T H E  B E R L I N  C R I S I S
The Berlin Crisis, 1958-1962
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President Kennedy and Soviet Premier Khrushchev shake hands on June 3, 1961 at their meeting in Vienna. Relations, frosty from the start, quickly deteriorate. The following day, Khrushchev demands that the Berlin problem be solved by December. Kennedy responds, "It's going to be a cold winter."

The Berlin crisis involved a controversy so bitter and so sustained that at its height world leaders feared that a misstep could trigger a nuclear war. The crisis unfolded through a war of words, diplomatic negotiations, superpower summits, and military posturing and preparations as East and West argued over the status of Berlin. For Presidents Eisenhower and Kennedy, U.S. "credibility" was at stake: a failure in Berlin could disrupt NATO and weaken American influence in West Germany, the key to the balance of power in Europe.

Focus of the Collection

The Berlin Crisis, 1958-1962 provides a comprehensive record of the making of U.S. policy toward Berlin and West Germany. It contains approximately 3,000 documents totaling over 11,500 pages, many of them recently declassified documents available here for the first time. The collection begins with documents dating from late 1953, when the Eisenhower administration began to formulate its Berlin contingency plans and closes in the late 1960s with a series of newly declassified State Department histories. The core of the collection consists of documents from November 1958 through the fall of 1962 which enable researchers to follow U.S. policy developments on a day-to-day basis and discover the interrelations between U.S. diplomatic and military policy over the course of the crisis.

In a secret telegram-obtained by the National Security Archive in August of 1991-U.S. Ambassador Llewellyn Thompson analyzes the Berlin situation and warns the Secretary of State of the "chances of war or ignominious Western Threat.

This secret cable receives a full cataloguing entry and a permuted indexing sentence. The subject headings, underlined here for clarity, provide five access points for researchers. Brackets denote parallelism.

Sample Catalog Entry

(54398) 1961/05/27

Berlin Should Be Directed toward Gaining Time
and Reducing the possibility of a Direct U.S.-
Soviet Confrontation

Secret Cable 2 pp.
Origin: United States Embassy. Soviet Union
To: United States. Department of State
From: Thompson, Llewellyn E.
Index: Llewellyn E. Thompson--provides his views on
[Soviet intentions; Western negotiating positions]--with
regard to the Berlin crisis for the Meeting between John
F. Kennedy and Nikita S. Khrushchev in Vienna,
Austria (3-4 June 1961)--and asserts that United States
policy--should be directed toward gaining time and
avoiding a direct confrontation over Berlin

Sample Document Titles

Crisis over Berlin: American Policy Concerning the Soviet Threats to Berlin--11/58- 12/62, Department of State, Bureau of Public Affairs, Top Secret History

Annual History: U.S. Army, Europe: 1961, U.S. European Command, Army, Operations Division, Top Secret History

Briefing for President on Berlin, Department of State, Berlin Task Force, Top Secret Memorandum

Memorandum of Conversation between the President and Ambassador Dobrynin, 7/17/63, Office of the White House, Secret Memorandum of Conversation

Germany and Berlin: Rusk-Gromyko Discussions at Geneva, Department of State, Secret Memorandum of Conversation

Analysis of Thompson-Gromyko Talks, Department of State, Bureau of Intelligence and Research, Secret Memorandum

Germany and Berlin: Disarmament, Red China, State Department, Secret Memorandum of Conversation

Acheson's Report to the President on Berlin, Executive Office of the President, Secret Memorandum

Vienna Meeting Between the President and Chairman Khrushchev: Final Discussion of Germany and Berlin, Department of State, Secret Memorandum of Conversation

Problems and Procedures Papers: Khrushchev-Eisenhower Discussion, Department of State, Secret Memorandum of Conversation

Tripartite Military Planning Effort for Berlin Contingencies--Directive on LIVE OAK Planning Staff, U.S. Embassy, France, Top Secret

Dulles and Adenauer Discuss Contingency Plans and Nuclear Weapons Use, Department of State, Top Secret Memorandum of Conversation

State-Defense-JCS Ad Hoc Working Group Report on Possible Courses of Action on Berlin, Joint Chiefs of Staff, Top Secret Memorandum

Possible Countermeasures to a Blockade of Berlin, U.S. Army, Deputy Chief of Staff for Military Operations, Top Secret Memorandum

Turnover of Control of Checkpoints to East Germany Would be a Trap to Secure Allied Recognition of the GDR, U.S. Mission, West Berlin, Secret Cable

The Berlin Crisis Advisory and Editorial Board

John C. Ausland
Author, former Deputy Director, Berlin Task Force, U.S. Department of State

Martin J. Hillenbrand
Director, Center for East-West Trade Policy, University of Georgia; former Director, Berlin Task Force, U.S. Department of State

Anna K. Nelson
Adjunct Professor of History, American University

David A. Rosenberg
Professor of History, Temple University

Marc Trachtenberg
Professor of History, University of Pennsylvania


The Berlin Crisis, 1958-1962

Reproduces on microfiche approximately 3,000 documents totaling over 11,500 pages recording U.S. policy toward Berlin and Germany from 1958-1962.

The microfiche are arranged chronologically. For ease of use, the unique identification numbers assigned to documents are printed in eye-legible type at the top right-hand corner and precede each document on the microfiche strip.

Documents are reproduced on silver halide positive-reading microfiche at a nominal reduction of 24x. They are archivally permanent and conform to AIIM, BSI, and ANSI standards. Any microfiche found to be physically substandard will be replaced free of charge.

A printed guide and index totaling approximately 2,000 pages accompany the microfiche collection. The guide contains an events chronology, glossaries of names, organizations, events, international agreements, and acronyms, a bibliography of secondary sources, and a chronological listing of documents. The index provides in-depth document-level access to subjects, individuals, and organizations.

Orders and Inquiries

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