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247 Note by Bruce of Conversation with Churchill

At the monthly meeting [1] with the Prime Minister I raised the question of the future of Germany. I told the Prime Minister that I was afraid that a situation might arise in which some of the Dominions held views about the future of Germany differing from the view of the United Kingdom Government.

The Prime Minister asked me what was my own view about the future of Germany. I answered him by referring to the latest report from the Chiefs of Staff Organisation to the effect that the dismemberment of Germany would be in our strategic interest, but to which they added a proviso-'provided it is likely that the United Nations will retain the will permanently to enforce it'.

The view taken, I continued, was that unless this proviso were fulfilled dismemberment involved the risk of leading to the very thing it was designed to prevent, namely the re-emergence of a strong and aggressive Germany, which is obviously undesirable from a strategic point of view.

I said that from my knowledge of the British people I could not feel anything like certain that after ten, fifteen or twenty years they would retain the will permanently to enforce the dismemberment of Germany.

If, I continued, the British had the only say as to the future of Germany and our judgment were unfettered, my advice would be not to dismember Germany but to rely on the results of complete and continued disarmament. We had, however, to take into consideration the views of the U.S.A. and U.S.S.R. If we found the Russians and Americans absolutely determined on dismemberment, I would in that case not be prepared to create a serious breach with our Allies and I would acquiesce, although doubtingly, in their decision, hoping for the best as regards the continued determination of the British people with regard to enforcing dismemberment.

The Prime Minister then said: 'I know what I think but one can never do what one wants'. I then pressed him further for his view and he said that his ideal would be a Europe divided into groups of roughly 40 millions of people. He instanced France plus part of Belgium, a Danubian Federation, a Scandinavian Union, etc. I said that I assumed he had in mind breaking Germany with her present population of about 80 millions into two parts. To this the Prime Minister said that the parts did not matter so much; we must destroy Prussianism. I asked the Prime Minister if his view was that East Prussia should go to Poland. He replied Yes and the Poles should have whatever they want up to the Oder.

To this I replied that I did not believe the Poles could cope with this increased territory extending into Germany.

The Prime Minister said that the large German populations of the areas ceded to Poland would be transferred to the Reich and he used a metaphor about picking up trout from one pool and putting them in another. I said that if that were done I could foresee a real Lebensraum difficulty in Germany and I repeated my belief that the Poles could not handle the territory it was proposed to give them. The Prime Minister said: 'Well, all this will have to be settled later'. It was obvious that we were not getting anywhere but I felt that I had an obligation to press my point again.

The Prime Minister then went into a long dissertation, saying that he was being harassed on all sides to settle everything now-the whole future economic policy of the world, all sorts of details of the World Authority, and the whole post-war internal policy of the United Kingdom. All the big questions could be settled when we were sitting round the Conference table. Meanwhile, the Prime Minister went on, 'How can I run the war with so many fronts, cope with the flying bomb problem and work out all these questions?' To this I replied that I was not talking about 'all these questions' but that I was trying to do something towards meeting a danger which I clearly foresaw arising over one specific question of transcending importance.

I then said: 'At the moment you say that the Americans are in favour of dismembering Germany'.

The Prime Minister broke in: 'We discussed the question at Tehran and I suggested some form of partition, say two or three States.

Stalin and Roosevelt both laughed at my suggestion. They wanted a great many little pieces.' I replied that the Prime Minister had himself said that there was not any very serious discussion at Tehran and I did not believe that the Americans were going to back up President Roosevelt's view.

I then said suppose the Russians took one view, that is to say they favoured dismemberment, and the Americans took the exactly opposite view. Suppose, too, that the United Kingdom reluctantly fell in with the Russian view. Then it might well be that some of the Dominions agreed with the United States attitude. A most difficult position would then arise and I felt that we should be fore-armed to meet it.

To this the Prime Minister said: 'We'll tell you all about it at the right time', and he repeated: 'It is clear that Germany must be disarmed and it is clear that she has got to be broken up'.

I repeated that I felt he should get the Dominions into the picture but all the Prime Minister said was: 'We can't divide the lion's skin before we kill him'.

I pointed out that the Prime Minister had himself just divided the skin.

S. M. B.

[AA:M100, AUGUST 1944]

1 i.e. at the monthly meeting with High Commissioners.

[LONDON], 3 August 1944
Last Updated: 11 September 2013

Category: International relations

Topic: History