Roosevelt Myth - John T. Flynn

How Germany's Fate Was Settled

On September 11, ten months after Teheran and in the midst of the campaign, Roosevelt and Churchill met at Quebec. The invasion of France was launched. Allied armies approached the Rhine. The Russians had crossed the Vistula and were diving toward the Baltic and soon the race would be on between the Allies and the Russians for Berlin. Roosevelt and Churchill met to discuss the fate of Germany, lend-lease to Britain after the war and minor points. They made a decision at Quebec which has up to this moment paralyzed utterly the making of a stable peace in Europe and is pregnant with consequences so terrible for the future that the mind draws away from them in consternation. That decision produced what Secretary Stimson describes as "the most violent single inter-departmental struggle of his career" and what Secretary Hull says "angered me as much as anything that had happened during my career as Secretary."

Secretary Stimson says he returned from Normandy in July, 1944, to find the administration belatedly constructing plans for the occupation of Germany—with no decisions made and the occupation imminent. He lunched with President Roosevelt and urged him to appoint a Cabinet Committee to prepare such plans, and Roosevelt named Hull, Stimson and Morgenthau with Hull as chairman. Later he added Hopkins. This Cabinet Committee met soon after, on September 5, in Secretary Hull's office. Hull produced a program prepared in the State Department, whereupon Secretary Morgenthau presented that savage document that has come to be known as the Morgenthau Plan. As Morgenthau described it, the great industrial area of Germany—the Ruhr—

". . . should be not only stripped of all existing industries but should be so weakened and controlled that it cannot in the foreseeable future become an industrial area . . . All industrial plants and equipment not destroyed by military action shall either be completely dismantled or removed from the area or completely destroyed; all equipment shall be removed from the mines and the mines wrecked." The proposal looked forward to "converting Germany into a country principally agricultural and pastoral in character."

Stimson made an emphatic objection to this. So did Hull. The folly of this incredible proposal must be apparent to any reader. The Ruhr was not merely a great industrial asset for the Germans. It was a producing area for the whole of Europe. The individual states of Europe are no more able to support themselves in a modern economy than is a single American state. It would be possible to punish the people of Pennsylvania, Illinois, Michigan, West Virginia and Ohio by destroying all their industries and wrecking all their mines. But this could not be done without visiting a frightful penalty on all the other states which depend upon these industries and mines for so much production. Secretary Stimson pointed out that for 80 years the production of Germany "was one of the most important sources of raw materials upon which the industrial and economic livelihood of Europe was based." He reminded his colleagues that it was the largest source of supply to Russia, Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Holland, Switzerland, Italy, Austria, Hungary, Rumania and Bulgaria and it was the second largest source of supply to Great Britain, Belgium and France. He might agree to some system of control but, he said: "I cannot answer for turning such a gift of nature into a dust pile."

Secretary Hull said: "This was a plan of blind vengeance . . . It failed to see that in striking at Germany it was striking at all Europe." The proposals "that the mines be ruined was almost breathtaking in its implications for all Europe." When the Americans did finally invade Germany almost their first act was—and had to be—to work mines to fullest production to aid the European economy.

Both Hull and Stimson pointed out that when we occupied Germany, either Germany's 70 million people would have to feed and clothe themselves or we would have to do it; and that to destroy production there would impose upon us the terrible burden of supporting them. Beyond all this, of course, was our dignity as a civilized people. The barbarians could sweep into enemy countries and ravage their fields, burn their cities and murder their leaders. This is a job from which a civilized people must recoil if they have not lost their souls. But these considerations had no weight with those elements in the population whose minds were aflame with vengeance. They wanted blood. They wanted reciprocal horrors. This may have been a natural reaction to peoples who had suffered such great provocation. But it was the business of responsible statesmen to restrain these blood lusts.

The Cabinet Committee could not agree. Its members met with Roosevelt on September 9, and Hull informed him of their inability to agree. Roosevelt seemed to come around to an understanding that the produce of the Ruhr would be important to France and other countries. But the matter remained unsettled. Secretary Stimson addressed a long communication to the President on September 9 pressing vigorously the arguments for a rational occupation policy. The whole subject remained undecided for the moment. And then on September 11, Roosevelt went to Quebec to meet Churchill.

Hull did not go to Quebec, because he was given to understand that the subjects discussed would be chiefly military. However, Morgenthau went. Groups, interested in the destruction of Germany, says Hull, induced the President to invite Morgenthau, who says that he was surprised when he got the summons. He was invited to present his plan, while the other two members of the Cabinet Committee who out-voted him remained behind, not even knowing the subject was on the agenda. And there, without consulting the Committee he had named, Roosevelt agreed to the Morgenthau Plan to destroy German industry and to reduce Germany to a country primarily agricultural and pastoral. Secretaries Hull and Stimson did not know anything about it until four days after it was done.

What puzzled Hull was that Churchill had agreed to this plan. However, the reason for this was to appear later. About the same time Morgenthau came home triumphant at his great achievement. And it was from him that Hull and Stimson learned the balance of the story. Churchill had at first violently opposed the destruction of Germany—Morgenthau reported the Prime Minister was furious.

When Anthony Eden, British Foreign Minister, arrived at Quebec, and vigorously protested against the plan, he had a heated discussion with Churchill about it. Why had Churchill agreed? Secretary Hull asked Morgenthau that question. At Quebec, Churchill, seeing the approach of the war's end, was deeply troubled about England's financial condition and was anxious to get from Roosevelt a huge grant of more lend-lease billions for post-war use. While Churchill objected to the Morgenthau Plan, Roosevelt held out against any more lend-lease to Britain. Finally Churchill said: "What do you want me to do? Sit up on my hind legs and beg like Fala?" "Ultimately Roosevelt yielded and agreed to give England another six billion dollars of lend-lease money. Churchill didn't sit up on his hind legs but he agreed to the Morgenthau Plan.

Morgenthau told Hull that he had convinced Churchill to agree upon the argument that the ruin of Germany's Ruhr would open the doors for England to capture Germany's lost trade but, under pressure of Hull's examination, he admitted "that the credits were clearly the Prime Minister's non-military objective at Quebec." And he got them after agreeing to a plan to which at first he was "violently opposed" and at which he was even angry.

As a matter of fact, everyone was opposed to this. The French later bitterly assailed it. They knew too well the importance of the Ruhr to their own economy. They wanted the Ruhr production controlled but destruction of it and its mines seemed a ghastly crime. Later, of course, Churchill himself opposed the whole plan of frightfulness in the Yalta conference. James Byrnes, later Secretary of State, declined the post of High Commissioner for Germany because he wanted nothing to do with such a plan.

The end of this story is difficult to believe. Both Secretaries Hull and Stimson continued to urge upon Roosevelt the gravity of his ill-considered act. Secretary Stimson wrote in his diary: "I should not keep my self-respect if I did not." Under this criticism Roosevelt tried to deny what he had done. Apparently forgetting the plain words of the agreement he had signed he wrote Hull: "Somebody has been talking, not only out of turn to the papers but on facts which are not fundamentally true." Finally on October 3, Stimson had lunch with Roosevelt. Meantime the contents of the Morgenthau Plan leaked to the papers and Roosevelt became alarmed at the violence of the reaction, a fine evidence of the fundamentally decent nature of the majority of Americans.

Hull writes that Stimson told him that in his conversation with Roosevelt the latter practically denied he had agreed to "reduce Germany to a country primarily agricultural and pastoral." When Stimson read him those very sentences in the memorandum, Roosevelt "was frankly staggered" and he insisted that "he had no idea how he could have initialed the memorandum and that he had evidently done so without much thought."

In the end the President was persuaded to get out of this appalling agreement so far as destroying the mines of the Ruhr were concerned. But Stimson declares "the same attitude remained." and the whole world now knows of the frightful wreckage that was carried on in Germany and the blow to the economy of all Europe that was delivered in the name of "blind vengeance" and immortal hatred.