740.00119 Control (Germany)/9–944

Memorandum by the Political Adviser on Germany (Murphy)

Memorandum of Conversation With President Roosevelt

The President began with an account of his boyhood studies in Germany when, he said, he grew fond of the German people as they were in the 1890’s—their music and love of liberty, and the absence of militarism. No one at that time wore a uniform. Even the railroad station masters would wear civilian clothes, with only a uniform cap. The President said that four years later he visited Germany again and found a great change in this respect—the students had started wearing uniforms and were marching in formation. Militarism took the ascendency from then on.

The President stated his belief that all of this must be eradicated and a new process of demilitarized education begun. This might well take forty years to accomplish.

The President mentioned the report that the Germans were flooding parts of Holland. He said that where sea water is allowed to flood land it ruins it for agricultural purposes for as much as twenty-five years. Therefore, if Holland suffered this loss, it would seem to be fair that Holland receive certain compensation from German territory. In that connection he spoke of an international zone or trustee ship which would be created embracing the territory, roughly, from the Kiel Canal down to about Hanover, including the Ruhr and a strip of territory west of the Rhine, but not including the city of Cologne, down to and including the Saar. The President was noncommital as to whether the trustees under such an arrangement should include more than the three great powers, France for example. He did indicate that he considered that France would emerge from this war in a strong position, relatively stronger, he said, than Great Britain, with the French Empire probably intact.

The President said that the United States was not interested in reparations from Germany, but that he realized that other countries were, and was in accord that the Soviet Union, Great Britain and [Page 145] others should benefit by the use of German labor and equipment. He expressed the opinion that the British Empire was bankrupt and that we could not afford to see it disintegrate. He was willing to see Great Britain, as he was the Soviet Union, profit by German assets.

The President also expressed the view that it might be better for the Allies in concluding hostilities with the Germans to deal only with local commanders and authorities, rather than with a central authority and the German high command. This, he indicated, would protect us from the charge of having made a deal with anybody or to have become affiliated with a group which, while pretending to be anti-Nazi, might be a cover for unwelcome elements.

War criminals, the President hoped might be dealt with summarily. His principal preoccupation was that they be properly identified before being disposed of, but he expressed himself as very much opposed to long, drawn-out legal procedure.

The President also discussed French and Italian affairs, and I gathered from his comments on the French situation that he believed some time would elapse before a stable French central government is established. He asked a number of questions about Italian affairs, particularly the status and future possibilities of Umberto, the Prince of Naples. He seemed to favor economic cooperation with Italy and a friendly effort to improve the condition of the Italian people.

R[obert] D M[urphy]