Truman Papers

No. 330
Memorandum by the Assistant to the President’s Naval Aide ( Elsey )1
top secret

Dismemberment op Germany

In a brief discussion at Teheran2 in December 1943, Roosevelt, Churchill and Stalin agreed that Germany should be dismembered after the war. Minutes of the Teheran Conference are not now available, but it appears from discussion at Yalta,3 where the Teheran conversations on Germany were reviewed, that President Roosevelt proposed at Teheran the division of Germany into five parts. Churchill, after some hesitation, suggested the division of Germany into two parts—Prussia and southern Germany. Stalin, as he phrased it, “associated himself with the views of the President.” He did not seem to favor a large southern German state. The discussion at Teheran was an exchange of views only and no fixed conclusions were reached.

When Churchill visited Moscow in October 1944, he and Stalin again discussed the post-war partition of Germany. Churchill informed President Roosevelt on 22 October4 that Stalin wanted Poland, Czechoslovakia and Hungary “to form a realm of independent anti-Nazi pro-Russian states, the first two of which might join together.” Contrary to the views he had expressed at Teheran, Stalin now agreed with Churchill in the desirability of a strong southern German state—or, as Churchill expressed it, “a federation of south-German states, including Austria, Bavaria, Wurttemberg and Baden.” [Page 454] Churchill reported that Stalin would be glad to see Vienna the capital of such a federation and, Churchill continued, “the idea of Vienna’s becoming the capital of a large Danubian federation has always been attractive to me, though I should prefer to add Hungary, to which Stalin is strongly opposed.”

Churchill also reported that Stalin wanted the Ruhr and the Saar detached from Prussia “and put out of action, probably under international control, and a separate state formed in the Rhineland.”

Churchill and Stalin agreed that internationalization of the Kiel Canal would be desirable.

No definite conclusions on Germany were reached at the October ChurchillStalin meeting pending a meeting with President Roosevelt. However, Churchill and Stalin did make a formal agreement on behalf of their respective governments to guarantee to Poland the following German territory: “The Free City of Danzig, the regions of East Prussia, west and south [of] Konigsberg, the administrative district of Oppeln in Silesia and lands desired by Poland to east of line of the Oder.”5

President Roosevelt thanked Churchill for his report of the Moscow conversations but he made no comment on Germany.

In a Plenary Session on 5 February 1945 at Yalta,6 Stalin reminded Roosevelt and Churchill of their discussion at Teheran and asked if they still agreed in principle to the dismemberment of Germany. He felt the time had come to make a decision, and he thought the plan discussed in Moscow with Churchill was feasible; namely, Germany divided into two parts (Prussia on the one hand and southern Germany and Austria on the other), with the Ruhr and Westphalia under international control.

President Roosevelt spoke briefly on the recent growth of the concept of the German Reich and he answered Stalin’s questions by replying that he thought “the division of Germany into five states or seven states was a good idea.” Churchill interrupted to say “or less”; to which the President agreed.

Churchill said he agreed in principle to dismemberment but the question was far too complicated to settle at Yalta. It would require lengthy study and he could not, he said, commit himself to any specific plan for that reason. Minutes of the meeting read as follows:

“The Prime Minister said, however, that personally he felt the isolation of Prussia and the elimination of her might from Germany would remove the arch evil—the German war potential would be greatly diminished. He added that a south German state with perhaps a government in Vienna might indicate the line of great division of Germany. He said that we are agreed that Germany should lose [Page 455] certain territories conquered by the Red Army which would form part of the Polish settlement, but he added that the question of the Rhine Valley and the industrial areas of the Ruhr and Saar capable of producing armaments had not yet been decided; should they go to one country, or should they be independent, or part of Germany, or should they come under the trusteeship of the world organization which would delegate certain large powers to see to it that these areas were not used to threaten the peace of the world.”

Churchill also stated that there was no decision as to whether Prussia, after being isolated from the rest of Germany, should be further divided internally.

Stalin and Molotov were anxious to reach a decision on Germany; Churchill and Eden were not. The President had no comments after his initial statement that he agreed to the dismemberment of Germany. At Soviet instigation, a clause was added to the surrender terms for Germany and a commission was appointed to study the question. Article 12 (a) of the Surrender Terms for Germany, as amended at Yalta,7 then read as follows:

“The United Kingdom, the United States of America and [the] Union of Soviet Socialist Republics shall possess supreme authority with respect to Germany. In the exercise of such authority they will take such steps, including the complete disarmament, demilitarisation and the dismemberment of Germany as they deem requisite for future peace and security.”

There was no further general conversation on the partition of Germany, but some light is cast on British reluctance to come to any decisions at Yalta by a statement of Eden’s on 10 February concerning reparations.8 The Minutes report his statement as follows:

“Mr. Eden stated that reparations should be considered in connection with the dismemberment of Germany. There seemed to be two Russian objectives which were difficult to reconcile—the depletion of German manufacturing capacity and the insuring of German ability to make large payments at a later date. The British were most anxious to avoid conditions in which it would be necessary for them to finance and feed Germany at a later date as a result of reparations.”

The Commission appointed at Yalta to study the question of dismemberment consists of Anthony Eden (Chairman), Ambassador Winant and Ambassador Gousev. William Strang of the British Foreign Office has been acting as Eden’s deputy at the meetings held in London.

No information concerning the Commission’s meetings is available in the Map Room. The only Presidential message concerning German [Page 456] dismemberment is a report to President Truman from Mr. Hopkins, sent from Moscow on 30 May.9 It reads as follows:

“Some days ago we reminded Stalin that he made a speech in which he said that he did not favor the dismemberment of Germany. This appeared to be contrary to the position he took both at Tehran and Yalta. His explanation of this action on his part was that his recommendation had been turned down at Yalta and more specifically that Eden and Strang on behalf of the British had stated that dismemberment was to be accomplished only as a last resort and that Winant, who was present at the conference at which this discussion took place in London, interposed no objection, hence Stalin stated that it was his understanding that both Great Britain and the United States were opposed to dismemberment. I undertook to tell him that this was not the case, that while you had made no final decision in regard to this, the United States considered this an open question and that you would surely want to thrash this out at your next meeting. I told him that he must not assume that the United States is opposed to dismemberment because he may learn from you that just the opposite was the case. He then said that he would keep an open mind in regard to it and that dismemberment was a matter which the three Allies must settle amongst themselves.”

G. M. Elsey
  1. Submitted to Leahy July 1 and subsequently forwarded to Truman.
  2. The records of the Tehran Conference are scheduled for publication in a subsequent volume in this series. Cf. Sherwood, Roosevelt and Hopkins , pp. 797798; Leahy, I Was There, pp. 210211.
  3. See Foreign Relations, The Conferences at Malta and Yalta, 1945, pp. 611614.
  4. See ibid., pp. 159160.
  5. See Foreign Relations, The Conferences at Malta and Yalta, 1945, p. 203.
  6. See ibid., pp. 611614.
  7. See vol. ii, document No. 1416, section iii .
  8. See Foreign Relations, The Conferences at Malta and Yalta, 1945, p. 874.
  9. For the full paraphrased text of the report referred to, see Sherwood, Roosevelt and Hopkins , pp. 904905. Cf. document No. 26.