117. Telegram From the Mission at Berlin to the Department of State 1

223. Paris for Embassy, USRO, Stoessel and McGuire. Mayor Brandt handed me today letter for transmittal to President Kennedy. Informal translation follows:2

Begin text.

Dear Mr. President:

After developments last three days my city, wish convey to you in personal, informal letter some of my thoughts and viewpoints.

Measures of Ulbricht regime, supported by SovUnion and other East Bloc countries, have almost fully destroyed remnants Four-Power status. While in past Allied Commandants have even protested against parades by so-called Peoples’ Army, this time, after military occupation of East Sector by Peoples’ Army, they have limited themselves to delayed and not very vigorous step. Illegal sovereignty of East Berlin government was acknowledged by acquiescing in the restrictions of the number of crossing points and of entry into the East Sector. I regard this encroachment as the most serious in the postwar history of this city since the blockade.

This development has not changed will to resist of West Berlin population, but has tended to arouse doubts as to determination of three powers and their ability to react. In this connection the decisive factor is that the West has always specifically invoked the existing Four-Power status.

I am well aware that existing guarantees for freedom of population, presence of troops and free access apply only West Berlin. However, this is matter of a deep wound in life of German people and of being forced out of spheres of common responsibility (Berlin and Germany as a whole) affecting whole Western prestige. See political psychological dangers in two respects: (1) inactivity and mere defensive posture can bring about crisis of confidence in Western powers; (2) inactivity and mere defensive posture can lead to exaggerated self-confidence on part of East Berlin regime whose newspapers already today boast of success its demonstration of military power.

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SovUnion has achieved half its free city proposals through use German Peoples’ Army. The second act is a question of time. After second act Berlin would be like a ghetto, which has not only lost its function as refuge of freedom and symbol of hope for reunification but which would also be severed from free part Germany. Instead of flight to Berlin, we might then experience beginning of flight from Berlin.

In this situation I consider it proper that Western powers, while demanding re-establishment Four-Power responsibilities, proclaim at same time a three-power status for West Berlin. Three powers should reiterate guarantee their presence in West Berlin until German reunification and, if necessary, have this supported by plebiscite population West Berlin and FedRep. Must also be said clearly that German question is in no way settled for Western powers but that they must insist upon peace settlement corresponding to right of self-determination of German people and security interests of all concerned. Would also consider advisable that West on own initiative bring Berlin question before UN, at least on basis that USSR has violated Declaration Human Rights in most flagrant manner. Appears better to me put USSR in position of guilty party than to have to discuss same theme after motion by other states.

I expect from such steps no significant material change present situation and recollect not without bitterness declarations rejecting negotiations with USSR on basis one should not negotiate under pressure. We now have state of accomplished extortion, and already I hear it will not be possible turn down negotiations. In such situation, when possibility of initiative for action is already so small, it is all the more important at least to demonstrate political initiative.

After acquiescence in Sov step which is illegal, and has been termed illegal, and in view many tragedies occurring today East Berlin and SovZone, we will not be spared risks of ultimate decision. It would be welcomed if American garrison were to be demonstratively strengthened.

I consider situation serious enough, Mr. President, to write to you in all frankness as is possible only between friends who trust each other completely.

(Signed) Your Willy Brandt

[Here follows the remainder of the telegram.]

  1. Source: Kennedy Library, President’s Office Files, Germany. Confidential; Niact. Received at 9:10 p.m. on August 16 and passed to the White House at 10 p.m. Also sent to Bonn and repeated to London, Moscow, Paris, and POLAD USAREUR. Also published in Declassified Documents, 1983, 2866.
  2. For a slightly different translation of the letter, see Dulles, The Wall, pp. 99-101. For part of the German text, see Begegnungen und Einsichten, pp. 29-30.