Speech by J.F. Byrnes,
United States Secretary of State
Restatement of Policy on Germany
September 6, 1946
I have come to Germany to learn at first hand the problems involved in
the reconstruction of Germany and to discuss with our representatives
the views of the United States Government as to some of the problems
We in the United States have given considerable time and
attention to these problems because upon their proper solution will
depend not only the future well-being of Germany, but the future
well-being of Europe.
We have learned, whether we like it or not, that we live
in one world, from which world we cannot isolate ourselves. We have
learned that peace and well-being are indivisible and that our peace
and well-being cannot be purchased at the price of peace or the
well-being of any other country.
I hope that the German people will never again make the
mistake of believing that because the American people are peace-loving,
they will sit back hoping for peace if any nation uses force or the
threat of force to acquire dominion over other peoples and other
In 1917 the United States was forced into the first
World War. After that war we refused to join the League of Nations. We
thought we could stay out of Europe's wars, and we lost interest in the
affairs of Europe. That did not keep us from being forced into a second
We will not again make that mistake. We intend to
continue our interest in the affairs of Europe and of the world. We
have helped to organize the United Nations. We believe it will stop
aggressor nations from starting wars. Because we believe it, we intend
to support the United Nations organization with all the power and
resources we possess.
The American people want peace. They have long since
ceased to talk of a hard or a soft peace for Germany. This never has
been the real issue. What we want is a lasting peace. We will oppose
soft measures which invite the breaking of the peace.
In agreeing at Potsdam that Germany should be disarmed
and demilitarized and in proposing that the four major powers should by
treaty jointly undertake to see that Germany is kept disarmed and
demilitarized for a generation, the United States is not unmindful of
the responsibility resting upon it and its major Allies to maintain and
enforce peace under the law.
Freedom from militarism will give the German people the
opportunity, if they will but seize it, to apply their great energies
and abilities to the works of peace. It will give them the opportunity
to show themselves worthy of the respect and friendship of peace-loving
nations, and in time, to take an honorable place among members of the
It is not in the interest of the German people or in the
interest of world peace that Germany should become a pawn or a partner
in a military struggle for power between the East and the West.
German militarism and Nazism have devastated twice in
our generation the lands of German neighbors. It is fair and just that
Germany should do her part to repair that devastation. Most of the
victims of Nazi aggression were before the war less well off than
Germany. They should not be expected by Germany to bear, unaided, the
major costs of Nazi aggression.
The United States, therefore, is prepared to carry out
fully the principles outlined in the Potsdam Agreement on
demilitarization and reparations. However, there should be changes in
the levels of industry agreed upon by the Allied Control Commission if
Germany is not to be administered as an economic unit as the Potsdam
Agreement contemplates and requires.
The basis of the Potsdam Agreement was that, as part of
a combined program of demilitarization and reparations, Germany's war
potential should be reduced by elimination and removal of her war
industries and the reduction and removal of heavy industrial plants. It
was contemplated this should be done to the point that Germany would be
left with levels of industry capable of maintaining in Germany average
European living standards without assistance from other countries.
The plants so to be removed were to be delivered as
reparations to the Allies. The plants to be removed from the Soviet
zone would go to the Soviet Union and Poland and the plants to be
removed from the western zones would go in part to the Soviet Union but
in the main to the western Allies. Provision was also made for the
distribution of Germany's foreign assets among the Allies.
After considerable discussion the Allies agreed upon
levels to which the principal German industries should be reduced to
carry out the Potsdam Agreement. These levels were agreed to upon the
assumption that the indigenous resources of Germany were to be
available for distribution on an equitable basis for all of the Germans
in Germany and that products not necessary for use in Germany would be
available for export in order to pay for necessary imports.
In fixing the levels of industry, no allowance was made
for reparations from current production. Reparations from current
production would be wholly incompatible with the levels of industry now
established under the Potsdam Agreement.
Obviously, higher levels of industry would have had to
be fixed if reparations from current production were contemplated. The
levels of industry fixed are only sufficient to enable the German
people to become self-supporting and to maintain living standards
approximating the average European living conditions.
That principle involved serious hardships for the German
people, but it only requires them to share the hardships which Nazi
aggression imposed on the average European.
The German people were not denied, however, the
possibility of improving their lot by hard work over the years.
Industrial growth and progress were not denied them. Being obliged to
start again like the people of other devastated countries, with a
peacetime economy not able to provide them more than the average
European standard, the German people were not to be denied to use such
savings as they might be able to accumulate by hard work and frugal
living to build up their industries for
That was the principle of reparations to which President
Truman agreed at Potsdam. And the United States will not agree to the
taking from Germany of greater reparations than was provided by the
The carrying out of the Potsdam Agreement has, however,
been obstructed by the failure of the Allied Control Council to take
the necessary steps to enable the German economy to function as an
economic unit. Essential central German administrative departments have
not been established, although they are expressly required by the
The equitable distribution of essential commodities
between the several zones so as to produce a balanced economy
throughout Germany and reduce the need for imports has not been
arranged, although that, too, is expressly required by the Potsdam
The working out of a balanced economy throughout Germany
to provide the necessary means to pay for approved imports has not been
accomplished, although that too is expressly required by the Potsdam
The United States is firmly of the belief that Germany
should be administered as an economic unit and that zonal barriers
should be completely obliterated so far as the economic life and
activity in Germany are concerned.
The conditions which now exist in Germany make it
impossible for industrial production to reach the levels which the
occupying powers agreed were essential for a minimum German peacetime
economy. Obviously, if the agreed levels of industry are to be reached,
we cannot continue to restrict the free exchange of commodities,
persons, and ideas throughout Germany. The barriers between the four
zones of Germany are far more difficult to surmount than those between
normal independent states.
The time has come when the zonal boundaries should be
regarded as defining only the areas to be occupied for security
purposes by the armed forces of the occupying powers and not as
self-contained economic or political units.
That was the course of development envisaged by the
Potsdam Agreement, and that is the course of development which the
American Government intends to follow to the full limit of its
authority. It has formally announced that it is its intention to unify
the economy of its own zone with any or all of the other zones willing
to participate in the unification.
So far only the British Government has agreed to let its
zone participate. We deeply appreciate their cooperation. Of course,
this policy of unification is not intended to exclude the governments
not now willing to join. The unification will be open to them at any
time they wish to join.
We favor the economic unification of Germany. If
complete unification cannot be secured, we shall do everything in our
power to secure the maximum possible unification.
Important as economic unification is for the recovery of
Germany and of Europe, the German people must recognize that the basic
cause of their suffering and distress is the war which the Nazi
dictatorship brought upon the world.
But just because suffering and distress in Germany are
inevitable, the American Government is unwilling to accept
responsibility for the needless aggravation of economic distress that
is caused by the failure of the Allied Control Council to agree to give
the German people a chance to solve some of their most urgent economic
So far as many vital questions are concerned, the
Control Council is neither governing Germany nor allowing Germany to
A common financial policy is essential for the
successful rehabilitation of Germany. Runaway inflation accompanied by
economic paralysis is almost certain to develop unless there is a
common financial policy directed to the control of inflation. A program
of drastic fiscal reform to reduce currency and monetary claims, to
revise the debt structure, and to place Germany on a sound financial
basis is urgently required.
The United States has worked hard to develop such a
program, but fully coordinated measures must be accepted and applied
uniformly to all zones if ruinous inflation is to be prevented. A
central agency of finance is obviously necessary to carry out any such
It is also essential that transportation,
communications, and postal services should be organized throughout
Germany without regard to zonal barriers. The nationwide organization
of these public services was contemplated by the Potsdam Agreement.
Twelve months have passed and nothing has been done.
Germany needs all the food she can produce. Before the
war she could not produce enough food for her population. The area of
Germany has been reduced. The population in Silesia, for instance, has
been forced back into a restricted Germany. Armies of occupation and
displaced persons increase demands while the lack of farm machinery and
fertilizer reduces supplies. To secure the greatest possible production
of food and the most effective use and distribution of the food that
can be produced, a central administrative department for agriculture
should be set up and allowed to function without delay.
Similarly, there is urgent need for the setting up of a
central German administrative agency for industry and foreign trade.
While Germany must be prepared to share her coal and steel with the
liberated countries of Europe dependent upon these supplies, Germany
must be enabled to use her skills and her energies to increase her
industrial production and to organize the most effective use of her raw
Germany must be given a chance to export goods in order
to import enough to make her economy self-sustaining. Germany is a part
of Europe and recovery in Europe, and particularly in the states
adjoining Germany, will be slow indeed if Germany with her great
resources of iron and coal is turned into a poorhouse.
When the ruthless Nazi dictatorship was forced to
surrender unconditionally, there was no German government with which
the Allies could deal. The Allies had temporarily to take over the
responsibilities of the shattered German state, which the Nazi
dictatorship had cut off from any genuine accountability to the German
people. The Allies could not leave the leaders or minions of Nazism in
key positions, ready to reassert their evil influence at first
opportunity. They had to go.
But it never was the intention of the American
Government to deny to the German people the right to manage their own
internal affairs as soon as they were able to do so in a democratic
way, with genuine respect for human rights and fundamental
The Potsdam Agreement, concluded only a few months after
the surrender, bound the occupying powers to restore local
self-government and to introduce elective and representative principles
into the regional, provincial, and state administration as rapidly as
was consistent with military security and the purposes of the military
The principal purposes of the military occupation were
and are to demilitarize and de-Nazify Germany but not raise artificial
barriers to the efforts of the German people to resume their peacetime
The Nazi war criminals were to be punished for the
suffering they brought to the world. The policy of reparations and
industrial disarmament prescribed in the Potsdam Agreement was to be
carried out. But the purpose of the occupation did not contemplate a
prolonged foreign dictatorship of Germany's internal political life.
The Potsdam Agreement expressly bound the occupying powers to start
building a political democracy from the ground up.
The Potsdam Agreement did not provide that there should
never be a central German government. It merely provided that for the
time being there should be no central German government. Certainly this
only meant that no central government should be established until some
sort of democracy was rooted in the soul of Germany and some sense of
local responsibility developed.
The Potsdam Agreement wisely provided that
administration of the affairs of Germany should be directed toward
decentralization of the political structure and the development of
local responsibility. This was not intended to prevent progress toward
a central government with the powers necessary to deal with matters
which would be dealt with on a nation-wide basis. But it was intended
to prevent establishment of a strong central government dominating the
German people instead of being responsible to their democratic
It is the view of the American Government that the
German people throughout Germany, under proper safeguards, should now
be given the primary responsibility for the running of their own
More than a year has passed since hostilities ceased.
The millions of German people should not be forced to live in doubt as
to their fate. It is the view of the American Government that the
Allies should, without delay, make clear to the German people the
essential terms of the peace settlement which they expect the German
people to accept and observe. It is our view that the German people
should now be permitted and helped to make the necessary preparations
for setting up a democratic German government which can accept and
observe these terms.
From now on thoughtful people of the world will judge
Allied action in Germany not by Allied promises but by Allied
performances. The American Government has supported and will continue
to support the necessary measures to de-Nazify and demilitarize
Germany, but it does not follow that large armies of foreign soldiers
or alien bureaucrats, however well motivated and disciplined, are in
the long run the most reliable guardians of another country's
All that the Allied governments can and should do is to
lay down the rules under which German democracy can govern itself. The
Allied occupation forces should be limited to the number sufficient to
see that these rules are obeyed.
But the question for us will be: What force is needed to
make certain that Germany does not rearm as it did after the first
World War? Our proposal for a treaty with the major powers to enforce
for 25 or even 40 years the demilitarization plan finally agreed upon
in the peace settlement would have made possible a smaller army of
occupation. For enforcement we could rely more upon a force of trained
inspectors and less upon infantry.
For instance, if an automobile factory, in violation of
the treaty, converted its machinery to the production of weapons of
war, inspectors would report it to the Allied Control Council. They
would call upon the German Government to stop the production and punish
the offender. If the German Government failed to comply then the Allied
nations would take steps to enforce compliance by the German
Government. Unfortunately our proposal for the treaty was not agreed
Security forces will probably have to remain in Germany
for a long period. I want no misunderstanding. We will not shirk our
duty. We are not withdrawing. We are staying here. As long as there is
an occupation army in Germany, the American armed forces will be part
of that occupation army.
The United States favors the early establishment of a
provisional German government for Germany. Progress has been made in
the American zone in developing local and state self-government in
Germany, and the American Government believes similar progress is
possible in all zones.
It is the view of the American Government that the
provisional government should not be hand-picked by other governments,
but should be a German national council composed of democratically
responsible minister presidents or other chief officials of the several
states or provinces which have been established in each of the four
Subject to the reserved authority of the Allied Control
Council, the German National Council should be responsible for the
proper functioning of central administrative agencies. Those agencies
should have adequate power to assure the administration of Germany as
an economic unit, as was contemplated by the Potsdam Agreement.
The German National Council should also be charged with
the preparation of a draft of a federal constitution for Germany which,
among other things, should insure the democratic character of the new
Germany and the human rights and fundamental freedoms of all its
After approval in principle by the Allied Control
Council, the proposed constitution should be submitted to an elected
convention for final drafting and then submitted to the German people
While we shall insist that Germany observe the
principles of peace, good-neighborliness, and humanity, we do not want
Germany to become the satellite of any power or powers or to live under
a dictatorship, foreign or domestic. The American people hope to see
peaceful, democratic Germans become and remain free and
Austria has already been recognized as a free and
independent country. Her temporary and forced union with Germany was
not a happy event for either country, and the United States is
convinced that it is in the interest of both countries and the peace of
Europe that they should pursue their separate ways.
At Potsdam specific areas which were part of Germany
were provisionally assigned to the Soviet Union and to Poland, subject
to the final decisions of the Peace Conference. At that time these
areas were being held by the Soviet and Polish armies. We were told
that Germans in large numbers were fleeing from these areas and that it
would in fact, because of the feelings aroused by the war, be difficult
to reorganize the economic life of these areas if they were not
administered as integral parts in the one case of the Soviet Union and
in the other case of Poland.
The heads of government agreed to support at the peace
settlement the proposal of the Soviet Government concerning the
ultimate transfer to the Soviet Union of the city of Königsberg
and the area adjacent to it. Unless the Soviet Government changes its
views on the subject we will certainly stand by our agreement.
With regard to Silesia and other eastern German areas,
the assignment of this territory to Poland by Russia for administrative
purposes had taken place before the Potsdam meeting. The heads of
government agreed that, pending the final determination of Poland's
western frontier, Silesia and other eastern German areas should be
under the administration of the Polish state and for such purposes
should not be considered as a part of the Soviet zone of occupation in
Germany. However, as the Protocol of the Potsdam Conference makes
clear, the heads of government did not agree to support at the peace
settlement the cession of this particular area.
The Soviets and the Poles suffered greatly at the hands
of Hitler's invading armies. As a result of the agreement at Yalta,
Poland ceded to the Soviet Union territory east of the Curzon Line.
Because of this, Poland asked for revision of her northern and western
frontiers. The United States will support revision of these frontiers
in Poland's favor. However, the extent of the area to be ceded to
Poland must be determined when the final settlement is agreed
The United States does not feel that it can deny to
France, which has been invaded three times by Germany in 70 years, its
claim to the Saar territory, whose economy has long been closely linked
with France. Of course, if the Saar territory is integrated with France
she should readjust her reparation claims against Germany.
Except as here indicated, the United States will not
support any encroachment on territory which is indisputably German or
any division of Germany which is not genuinely desired by the people
concerned. So far as the United States is aware the people of the Ruhr
and the Rhineland desire to remain united with the rest of Germany. And
the United States is not going to oppose their desire.
While the people of the Ruhr were the last to succumb to
Nazism, without the resources of the Ruhr Nazism could never have
threatened the world. Never again must those resources be used for
destructive purposes. They must be used to rebuild a free, peaceful
Germany and a free, peaceful Europe.
The United States will favor such control over the whole
of Germany, including the Ruhr and the Rhineland, as may be necessary
for security purposes. It will help to enforce those controls. But it
will not favor any controls that would subject the Ruhr and the
Rhineland to political domination or manipulation of outside
The German people are now feeling the devastating
effects of the war which Hitler and his minions brought upon the world.
Other people felt those devastating effects long before they were
brought home to the German people.
The German people must realize that it was Hitler and
his minions who tortured and exterminated innocent men, women, and
children and sought with German arms to dominate and degrade the world.
It was the massed, angered forces of humanity which had to fight their
way into Germany to give the world the hope of freedom and peace.
The American people who fought for freedom have no desire to enslave
the German people. The freedom Americans believe in and fought for is a
freedom which must be shared with all willing to respect the freedom of
The United States has returned to Germany practically
all prisoners of war that were in the United States. We are taking
prompt steps to return German prisoners of war in our custody in other
parts of the world.
The United States cannot relieve Germany from the
hardships inflicted upon her by the war her leaders started. But the
United States has no desire to increase those hardships or to deny the
German people an opportunity to work their way out of those hardships
so long as they respect human freedom and cling to the paths of
The American people want to return the government of
Germany to the German people. The American people want to help the
German people to win their way back to an honorable place among the
free and peace-loving nations of the world.
(Documents on Germany, Department of State, p. 91)