Alabama Journal from Montgomery, Alabama on September 25, 1984 · 15
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Alabama Journal from Montgomery, Alabama · 15

Montgomery, Alabama
Issue Date:
Tuesday, September 25, 1984
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Oval Drop Leaf End Table 36"Wx26"Lx21"H(open) 19"Wx26"Lx21"H(cksed) CREDTTTERMS Available VISA or MASTERCARD Accepted 30-60-90 Days SAME AS CASH A DIVERSITY OF VIEWS j' -vjv W ; r va AT fe?- r pi- ,, ,iju. K i -. - - - - Stalin, Truman and Churchill at Potsdam Conference Broken hopes last legacy of historic Potsdam talks By VINCENT HOG AN When Prime Minister Winston Churchill, President Harry Truman and Gen. Joseph Stalin met at Potsdam, Germany July 17-Aug. 2, 1945 at the so-called Potsdam Conferencea new chapter in world affairs began. Both the United States and the Soviet Union had emerged as world powers at almost the same time and their meeting in Germany the heart of Europe confirmed the fact that the Old Continent had ceased to be the dominant force in international affairs. The participants at the Potsdam Conference were the same as those at the Yalta and Teheran conferences, except for Truman, who had succeeded to the presidency upon the death of President Franklin Roosevelt. Since Roosevelt and Churchill had gone to Yalta and the East, Truman insisted that it was Stalin's turn to come to the West. So, reluctantly on the part of Stalin, an agreement was reached to meet at Potsdam in the suburbs of Berlin, the destroyed capital of Germany, located in the Soviet occupation zone. The purpose of the Potsdam Conference, especially to Western leaders, was to break down the barriers between Eastern and Western Europe, agree upon policies for the occupation of Germany and call upon the Japanese government to proclaim the surrender of all Japanese armed forces. As to the moods of the conference, the heads of government did not meet at Potsdam in the same warm, personal association as the wartime meetings at Yalta and Teheran. There, the chief figures were under a bond of military dependence to get along with one another. At Potsdam, they were not. Before, they could submerge or postpone issues that might divide them, but at Potsdam they could not. Memorable place Among my most vivid recollections and impressions of the conference was, first of all, the place of the conference in the Cecilianhof Castle, the castle Crown Prince Wilhelm had built for the Kaisers. It was situated in the most peaceful atmosphere, surrounded by spacious green lawns and trees and overlooked Holy Lake. The peaceful and untouched atmosphere was such a contrast to war-torn Berlin. Widespread destruction and rubble, seemingly miles and miles of tornado-struck-looking areas of Berlin, gave an unbelievable picture of a dead city. Deliberations and negotiations between the Big Three took place in a spacious paneled hall decorated In red, black and gold with enormous chandeliers. The conference floors were Immaculately cleaned and polished by Germans commandered by the Russians. Beautiful, leather-bound books flanked the walls and the three Allied leaders sat around a round table covered with a fine burgundy cloth. A marble centerpiece held flags of the United States, Great Britain and the Soviet Union. Their chain were larger and higher than the other advisers. Interestingly, their chairs were upholstered in red with gilt cherubs topping the back posts of each. A problem of protocol arose as the conference began. In the diplomatic and international world, rank and status are important facets and reflect the power positions of nations and, if protocol permitted one of the leaders to enter first, it would signify that he represented the greatest power. The issue was solved by having Truman, Churchill and Stalin walk simultaneously into the conference room through three different doors. Security precautions and procedures were especially strict and elaborate. Armed military guards block -d the road to the conference area and identity cards were strictly checked. Guards were stationed on both sides of the street at intervals of about 40 feet for a considerable distance from the conference site. Secrecy, too, of the deliberations was so rigid that journalists were bitterly resentful of the scarcity of news releases. Stalin's style Stalin arrived at Cecilianhof Castle in a limousine with four guards two in front and two in back of his limousine. Also, his limousine was preceded and followed by two limousines with armed guards. Speed and flurry characterized the comings and goings of the Stalin entourage. It resembled a movie with the screeching stops followed by dust. Also, Stalin ordered the Germans along the route he traveled in Potsdam and Berlin to have their shutters drawn and closed. In contrast, Truman drove in an open car in Berlin. He made a tremendous impression when he declared that the United States coveted no territory in the world as a victor in the war. Even though he had only recently assumed the heavy burden of the presidency, he always walked confidently and smilingly at the conference. Also he spoke with confidence and force. Only history will assess Truman's role as president. But, in 1982, Professor Robert Murray, an historian from Pennsylvania State University, polled 1,000 of his historian colleagues for their rankings of past presidents. Truman, whose 100th birthday was recently celebrated, came in eighth overall, just below Theodore Rossevelt, Wood row Wilson and Andrew Jackson. Because Churchill ranks as one of the greatest men of the 20th century, it was always a striking event for me to see him during the conference as well as during the World War II years in London. A rare figure in history, Churchill personified what is noble in the English race. You would never forget his ruddy yet cherubic and bulldog-like face, the impish twinkle in his eyes, the jaunty cigar clenched tightly between his teeth, his walking stick, his bowler hats, his V-sign which had become the personification of Great Britain. To the eye, Churchill was short, brusque, pugnacious. In mind, he was a giant. One could not overlook in him the author, journalist, historian, statesman and leader as well as an intense human being. It is said that no statesman or military figure in this century, other than General De Gaulle of France, wrote better prose than Churchill, who received the Nobel Peace Prize for literature in 1953. Stalin's dark eyes and walrus-like mustache made lasting impressions. Not tall, Stalin was square and erect, perhaps 5'9" and weighing 190 pounds. Harry Hopkins, Roosevelt's personal presidential representative, who frequently met and consulted with Stalin during World War n, remarked that Stalin was "built like a coach's dream of a football tackle." His hands were huge and voice harsh. My reaction in seeing him was that he was one of the most powerful rulers who ever lived, who came into power through force and maintained his dictatorial and tyrannical regime through purges, forced labor, conspiracies, mass murder, starvation and absorbing all power in himself and the Communist Party. Nevertheless, unlike Truman and Churchill, when Stalin talked at the conference particularly with his interpreter and aides his voice was 15 muffled and subdued. The Russian name he selected, "Stalin," which means "man of steel." typified him Used Western terms In the sessions, he appeared firm in his methods and goals. Surprisingly, he never employed Marxist ideology but made his points in terms of Western political and social ideas The conferences were usually held in the afternoon, and generally, they lasted for three hours or so. The procedure represented a compromise between the early-rising Americans, preference for morning negotiations and the Russians, fondness for night sessions. Both Churchill and Stalin were renowned for their night conference sessions in the past and Roosevelt was accustomed to Churchill's continuous late night and early post-midnight consultations in wartime visits and conferences in the White House. Truman normally wore either a double-breasted blue or brown suit with a bow tie. Both Churchill and Stalin wore different colored marshall uniforms. Stalin had the highest medal of the Soviet Union the Order of Lenin on his chest. Churchill, not to be outdone, wore several rows of medals. After 16 days of deliberations, the Big Three ended the conference with a paper known as the Potsdam Pact. The conference demanded "unconditional surrender" from Japan, the only Axis power still in World War n For Germany, the conference arranged the authority of occupation forces, and the Allied Control Commission. The Allies seemed to set uniform economic and political principles aimed at breaking up German industrial cartels, destroying German ability to wage war, removing National Socialists from positions of influence and assuring a democratic German government. Germany was divided. While the conference agreed on most points concerning Germany, beyond the question of what to do with Germany, the Potsdam Conference had very few solutions to Europe's major problems. Problems remain In fact, it is ironic yet true that many of the same problems that faced the conferees at Potsdam still face Europe today. There is a divided Berlin and a partitioned Germany. However, there is a revived, bubbling, modern Berlin that has replaced the war-torn, rubble-filled city that I saw at the end of World War n. Furthermore, the vision of Churchill that an "Iron Curtain" was falling over Eastern Europe under the control of the Soviet Union has been a reality for the post-war period. The so-called Cold War had begun. Although the time of the Potsdam Conference should have been a time of hope, as the suffering connected with the war ended, Nazi Germany was prostrate and hopes for an effective United Nations emerged, a mutual distrust and hostility had already developed between the Western allies and the Soviet Union at Potsdam. The West feared Soviet domination of Europe, and the Soviet Union believed that the West wanted to deprive them of the fruits of victory. The presence of Soviet armed forces in Eastern Europe, the control of their governments and economies, the expansionist goals and the failures of the Soviet Union to keep agreements have contributed to the broken hopes. The writer, now retired from the political science department at Alabama State University, attended the Potsdam Conference as a young State Department einployee.

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