Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)

Semester of Degree Completion


Thesis Director

Wolfgang Schlauch


This thesis discusses the American and West German reaction to the Soviet note of March 10, 1952. In this so-called Stalin Note the Soviet dictator proposed the reunification of Germany on terms of neutrality and acceptance of the Oder and Neisse rivers as the German-Polish border. By launching his proposal Stalin sought to prevent the integration of the Federal Republic of Germany (FRG) into the Western alliance system.

The paper starts out sketching the emergence of the United States and the Soviet Union as superpowers after World War II. It also analyzes the impact the Cold War had on Europe. After this introductory section the author discusses American-West German relations during the time between the founding of the FRG and spring 1952, when the Stalin Note was presented to the Western ambassadors in Moscow.

During the first three years of the Bonn government, American policy toward Germany gradually shifted away from the objective of controlling the defeated enemy. Instead, the Truman Administration increasingly pursued a policy of cautious cooperation in order to contain Soviet expansionism. Although this change in Washington’s course was accelerated by the outbreak of the Korean War in mid-1950, the occupation of Germany lasted until 1955, the year in which West Germany received sovereignty and joined the North Atlantic Treaty Organization.

After 1949, it was West German Chancellor Adenauer’s foremost goal to restore full independence to the German government through close cooperation with the Western Allies, especially the United States. Adenauer was prepared to postpone the reunification of his country for the time being. Hoping to create a strong power basis for the FRG in the West European alliance, he expected to gain the necessary strength for successful negotiations with Moscow about Germany’s unity. To a large extent Bonn’s policy harmonized with that of the Truman Administration.

Prior to the creation of two German states, the Soviet Union had followed a rather aggressive course in its policy toward Germany which climaxed with the Berlin Blockade of 1948. Being confronted with the failure of its strategy and facing a tremendous Western armament program after the invasion of South Korea, the Kremlin changed its strategy. During the second half of 1951 and spring 1952, Moscow dispatched several initiatives for German reunification of which the Stalin Note was the most conciliatory one.

The United States rejected Moscow's proposal of March, 1952 because Washington did not want to cancel its defense plans for Western Europe in exchange for a new power constellation on that continent which Washington considered fragile and dangerous to American security interests. The author of this paper concludes that American opposition to the Soviet plan was the major Western obstacle with respect to sincere four-power talks on German unity in 1952. French, British and West German concurrence with America’s attitude considerably facilitated this policy.

The author, however, questions the thesis of some historians that Adenauer’s concurrence with Washington’s course was essential to the United States’ refusal of the Stalin Note. He holds that a possible West German disagreement concerning Washington’s course would not have resulted in serious four-power talks. Adenauer’s political lever was too weak as to press successfully for a constructive Western approach to Moscow’s initiative. Bonn had only the chance to threaten a suspension of further talks on the FRG’s integration into the Western alliance system until the Soviet plan had been thoroughly probed--a move that would have caused severe frictions among the Western Allies and Adenauer. Such a strategy would have jeopardized if not destroyed the basis for continued cooperation between the Western powers and the Federal Republic without resulting in Germany’s reunification.