Truman Papers

Cohen Notes

The report of the foreign secretaries1 was read. It was recommended that notice of the establishment of the Council of Foreign Ministers should be sent to France and China before the public announcement thereof. Minor verbal changes in the draft of the document were also recommended. The economic subcommittee had not yet finished its work. The subcommittee on the Polish question was not fully agreed nor could the foreign secretaries reach a complete agreement on this question and the points of the difference were to be referred to the heads of state.

Truman: The first question then is the Polish question.

Byrnes: The first point of difference relates to the problem of the transfer of assets without mentioning liabilities.

Truman: So far as our laws are concerned, when our assets are transferred, liabilities must be transferred. We do not intend to assume the liability of the old Polish government and give the new Polish government the assets.

Churchill: We are content with the proposals put forward by the President and particularly with the proposition that there can be no release of assets without a consideration of liabilities.

Mr. President, how does your redraft cover liabilities?

Byrnes: It protects the property but deals neither with transfer of assets nor liquidation of liabilities.

Churchill: This is a more serious question for Britain than the United States.

Stalin: Does the British government propose to exact from the Polish government to the full their advances for the Polish forces?

[Page 216]

Churchill: No. We will discuss it with the Poles.

Stalin: We gave credits to the Sikorski government. We consider those advances redeemed. The American proposals are accepted but needs [sic] polishing up. I suggest we amend the American proposal.

Stalin offers a verbal amendment but after a little discussion states that the American draft is acceptable as is.

Eden: This morning we agreed to compromise by combining the first two sentences of the third paragraph.

Stalin: It is good that Mr. Eden is meeting us half way. If he strikes out reference to the press, we will applaud it. Foreign correspondents came to Poland and they remained there and they are enjoying full freedom. The Poles are very touchy.

Churchill: There is no compromise on that. I had hoped to strengthen this by adding representatives of Allied governments and the press.

Stalin: They are enjoying freedom to report.

Truman: The Poles in America are much interested in the Polish election and this will help the President very much with his Polish constituents.

Stalin: I suggest that we add reference to the press in the preceding sentence.

(This suggestion was accepted)

Secretary Byrnes proceeds with reading the report of the foreign secretaries. He points out that consideration of the Yalta agreement was postponed. United States had presented two papers, one on Italy and one on the satellite states. Foreign secretaries agreed to refer these papers to drafting subcommittee. Question was whether there should be two papers or one.

Truman: Italy was first to surrender and terms of surrender were more drastic. We thought that Italy should be considered separately.

Stalin: I have an amendment to the American proposals concerning the policy as to Rumania, Bulgaria and Finland. I have no objection in principle to the American proposal but I want to make an addition to paragraph 2. The three governments should make a statement that they will renew diplomatic relations with the satellite governments.

Truman: I can not agree.

Stalin: Then these two questions will have to be postponed.

Truman: We will not recognize these governments until they are set up on a satisfactory basis.

Churchill: I dislike to see these questions postponed.

Byrnes: The next questions are Polish western frontier, trusteeships and Turkey.

[Page 217]

Truman: I propose that the matters of the Polish frontier be considered at the peace conference after consultation with the Polish government of national unity. We decided that Germany with 1937 boundaries should be considered starting point. We decided on our zones. We moved our troops to the zones assigned to us. Now another occupying government has been assigned a zone without consultation with us. We can not arrive at reparations and other problems of Germany if Germany is divided up before the peace conference. I am very friendly to Poland and sympathetic with what Russia proposes regarding the western frontier, but I do not want to do it that way.

Stalin: The Crimea decision was that the eastern frontier of Poland should follow the Curzon line. As to the western frontier, it was decided that Poland was to receive territory in the west and north in compensation.

Truman: That is right, but I am against assigning an occupation zone to Poland.

Stalin: The new Polish government has already expressed its views on boundaries. What is our proposal for the Polish western frontier?

Truman: I understand that the Secretary of State has received a communication from the new Polish government but I have not seen it.

Stalin: Our view is that we should express our view in accordance with that of the Polish government, but final question should be left to the peace conference. As to our giving the Poles a zone of occupation without consulting the other powers, this is not accurate. We received several proposals from the American and British governments that we should not permit the Poles in the disputed western frontier area. We could not follow this because German population fled and Poles remained. Our armies needed local administrations. Our armies are not set up to fight and clear country of enemy agents at the same time. We so informed our British and American friends. The more ready we were to let the Polish administration function, the more we were sure the Poles would receive territory to the west. I do not see the harm of permitting the Poles to set up administrations in territories in which they are to remain.

Truman: I wanted the administrations in the four zones to be as we have agreed. We can not agree on reparations if parts of Germany are given away.

Stalin: We are concerned about reparations but we will take this risk.

Truman: We are not concerned about reparations for ourselves but we do not want to pay reparations as we did before.

Stalin: The western frontier of Poland then remains open and no discussions are binding on us.

[Page 218]

Churchill: I have a good deal to say on the line, but I don’t think from what the President has said that this is the time.

Stalin: It will be more difficult to restore territory as the German population has fled.

Truman: The Poles may remain under the Russian occupation.

Stalin: Our practice is as follows. An army is fighting when the war is on. Its efforts are concentrated on the war. To advance, it must have a quiet rear. An army can fight the enemy but it can not at the same time fight well with the enemy in its rear. It needs the quiet and, if possible, a sympathetic rear. Even if the Germans have not fled, it would be difficult to use Germans as the majority in the area are Polish. Imagine a situation where the Germans shrink or flee and the Polish population receives us. It is natural under those circumstances to set up a sympathetic administration. There was no other way out. But that does not mean that we determined ourselves a frontier. If you do not agree, the matter can be arranged later.

Churchill: It is from these regions that a very important part of the supplies from which Germany is to be fed come.

Stalin: Who will work in these areas? There is no one but the Poles who will plow the land.

Truman: The question is not who occupies the country, but how we stand on the question as to who is to occupy Germany. I want it understood that the Soviet [Union] is occupying this zone and is responsible for it. I don’t think we are far apart on our conclusions.

Stalin: On paper it is formerly German territory but in fact it is Polish territory. There are no Germans left. The Soviet [Union] is responsible for the territory.

Truman: Where are the nine million Germans?

Stalin: They have fled.

Churchill: How can they be fed? I am told that under the Polish plan put forward by the Soviets that a quarter of arable land of Germany would be alienated—one-fourth of all the arable land from which German food and reparations must come. The Poles come from the East but 8¼ [8½?] million Germans are misplaced [displaced]. It is apparent that a disproportionate part of the population will be cast on the rest of Germany with its food supplies alienated.

Truman: France wants the Saar and the Ruhr. What will be left?

Stalin: As regards the claims of France, we have made no decision. As to the Poles, we have.

[Page 219]

Churchill: As to the Marshal’s figures that all Germans have fled, we should bear in mind that there are other figures indicating that two or three million Germans remain.

Stalin: We discussed the question of frontiers but we are getting into the question of food supplies for Germany.

Churchill: We are only considering complications which arise from the frontier question.

Stalin: I fully appreciate this burden and the difficulties of supply, but the Germans are principally to blame for these difficulties. Mr. Churchill has cited the figure of 8K million Germans in this area, but bear in mind that the men from this area were conscripted in this area several times and others fled. They got word that the Russians were to be in Koenigsberg and they preferred to deal with the Russians rather than the Poles. Now, look at the turn of events. In the west between the Oder and the Vistula the Germans have quit their fields and these are being cultivated by the Poles. It is unlikely that the Poles will agree to let the Germans cultivate these lands.

Truman: Again I want to make it clear that our zone agreement should be kept. I do not think we can settle boundaries here.

Churchill: Of course I am deeply committed to compensate Poland for what has been taken from her, but I thought there should be a balance. Poland is now claiming a [sic] vastly more territory than she gave up. I can not concede that such an extravagant movement of populations should occur. So vast a movement of population will be a great shock to public opinion to [in] my country at least. It puts us in a position that I can not possibly defend. I do not think it is good for Poland. If the Germans have run out they should be encouraged to return. The Poles have no right to create a catastrophe in the feeding of Germany. I press my point in hope that the Marshal will appreciate the difficulties. We do not wish to be left with a vast German population on our hands deprived of its food supply. Take your population of the Ruhr. If enough food is not found we may be confronted with conditions like those in the German concentration camps, even on a vaster scale.

Stalin: Germany has never done without the import of grain. Let Germany buy more bread from Poland. The territory is cultivated by the Poles, not the Germans.

Churchill: In addition, the condition of this territory into which Poles are being introduced is most peculiar. I am told the Poles are selling coal from Silesia to Sweden when we in England must go through a bitter, fireless winter, worse than that experienced during [Page 220]the war. We stand on the general principle that the supply of food of 1937 Germany should be available for the support of the German people irrespective of the zones of occupation.

Stalin: But who is to produce the coal? It is the Poles who are mining the coal.

Churchill: They fled from the cannons. Now that the firing has ceased they should come back.

Stalin: We have little sympathy with these scoundrels and war criminals.

Churchill: I was impressed by what the Marshal said yesterday about not letting past bitterness color our decisions.

Stalin: What I said yesterday does not apply to war criminals. I had in mind only the proprietors who have fled. We ourselves are purchasing coal from the Poles who are mining it.

Truman: I am concerned that a piece of Germany, a valuable piece has been cut off. This must be deemed a part of Germany in considering reparations and in the feeding of Germany. The Poles have no right to seize this territory now and take it out of the peace settlement. Are we going to maintain occupied zones until the peace or are we going to give Germany away piece-meal?

Stalin: Nobody can exploit this region but the Poles. Are [We] are short of labor for our own enterprises. There are no Germans in this area. Herr Goebbels’ propaganda has achieved its purpose. No production comes from this area except from the Poles. We can not take coal from them for nothing. The Silesian mines have always been mined by a large number of Polish miners.

Churchill: There is no objection to the Poles’ mining this area for the Russian occupiers of the zone.

Stalin: It is not possible. It would disturb all normal relations between the two states. The Germans themselves were short of labor. Most of the enterprises were employing foreign forced labor and when Russian troops entered the region these foreign laborers went back to their own country. Most of the Germans had been called up for the army. They were killed or taken captive. These enterprises must now be closed down or must be worked by the Poles. That is the situation as it spontaneously arose. No one but the Germans are to blame. As to Mr. Churchill’s claims that the Poles are receiving too much, undoubtedly Polish proposal creates difficulty for Germany, but Germany created this situation.

Churchill: This situation creates difficulties for us as well as for the Germans.

Stalin: We may have to create further difficulty for the Germans then. The less industry we leave in Germany, the more markets [Page 221]there will be for your goods. We have destroyed for you a competitor with low living standards and low prices.

Attlee: From the point of view of the occupying power, we are faced with a country in chaos, formerly, an economic unit depending for its food and coal from [upon?] the eastern areas partly inhabited by Poles. If part of Germany is detached, it puts an onerous burden on occupying states in the west and south. If labor is needed for exploiting the eastern areas, it should be available from western Germany. Pending final settlement that labor force should be directed to where it can be employed so as to relieve the western allies from an impossible burden.

Truman: I shall state frankly what I think. I can not consent to the removal of eastern Germany from contributing to the economy of the whole of Germany.

Stalin: Are we through?

Churchill: Can’t we sleep on it?


  1. For the documents referred to in these notes, see the footnotes to the minutes, supra.