible. Their front pages are usually divided between local scandals and romantic reportages. On the other three pages there is little more. But the Paris evening press of Friday, September 13, broke the Byrnes-Wallace controversy to delegates of the Peace Conference.
The morning papers had carried a brief routine abstract of Wallace’s Madison Square Garden speech on United States foreign policy, which was scarcely noticed. The evening papers belatedly brought Truman’s approval of the speech and the news that here was a showdown fight on the fundamental problem of the day — the Soviet-American relations — at a time when the Peace Conference was trying to settle minor items and avoid over-all issues.
The delegates looked on in awe and astonishment at the rapid sequence of events — Truman’s disavowal of the speech, Wallace’s promise to keep still until after the Peace Conference, and finally his dismissal. It was true that the controversy did not interrupt the day-to-day work of the Conference, which went on about its sad, dreary business. But it had the same engrossing effect as the World Series returns on a New York business office.
Two weeks later Byrnes broke his silence and went on the record to say that Truman’s final utterance was “reassuring” and his foreign policy, being bipartisan, would continue no matter who was in office. But the assurance seemed weak to Europeans, who gasped at the spectacle of a country powerful enough to allow itself the luxury of such division over foreign policy, and wondered when such a split might develop anew and whether Truman might change his mind again.
The Wallace case increased French concern over the German settlements. Admitting that a firm American stand against further Soviet expansion could be expected as long as Byrnes remained as Secretary of State, the French speculated openly about what would happen when Byrnes was no longer there. And in any case they disagreed strongly with United States policy toward Germany.
The French plan
When General de Gaulle visited Washington in August, 1945, and announced the French veto of the Potsdam Agreement for a centralized Germany, he told Truman that the time would come when the United States would be grateful to the French for this action. Now they felt that the time had arrived. Had a central German administration been established a year ago, the French believed it would have been the beginning of a national German government in Berlin under Soviet domination, much like the Polish regime in Warsaw. Without such an organism, the Allies undertook a settlement for Germany on equal terms.
The French had their own plan for a federated Germany. It was a complicated one, as was to be expected from a people preoccupied by the problem. It provided that the Ruhr be separated from Germany under an international regime; that the Rhineland be inside Germany as an autonomous state but demilitarized under Allied surveillance; that the Saar be politically independent but economically attached to France; and that the rest of Germany be organized in a loose federal system.
Such a plan had the universal support of the French, with even the Communist Party in France backing Paris against Moscow on this question, if for no other reason than political considerations: no one could favor a centralized Germany and win votes in France. As far as the French were concerned, either a Soviet-dominated Berlin government or a nationalist German regime was dangerous for France.