Harry S. Truman Presidential Library & Museum


Oral History Interview with
Dirk U. Stikker

During the period of the Truman Administration (1945-53) Stikker was a member of the Netherlands Government Delegation to the Round Table Conference on the political status of the Netherlands West Indies, 1946; member Round Table Conference with representatives of Indonesia and preparation for the independence of Indonesia, 1948; Netherlands Minister of Foreign Affairs, 1948-52; Netherlands Representative on the Council of the Organization for European Economic Cooperation, 1950; and Chairman, OEEC, 1950-52. Ambassador Stikker later, in addition to service in many other distinguished positions, was Secretary-General of NATO, 1961-64.

Paris, France
April 23, 1964
by Philip C. Brooks

See Also July 14, 1970 interview.

[Notices and Restrictions | Interview Transcript | List of Subjects Discussed]


NOTICE
This is a transcript of a tape-recorded interview conducted for the Harry S. Truman Library. A draft of this transcript was edited by the interviewee but only minor emendations were made; therefore, the reader should remember that this is essentially a transcript of the spoken, rather than the written word.

Numbers appearing in square brackets (ex. [45]) within the transcript indicate the pagination in the original, hardcopy version of the oral history interview.

RESTRICTIONS
This oral history transcript may be read, quoted from, cited, and reproduced for purposes of research. It may not be published in full except by permission of the Harry S. Truman Library.

Opened May, 1986
Harry S. Truman Library
Independence, Missouri

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Oral History Interview with
Dirk U. Stikker

Paris, France
April 23, 1964
by Philip C. Brooks

 

[1]

DR. BROOKS: You have told me that the Marshall Plan was a benefit to the Netherlands, because the Netherlands industry was not strong and had suffered more than that of Belgium and other countries; and that therefore there was greater need in the Netherlands for the development of industrial production. Is that correct?

DR. STIKKER: Yes. On top of that we had the difficulties about Indonesia -- we were fighting a War -- and so we were finding it very difficult to bring out any budget which could be covered,

 

[2]

or to find any way to help us in the balance of payments. We, as a country, at that time had a very badly developed industry, and we had only the export of what were called in that period "weak products." Nobody was willing to buy "weak products." Everybody needed "strong products," like steel or coal or anything of that kind, as a beginning, to start industry again. So I think we were in greater difficulty than many of the other countries. For that reason, it was, well, the only way in which we could have overcome our difficulties.

BROOKS: Then this matter of industrial production was the greatest need from the point of Holland, was it not?

STIKKER: It was, yes. And, there you had a problem. There I think is the greatest merit of the whole Marshall Plan -- and I have been in it

 

[3]

for long periods, when I was chairman of the OEEC -- that it was not that the United States said, "Now, we are going to give you so much money and you do this or that with it." It was a joint operation between European countries together with the United States.

We tried to make joint plans for the different countries, as to what was the best way the aid could be used, and how to make the best plans for every country. Several times, I had to go to Germany and find out what was the best situation for Germany. I went to the United Kingdom to talk about what was the best development for the United Kingdom. I was chairman of the OEEC, and in a way I was the counterpart in the time when Paul Hoffman, Averell Harriman, and Milton Katz were involved in this matter. I must say that I had the greatest admiration for the way all these people tried to help

 

[4]

without in any way imposing their will as to what should be done. And this was the key to the way that it could work so well. There has been great wisdom behind this whole system as` we tried to develop it together. It was a joint operation, the best type of partnership I have ever seen.

BROOKS: An entirely constructive program, not really a matter of defensive economic warfare as some people in the United States thought.

STIKKER: Nothing of that kind was in it. There was no economic warfare intended. Sometimes these words cropped up, "What will we do now? Is it economic warfare or not?" And, if the words cropped up, we said, "No, we're not going to do it. This is wrong. We are here for constructive operations to bring back some prosperity to European countries after the war."

 

[5]

BROOKS: In this way, you would say it was somewhat different from the Greek-Turkish aid program?

STIKKER: Well there, naturally, part of it was plainly for defense. Now, when the NATO operations started, part of it also was defense aid but that was completely separated from the OECD, which was for constructive purposes. I have been in both, so I can say it with some authority, that OEEC had nothing to do with economic warfare or with defense problems. It was just a constructive joint effort economically to bring prosperity back to Europe.

BROOKS: You were in a unique position there, certainly.

STIKKER: Yes.

BROOKS: Therefore, would you say this was really a phase of the Cold War, or not? Some people have said that the time the Russians disassociated them-

 

[6]

selves from the Marshall Plan was perhaps the beginning of the Cold War.

STIKKER: I wouldn't say so. The Cold War had started already before the war had come to an end, and Russia by not disarming while the United Kingdom and while the United States disarmed to a large extent, indicated that trouble was coming. They picked one country after the other and that was not only a Cold War, but it was hot war, in a way.

Now, this has nothing to do -- this whole economic aid -- with the Cold War business and I would go so far as to say that if this aid, only for constructive purposes, for the reconstruction of the prosperity of Europe, had not been given, the Cold War you talk of might have been lost. In that sense, it had its influence, naturally, but there was never any

 

[7]

mention of it in all the discussions I have been in -- and I was in Washington a lot and was here in Paris at that period when the division of aid had to take place, I was here in Paris every week for three years, to take part in the discussions as to how we should do it. I never had any feeling that we were being handled in some way so as to take part in this Cold War business.

BROOKS: Was the Cold War as such, something of which the Netherlands was aware at this time, or did that really come later?

STIKKER: Oh no, we were fully aware of it, fully aware.

BROOKS: And concerned about it?

STIKKER: Yes.

BROOKS: Was public opinion in the Netherlands

 

[8]

favorable, generally, to the Marshall Plan? Was it a matter of wide public interest?

STIKKER: Oh, wide interest. It is not a question of whether you were in favor of it, because it was absolutely a must-- you couldn't do without it. Believe me, there is a deep felt gratitude in the Netherlands for what happened in that period.

BROOKS: Dr. Stikker, you've been involved in labor activities for many years. Was there a special labor point of view on this matter? Did the need for development of industry have a relation to the unemployment problem?

STIKKER: Well, before the war I was the chairman of all the employer's organizations in Holland, and during the war I started personally with the leaders of the trade unions -- as an

 

[9]

underground movement because all of us had to disappear -- a new organization, in which labor and employers would work together jointly in one organization. When I tell these things to people who do not live in Holland, they say, "Well, now how can it work?" But, it worked and it still exists. And, that was the reason that after the war, we had practically no strikes in Holland, because we tried to smooth out all the difficulties between ourselves; the government recognized this organization, which was a free organization for an exchange of views. Well, naturally, this helped us, because the whole idea behind it was that if you are as poor as we were at that time, you only can do it if labor and capital work together, but absolutely together, and recognize the rights and the responsibilities and the duties of one against the other.

 

[10]

Now, for that reason, when I turn over to think about the OEEC and all these matters in the division of Marshall aid, I always made propaganda in OEEC that we should also have representatives of the trade unions with us, so that they could understand why we took certain lines in policy. Then they could accept, together with us, the responsibility for these policies. In any case, in my country it worked well. How it worked in other countries, it is difficult to say, because I think we were perhaps a little bit more advanced in these ideas than they are yet in many countries.

BROOKS: So there really was not any special labor point of view that was different from the others.

STIKKER: No.

 

[11]

BROOKS: There had been a great controversy about the level of industry in Germany. Was it your view then, or the view of the Netherlands, that the reconstruction of German industry was essential to European recovery, or that this industrial level should be kept down?

STIKKER: Well, that's quite a question. As I told you, I have been in the underground movement quite a lot. My children have been in prison; I could never live in my own house; friends have been shot; and I have been just anywhere. So people were quite surprised that immediately after the war I started to work for some point where we could again have discussions with the German people. And I was very impressed, because in June 1945, when many of the cities in Germany were still burning, I made a trip all over Germany because I wanted to see it with my own eyes. I then got the impression if you

 

[12]

don't try to help these people back to some form of democracy, we are just as lost as they will be, because we need each other.

I remember, what may perhaps explain it to you, that Paul Hoffman asked me once, "Now, why, Stikker, don't you hate?" And I said, "Paul, we just haven't got the time for hate." And, I think that was the normal position in the Netherlands at that time, and I could use these words as foreign secretary. I could talk about it in that way. That was the attitude in the Netherlands. For instance, when you talk at the present moment of Germany, it is now one of the most faithful members of the NATO alliance. We in Holland were the first to suggest that they should become members. It was not the United States. It was not the United Kingdom. It was not one of the other countries. The Netherlands made the first

 

[13]

proposal that Germany should become a member of NATO, because we must be in this business together or we are all lost.

Now, in the beginning, Germany went too far out in its liberalization. They followed the sort of economy where they tried to build up their industry on the basis of credits which the other European countries had to give them, because they were importing far more at that time than they were exporting. Then I went to see the present Chancellor Erhard -- that was in 1950 -- and I told him, "Well, you're going too far. We must do something about it, and we must have a form of -- what later became the European Payments Union -- and there is a limit to the credit you can ask for." He said, "All right." Erhard said to me at that time, "I'm quite willing to follow that line. I'm willing to help you, that we cut down what we

 

[14]

are asking at the present moment and don't follow that same liberal policy that we are doing at the present moment; but, for heaven's sake, once we do it, don't let's only do it for Europe. It should have a wider aspect. If we create new systems for payment agreements or for liberalization of trade, it should be on a world-wide basis and not on the basis of only a European small group of countries." These ideas came up in the period of the Marshall aid and it's the same problem with which we are now faced in the Kennedy Round.

BROOKS: You would put something like the European Payments Union on a world-wide basis.

STIKKER: Yes.

BROOKS: The winter of '47 and '48 was a critical time because while the preliminary committee in

 

[15]

Paris had drawn up its plan, there was no prospect of getting the United States Congressional approval until the next spring.

STIKKER: I was not involved in that problem because at that time, I was a member of the Senate. I did not know what the negotiations had been and I had been traveling around the world at that time. I was a lot in Indonesia, I was in Egypt, and I did not take part in these discussions, so I couldn't help you in that respect.

BROOKS: At the time the committee reported, and before the bill was presented to Congress, there was a plan drawn up by which it was thought that with about nineteen billion dollars in something like four and a half years, they could accomplish a "whole job," as some people in the United States were demanding, so that this job would be done once and we wouldn't have to continue

 

[16]

it. Actually this was done in considerably less time and for considerably less money. To what do you ascribe that?

STIKKER: Well, it was difficult in the beginning to make a fair assumption of what was needed. Nobody can say that, in the beginning when you start a job. And it worked so quickly and so suddenly because people were waiting in all these countries. Take for instance, my own country, and that was different from the United Kingdom; the people in my country had suffered a lot, but they were waiting to show that they wanted to do something. And, so when the job had to be done to reconstruct the country, to start again, new programs and new prosperity, and make steps forward, everybody was working together and the spirit was there.

It was different, for instance, in the

 

[17]

United Kingdom, to my mind. It had been fighting a long war, it had won the war. And people said, "All right, now we can relax for a little while, and we can sit back for a time." That was the difference in the approach. It was a sort of mental attitude after the war, when you had been under the occupation and wanted to show that you had the same fighting spirit in you as the others had shown during the war -- and the others saved us from the greatest perils. But, nevertheless, there was a different approach: those that had been fighting wanted to relax; those who had been occupied, wanted to show that they hadn't. So, in my country there was enormous progress. We were the first to recover. I am always happy that I was one of the first who could tell the United States, "Well, we don't need your aid any longer, stop it."

 

[18]

BROOKS: Did you anticipate that the European Recovery Program would ultimately lead to a European economic union, or common market, or political union?

STIKKER: I always hoped it, but I was sometimes worried in that period already about the different tendencies in several countries. There has always been, not only now, in France a tendency to protectionism. That has always existed. But my country is a country that lives and thrives on trade and it has now developed quite some industry, but still trading is quite an important point for us. We live from our exports because otherwise, we couldn't import, and we must have imports, and so that cycle goes on. Now, that has always been my attitude. For instance, at the time when we were under the Marshall aid, when Paul Hoffman and Stafford

 

[19]

Cripps asked me whether I would be a mediator in the European countries for the creation of the European Payment Union. Because if you have no payment system, you cannot do anything on the liberalization of trade. And, so, I did it on the basis, just as I explained to you, that it should have the widest possible aspects. Now in that period, we also developed the coal and steel organization and my signature is still on the treaty. So there is no doubt that I have always been in favor of it. But, I have always said, "Now, for heaven's sake, don't go too far, before you're absolutely certain who are going to be the members of the club." For there should be a right kind of balance in the members of the club. And, there have been many countries who just wanted a federation so strongly, that they didn't look at the details of what they were talking

 

[20]

about. Once they had put their signatures on the treaty, they suddenly found out (and that is one of the difficulties now in Brussels) that there were quite some problems involved. These problems could have been avoided if they had studied more carefully and not listened so much to the political need to do something; if they had been more careful in the choice of the members of the Committee in Brussels, and assured that there should be no protectionism and no autarchic system developed in that new organization.

BROOKS: Did you think that some of the people who were prominent in setting up this organization such as Will Clayton and Paul Hoffman looked forward . . .

STIKKER: They always looked forward to one economic union. There is no doubt about it. But, naturally,

 

[21]

I had been working closely with Marjolin, because at the time when I was chairman he was the secretary-general.

BROOKS: I hope to talk to him.

STIKKER: Yes. We had views which were very close to each other. He has changed a little bit now, because at a certain moment, many people came to the conclusion that if you were to go on working on the basis of sovereign states you never would be able to solve the problems, that you needed a super-national system. That involved a dispute which still is going on. Now, I won't say that I am against a super-national system, because I have been in favor of the coal and steel organization and my signature is on it. I have been in favor of the super-national system in the European defense community, but if you go further to the whole field of economics,

 

[22]

or finance, and politics, and defense, then you must be very careful with whom you're going to do it.

BROOKS: As I understand it, the coal and steel organization goes about as far in this direction as any.

STIKKER: As any. And, it was one of the forerunners of everything but it was for a limited area. I am in favor of what is happening at the present, no doubt about it, but still I would hope that at a certain moment, the United Kingdom can join and that we can develop a system, not based on an autarchic self-sufficient Europe, which will help us solve our economic difficulty and our problems with the United States.

BROOKS: Mr. van Kleffens is associated with the coal and steel organization now. You must have been

 

[23]

closely associated with him. I hope I can see him too. And Hirschfeld?

STIKKER: Hirschfeld has died. He was active in the '47 period, and if you want to know anything about Hirschfeld's views, of course, then you should ask van der Beugel.

BROOKS: Yes, I have his name from our Ambassador at the Hague.

STIKKER: Yes, then you must see van der Beugel.

BROOKS: I did want to ask if you had any special impressions of General Marshall, or of Mr. Truman? You said you had talked to General Marshall a number of times, I believe.

STIKKER: Well, the first time I saw General Marshall was when I had just been appointed Minister of Foreign Affairs in Holland, and he was still

 

[24]

Secretary of State. We had then the big issue of Indonesia. At the first discussion I ever had with him he had Dean Rusk with him. So that was the first meeting we had. We didn't agree completely on the procedure, not on the principle, because I was one of the few who, at that period, thought that it was necessary to transfer sovereignty. That was my big fight in the political world and in Holland at that time. There were one or two occasions when I saw Marshall again. I always go to Walter Reed when I am ill, and I was there when Mrs. Marshall was there, so we talked quite a lot together when she was ill and I was ill. As to President Truman, I met him several times in the period when I was the chairman of the OEEC and when I had to speak on behalf of Europe -- they sometimes called me "Mr. Europe" at that time.

 

[25]

BROOKS: Do you think he knew pretty clearly what was involved in this program?

STIKKER: Oh, he knew it quite clearly. But, I also think that in this whole matter of the speech made by Marshall, Dean Acheson was very instrumental and very important.

BROOKS: Incidentally, he is one of the people that advised me to talk to you.

STIKKER: I am absolutely certain that he was one of those who drafted this policy. I don't know how far he was involved in the drafting of the speech itself, but, in any case, he was one of the active people.

BROOKS: I suppose that no one of these things is all done by any one person.

STIKKER: No, it all fits in.

 

[26]

BROOKS: He gave a speech a month before that . . .

STIKKER: It was already a beginning -- an indication. And you had at that period a bipartisan policy. Senator Vandenberg and the role he played . . .. The resolution of Senator Vandenberg I still consider to be one of the basic contributions of that period.

BROOKS: You would say this is one of the high points of the Truman foreign policy?

STIKKER: Yes.

BROOKS: Things really moved.

STIKKER: Things really moved, yes.

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List of Subjects Discussed
    Acheson, Dean, 25-26

    Belgium, 1, 20
    Brussels, Belgium, 20

    Clayton, William, 20
    Cold war, 5-7
    Coon Market, 18
    Cripps, Stafford, 18-19

    Egypt, 15
    Erhard, Ludwig, 13-14
    European Defense Community, 21
    European Payments Union, 13, 14, 19
    European Recovery Program, 18

    Germany:

    Greece, 5
    Greek-Turkish aid, 5

    Harriman, W, Averell, 3
    Hirschfeld, Mr., 23
    Hoffman, Paul G,, 3, 12, 18, 20

    Indonesia, 1, 15, 24

    Katz, Milton, 3

    Marjolin, Robert, 21
    Marshall, George C., 23-24, 25
    Marshall. plan, 10, 15, 16, 18

      and the Netherlands, 1, 3, 4, 7-8, 16
      and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, 5-7
      and the United Kingdom, 16, 17

    Netherlands:

      and the cold war, 7
      economy of, 1-4
      and Germany, 11-13
      labor in, 8-10
      and the Marshall plan, 1, 3-4, 7-8, 16
      and trade, 18
    North Atlantic Treaty Organization, 5, 12-13

    Organization fox European Economic Cooperation, 3, 5, 10, 24

    Paris Conference, 7, 15

    Rusk, Dean, 24

    Stikker, Dirk Uipko:

      and Erhard, Ludwig, 13-14
      and the European Payments Union, 19
      and Germany, 11-12, 13-14
      and labor in the Netherlands, 8-10
      and Marshall, George, 23-24

    Truman, Harry S., 24, 26
    Turkey, 5

    Union of Soviet Socialist Republics:

      and the cold war, 5-7
      and the Marshall plan, 5-6
    United Kingdom,, 12
      and the Marshall plan, 16, 17
    United States, 12

    Vandenberg, Arthur H., 26
    Van der Beugel, E.H,, 23
    van Kleffens, Eelco Nicolaas, 22

    Washington, D.C., 7

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