Truman Papers

Cohen Notes

Truman : Shall we discuss the Polish western frontier? I think the Prime Minister had something to say.

Churchill : I saw Mr. Bierut this morning. The Foreign Secretary saw the Polish delegation last night. They all agree that there are about one and a half million Germans in this area. The issue is all mixed up with the reparation issue, and the four power zones of occupation.

Truman : Secretary of State Byrnes expects to have further conversations with the Poles also. In view of the British and American conversations with the Poles, it might go over to Friday. The German fleet and merchant marine are also on the agenda. I thought we had agreed on that.

Churchill : Obviously, we must have some concrete proposals.

Truman : Secretary Byrnes tells me that [Assistant] Secretary Clayton and Admiral Land are working on such proposals.

Stalin : Let us postpone it.

Churchill : We must at some time discuss the question of the transfer of populations. There are a large number of Poles [Germans]1 to be moved from Czechoslovakia. We must consider where they are to go.

Stalin : The Czechs have already evicted them.

Churchill : The two and a half million of them? Then there are the Germans from the new Poland. Will they go to the Russian zones? We don’t want them. There are large numbers still to come from Sudetenland.

Stalin : So far as the Poles are concerned, the Poles have retained one and a half million Germans to help as laborers. As soon as the [Page 389] harvest is over, the Poles will evict them. The Poles do not ask us. They are doing what they like, just as the Czechs are.

Churchill : That is the difficulty. The Poles are driving the Germans out of the Russian zone. That should not be done without considering its effect on the food supply and reparations. We are getting into a position where the Poles have food and coal, and we have the mass of the population thrown on us.

Stalin : We must appreciate the position of the Poles. The Poles are taking revenge for centuries of injuries.

Churchill : That consists in throwing them on us, and the United States?

Truman : We don’t want to pay for Polish revenge. If Poland is to have an occupation zone, that should be clearly defined, but at the present time there are only four zones of occupation. If the Poles have an occupation zone they should be responsible for it. The boundary cannot be fixed before the peace conference. I want to be helpful, but Germany is occupied by four powers, and the boundary cannot be changed [now;] only at the peace conference.

I must make clear at this point my constitutional powers. (Reads formal statement2). Peace treaties must be confirmed by our Senate. When I indicate my support of a proposal, I will use my best efforts to secure its acceptance. That does not guarantee its acceptance, nor does it preclude my coming back and informing you that my continuing to press it might endanger our common interests in the peace.

I make this statement, not to change the basis of our discussions, but to make clear beyond misunderstanding my constitutional authority. This is particularly important with reference to the Polish question. I want a treaty of peace which can be ratified by the Senate.

Stalin : May I ask a few questions? Does your statement refer to peace treaties only, or to other questions?

Truman : Only matters which must go to the Senate. I have large war powers, as have the rest of you, but I do not wish to use them to the point that they may endanger the final conclusion of peace.

Churchill : If the conference ends in ten days without agreement on the present state of affairs in Poland, and with the Poles practically admitted as a fifth occupation power, and no arrangement for the spreading of food over the whole of Germany, it will mark the breakdown of the conference. I suppose we will have to fall back on the proposal of the Secretary of State, and each of us fall back on our own zones. Maisky’s definition of booty is a very wise one (???).3 I do [Page 390] hope that we will reach a broad agreement. We must recognize that we have made no progress so far on this point.

Stalin : Coal and metal from the Ruhr is more important than the food supply.

Churchill : Coal will have to be paid for by food. We could not agree that Russia could dispose of everything in her zone and still claim supplies and reparations from our zone.

Stalin : Supplies will have to be drawn from the whole of Germany.

Churchill : Why not food?

Stalin : That should be discussed. The question is under discussion. Germany has always had to import foodstuff.

Churchill : How will she pay reparations?

Stalin : There is much fat in Germany.

Churchill : I am not going to consent to arrangements which will lead to starvation in the Ruhr, when the Poles have all the feeding grounds.

Stalin : Only recently the Poles requested help by the way of bread from us until their new harvest.

Churchill : We in England are going to have the most fireless winter since the war.

Stalin : How is this? England has always exported her coal. Let the prisoners of war work. They work in the mines in Russia. You have 400 thousand German soldiers in Norway who have not been disarmed.

Churchill : It is our intention to disarm them. I thought that they were disarmed. I will inquire about it.

Churchill : (continuing) We are short of coal because we export coal to France, Holland and Belgium. We find it odd, when we need coal, that the Poles should be selling coal from lands which we do not regard as Polish, to Sweden and other countries.

Stalin : The Poles are selling their own coal, not the coal from the former German territories. I am not accustomed to complaining. We have lost five million men in this war. We are short of coal and many other things. If I described our situation and our needs, I might make the Prime Minister weep.

Churchill : We will sell coal from the Ruhr for food.

Stalin : This question must be discussed, or thought over.

Churchill : We were only exchanging views. I am finished.

Stalin : What a pity.

Truman : We shall adjourn until Friday at five p.m.

Churchill : I hope to be back.

Stalin : Judging from the expression on Mr. Attlee’s face, I do not think he looks forward avidly to taking over your authority.

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We have tackled the problems of the war successfully. We should be able to tackle the problems of the peace as well.

Eden : The Prime Minister referred to the transfer of populations. President Beneš has sent some communication to us. May the Foreign Secretaries look at it?

Stalin : Yes. May we not have to summon the Czechs?

Churchill : I shall be glad to see Beneš. He is an old friend.

Stalin : But is this not serving mustard after supper? The Germans have already been driven out.

Churchill : They have some agreement for gradual transfer.

Stalin : No such agreement exists.

Churchill : There is still the problem how this is to be done. May the Foreign Secretaries look into it?

Stalin : Yes.

Truman : I should like my suggestion on the waterways, the Rhine, the Danube, the Kiel Canal and the Bosporus considered by the Foreign Secretaries.

Stalin : All right.

Molotiv : May I circulate a memorandum on the obstacles in the way of return of Soviet citizens from Austria and Germany, and also a memorandum on the presence of German troops in Norway.

Truman : Yes.

Churchill : I wish to assure the Marshal that I intend to disarm the troops in Norway. I am not keeping them up my sleeve for use, if any misunderstanding arises in the north. Perhaps the Marshal will let me make a report.

Stalin : I promise in advance, and I shall not criticise.

  1. Cf. the Thompson minutes, ante, p. 383.
  2. For the documents referred to in these notes, see the footnotes to the Thompson minutes, supra.
  3. The Thompson minutes (ante, p. 385) read “wide one”. For the Maisky definition referred to, see document No. 904, post.