Kennedy, Adenauer and the Making of the Berlin Wall, 1958-1961 The Second Berlin Crisis, which began with Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev's threat to sign a separate peace treaty with East Germany in November 1958, has largely been ...
Publisher: Stanford University
Kennedy, Adenauer and the Making of the Berlin Wall, 1958-1961 The Second Berlin Crisis, which began with Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev's threat to sign a separate peace treaty with East Germany in November 1958, has largely been interpreted by foreign policy historians as a conflict between the superpowers, in which the dependent allies - the Federal Republic of Germany and the GDR - had almost no influence on the course of events that led to the erection of the Berlin Wall. This interpretation served the political purposes of the governments involved for most of the Cold War. The Kennedy administration as leading government of the Western world could claim to have successfully managed a difficult crisis; the Adenauer administration and the Ulbricht regime could both point to Washington's and Moscow's responsibility for the division of Germany's capital; and Khrushchev, as leading statesman of the Warsaw pact, could finally deliver on some of his promises made to the Communist Party of the Soviet Union. However, recent findings suggest that Ulbricht, not Khrushchev, was the driving force behind the decision to close the East Berlin sector. In the course of the first two years of the Kennedy administration, severe problems arose in West German-American relations. It is time to ask how the West German government's interactions with the Kennedy administration influenced the course of the crisis. President Eisenhower had seemingly managed to avoid an escalation of the Berlin crisis from 1958 to late 1960. This came at the cost of increasing pressure for his successor to find a solution. Ten months into the Kennedy administration, Berlin was divided by a wall, and American and Soviet tanks faced each other at Checkpoint Charlie. This dissertation reexamines the interactions between the Western governments, in particular between West Germany and the United States during the Second Berlin Crisis, and shows how these affected the outcome of the crisis. The first chapter serves as an introduction to the historiography of the Berlin Crisis and German-American relations in the period, especially between the Kennedy and Adenauer governments, and defines the pertinent questions; the second chapter provides an outline of the first two years of the crisis and the Eisenhower administration's approach to Adenauer and Berlin, especially as to Western policy on Berlin when the Eisenhower administration handed over the reins; the third to fifth chapters trace the Kennedy administration's and Chancellor Adenauer's interactions during the crisis in 1961 with particular regard to the actual sealing off of West Berlin, and the last chapter finally serves as an overview of the immediate aftermath. I argue that four key assumptions about the Berlin Wall crisis in 1961 can no longer be upheld: 1. The claim that Kennedy had stood firm on Berlin and merely continued the Eisenhower posture on Berlin is wrong. Instead, the Kennedy administration attempted to find new approaches to Berlin and Germany in line with its general revision of US foreign policy. 2. The notion that the closing of the sector border came as a surprise is not supported by the documents. President Kennedy had been informed numerous times that a closing of the sector border could be expected within the year. 3. Adenauer's policy to prevent diplomatic recognition of the GDR contributed to an escalation of Washington's search for alternative policy options, rather than slowing them. The West German election campaign in 1961 further limited the chancellor's willingness to make changes to his foreign policy. The Kennedy administration eventually sought accommodation with Khrushchev without consulting Bonn. 4. Inherent conceptual mistakes in Kennedy's early foreign policy agenda exacerbated the crisis, rather than contributed to its eventual solution. An additional lack of trust between West Germany and the United States complicated and delayed the attempt to find a more coherent,