Truman Papers

Thompson Minutes

top secret

1. Western Frontier of Poland

Churchill said that he had had a talk with President Bierut and that Mr. Eden had seen the Polish delegation for two hours last evening.1 The Poles were all in agreement that about one and one-half million Germans were left in the area in the west which was under discussion. Mr. Churchill said he thought that this question was mixed up with the question of reparations and the question of the four-power occupational [sic] zones.

The President observed that this was true. He added that the Secretary of State had talked with the Poles and expected to have more talks.2 He suggested that the question go over to the Friday meeting.

This was agreed to.

2. Disposition of the German Fleet

The President said he thought that they had agreed on this matter.3

Churchill replied that some concrete proposals would have to be made. A paper was being drawn up for discussion.4

[Page 383]

The President said that Admiral Land and Assistant Secretary Clayton were in consultation on this matter. He said he had only just received the papers on the question5 and had had no time to study them.

It was agreed that consideration of this matter should be postponed.

3. Transfers of Populations

Churchill said that he thought this question should be discussed at some time or other. There were a large number of Germans to be moved out of Czechoslovakia. It was necessary to consider where they would go.

Stalin said that the Czechs had evacuated these Germans and that they had gone to Leipzig, Dresden, and other cities.

Churchill said he understood that there were two and one-half million of these Germans in the Sudetenland. Moreover there were about 150,000 Reich Germans in Czechoslovakia. The British information was that only a few thousand of these Germans had left Czechoslovakia. He said it was a big question. Churchill asked Stalin if they were all being moved into the Russian zone.

Stalin replied in the affirmative.

Churchill hastened to add that the British did not want them.

Stalin said he did not suggest that the British take them.

Churchill observed that they brought their mouths with them. He said he understood that emigration had not begun on a large scale yet.

Stalin said his information was that the Czechs gave them two hours notice and then threw them out. With respect to Poland he said that the Poles had retained one and one-half million to help with the harvest. As soon as the harvest was over the Poles would evacuate them.

Churchill said he did not think that they should.

Stalin replied that the Poles did not ask but did as they liked.

Churchill pointed out that with respect to Czechoslovakia the situation was different from that of Poland. The Poles were evacuating Germans from an occupational zone. This area was part of the Russian zone and Poles were driving the Germans out. He should have thought that this ought not to be done without consideration being given to the question of food supply, reparations, etc., which matters had not been decided. The position was that the Poles had little food and fuel and that the British had a mass of population thrown on them.

Stalin said that they should appreciate the position in which the Poles found themselves. They were taking revenge on the Germans [Page 384] for the injuries which the Germans had caused them in the course of centuries.

Churchill pointed out that their revenge took the form of throwing the Germans into the American and British zones to be fed.

The President said he agreed that this should not be done. He was sympathetic with the Poles and with Marshal Stalin in regard to the difficulties they were up against. He had already made his position very clear.6 If the Poles were to have a zone this matter should be considered very carefully. The occupying powers of Germany were Great Britain, the Soviet Union, France, and the United States. If the Poles were to have a zone, they were responsible to the Soviet Union for it. He wanted to be as helpful as he could and the position he had taken was that the frontier should be fixed at the peace conference.

The President at this point said that he wished to make clear to his colleagues what his powers were in respect to the question of the treaty of peace. When they were discussing matters appropriate for inclusion in the peace treaties he wanted all to understand that under the Constitution of the United States a treaty could only be concluded with the consent of the United States Senate. Of course they could be sure that when he supported a proposal at the Conference he would use his best efforts to support the matter when it came up for consideration in the Senate. This did not preclude, however, his coming back and saying that he considered that the political sentiment in the United States was such that he could not press the matter without the danger of injuring their mutual relations. He said that he made these remarks not in order to change the basis of any discussion with his colleagues nor to change the basis upon which the discussions with President Roosevelt had been held but to make clear what his Constitutional powers were. He had to consider these matters from the standpoint of the United States people and he wished to be able to be in a position to get the best arrangements approved by the Senate. He concluded by saying that he was convinced that world peace could only be maintained by the three of them present at the table.7

Stalin inquired if his remarks referred only to the peace treaties or to the whole discussion.

The President replied only to those agreements or treaties that under the Constitution had to be sent to the Senate for ratification.

Stalin observed that only certain treaties were in question.

The President replied in the affirmative and added that he had wide powers the same as his colleagues but he did not wish to abuse [Page 385] these powers for he was obliged to have the support of the American people for his policies.

Stalin said that he understood.

Churchill proposed to return to the question of the Polish advance so far to the west.

Stalin said he was not prepared for this question which had come up by accident but he was ready to exchange views.

Churchill said he only wanted to say that this matter lay at the root of the success of the Conference. For example, if the Conference ended in ten days time; and if there were no agreement regarding the present state of affairs in Poland; and with the Poles practically admitted as a fifth occupational power; and with no arrangement made for the spreading of food equally over the whole population of Germany; this would undoubtedly mark a breakdown of the Conference. In such an event he supposed they might have to fall back on the proposal of Secretary Byrnes8 and each would hold on to what was in their areas. The definition given by Mr. Maisky of war booty was a very wide one.9 As given it would certainly cover ships of war. He had hoped to succeed in reaching agreement on this network of problems that lay at the heart of their difficulties. No progress had been made so far on this point.

Stalin said that coal and steel were much more important than food in the question of supplies for Germany. 90 percent of Germany’s metal came from the Ruhr and 80 percent of its coal.

Churchill said that if supplies from the Ruhr were to be given to the Russian and Polish zones, these would have to be paid for by food from the Russian zone. He could not take the position that everything behind the Russian line was to be disposed of by the Russians without British and American agreement while the Russians could demand plants and materials from them.

Stalin said that if the Ruhr was to remain in Germany its supplies would have to be drawn upon for the whole of Germany.

Churchill inquired then why not food.

Stalin said that this could be discussed. There were two points, the Ruhr and food.

Churchill inquired how the miners would get the coal out without food and where the food was to come from.

Stalin said this was a point they were discussing. It was a question of imports and exports. Germany had always imported large amounts of food and had to export to pay for its imports.

Churchill then inquired how they could pay reparations.

Stalin rejoined that they would be able to pay.

[Page 386]

Churchill said he would not be responsible for agreeing to anything which would lead to starvation conditions in the British zone this winter while the Poles had the feeding grounds for themselves.

Stalin said the Poles had asked the Russians for bread as they were short of food until the next harvest.

Churchill said he hoped that Stalin would recognize their difficulties as they would recognize his. He pointed out that in England they would have the most fireless winter of the war this year.

Stalin inquired why.

Churchill replied because coal was short.

Stalin replied that England had always exported coal. He suggested that they make their prisoners of war work. The Russians were working the ones they held in the mines and it would be difficult to dispense with them so far as coal was concerned. He said that the British had 400,000 German soldiers in Norway who were not even disarmed. No one knew what they were waiting for.

Churchill said it was their intention to disarm them. He did not know exactly what the situation was but said that the arrangements had been made under SHAEF. However, he said he would inquire.10 The British were short of coal because they were exporting to Holland, France, and Belgium. They were denying themselves and they found it odd that the Poles sold coal, taken from ground which they did not recognize as Polish, to Sweden and other countries.

Stalin said the Poles were not selling coal from the territory in question but from other sources. He was not accustomed to make complaints but he pointed out that the Russian situation was still worse than that of the British. They had lost over five million men in this war. He was afraid that if he started complaining Churchill would burst into tears so difficult was the situation in Russia.

Churchill said they were eager to barter coal from the Ruhr in exchange for food for the German population.

Stalin said that this question must be discussed.

Churchill replied that he did not expect a decision today but before his departure and the resulting interruption of the Conference he did not think they should consider that they had solved the major problems. Churchill said that the British position would be more difficult after the war than it had been during the war although it might be less deadly.

Stalin observed that as they had tackled the war properly they would be able to tackle the peace.

[Page 387]

Eden reverted to the question of the transfer of population. They had received a message from Dr. Beneš asking that the question be examined here. Could not the Foreign Ministers look at it.

Stalin inquired whether they should not summon the Czechs to the Conference.

Churchill said he would be very glad to see his old friend Dr. Beneš.

Stalin asked if this would not mean serving the mustard after supper. He assured Mr. Churchill that these transfers had already taken place.

Eden said he thought that all three Governments had received a note from the Czechs asking that the question be discussed here.11 He thought they ought to do so.

Churchill said he thought there had been an agreement between the Soviets and the Czechs that not more than 1,000 of these Germans would depart at one time and that since there were two and one-half million of them the transfer would take a long time.

Stalin said there had been no such agreement.

Churchill then proposed that the Foreign Ministers at least look into the matter and ascertain the facts.

This was agreed to.

The President said he would like to call the attention of the Conference to the question of the inland waterways upon which he had circulated a paper.12 He would like the Foreign Ministers to examine it.

This was agreed to.

Molotiv said that the Soviet delegation would circulate a memorandum on the obstacles in the way of the return of Soviet citizens from Austria and Germany.13 He also wished to circulate a memorandum regarding the presence of German troops in Norway.14

The President said that any memorandum could be circulated.

Churchill said he could at once give assurance that these troops [Page 388] would be disarmed immediately. They did not want to keep them up their sleeves. He would have a report made.15

The meeting adjourned.16

  1. For an account of these meetings, see Churchill, Triumph and Tragedy, pp. 661–667; Rozek, Allied Wartime Diplomacy, pp. 408–409.
  2. Concerning conversations held between United States officials and Polish leaders, see ante, p. 356, and post, pp. 395, 403, 455, 478, 506, 1525, 1528, 1532, 1539, and 1540.
  3. See ante, pp. 118122.
  4. For a British paper on this subject, see document No. 1014, post.
  5. Presumably document No. 1009, post, and the attachment thereto.
  6. See ante, pp. 207215, 251.
  7. Cf. document No. 744, post.
  8. See ante, pp. 275, 297.
  9. See document No. 904, post.
  10. See documents Nos. 1056 and 1058, post.
  11. See vol. i, document No. 439.
  12. The Cohen notes (post, p. 391) indicate that Truman referred to his “suggestion on the waterways, the Rhine, the Danube, the Kiel Canal and the Bosporus”. Document No. 755, post, is the only document on waterways known to have been circulated by the United States Delegation by July 25, but it contains no reference to the Kiel Canal or the Bosporus, although Truman, in introducing it, apparently referred in the course of his remarks to the Kiel Canal and to revision of the Montreux Convention (see the Cohen notes on the Seventh Plenary Meeting, July 23, ante, p. 313). Document No. 758, post, dated July 25, was presented in the meeting of the Subcommittee on Inland Waterways on July 27 (see post, p. 453) but may have been circulated earlier and thus may be the document referred to. Cf. document No. 757, post.
  13. Documents Nos. 790 and 1055, post.
  14. Document No. 1056, post.
  15. For a subsequent British communication on this subject, see document No. 1058, post.
  16. At 12 noon. See Log, ante, p. 20. It was anticipated that the Tenth Plenary Meeting would be held at 5 p.m. on Friday, July 27 (see the Cohen notes, post, p. 390). When the results of the British general election were made known, however, and Attlee was entrusted with the formation of a government, the Tenth Plenary Meeting was postponed until the evening of Saturday, July 28, in order to give Attlee sufficient time to complete his immediate and urgent tasks in London before returning to the Conference. See Stalin’s Correspondence, vol. i, p. 373.