Foreign Relations of the United States: The Conference of Berlin (The Potsdam Conference), 1945, vol. I, pp. 57-59.
Last night after dinner I saw Stalin alone with Mr. Pavlov, interpreter. I told him that I wanted to impress on him as earnestly as I knew how the unfavorable effect in America caused by the detaining of the fourteen Poles within Poland and, specifically, those that were charged only with having illegal radio transmitters. I made it clear to him that I was not talking about the others charged with more serious crimes. I told him that I believed we would have no great difficulty with getting the list approved of names who might come to Moscow to consult with the Moscow Commission, if this business could be settled. I made it clear that while I did not know anything about the merits of the case, I nevertheless felt that even though the Marshal thought the offense was far more serious than it appeared to us, it was in the interest of good Russian-American relations that I hoped he would release these prisoners.
I told Marshal Stalin that if the solution of the Polish matter waited until the conference in Berlin on the 15th of July it would stir up endless trouble and probably take most of the time of the Berlin meeting. I outlined at great length the American position in regard to the Soviet Union after the war and told him that we believed the repeated assurances which he had given us that the Soviet Union also wanted to have a firm and friendly understanding with us; that we assumed that that was correct. But if that were to be accomplished I told him it had to be done in an environment that made it possible for President Truman to carry American public opinion with him.
I reminded him again of the many minority groups in America who were not sympathetic to the Soviet Union and told him very forcefully that he must believe me when I told him that our whole relationship was threatened by the impasse of Poland. I made it clear again to Stalin that Poland was only a symbol, that the United States had equal interests in all countries in this part of the world and that if we were going to act or maintain our interests on a tripartite basis, it was hopeless to do so without a strong American public opinion. I told him there was no hope of getting certain minority groups in sympathy with this position for many years and perhaps never, and reminded him again that he should not assume that the Chicago Tribune or the Hearst press had any real influence on American public opinion; that I was speaking for and on behalf of the millions of Americans who support a policy of cooperation with the Soviet Union.
I told Stalin further that I personally felt that our relations were threatened and that I frankly had many misgivings about it and with my intimate knowledge of the situation I was, frankly, bewildered with some of the things that were going on.
Stalin then said that he was unwilling to order those Poles released who were charged only with the use of illegal radio sets. He stated that he had information in regard to these prisoners which was not available to us and inferred that all of them were engaged in what he called diversionist activities. He stated that he believed that Churchill had misled the United States in regard to the facts and had made the American Government believe that the statement of the Polish London Government was accurate. Just the opposite was the case.
Marshal Stalin stated that he did not intend to have the British manage the affairs of Poland and that is exactly what they want to do. Nevertheless, he stated that he believed me when I told him it was having an unfavorable effect on public opinion in America and he assumed the same was true in Great Britain, and therefore he was inclined to do everything he could to make it easy for Churchill to get out of a bad situation because if and when all the evidence is published it would look very bad for the British and he does not want to make the situation worse than it is. He stated that the men must be tried but that they would be treated leniently and he clearly inferred that he was going to consider at once what could be done in regard to these prisoners that I was concerned with to clear the matter up.
He did not, however, indicate at any time that he was not going to have them tried. I asked him that if he was determined to go through with the trial, when the trials would be held, reminding him that so long as things were in this kind of a state it was bound to create friction between all of us.
His reply to that was he did not know but that he would find out and let me know tomorrow. He said that we must take into consideration Russian opinion as well as American opinion; that it was the Russian forces that had liberated Poland and said that if they had not gained the victory in Poland, with such a great loss of Russian life, nobody would be talking about a new Poland. He said several times that he blamed the British for conniving with the London Poles, and each time I reminded him that we had no desire to support in any way the Polish Government in London.
He listened very attentively to everything I said in the first part of the conversation and I gained the impression that he is going to consider the move which the Soviet Union will make and that we would hear from him at an early date.
I closed the conversation by telling him that I thought the real solution lay in his releasing these men entirely so that we could clear the atmosphere not only for the immediate discussions about Poland but in preparation for the Berlin Conference.
He repeated that the men should be tried but that he would let me know.