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Posted Tuesday, January 27, 2004


[The Morgenthau Plan evolved; plans for the liquidation of captured Nazi leaders]

August 21, 1944: "At the Department my time was spent in organising my conferences as far as possible during the coming four or five days that I shall be in Washington. . . I talked with Harry Hopkins over the telephone. He wants me to talk with Morgenthau on the subject of Germany. I also had a long talk with Secretary Hull in which I was able to give him a little of my views and arrange for an appointment tomorrow evening."

August 23, 1944: "At twelve o'clock I went to the White House to see the President. It is the first time I have seen him since June. . . . He was in better physical form than I had expected and was very warm and cordial. . . . I succeeded in getting through to him my views of the importance of having a decision on what we are going to do to Germany as a matter of primary importance in the peace settlement and pointed out as strongly as I could the difficulties that lay in that decision. . . I came back to the Department and Secretary Morgenthau came to lunch with me in my room. I had McCloy in too. It was a very satisfactory talk covering the subject of our relations with Germany and France to be settled during these post-war negotiations. Morgenthau told me of how he had learned in London that the division of Germany had been agreed upon at Teheran between the three chiefs. Although the discovery of this thing has been a most tremendous surprise to all of us, I am not sure that the three chiefs regard it as a fait accompli and in this talk with Morgenthau it developed that the so-called decision was of a more informal character than I had understood from McCloy's first report to me of Morgenthau's news a day or two ago. In the afternoon I settled down and tried to dictate my ideas in regard to the post-war settlement with Germany. . .

[This was a "Brief for Conference with the President," dated August 25, 1944. Stimson listed "a number of urgent matters of American policy" relating to the zones of occupation and the partition of Germany, and in particular the "policy vs. liquidation of Hitler and his gang". "Present instructions seem inadequate beyond imprisonment. Our officers must have the protection of definite instructions if shooting required. If shooting required it must be immediate; not post-war." He also asked the question, "How far do U.S. officers go towards preventing lynching in advance of Law and Order?"]

August 25, 1944 [Stimson lunched with the president. He took up the question of the British and American zones and urged Roosevelt to allow the British to have Northern Germany.] "I further urged the point that by taking south-western Germany we were in a more congenial part of Germany and further away from the dirty work that the Russians might be doing with the Prussians in Eastern Germany. I was inclined to think that I had made an impression on him, but it was impossible to say. I either then or in my former meeting pressed on him the importance of not partitioning Germany other than the allotment of East Prussia to Russia or Poland, and Alsace Lorraine to France and a possible allotment of Silesia to Poland, namely trimming the outer edges of Germany. Other than those allotments I feared that a division of Germany and a policy which would prevent her from being industrialised would starve her excess population of 30 million people, giving again my description of how she had grown during the period between 1870 and 1914 by virtue of her industrialisation. . .

[Stimson was worried that the troops were going into Germany without instruction and he suggested that Roosevelt appoint a Cabinet committee.] "He took that point and accepted it and then we went into Cabinet and at the very beginning of Cabinet he brought up this last point and said that he would appoint Secretaries Hull, Morgenthau and myself as the members of that committee. . .

[Later Stimson joined Morgenthau at the airport.] "I had the opportunity of a satisfactory talk with him on matters on which we were inclined to disagree, namely the use of over-punitive measures on Germany principally economic. I have been trying to guard against that."

[In a subsequent "Memorandum of Conversation with the President," August 25, 1944, Stimson felt that he had made his point that the penalties should be against individuals and "not by destruction of the economic structure of Germany which might have serious results in the future." Stimson had also urged against setting a punitive exchange rate such as Secretary Morgenthau suggested. "As to partition, the Secretary argued for a lopping off of sections rather than a general partition and thought the President was inclined to agree that Germany should be left as a self supporting state. The President showed some interest in radical treatment of the Gestapo."]

[For the last days in August Stimson remained in telephone contact with John McCloy in Washington]. "In particular I was working up and pressing for the point I had initiated, namely that we should intern the entire Gestapo and perhaps the SS leaders and then vigorously investigate and try them as the main instruments of Hitler's system of terrorism in Europe.Henry Morgenthau By so doing I thought we would begin at the right end, namely the Hitler machine, and punish the people who were directly responsible for that, carrying the line of investigation and punishment as far as possible. I found around me, particularly Morgenthau (left), a very bitter atmosphere of personal resentment against the entire German people without regard to individual guilt and I am very much afraid that it will result in our taking mass vengeance on the part of our people in the shape of clumsy economic action."

September 4, 1944 [(Monday) Stimson flew back to Washington and had a conference with General Marshall that afternoon]: "Also discussed with him my troubles in regard to the treatment of Germany and the method in which we should investigate and punish the Gestapo. He approved strongly of doing that and gave me some helpful suggestions. It was very interesting to find that army officers have a better respect for the law in those matters than civilians who talk about them and are anxious to go ahead and chop everybody's head off without trial of hearing. In this case we discussed the methods of tribunals for the purpose of conducting the trials of the Gestapo. . . .

"At night I felt I had had a full day but I had an engagement to dine with Morgenthau so I went home and rested for an hour and then went to dinner at his house where McCloy and Harry [Dexter] White [Assistant Secretary] of the Treasury were also present. We had a pleasant dinner but we were all aware of the feeling that a sharp issue is sure to arise over the question of the treatment of Germany. Morgenthau is, not unnaturally, very bitter, and as he is not thoroughly trained in history or even economics it became very apparent that he would plunge out for a treatment of Germany which I feel sure would be unwise. But we talked the matter over with temperateness and goodwill during the evening and that was as much as could be hoped from the situation. We did succeed in settling with perfect agreement the question of the currency which should be issued in Germany namely that we should issue Allied military marks at a 10 cent value of the mark. Morgenthau had first struck for only 5 cents, wishing to use a low rate of the mark to punish Germany."

September 5, 1944: "After I got home last night I received word that Hull had called a meeting of the new Committee on Germany at 9:30 . . . The President has appointed Harry Hopkins a member of the Committee in addition to the three that he appointed on August 25th. . . . As soon as I got into the meeting it became very evident that Morgenthau had been rooting around behind the scenes and had greased the way for own views by conference with the president and others. We did get through the question of the currency alright on the lines which we had decided upon last evening. Then Hull brought up a draft of agenda . . . and as soon as we got into a discussion of these, I, to my tremendous surprise, found that Hull was as bitter as Morgenthau against the Germans and was ready to junk all the principles that he had been labouring for in regard to trade for the past twelve years. He and Morgenthau wished to wreck completely the immense Ruhr-Saar area of Germany into a second rate agricultural land regardless of all that that area meant . . . Hopkins went with them so far as to wish to prevent the manufacture of steel . . . which would pretty well sabotage everything else. I found myself a minority of one and I laboured vigorously but entirely ineffectively against my colleagues. In all the four years that I have been here I have not had such a difficult and unpleasant meeting although of course there were no personalities. We all knew each other too well for that. But we were irreconcilably divided. At the end it was decided that Hull would send in his memorandum to the President while we should each of us send a memorandum of views in respect to it."

[Hull's paper was called, "Suggested Recommendations on Treatment of Germany from the Cabinet Committee for the President," September 4, 1944.]

[In a reply dated September 5, Stimson utterly rejected it. "I cannot treat as realistic the suggestion that such an area in the present economic condition of the world can be turned into a non-productive "ghost territory" when it has become the centre of one of the most industrialised continents in the world, populated by peoples of energy, vigour and progressiveness." As for destroying the coal mines, etc, he added: "I cannot conceive of turning such a gift of nature into a dustheap."]

September 6, 1944, [Roosevelt called a sudden conference at the White House of the Committee on Germany.] "After what had happened yesterday I was much alarmed about this meeting and expected to be steam-rollered by the whole bunch. But the meeting went off better than I had expected. The President . . . then took up the question of German economy, looking at me and reverting to his proposition made at Cabinet a week or two ago that Germany could live happily and peacefully on soup from soup kitchens if she couldn't make money for herself. He said that our ancestors had lived successfully and happily in the absence of many luxuries that we would now deem necessities. . . . As he addressed his remarks to me, I took the chance and tried to drive in the fact that the one point that had been at issue in our yesterday's preparatory meeting of the Committee had been the proposition that the Ruhr and the Saar a plot of non-industrial agricultural land. . . I said I was utterly opposed to the destruction of such a great gift of nature and that it should be used for the reconstruction of the world which sorely needed it now. . . . Morgenthau had submitted through Hull a memorandum giving his program towards Germany and it had reiterated what he had put forth verbally, namely a complete obliteration of the industrial powers of the Ruhr. . . I pointed this out and said that this was what I was opposed to. The President apparently took my side on this but he mentioned the fact that Great Britain was going to be in sore straits after the war and he thought that the products of the Ruhr might be used to furnish raw material for British steel industry. I said that I had no objection certainly to assisting Britain every way that we could, but that this was very different from obliterating the Ruhr as had been proposed.

". . . I wound up by using the analogy of Charles Lamb's dissertation on roast pig. I begged the President to remember that this was a most complicated economic question and all that I was urging upon him was that he should not burn down his house of the world for the purpose of getting a meal of roast pig. He apparently caught the point."

September 7, 1944 [Stimson had a talk with Marshall and showed him the memorandum he had written about Germany]. ". . . thoroughly approved the position I have taken of temperate treatment economically of the Saar-Ruhr area as being the only possible thing for us to do. I also showed them the memorandum which I received from Morgenthau demanding that the leaders of the Nazi party be shot without trial and on the basis of the general world appreciation of their guilt, and it met with the reception that I expected -- absolute rejection of the notion that we should not give these men a fair trial. . . . But at 11:45 I heard from McCloy that Morgenthau still sticks to his guns and has been to the president again and has demanded a re-hearing of the talks that we had on Wednesday. . . and the President has given us another hearing for the Committee on Germany to be held on Saturday morning [September 9] when he has more time. Morgenthau demands two hours."

"Dinner with Mabel [Stimson] and [Justice Felix] Frankfurter. Frankfurter was helpful as I knew he would be. Although a Jew like Morgenthau, he approached this subject with perfect detachment and great helpfulness. I went over the whole matter with him from the beginning with him, reading him Morgenthau's views on the subject of the Ruhr and also on the subject of the trial of the Nazis, at both of which he snorted with astonishment and disdain. He fully backed up my views and those of my fellows in the Army . . . [that we must accord] these men the substance of a fair trial and that they cannot be railroaded to their death without trial. . . "

September 9, 1944: "Instead of having a two hour conference with the President as Secretary Morgenthau had asked for, our conference boiled down to about forty-five minutes and that was taken up mainly by the President's own discursive questions and remarks. . . . Morgenthau appeared with a new diatribe on the subject of the Nazis and an enlargement of his previous papers as to how to deal with them. Hull took no leading part as chairman but sat silent with very little to say. The President addressed most of his remarks to me and about the only things that I can remember were (1) that he asserted his predilection for feeding the Germans from soup kitchens instead of anything heavier, and (2) he wanted to be protected from the expected revolution in France. Those are the two obsessions that he has had on his mind on this whole subject as far as I could see.

September 13, 1944: "The President has gone off to Quebec. While he has the papers we have written on the subject with him, he has not invited any further discussion on the matter with us. Instead apparently today he has invited Morgenthau up, or Morgenthau has got himself invited. I cannot believe that he will follow Morgenthau's views. If he does, it will certainly be a disaster."

September 14, 1944: "It is an outrageous thing. Here the President appoints a Committee with Hull as its Chairman for the purpose of advising him in regard to these questions in order that it may be done with full deliberation and, when he goes off to Quebec, he takes the man who really represents the minority and is so biased by his Semitic grievances that he is really a very dangerous adviser to the President at this time. Hull . . . is left behind."

Churchill, RooseveltSeptember 16-17, 1944 [Stimson was isolated that weekend on his estate by a hurricane.] "On Saturday or Sunday I learned from McCloy over the long distance telephone that the President has sent a decision flatly against us in regard to the treatment of Germany. Apparently he has gone over completely to the Morgenthau proposition and has got Churchill and Lord Cherwell with them. . . . But the situation is a serious one and the cloud of it has hung over me pretty heavily over the weekend. It is a terrible thing to think that the total power of the United States and the United Kingdom in such a critical matter as this is in the hands of two men, both of whom are similar in their impulsiveness and their lack of systematic study. . . . I have yet to meet a man who is not horrified with the "Carthaginian" attitude of the Treasury. It is Semitism gone wild for vengeance and, if it is ultimately carried out (I can't believe that it will be) it as sure as fate will lay the seeds for another war in the next generation. And yet these two men in a brief conference at Quebec with nobody to advise them except "yes-men", with no Cabinet officer with the President except Morgenthau, have taken this step and given directions for it to be carried out."

September 27, 1944: "To my surprise . . . the President himself called me up on the [scrambler] telephone. . . . He . . . was evidently under the influence of the impact of criticism which has followed his decision to follow Morgenthau's advice. The papers have taken it up violently and almost unanimously against Morgenthau and the President himself, and the impact has been such that he had already reached a conclusion that he had made a false step and was trying to work out of it. He told me that he didn't really intend to try to make Germany a purely agricultural country but said that his underlying motive was the very confidential one that England was broke; that something must be done to give her more business to pull out after the war, and he evidently hoped that by something like the Morgenthau Plan Britain might inherit Germany's Ruhr business."


. . . on this website:

Our website dossier on Stimson
David Irving: Introduction to book, The Morgenthau Plan
David Irving's facsimile record and commentary on the infamous American policy for Germany, Der Morgenthau Plan 1944/45: a Free Download in German

Website note: The above passages were dictated by Mr Irving in preparation for his biography, "Churchill's War," from microfilms of the diaries prepared by Yale University Library. We welcome reports of errors.

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