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Adenauer wanted to swap West Berlin

The Local · 14 Aug 2011, 13:08

Published: 14 Aug 2011 13:08 GMT+02:00

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Adenauer is believed to have proposed a secret deal with the Soviet Union to US President John F. Kennedy during a crisis over West Berlin in 1961-2, according to a report in Der Spiegel news magazine.

The chancellor described the proposed deal as an "advantageous exchange" for West Germany, said the report.

In exchange for giving up the western section of Berlin, Adenauer wanted the state of Thuringia, as well as parts of Saxony and the northern state of Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania.

These were areas that had been occupied by British and American soldiers at the end of World War II but handed over to the Soviet Union in order to gain control of parts of the capital city. Adenauer apparently planned to reverse this deal.

The chancellor believed that West Germany, which he governed from 1949 to 1963, would gain prosperous new industrial areas in the deal.

Story continues below…

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The Local (news@thelocal.de)

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Your comments about this article

20:01 August 14, 2011 by iammucow
Ignoring the ethical issues behind such deal for now, this brings up an interesting alternate history. What if the deal had succeeded? The Berlin Wall would have been torn down pretty much just as it was started and probably forgotten by history. Thuringia would have gone through reunification much earlier, making it much easier as West Germany would be integrating a much smaller population, and the gulf between East and West both economically and culturally would be much smaller. However, it leaves a lot of questions of how the events of 1989 would have played out without West Berlin sitting there in the middle of East Germany.
20:32 August 14, 2011 by JAMessersmith
If I have the correct information, there were about 2 million people living in West Berlin around the time of the airlift (48-49), and about half as many in East Berlin. Thuringia, Mecklenburg-Vorpommern and (parts of) Saxony probably contained 3 to 4 million people at the time, so the exchange would've netted an extra 1 to 2 million people under West German governance. However, West Berliners would not have been very happy about such an exchange, I can tell you that much.
20:45 August 14, 2011 by anaverageguy
An interesting thing about alternate histories is that the little things that influence history are never included in the mix. If the wall had not existed in Berlin there was still the 1400 km of border fence.
22:38 August 14, 2011 by mixxim 1
I suppose we are lucky he did not sell Berlin?
02:43 August 15, 2011 by Beachrider
Sometimes these semi-bluffs look arrogant in the 20/20 vision of armchair historians. It could just as easily represented an alternate position to rally English, French and American support for making West Germany a strong partner against the Soviets.
03:57 August 15, 2011 by vonSchwerin
Where are these documents? The Bundesarchiv in Koblenz? National Archives, College Park? Archivs der Stiftung Bundeskanzler-Adenauer-Haus?

Since Germany and the USA generally release all government documents after 30 or 35 years, why are they just being "discovered" now?
04:09 August 15, 2011 by piatnek
"Ich bin ein Thuringer" just doesn't have the same ring to it.
04:13 August 15, 2011 by wood artist
Not having seen the documents in question, nor seeing which country they're from, it's hard to make a real judgement about things. However, it's not uncommon for leaders to talk about things like this, floating ideas to see what the implications are that they might have missed.

Berlin was clearly a problem for the Americans, and Kennedy said more than once that the wall actually had a beneficial effect, effectively removing one of the major thorns sticking in the side of the East German government, and, obviously, also the Russian government. That didn't mean he liked the wall; he didn't. However, it did have political implications for the US that weren't all bad.

Like most everything in life (except for the Tea Party people) every action has a multitude of effects, and often some on both sides of the ledger. While the wall was an abomination, it might well have prevented something else...i.e. a shooting war. We'll never know, but it was clear that East Germany and Russia couldn't continue the status quo, and they didn't have a whole lot of options.

14:47 August 15, 2011 by yourholiness
It would have been a good trade. Berlin would have withered on the vine and west germans would have gained more territory.
18:45 August 15, 2011 by Sastry.M
During the days of cold war between east and west the state of divided Germany used to hang precariously with rhe calculated moves of self advantage between the two big blocks. That the idea of wall as conceived and erected by the communist east might have been due to a divine dispensation when everyday innocent school children used to be kidnapped to begin early brainwashing for communist cause and at least put a demarcation of safety for west Berliners as well also standing as a symbolic separation of ideologies between cold war blocks. It stood, however, as a painful symbol of irrational human separation which faded in due vicissitude of time rather than hateful symbols of character assassination of holocaust memorials although the German people might have withstood the cold winds of war blowing across the whole nation with uncertainties of every day life keeping faith in common suffering as Shakespeare did by declaring " Blow thou winter wind, thou art not so unkind!".
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