Tehran Conference: Tripartite Dinner Meeting

Roosevelt’s Quarters, 8:30 PM,

Soviet Embassy

November 28, 1943

PRESENT
UNITED STATES UNITED KINGDOM SOVIET UNION
President Roosevelt Prime Minister Churchill Marshal Stalin
Mr. Hopkins Foreign Secretary Eden Foreign Commissar Molotov
Mr. Harriman Sir Archibald Clark Kerr Mr. Pavlov
Mr. Bohlen Major Birse
Bohlen Minutes

SECRET

During the first part of the dinner the conversation between the President and Marshal Stalin was general in character and dealt for the most part with a suitable place for the next meeting. Fairbanks seemed to be considered by both the most suitable spot.

MARSHAL STALIN then raised the question of the future of France. He described in considerable length the reasons why, in his opinion, France deserved no considerate treatment from the Allies and, above all, had no right to retain her former empire. He said that the entire French ruling class was rotten to the core and had delivered over France to the Germans and that, in fact, France was now actively helping our enemies. He therefore felt that it would be not only unjust but dangerous to leave in French hands any important strategic points after the war.

THE PRESIDENT replied that he in part agreed with Marshal Stalin. That was why this afternoon he had said to Marshal Stalin that it was necessary to eliminate in the future government of France anybody over forty years old and particularly anybody who had formed part of the French Government. He mentioned specifically the question of New Caledonia and Dakar, the first of which he said represented a threat to Australia and New Zealand and, therefore, should be placed under the trusteeship of the United Nations. In regard to Dakar, THE PRESIDENT said he was speaking for twenty-one American nations when he said that Dakar in unsure hands was a direct threat to the Americas.

MR. CHURCHILL at this point intervened to say that Great Britain did not desire and did not expect to acquire any additional territory out of this war, but since the 4 great victorious nations-the United States, the Soviet Union, Great Britain and China-will be responsible for the future peace of the world, it was obviously necessary that certain strategic points throughout the world should be under the [their?] control.

MARSHAL STALIN again repeated and emphasized his view that France could not be trusted with any strategic possessions outside her own border in the post-war period. He described the ideology of the Vichy Ambassador to Moscow, Bergery, which he felt was characteristic of the majority of French politicians. This ideology definitely preferred an agreement with France’s former enemy, Germany, than with her former allies, Great Britain and the United States.

The conversation then turned to the question of the treatment to be accorded Nazi Germany.

THE PRESIDENT said that, in his opinion, it was very important not to leave in the German mind the concept of the Reich and that the very word should be stricken from the language.

MARSHAL STALIN replied that it was not enough to eliminate the word, but the very Reich itself must be rendered impotent ever again to plunge the world into war. He said that unless the victorious Allies retained in their hands the strategic positions necessary to prevent any recrudescence of German militarism, they would have failed in their duty.

In the detailed discussion between the President, Marshal Stalin and Churchill that followed Marshal Stalin took the lead, constantly emphasizing that the measures for the control of Germany and her disarmament were insufficient to prevent the rebirth of German militarism and appeared to favor even stronger measures. He, however, did not specify what he actually had in mind except that he appeared to favor the dismemberment of Germany.

MARSHAL STALIN particularly mentioned that Poland should extend to the Oder and stated definitely that the Russians would help the Poles to obtain a frontier on the Oder.

THE PRESIDENT then said he would be interested in the question of assuring the approaches to the Baltic Sea and had in mind some form of trusteeship with perhaps an international state in the vicinity of the Kiel Canal to insure free navigation in both directions through the approaches. Due to some error of the Soviet translator Marshal Stalin apparently thought that the President was referring to the question of the Baltic States. On the basis of this understanding, he replied categorically that the Baltic States had by an expression of the will of the people voted to join the Soviet Union and that this question was not therefore one for discussion. Following the clearing up of the misapprehension, he, however, expressed himself favorably in regard to the question of insuring free navigation to and from the Baltic Sea.

THE PRESIDENT, returning to the question of certain outlying possessions, said he was interested in the possibility of a sovereignty fashioned in a collective body such as the United Nations; a concept which had never been developed in past history.

After dinner when the President had retired, the conversation continued between Marshal Stalin and Mr. Churchill. The subject was still the treatment to be accorded to Germany, and even more than during dinner Marshal Stalin appeared to favor the strongest possible measures against Germany.

MR. CHURCHILL said that he advocated that Germany be permitted no aviation of any character-neither military [n]or civilian-and in addition that the German general staff system should be completely abolished. He proposed a number of other measures of control such as constant supervision over such industries as might be left to Germany and territorial dismemberment of the Reich.

MARSHAL STALIN to all of these considerations expressed doubt as to whether they would be effective. He said that any furniture factories could be transformed into airplane factories and any watch factories could make fuses for shells? He said, in his opinion, the Germans were very able and talented people and could easily revive within fifteen or twenty years and again become a threat to the world. He said that he had personally questioned German prisoners in the Soviet Union as to why they had burst into Russian homes, killed Russian women, etc., and that the only reply he had received was they had been ordered to do so.

MR. CHURCHILL said that he could not look more than fifty years ahead and that he felt that upon the three nations represented here at Teheran rested the grave responsibility of future measures of assuring in some manner or other that Germany would not again rise to plague the world during the [that?] period. He said that he felt it was largely the fault of the German leaders and that, while during war time no distinction could be made between the leaders and the people particularly in regard to Germany, nevertheless, with a generation of self-sacrificing, toil and education, something might be done with the German people.

MARSHAL STALIN expressed dissent with this and did not appear satisfied as to the efficacy of any of the measures proposed by Mr. Churchill.

MR. CHURCHILL then inquired whether it would be possible this evening to discuss the question of Poland. He said that Great Britain had gone to war with Germany because of the latter’s invasion of Poland in 1939 and that the British Government was committed to the reestablishment of a strong and independent Poland but not to any specific Polish frontiers. He added that if Marshal Stalin felt any desire to discuss the question of Poland, that he was prepared to do so and he was sure that the President was similarly disposed.

MARSHAL STALIN said that he had not yet felt the necessity nor the desirability of discussing the Polish question (After an exchange of remarks on this subject from which it developed that the Marshal had in mind that nothing that the Prime Minister had said on the subject of Poland up to the present stimulated him to discuss the question, the conversation returned to the substance of the Polish question).

MR. CHURCHILL said that he personally had no attachment to any specific frontier between Poland and the Soviet Union; that he felt that the consideration of Soviet security on their western frontiers was a governing factor. He repeated, however, that the British Government considered themselves committed to the reestablishment of an independent and strong Poland which he felt a necessary instrument in the European orchestra.

MR. EDEN then inquired if he had understood the Marshal correctly at dinner when the latter said that the Soviet Union favored the Polish western frontier on the Oder.

MARSHAL STALIN replied emphatically that he did favor such a frontier for Poland and repeated that the Russians were prepared to help the Poles achieve it.

MR. CHURCHILL then remarked that it would be very valuable if here in Teheran the representatives of the three governments could work out some agreed understanding on the question of the Polish frontiers which could then be taken up with the Polish Government in London. He said that, as far as he was concerned, he would like to see Poland moved westward in the same manner as soldiers at drill execute the drill “left close” and illustrated his point with three matches representing the Soviet Union, Poland and Germany.

MARSHAL STALIN agreed that it would be a good idea to reach an understanding on this question but said it was necessary to look into the matter further.

The conversation broke up on this note.

Bohlen Supplementary Memorandum

SECRET

Memorandum of Marshal Stalin’s Views as Expressed during the Evening of November 28, 1943

During dinner and afterwards Marshal Stalin kept returning to the following subjects:

(1) TREATMENT TO BE ACCORDED GERMANY

In regard to Germany, Marshal Stalin appeared to regard all measures proposed by either the President or Churchill for the subjugation and for the control of Germany as inadequate. He on various occasions sought to induce the President or the Prime Minister to go further in expressing their views as to the stringency of the measures which should be applied to Germany. He appeared to have no faith in the possibility of the reform of the German people and spoke bitterly of the attitude of the German workers in the war against the Soviet Union. As evidence of the fundamental German devotion to legality he cited the occasion in 1907 when he was in Leipzig when 200 German workers failed to appear at an important mass meeting because there was no controller at the station platform to punch their tickets which would permit them to leave the station. He seemed to think that this mentality of discipline and obedience could not be changed.

He said that Hitler was a very able man but not basically intelligent, lacking in culture and with a primitive approach to political and other problems. He did not share the view of the President that Hitler was mentally unbalanced and emphasized that only a very able man could accomplish what Hitler had done in solidifying the German people whatever we thought of the methods. Although he did not specifically say so, it was apparent from his remarks that he considered that Hitler through his stupidity in attacking the Soviet Union had thrown away all the fruits of his previous victories.

As a war-time measure Marshal Stalin questioned the advisability of the unconditional surrender principle with no definition of the exact terms which would be imposed upon Germany. He felt that to leave the principle of unconditional surrender unclarified merely served to unite the German people, whereas to draw up specific terms, no matter how harsh, and tell the German people that this was what they would have to accept, would, in his opinion, hasten the day of German capitulation.

(2) FRANCE AND THE FRENCH EMPIRE

Throughout the evening Marshal Stalin kept reverting to the thesis that the French nation, and in particular its leaders and ruling classes, were rotten and deserved to be punished for their criminal collaboration with Nazi Germany. In particular he reiterated that France should not be given back her Empire. He took issue with the Prime Minister when the latter stated that France had been a defeated nation and had suffered the horrors of occupation, and denied that France had been in effect defeated. On the contrary their leaders had surrendered the country and “opened the front” to the German armies. He cited as characteristic of French political thinking the views of Bergery, former Vichy Ambassador to Moscow. Bergery had felt that the future of France lay in close association with Nazi Germany and not in association with Great Britain and the United States. When the Prime Minister stated that he could not conceive of a civilized world without a flourishing and lively France, Marshal Stalin somewhat contemptuously replied that France could be a charming and pleasant country but could not be allowed to play any important role in the immediate post war world. He characterized De Gaulle as a representative of a symbolic and not a real France but one who nevertheless acted as though he was the head of a great power. He appeared to attach little importance to De Gaulle as a real factor in political or other matters.

Both in regard to German and French questions Stalin was obviously trying to stimulate discussion and to ascertain the exact views of the President and Prime Minister on these questions without, however, stating clearly what solutions he himself proposed. On all questions of future general security which arose in the discussion of the French and German questions he appeared desirous to ascertain exactly what form of security organization would be developed after the war and how far the United States and British governments were prepared to go in implementing the police power of such an organization.

Foreign Relations of the United States: The Conferences at Cairo and Teheran, 1943, pp 509-14, 552-55, 594-604

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