Sunday, July 22, 1945 at Potsdam, Germany
Last night at Stalin’s party, Churchill, who cared little for music, told Truman he was bored to tears and wanted to head home early. Truman, who – as it was written in yesterday’s blog – was having the best time he’d have during his entire trip to Potsdam, told the Prime Minister that he’d planned to stay until the party was over.
So, Churchill begrudgingly changed his mind and slowly made his way over to a corner for another half hour or so. Until the music ended, he “glowered, growled, and grumbled,” as Truman would amusingly describe it.
Things would be much different today.
Just after midday, Secretary of War Stimson made his way to Churchill’s Villa to read Grooves report which had gotten Truman “all pepped up” just before yesterday’s session.
Churchill now knew what had overcome the President to which he replied, “Stimson, what was gunpowder? What was electricity? Meaningless. This atomic bomb is the Second Coming in Wrath.”
The sixth plenary session was called to order at 5:10 PM. Although the question of what to do with Italy’s colonies was briefly discussed – which was eventually deferred to the Council of Foreign Ministers to include as part of their drafting of the Peace Treaty – the largest issue on the agenda today was once again Poland.
If you remember from yesterday’s blog, Stalin had informed Truman and Churchill that a (Soviet supported) Polish Administered Area had been established from the Oder River at the start of the western front stretching to Germany’s 1937 borders in the east. Furthermore, Stalin also claimed that all the ethnic Germans in this area had left after President Truman had inquired about the “nine million” of them spread throughout this territory.
During this session, Stalin remained firm on his position when it came to the western frontier of Poland:
“I shall not undertake to oppose Mr. Churchill’s views on all these points, but I will deal here only with two. One, Germany will have resources in the Ruhr and the Rhineland, so there is no great difficulty if Silesian coal basin is taken from Germany. Two, the movement of population does not present the difficulties Mr. Churchill anticipates. There are neither eight nor six nor three million Germans in this area. There have been several call-ups of troops in this area. Few Germans remain. Our data can be checked. Could we not arrange for representatives of the Polish government to come here and be heard?”
President Truman’s main concern was that the Poles were essentially being given a zone of occupation, something upon which hadn’t been agreed:
“The Allies recognize that Poland must receive substantial compensation in the north and west…But Poland has in fact been assigned a zone of occupation contrary to our agreement. We can agree, if we wish to give the Poles an occupying zone, but I don’t like the way the Poles have taken or been given their zone.“
The Prime Minister’s concern was more of a humanitarian one:
“The burden falls on us, the British in particular. Our zone has the smallest supply of food and the greatest density of population. Suppose the Foreign Ministers, having heard the Poles, cannot agree. Then there will be indefinite delay, at least until another meeting of the heads of government. I am anxious to meet practical problems due to the march of events.”
Yet, Churchill also had economic and political concerns too:
“(The Polish Administered Area) destroys Germany’s economic integrity, and puts an undue burden on the occupying powers… I think Marshal Stalin and I agree up to this point, that the new Poland should advance to the Oder. But the difficulty between the Marshal and me is that I do not go quite as far as the Marshal…(Furthermore) Berlin draws its coal from the Silesian mines, which have long been worked by Polish miners. What is to happen to Berlin’s coal during the winter?”
Stalin: “Berlin draws her coal from Saxony. Let the Ruhr give her coal. There are different opportunities for supplying Berlin with coal.”
Stalin then reintroduced his suggestion that representatives from the Polish Administered Area be invited to Potsdam to give their viewpoints on the current situation in their de facto zone. Churchill withdrew his initial objection and agreed. Truman also agreed.
In conclusion: Today’s session revealed some of the largest frustrations that Churchill and Truman must’ve felt when it came to the Polish question at Potsdam. At the end of the day, both the President and Prime Minister wanted free and fair elections to play out in Poland, but the Soviet Army was occupying large parts of Eastern Europe (including Poland) and assisting in the establishment of new governments that would be sympathetic to the Soviet Union. Moreover, the Soviet goal was to essentially use these countries of Eastern Europe as a belt of protection against any future foreign invader.
“Whoever occupies a territory also imposes on it his own social system…as far as his army can reach.” – Joseph Stalin