3. Memorandum of Conversation1


  • Berlin


  • German Ambassador Wilhelm Grewe
  • Dr. Swidbert Schnippenkoetter, Counselor, German Embassy
  • The Under Secretary
  • Mr. Martin J. Hillenbrand,GER

The Under Secretary said he wanted to point out that he personally had on several occasions taken a strong position in conversations with Ambassador Menshikov on Berlin. He had described Berlin as a symbol of the present situation in Central Europe. This symbol had to remain as long as the situation remained unchanged. He had asked Menshikov how the Soviets would view an increase in the Allied garrison of Berlin by 5,000. When Menshikov had indicated this would be unwelcome, the Under Secretary had made the point that a diminution of 5,000 in the strength of the West Berlin garrison would likewise have the same symbolic importance for the Berliners. The present level of the garrison, as an expression of this symbol, could not simply be changed. It would be a mistake to look for less strength on the part of the new Administration, the Under Secretary continued. If anything it would react with greater strength to prove its seriousness. This was not a good area for venturesome diplomacy. The new Administration was prepared to take the risks involved. Our new President was both intelligent and tough, and would not be pushed around. He had both convictions and courage. However, he was anxious to find the beginnings of solutions. Ambassador Grewe commented that this was precisely his impression and constituted the burden of his own reports to Bonn. He believed his Government felt the same way about the new Administration. This was why he had actually received no instructions to query the Department as to why the President’s State of the Union address2 did not contain any [Page 6] reference to Berlin, despite certain murmurings in the German press on this score. The Under Secretary said he was in a position, based on personal knowledge of how the speech was prepared, to assure the Ambassador that there need be no cause for worry on this point. A reference to Berlin had actually been in the first draft, but this was eliminated in the process of revision in the White House in order to avoid highlighting this issue. The Under Secretary said we should take the lid off our imagination and examine these problems together confidently. After all the Germans had achieved what was described as “a miracle”. Ambassador Grewe said he did not like this term “miracle” applied too frequently to Germany. It raised expectations about German performance too high.

  1. Source: Department of State, Secretary’s Memoranda of Conversation: Lot 65 D 330. Confidential. Drafted by Hillenbrand and approved in U on February 16. A memorandum of Grewe’s conversation with Bowles on the Atlantic Community, also on February 2, is ibid. On the previous day Grewe had paid an initial call on Secretary of State Rusk. Memoranda of their brief conversations on East-West relations, Atlantik Bruecke, and Berlin and the interzonal trade agreement are ibid. A memorandum of their conversation on NATO is printed in vol. XIII, Document 93.
  2. For text of the State of the Union address, January 30, see Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States: John F. Kennedy, 1961, pp. 19-28.