740.00119 (Potsdam)/6–645

No. 26
Memorandum by the Assistant to the Secretary of State (Bohlen)

top secret

Memorandum of 3rd Conversation at the Kremlin, 6 pm1 May 28

Present: Mr. Hopkins, Ambassador Harriman[,] Mr. Bohlen
Marshal Stalin, Mr. Molotov, Mr. Pavlov
Subjects: Far East
Germany—War Criminals, Prisoners of War, Food, Dismemberment of

. . . . . . .

Mr. Hopkins then said that he thought they might begin today by exploring the Far Eastern questions and the war against Japan. [Page 42] He said that the other night he had indicated to Marshal Stalin that General Marshall and Admiral King would find it most helpful if they could know the approximate time of Soviet entry into the Pacific War.2

Marshal Stalin replied that it had been agreed at Yalta3 that the Soviet armies would be ready within two to three months after the surrender of Germany. He said that in the main the Soviet armies would be in a sufficient state of preparedness and in position by August 8, 1945. However, as to the actual date of operation he felt that would depend on the execution of the agreement made at Yalta concerning Soviet desires. He said it was necessary to have these agreements in order to justify entry into the Pacific War in the eyes of the Soviet people. Therefore, if China should agree to these desires the Soviet Union would be ready to commence operations in August.

Mr. Hopkins stated that as he recalled it the understanding at Yalta was that President Roosevelt, and of course now President Truman, would await word from Marshal Stalin before making any approach to the Chinese.

Marshal Stalin replied that this was correct since they had wished to postpone discussions with the Chinese while the principal movements of Soviet troops were proceeding to the Far East. He said he thought that they could perhaps raise the question directly with T. V. Soong when he made his expected visit to Moscow.

Mr. Hopkins said he thought that it would be better to raise the question here in Moscow directly with the Chinese. He added that we must bear in mind that Chinese discretion was not of the highest order.

Marshal Stalin agreed and he said that possibly the first part of July would be the best time to raise the question since it would obviously be impossible to conceal from the Japanese very much longer the movement of Soviet troops.

In reply to Marshal Stalin’s question Mr. Molotov stated that Mr. Soong expected to come to Moscow immediately after the San Francisco Conference.

Mr. Hopkins said that we are then in agreement that the question of the Yalta Agreement should be raised by the Soviet Government with T. V. Soong during his visit here and at the same time Ambassador [Page 43] Hurley could discuss it in Chungking, but we would await Soong’s visit to Moscow before doing anything.

In reply to Mr. Hopkins’s question Marshal Stalin said that the weather in the Far East undoubtedly had a bearing on the time of the military operations since he thought that in the Autumn fogs set in which made operations difficult. He was not sure of the exact month of these fogs.

Mr. Hopkins then said that at Yalta there had been some discussions of other Far Eastern problems, such as the question of Chinese unity and others.

Marshal Stalin replied that it will be necessary to have serious talks in regard to the Far Eastern problems, particularly in regard to Japan, including such questions as the zone of operations for the armies and zones of occupation in Japan. He said it would also be necessary to discuss the question of unconditional surrender in regard to Japan.

Mr. Hopkins said he thoroughly agreed and in regard to the question of Chinese unity he knew his Government was most interested in seeing that accomplished but that he, personally, did not know of any specific plan. Ambassador Hurley had been making some attempts in that direction as the Marshal was aware and he would like to know of the Marshal’s views on the prospect of Chinese unity and how it could be done.

Marshal Stalin replied he had no specific plan but he felt that all were agreed on the desirability of the unification of China so that China could become an integrated and stable state and not a conglomeration of separate states as had been the case in nineteenth century Germany. He then said it would be possible to develop a real policy towards China and to give her the economic help she would need, which could only come from the United States. He added that we should all occupy ourselves with helping China to achieve unity.

Mr. Hopkins then inquired whether Marshal Stalin had any doubts as to the desirability of applying the unconditional surrender principle to Japan.

Marshal Stalin said he thought it was better to apply that principle to Japan also. He said he had heard rumors of talks between the British and Japanese regarding conditional surrender. He felt it would be wise to occupy the island but that their treatment would be somewhat softer than in the case of Germany and that they should be left something to live on. He said from the point of view of immediate interests there were arguments for accepting a conditional surrender but that from the point of view of basic interest then unconditional surrender which would destroy the military potential [Page 44] of Japan would be better. He said he personally favored unconditional surrender.

Mr. Hopkins inquired whether the Marshal thought the Japanese would surrender unconditionally before they were utterly destroyed to which Marshal Stalin replied in the negative.

Mr. Hopkins then asked whether the Marshal had any views concerning the Emperor and whether he thought Hirohito was closely linked up with the military caste.

Marshal Stalin said he did not think Hirohito as a person was important; he was not a leader but merely a figurehead. He added, in reply to Mr. Hopkins’s question concerning the institution of the Emperor that he felt it would be better to do away with the post of Emperor since while the present incumbent was not an energetic leader and presented no great problem he might be succeeded at some time in the future by an energetic and vigorous figure who could cause trouble. He therefore felt it would be wiser to do away with the institution of the Emperor. Marshal Stalin said that in regard to the occupation of Japan he had no definite plans. He said, however, that Japan should be occupied. Japan was doomed and they knew it and already so-called Republican movements were beginning to arise behind the scenes which were attempting to play up to the Soviet Union in the hope that they could split the Allies. He said according to his information the Japanese would not accept unconditional surrender which would involve their giving up their military and naval establishments and personnel which would put their political leaders at the mercy of the Allies. He said he thought they might attempt conditional surrender in order to retain intact their military cards and, as Germany had done, prepare for future aggression. He said the Japanese had been much impressed with what had happened to Germany and their one desire was to preserve a future nucleus in order to obtain revenge.

Marshal Stalin said that war such as the present could only happen once in a hundred years and it was better to take advantage of it and utterly defeat Japan and cope with the military potential and in that manner assure fifty to sixty years of peace. He said the Japanese military were infected with anti-European and anti-American jingoism and that they would never rest until they could take revenge on those who had defeated them. He said there was one other possibility and that would be to accept a conditional surrender and then subsequently to impose in stages successively harsher terms which would cope with the Japanese military potential. In other words unconditional surrender by stages. He said he did not exclude this latter possibility.

[Page 45]

Mr. Hopkins inquired what form the Marshal thought any Japanese peace feelers would take.

Marshal Stalin said that he had no precise information but he was judging from what had been overheard of the discussions in the Japanese Embassy here and information from Japan.

Mr. Hopkins replied that we had heard rumors from Switzerland of the desire of the Japanese industrial families to preserve their position and save Japan from destruction. Mr. Hopkins continued that he thought that these matters in regard to the surrender of Japan should be discussed between the three Allies and the sooner the better since time was short. He added that we were going ahead with our air, sea and land operations against Japan and that our bombardment was having a better effect than we had anticipated.

Marshal Stalin said that air bombardment had proved to be a very important weapon in this war since it weakened enemy will to resistance.

Ambassador Harriman said he would like to continue the discussions on Far Eastern problems, particularly the desires of the Soviet Union. He said Marshal Stalin undoubtedly knew that President Truman had told Mr. Molotov in Washington that it was his intention to carry out the commitments undertaken by President Roosevelt at the Crimea.4

Marshal Stalin said he understood and appreciated that but it also depended on the Chinese.

Ambassador Harriman continued that it was obvious that the Soviet Union would re-assume Russia’s historic position in the Far East and that it was important that both political and economic matters be settled by mutual agreement between the United States and the Soviet Union in relation to the Far East as elsewhere. For example, he mentioned that of our traditional policy of the open door in China and inquired whether the Marshal thought China would soon become an industrial nation in a reasonable period of time.

Marshal Stalin replied that he did not believe that China would soon become industrialized since they lacked the necessary experience and industrial personnel. He said the United States must play the largest part in helping China to get on their feet; the Soviet Union would be occupied with its own internal reconstruction and Great Britain would be occupied elsewhere.

Mr. Hopkins said he hoped the Marshal understood that we had no exclusive interest in China or the Far East and that we did not wish to see any other nation kept out.

Marshal Stalin replied he fully understood that but what he had meant was that the United States was the only country that had [Page 46] sufficient capital and personnel to be really of assistance to China in the immediate post-war period.

Ambassador Harriman then said what would be the attitude of the Soviet Union if Ambassador Hurley’s efforts to help in the unification of China were not successful at the time the Soviet troops entered Manchuria. Would the Marshal consider it would be possible under those circumstances to make the necessary arrangements with the Generalissimo.5

Marshal Stalin replied that they did not propose to alter the sovereignty of the Chinese over Manchuria or any other part of China. He emphasized that the Soviet Union had no territorial claims in regard to China, either in Sinkiang or elsewhere. He said that in regard to Outer Mongolia it had been agreed at Yalta that that republic would remain in the same status it was now, namely not a part of the USSR and open to all. He said the Soviet system was not in existence in Mongolia. He added that the Soviet people would not be a factor in any way hindering Chinese unity but on the contrary would help the Chinese to achieve it. In regard to the Generalissimo the Marshal said he knew little of any Chinese leader but that he felt that Chiang Kai Shek was the best of the lot and would be the one to undertake the unification of China. He said he saw no other possible leader and that for example he did not believe that the Chinese communist leaders were as good or would be able to bring about the unification of China.

Ambassador Harriman inquired when the Soviet troops entered Manchuria if the Marshal intended to ask Chiang to organize the civil administration.

Marshal Stalin replied that he would and that in Manchuria as in any part of China where Soviet troops went the Chinese administration would be set up by Chiang. That Chiang could send his representatives to set up the Kuomintang regime in any areas where the Red Army were.

Mr. Hopkins said he thought that Chiang would have to take certain steps and make certain reforms if he was to bring about the unification of China.

Marshal Stalin agreed provided Chiang understood the necessity of these reforms. If not he did not feel they could be fixed upon from without. He repeated that the Soviet Government was prepared to talk with the Chinese and if they wanted representatives in the areas where the Red Army would be they would be quite prepared to accept them.

Ambassador Harriman said the Marshal had been most kind to answer so clearly and frankly the questions which had been put to [Page 47] him and he wished to state in regard to Japan that President Roosevelt had adopted the principle of unconditional surrender and that there was no intention on our part as far as he knew to change this principle.

Marshal Stalin said he was glad to hear that and he agreed with it.

Mr. Hopkins said he thought at the next meeting of the three heads of Government all these matters should be discussed.

Marshal Stalin agreed.

Ambassador Harriman observed that it was most important that with Far Eastern affairs entering the picture that the three powers should be in agreement on their general policy both political and economical in regard to that area.

Marshal Stalin replied that for their part they were ready to cooperate fully but inquired what about the attitude of England.

Mr. Hopkins said he of course did not know but judging from the past it must be admitted that the British and American approach to China had been quite different.

Ambassador Harriman remarked that he felt there would be no difficulty with the British in regard to Japan and that although Mr. Churchill had once termed American policy toward China as “the great illusion” they had nevertheless followed our lead in regard to China.

Marshal Stalin said he felt that these questions should be discussed between the three powers.

Mr. Hopkins said there remained one question in regard to the Far East, namely that of the status of Korea. He said at Yalta there had been some informal discussions of that subject6 and that after careful study the United States Government had come to the conclusion that it would be desirable to have a trusteeship for Korea made up of the Soviet Union, the United States, China and Great Britain. The period of trusteeship had not been fixed. It might be twenty-five years; it might be less, but it would certainly be five or ten.

Marshal Stalin said he fully agreed with the desirability of a four-power trusteeship for Korea.

Mr. Hopkins then said that there were a number of potentially difficult questions in the offing in regard to immediate problems affecting Germany and that anything he said would of course be preliminary to the meeting of the three heads of Government. He said he had in mind such problems as: (1) German prisoners of war; (2) the arrest and trial of war criminals and particularly the question of the German General Staff. He said we have already ordered all members of the Gestapo, SS, SD and the General Staff to be placed under arrest. He said in considering the General Staff we [Page 48] must ascertain if we have the same thing in mind when we use the term. For example do we mean twenty or thirty thousand officers directly connected with the Staff or do we mean a smaller number.

Marshal Stalin said that the German General Staff had two aspects; one formal and the other real. He said in its formal aspect it was composed of the official members of the German Staff which numbered seven thousand. These [were?] official members and liaison officers. In its real aspect, however, the General Staff should be regarded as composed of the whole conglomeration of staffs since every division and army staff in the German Army was closely linked with the General Staff and operated under its direct orders. Viewed in this light the real General Staff was composed of tens of thousands of officers. He said we should examine all the lists and concentrate on the real and not the formal General Staff. He felt we should arrest all of these officers and keep them out of the way in order to avoid planning for future war. He said this would be an effective method since it would be a long time before a new generation of officers would grow up and that without the General Staff they would develop different traditions. He said that it would be a very desirable and really radical treatment of the problem.

Mr. Hopkins said they were all prisoners of war and the question is what distinction should be made between the General Staff officers and the ordinary prisoners of war. He said we were considering the possibility of not permitting them to return to Germany.

Marshal Stalin said some undoubtedly put on civilian clothes and disappeared but that he thought it would be wise to keep these officers under arrest for as long as the period of occupation at least. Possibly for ten or twenty years. He said of course some members of the General Staff would be tried as war criminals.

Mr. Hopkins replied that we were considering the possibility of indicting the General Staff as an organization as we proposed to do in the case of the Gestapo and SS.

Marshal Stalin replied he thought that was a very good idea if it were legally possible.

Mr. Hopkins remarked that when he and Ambassador Harriman had seen General Eisenhower they had asked him about reports in the press that certain German prisoners of war had been released. General Eisenhower had replied that no prisoners of war had been released but that certain Germans had been ordered to return to work in agriculture but that they remained in the status of prisoners of war under the direct control and orders of the Allied authorities.

Marshal Stalin replied that they did not follow that practise in their zone but held all German prisoners of war in the camps.

[Page 49]

Mr. Hopkins said he wished to make clear that this did not apply to members of the SS or Gestapo who were kept under arrest in the camps.

Marshal Stalin replied that they were only using German civilians for such work. In reply to Mr. Hopkins’s question Marshal Stalin said that although he did not know the exact number he thought the Soviets had about two and a half million prisoners of war, of which one million seven hundred thousand were Germans. He said they were beginning to evacuate some to the rear areas, to the Ukraine, White Russia and the Moscow areas to work on reconstruction and in the coal mines and timber industry. He said only private soldiers were being so used and that officers were not required to work but were kept in the camps.

In reply to Ambassador Harriman’s question Marshal Stalin said that they were only fair workers since physically they were undernourished and run down. He said their doctors had difficulty in helping them since they were so hungry that they ate too much food too quickly. He said the Hungarians and Rumanians who were better fed were better workers.

Mr. Hopkins inquired what practical problems the Marshal felt would be the most important for the Control Council to tackle in the immediate future.

Marshal Stalin replied he thought the question of food would be the most difficult.

Ambassador Harriman inquired whether the Marshal thought it would be possible if food from the Soviet zone of occupation could be exchanged for coal from the Allied zones.

Marshal Stalin replied he was not certain but he thought it would be most difficult since in the eastern part the Germans had all fled. He said for example that Stettin had had a population of 400,000 but now had only about 8,000 inhabitants when the Red Army reached it. He said some had been evacuated by the German Government itself but most had left independently. He said with a smile that many had gone to Berlin thinking that they would find better conditions there.

Marshal Stalin said he thought the main problems in Germany were first of all to assist the Germans in the reestablishment of agriculture and also in the reestablishment of light industry producing consumers goods such as clothes and shoes. He said obviously they could not be trusted with much heavy industry but they should be left with something in order to repair the railroads, metros, water system, sewage, etc. He said these latter were very important for health since the danger of epidemic diseases was great in view of the [Page 50] absolute break down of all organized light [industry?] in Germany with one community completely isolated from the other.

Mr. Hopkins then said that on the occasion of victory Marshal Stalin had made a speech in which he had said the Soviet Union was against the dismembering of Germany.7 He wished to know if this was correct and if it represented a change in Soviet policy since the Crimea Conference.

Marshal Stalin said that subsequent events had shown that the proposal in regard to dismembering had really been rejected at the Crimea Conference. That at the special committee8 the British without objection from Ambassador Winant had interpreted the Crimea Decision9 not as a positive plan for the dismembering of Germany but as a threat to hold over the Germans’ head in the event of bad behavior.

Mr. Hopkins said such was not his understanding of the Crimea Decision and he knew that President Truman was inclined towards dismemberment and in any event was for the detachment of the Saar, Ruhr and west bank of the Rhine under international control.

Marshal Stalin said that could be discussed at the forthcoming meeting but he did not believe that Great Britain was for the detachment of the Ruhr and Saar.

Mr. Hopkins said that he understood that Great Britain was against dismemberment but would favor detachment of those western areas.

Marshal Stalin said he frankly did not know. He merely knew that after Yalta the British press had consistently said that only Russia was for the dismemberment of Germany. He said that as you all well remember at Yalta we put forth the positive plan for the detachment of Germany but that at the meeting of the special commission in London the British had objected to this positive plan and had preferred to keep it as a threat over the German heads. He said that Ambassador Winant had not objected to this British interpretation although Gusev had. He said however the Soviet Union finally agreed since it was apparent that at Yalta no real decision had been reached in regard to the dismemberment and it was for that reason [Page 51] that he had made his statement. He continued that if at the forthcoming meeting of the three they wished to discuss dismemberment he was prepared to do so, but he wished to state that he did not regard the lopping off parts of Germany as dismemberment. By dismemberment he meant the creation of separate German states and for example at Tehran President Roosevelt had spoken of five separate German states10 and at Moscow Churchill of two.11 That was genuine dismemberment and not merely the slicing off of portions of Germany which would still be a unified or reduced German state.

In reply to Ambassador Harriman’s question Marshal Stalin said he still had an open mind on the subject. He agreed with the Ambassador on the necessity of having a unified policy towards Germany for the Control Council to work on[;] otherwise he said the Germans would attempt to play one off against the other. They would come over from one zone to the other pretending that they were receiving better treatment from one or the other of the Allies.

Ambassador Harriman said he thought we would do well to give authority to the Generals on the Control Council with little political interference.

Marshal Stalin said he agreed but that military men were so practical they could often be fooled politically, therefore it was necessary to give them a political directive to work by.

Marshal Stalin repeated that he felt that the best method of procedure would be to help reestablish German agriculture and consumer goods industries and that if this was done the Germans could live by their own means. He said that they would no longer have the burden of supporting an army of many millions of men and that about four million war prisoners would be outside Germany and hence no longer a burden. He said we should help them reestablish these branches of production which are necessary to maintain life.

Ambassador Harriman pointed out that in our zone there are large industrial areas and that General Eisenhower was particularly worried about the primary necessities of life such as food, shelter and heat.

Marshal Stalin replied that they had a somewhat similar situation in their zone; that the Germans had built an entire underground city under Berlin. He said it was impossible to imagine what they had accomplished.

[Page 52]

Mr. Hopkins remarked that we had no intention of exporting foodstuffs to Germany.

Marshal Stalin replied that some outside aid might be necessary at first.

Ambassador Harriman then inquired how the Russians were administering Germany and whether they had found Germans with whom they could cooperate.

Marshal Stalin said that a local administration of Germans had been set up in Berlin and also in Breslau, which consisted of so-called non-party people and intelligentsia. For example the Mayor of Berlin12 under this local administration was a social democrat and Gerness, who was in charge of food supply was of the catholic center party. There were a few communists scattered through the administration in secondary positions. He said the Nazis [sic] party had been disbanded and their leaders arrested. He said that although few would admit being a local Nazi leader the people turned them in. Trade was beginning to revive and measures had been taken to enable the Germans to bring food into the towns and sell it. He said that under the Nazis the peasants had been forced to produce according to a plan and after the obligatory delivery to the state they were only allowed to retain seed and what was needed for their families. The rest they were obliged to sell at prices fixed by the Nazi Government. The peasants were encouraged to produce as much as they could and they delivered to the authorities much less than had been the case under the Nazis. In fact less than one-half of the total production and they were entitled to sell the remainder at any prices they could obtain. He said the price of the state delivery remained that charge which had been fixed by the Nazi authorities. He said this system was giving good results since the peasants were contented. He added that many Germans had objected to leaving so much food in the hands of the peasants on the grounds that it would encourage speculation.

Marshal Stalin said the present population of Berlin was about two and a half million and that of Dresden about five hundred thousand.

It was agreed that the next meeting would take place on Wednesday, May 30th, at 6 p.m.

  1. In a repetition of the substance of this heading on a later page, the time is given as 8 p.m.
  2. See ante, p. 29.
  3. For the text of the Yalta agreement of February 11, 1945, regarding entry of the Soviet Union into the war against Japan, see Executive Agreement Series No. 498; 59 Stat. (2) 1823; Foreign Relations, The Conferences at Malta and Yalta, 1945, p. 984.
  4. See Truman, Year of Decisions, pp. 75–76.
  5. Chiang Kai-shek.
  6. See Foreign Relations, The Conferences at Malta and Yalta, 1945, p. 770.
  7. The reference is to the following statement by Stalin on May 9: “The Soviet Union is celebrating victory, although it does not intend either to dismember or to destroy Germany.” See Keesing’s Contemporary Archives, May 12–19, 1945, p. 7193.
  8. i. e., the committee consisting of Foreign Secretary Eden and Ambassadors Winant and Gusev to which the three Heads of Government at Yalta referred the “study of the procedure for the dismemberment of Germany.” See vol. ii, document No. 1416, section iii .
  9. See ibid.
  10. The records of the Tehran Conference are scheduled for publication in a subsequent volume in this series. See Sherwood, Roosevelt and Hopkins , pp. 797–798.
  11. See Churchill, Triumph and Tragedy, p. 241.
  12. Otto Werner.