tv 1945 Potsdam Conference CSPAN September 17, 2016 9:00pm-9:50pm EDT
museum director loni bunch. this is american history tv, nly on c-span 3. >> in 1945 harry truman, winston churchhill and joseph stalin met in pottsdam germany to discuss europe's reconstruction. next, military historian talks worldpottsdam, the end of war ii. he chronicles their personalities. the hopes of not repeating the mistakes of the peace conference in paris. the kansas city public library hosted this 50-minute event. [applause] >> thanks everyone for coming out tonight. i don't know if it was the air-conditioning or the free wine or what. i'm thrilled that you're here. i want to start thanking
eryone, the truman institute to do this. it's one of the first place to do research on this project. this is a wonderful thing to be able to do at the end of it. this is my fifth or sixth time coming to kansas city. i have yet to be here when the weather was tolerable. [laughter] i've been here for a blizzard, a thunder snow, tornado and now this. but every single time i have left with barbecue in my stomach, wonderful people that i met and more admiration for this great city that you have. so thank you for your hospitality here. [applause] and i'm a baseball fan. so to be in the world series is fine even if it isn't pittsburgh. i did not want to write a book truman and what stalin has said. those books have been written before. i didn't find those interesting. i didn't wabblet to write a book
as the two other histories of pottsdam that a cold war was going to come after it. the participants didn't know there was a cold war coming. they were there not to set up a conflict amongst themselves but to stop the 30-year conflict with germany. that's what they had come to potsdam to do. i wanted to get back to the original sources i wanted to go back without any preconceived notion and see if the conference might look different if i did that and as crosby said also to go back with the understanding that this is a conference to end not one world war but two. and that the major participants understood that full well. i'll come back to that in a little bit. what i really wanted to do was touch on, i suppose two things that i was really interested in this book. but first as i've already articulated was to look at how the participants of this conference, how did they
understand what they had come to do. i'll give you the end of that story up front. they came to end what they saw as the 30 years war of the 20th century. and as i'll talk a little bit more as we go forward, a lot of the folks that are in this imagine clueding harry truman had fought in the first world war. and most of them if they had any historical sensibility about them at all, and most of them did came to this conference believing that that the reason they were there is because the people of the generation before, the peacemakers of the generation before had badly failed in their job. and they were explicit about it. we're coming here so that europe doesn't have to go through this again. as i mentioned truman was here. john maynard king had been at the first world war at the paris peace conference. so had a number of the british delegates that were here. so they were all aware of it.
for them it wasn't a distant history. for them it was a living history. it was their lives. the second thing that i was interested in was the way in which the contacts within which they were operating affected the way that they thought. in other words what was their historical imagination. what did they think had brought them to germany in 1945? what historical process cease were they thinking about? what historical analogies were they thinking about? what did they think about? i wanted to get into that. and the third theme, although it's slight less important than the other two, i wanted to understand what the role of individuals really meant in these grand historic times that people were living through. potsdam offer as perfect case study in the middle of this conference, the british will hold an election, winston churchhill to everybody's great surprise lost that election. potsdam through the
office, he replaced him. churchhill said that he was a sheep in sheep's clothing. [laughter] so you'll hear that's far from the case. also the american presidency had just changed from the towering figure of franklin roosevelt to the man from missouri, to harry truman. there's a wonderful little laboratory that we can do here. that's what i was interested in. but first i want to take you back to 1945. this is the gathering of the potsdam conference here. the first thing i want you to know is how few people are in this room. this is in sharp contrast to the paris peace conference which was held in a major european capital for the signing peace treaty and had thousands of people either officially at the conference or hangers-on.
potsdam was held in this room so that only a small number of people can be there. and that's important. the other thing i want to stress is what berlin looked like in 1945. and i have a hard time with american under graduate a little less with the army kernls but with the american audiences to get them to understand just how devastated europe was at the end of the second world war. i'm going to show you some photographs in just a second. i saw this painting in the museum of russian art in minneapolis. this is by a russian artist who was in berlin in 1945 and this is called concert in a defeated berlin. the two things that i would like you to note if you can see them on the power point, one is the devastation of the buildings behind the figures in the painting and the second is the incredibly somber looks on their faces. and to me this is a very sharp contrast, stark contrast to the way most importants begin the
second world war. most of them if we put an image to it it will be the sailor kissing in times square. it will be celebration, it will be joy. and the key thing to understand is that for the russians it was anything but. and for the city of berlin in which this conference is going to take place or at least in its suburbs, it was anything but. and i think this image sets it really, really well. i can't prove it definitively or prove it 100%. but they intentionally delay their arrival into berlin by 24 hours. i think he did it -- i think the russians did it to force the americans and the british to see berlin with their own eyes. it's a city that the russians conquered. this is in sharp contrast to 1919 when the president refused to go out to the battlefields because he didn't want to turn his heart against the germans.
stalin wanted to make absolutely sure that the americans and the british saw berlin for themselves. and what they saw appalled them. the same question from 1919 emerged, what to do with this germany? what to do with it? should you rebuild it? should you keep it in its devastated state? and as some of you may know there was a plan to do just that, the so-called morgan fowl plan discussed by henry more began fowl which truman hated. he wants to know he is not eligible to come to the potsdam conference. they wanted to take away all of the industrial assets and get rid of the central government. put power into the traditional german state. essentially make germany go away. for a while this is allied policy. by 1945, truman didn't want to
do it, neither did the british. john maynard king the british economic advisor. even if you're not going to do that, even if you're not going to devastate germany, shouldn't they be able to live better than the russian, than the pols than the french, all of who have suffered at the hands of germany during the war. what caused the two world wars? there were those who argue that the problem was not the german people. the problem was that the german state had grown too powerle. fix the power of the german state, that is reduce it to the power of its neighbors and germany could behave as a regular country. another argument is that the state of europes were not cooperative enough so that the power in europe would become a zero sum game. the problem was to create a european union so that france, germany, russia, poland don't
see it as a conflict in the zero sum game. and others argued that the problem was the german people that as soon as they got the chance, they would try it again. these three views exist in the minds of the people at potsdam and in the democracy. they suggest different conclusions about what to do to prevent the next war. there are some differences, however, this is berlin. this is right by the brandenburg gate. this is after the russians have began a massive process of cleaning it up. the few american who is had seen it in may and came back if for the conference in july and astonished of how much better it looked there. could be no doubt that the germany of 1945 was defeated. there could be no doubt that the
germany of 1945 would have to accept some measure of guilt for what it had done. however, the problem remained the same. what to do about germany? and truman intentionally selected as his bodyguard a county sheriff from missouri who had four german grandparent and who spoke fluent german. he reported back to truman that although the german people were unset that he had lost the war he didn't hear any remorse. and that worried truman quite a bit as you might image. potsdam had a fitting symbolism for two reasons. it was traditional site for the kaiser signing. this conference would be held in one of the palaces built from the german royal family. and it had become the kind of classy, ritzy suburb for nazi officials in the 1930's and 1940's. so holding the conference in
potsdam hold as lot of symbol izzism. here's another look at how berlin looked in 1945, again, a wonderful city to visit today. and they had done a wonderful job of building their building in as modern a style as possible in direct contrast to what the french did in order to make an example, in order to show you that they're moving forward from what the germans themselves called year zero. another thing i wanted to do in this book was to think about analogies. and i was here working off of a book called "analogies at peace" and the author studied that. he argued the only thing you kneed to know what a person advised president johnson is what historical analogy they were drawing. and he looked at both their public state, and private statements knowing that those statements may be different if someone made the analogy to
munich, then that person was likely to argue for inserting american ground troops into vet unanimous. if they argued that this was going to be like korea, a difficult to find problem then they were likely to be cautious. if the analogy they went through, they were likely to argue against intervention. i thought that understanding historical analogy is to understand the way that people understand the present and the future. so i wanted to take a look and potsdam he people at were thinking and i think it support what is he was arguing. the way that people viewed the past determined how they viewed the present and where they thought the future was going. there are four dominant analogies. the fourth one is the important one. there were people most of them british, some of them hard lined american who is argued that this was munich again. only the problem now was going
to be the russians. what you had to do is make a firm statement early on to the russians that they weren't allowed to do anything unless the british and americans were in on it and stopped them from growing too powerful right now. truman didn't agree. truman's principle russian advisor george cannon did not agree. there were those like james burns from south carolina who argued that the problem was the old financial arrangements that they used after the paris peace conference, the setting up of the plan. the problem in the post world war was that the united states was paying the german who is were in turn supposed to pay the french creating a cycle of debts and payments that in burns' mind and in herbert hoover's mind created the great depression. that's the problem you had to avoid. third, there were people who said, look, if we redraw the borders of europe as almost everybody agreed to, do aren't you just creating new disputes
that will see future conflict after the war? potsdam remember was a peace conference not a wartime strategy conference and that makes the mood quite different. now, i told you it was the fourth analogy that was the important one. and you're not going to be surprised which you're going to see on the next slide. everybody came to potsdam, almost everybody noting that the problem was this peace conference didn't do its job. these four men, there's only three in this picture, the prime minister, the french premiere, e man with the cain, woodrow wilson and the italian delegate didn't do their job. they had instead created this, terrible awful map of europe. the first thing harry truman said in his official capacity at
potsdam was whatever we do here we cannot repeat the mistakes of paris. joseph stalin said whatever we do, we can't make the same mistake. and again, i want to stress here that these men did not look at the conference in paris as ancient history. they looked at it as events out of their own lives. winston church hill was there. james burns was there. it appearance that burns was the man to convince woodrow wilson to attend the conference in person. john maynard king made a reputation at the conference and he was back at potsdan. the first document i saw doing research for this project was in the birmingham air kives which is where anthony eaton's papers were. the very first document was in 1943 of what had gone wrong at the paris peace conference. they were doing that in 1943 in
anticipation of holding a conference just like this. i was fascinated by that. and so what did they think the mistakes were? re's where the disagreements starts. they all agreed that this conference was done badly. one that they more or less agreed was the preparation was a distrassrouse idea. setting a figure germany could not pay, insisting that germany pay it and insisting that they would pay it in cash had been a badly destabilizing process. it's the reason that he left he any in 1919 and that wrote a book that is still in print in 75 languages. there were others who argued that shifting borders was the mistake. that by creating this map of europe what you had done was create a less stable europe not a more stable europe.
and for this, woodrow wilson came in for much of the blame. the russians tended to argue that the problem with the paris peace conference was that all of these countries on the board got to have their say. so what ended up happening was a conference of compromises. as stalin himself said at potsdam states are not virgeuous merely because they are small. so there not of them will be represent. they will be allowed to send two delegations. they argue with each other. nobody particularly listens to them. winston churchhill said i don't want to talk to the pols. i'm sick of the pols, he says. [laughter] the same issues as i noted remain. if woodrow wilson, and david george could have been there, they would have recognized everything under discussion with one exception. and i'll come to that one exception in just a bit.
the exact same issues are under debate one, what to do with germany? two what to do about reparations? somebody has to pay for the reconstruction of europe. third, how to hand the differences between the ethnic and political maps of europe? this doesn't do that. four, what role should the united states play? and shocking as it is to american audiences, truman went there believing that the united states would not and should not have a permanent role in europe. this was a european problem to solve. and fifth, what should be the role of multilateral organizations? should you create overarching international structures or should you stay with the state system? again, all but one. and i'll come to that in just a bit. as i said three nations are going to run this, no france, no poland and unlike the first
world war the british dominian, canada, new zealand will not be represented individually. they will be represented by the british. the soviet union decided on where this conference would happen. the soviet union said there would be no conference. unless it was some place that stalin could get to without getting on an airplane. truman proposed washington, hoping to get stalin to see the united states by themselves. stalin said no. he americans came to alaska. nice weatherer in july and august. stalin said no to that one as well. i think it was for two reasons. one, the soviet paranoia for security meant that it had to be a place the red army controlled and all of the americans in british were stunned at the lengths they went to for security at this conference. he wanted to give the americans
to see images like the one that i showed you at the beginning. the americans set the timing of the conference, truman wanted to delay the conference for as long as possible. and you can understand why. he was new to his job. he had been absolutely unprepared for this job. he was reshuffling his cabinet. and by the way he was hearing to hear about the results of an experiment going on in the american southwest. the british only set the code name winston churchhill picked the code name terminal. the british were bankrupt and they knew it. and the british knew that as much as truman and the new american political structure talked about maintaining the special friendship with great britain they knew that american sta -- strategic interest did not overlap. churchhill did everything he possibly could to create sim bottoms that the united states and britain were working together. he liked to refer toe the
angelo-american approach to a problem. -- refer to the angelo-american approach to a problem. there was a photograph and churchhill would slightly move his chair closer to truman hoping to make it seem like they were closer. truman would move his a little farther. stalin was laughing at winston churchhill, a man he had very little respect for. the british knew that they had very few cards to play. they had very little to play to force the americans or russians to see the way that britain wanted. back to this role of personalities? this is kernl atly sitting to harry truman's right. when churchhill was there this group was referred to as the big three. when atly left it was known as the big 2 1/2.
atly replacement looked like a real contrast. churchhill was bombastic, knew everybody, was very active. atly was calmer. people mistook him as stockbroker. no american photographer had a picture for him. nobody had bothers to take a picture of him. nobody thought he was going to be prime minister. the role of personalities was important. anthony eaton, the british prime minister was also critly important. when churchhill left, he left. and the man who created the social safety net of the national health service went to eaton. they had a meeting. he said what position are you going to seek in the new government? he said i'm going to seek chancellor. he said whatever for, all you'll do is count the money we have not got. and urged him to be the foreign minister instead. of course, in the united states, harry truman took over and
immediately moved to get rid of most of franklin roosevelt's cabinet. the man he wanted in the position was james burns in my view the single most important in the 20th century and nobody knows anything about. he was to serve on the supreme court, the house, the senate, the cabinet and the governorship. and nobody knows anything about him. in 1944, he was the guy everybody expected would beat franklin roosevelt to vice president. harry truman is the guy who nominated burns was prepared to nominate burns. when the phone call said, no, they want you instead. for reasons i could talk about if you'd like. the only person who knew how the government funked was burns. truman had been a senator for not all that long. truman also moved very quickly to remove the secretary of the
treasury with burns coming with him, the secretary of treasury was next in line of succession. had there been a problem or a plane crash, the secretary of the treasury would become the president of the united states. and he did not henry morgan fowl in that position. truman replaced ploast of the ivy league people that roosevelt was comfortable around. burns and harry truman between them did not have a college degree which is an amazing thing to think about in that situation that they were in. but burns had experience. how to read the russians, another fascinating thing. when truman went to potsdam, he had never met a russian. i should say when he became president. he would rely on these three men. and much to his chagrin, they gave him wildly contradictory
advice. robert leavitt argued that what stalin was really doing, the way to read stalin was not to read him as a revolutionary, not to read him as anything knew but to understand that the demands of stalin would be the exact same demands that his czar would make, control of eastern europe, more water access and reasonable security for their western borders. chip falls on the far right which is truman's interpreter tended to argue that this really is a different phenomenon, they act differently, they behave differently. the brilliant george cannon who is the man to his right there was the most appreciated man. he arked that the soviet union was based on internal contradictions. it was doomed to fail. the best thing you could do was to give it time to fail. if you pushed it, if you made it more paranoid, if you made it
more defensive, they would push back against you even harder. if, however, you contain them, if, however, you prevented them from expanding, sooner or later the thing would break up from its own internal contradictions. the key difference they argued was what to do with the borders and what to do specifically about the country of poland. this is where the conference was held in potsdam. you will note what they saw when they pulled. a gigantic star of geraniums. they wanted to make sure that everybody knew whose conference this was and who had conquered this particular piece of ground. the russians emptied the palace and replaced it with the best they could find in potsdam whether it matched the ark tech
churel style which left them confused. atly called it stockbroker gothic which is a great line. this palace was built during the first world war that is the germans were fighting a first world war and still building palaces at the same time. wife er for him and his cecil hence the name of the palace. the red army moved them all out. they did not see a german. the mimk that they drank came from britain. the hands they ate came from britain. nobody was taking any chances. the russians on the inside had taken all the tapestry out and replaced them with red tapestry. they replaced the chairs with red covered chairs. maximum security but at the same time maximum comfort for the attendant dees. -- attendees.
i'll be happy to answer questions on the british and russian positions if folks have them. this is famous picture of harry truman accepting the oath of office to become the president of the united states. i was taken at this picture. i spent a long time staring at it. the first is the look on people's faces after the death of roosevelt. and the second is that truman chose to take this oath underneath the poe trait of woodrow wilson. he did that by design. he believed deeply in the ideals for which woodrow wilson fought. but he wanted to play the game a little bit differently. no longer truman said would an american president come to an international conference with only speeches and morality. no longer would an american president come with a speech about the 14 points about which intent id god himself
was to give us 10. the american president would come to a conference with cards in his hand and truman was a very good poker player. so truman worked to create new instruments of the american policy. one of the first was the united nations. a form that the united states would participate in and dominate, a form that could not hurt the united states because the united states would have one of its vetoed votes a structure wherelike the first world war wilson went without knowing if they would support the league of nations or not, truman arranged a vote on the united nations for he left. that came back unanimously in favor, and the first meeting was famously held in the war memorial of san francisco, made to commemorate the last war, the symbolism very important. originally, it was going to the posted in san francisco. instead, they moved it to san francisco -- new york city.
and this was what germans generation preferred over group drove -- woodrow wilson. states would not solely be responsible for the decisions that they made, and they would be set up long before the potsdam conference began. a second example would be the financial arrangements. this is john mader jeans in the middle. this is the conference i gave us the world bank. this is the conference that gave us a global currency of gold, which was pegged to the u.s. dollar. those of you may remember before it went away in the early 1970's, there was no such thing as a floating exchange rate. all of the exchange rates were fixed gold. that meant almost any transaction done in the world, a percentage would come back to the united states and one form or another. it is what built postwar you new york city. , he keane's in the middle
knew what this meant. what it meant was there was two parts of the british empire did this, canada and australia, they would likely do in [indiscernible] and through new york bankers and new york insurance companies. this was 1945. they will make sure it stays in place until the early 1970's. great britain camp police half the world while being in debt to the other half. this is a key difference in the american approach versus the end of the first world war and the end of the second. at the end of the first world war, woodrow wilson was unwilling to use european debt as an instrument of american power. harry truman was absolutely willing to use that power. bank of england officials said the only thing worse than losing the war was bretton woods. but the british had to agree to it, they went to canada and begged $100 million out of the
current -- canadian government. the first major argument in potsdam, they should not be forced to pay like this. they had paid in blood, fairmont -- men had died. the irony of that argument was this these the exact same of the french in 1919 and both americans and french -- british had rejected it. .ower over principle there was one new item under discussion in 1945, and it was the most important card in the deck. that was the announcement they came in that truman, a couple of days into the conference, the trinity experiment in alamogordo had worked. truman had a president -- history with this. ofhad uncovered a hole almost $200 billion. he asked for this explanation. the person told him, i can't tell you.
truman at that point said, ok. after he was sworn in as president of united states, this same man henry simpson told him what that $200 billion was for. i want you to think about that. it means for the few months he was vice president, nobody thought it was important to tell him. this was not the first shock harry truman is going to find when he is president. it was the first time after his inauguration as president of united states that he was allowed into the white house. it was the first time he was let in on all of the secret message drafts. if there is a wonderful recollection of one of the white house staffers with truman in the map room just trying to find places on the map, where rangoon was, for example. all of these things, to a man who just wasn't prepared to do this. .ruman got the note at potsdam
it is a wonderfully worded note. it would not have taken a lot of information to find out what is talking about. but it is important because it was a joint american-british-canadian project, virgil share the news with him. sharedreed -- churchill the news with him. they agreed to tell stalin about bomb, but remove the word nuclear. bomb,they said they would do is soon as possible. truman would walk up before lunch, polls: a side, whisper into his ear and say we have a new bomb of unprecedented power or something of the like. for a moment as historically important as this one, there are four mutually contradictory accounts. some say he smiled, some say he didn't, but it also appears some version of a new bomb, how interesting, and he walked away. the american and british concluded he knew nothing about it. we now know that this
contributed. , andf stalin's translators this is done in the british imperial war archives, said it was anything but innocuous. he was told shortly after an intense discussion about close war borders of poland and stalin used the word atomic blackmail to describe truman's choice of timing. he would not use it until the boat was at sea, not until the u.s. was at sea, so he was quite literally at sea when the bomb was dropped. ins, i think, you want to be the start of cold war on anything, it is the post conference decision to use the atomic bomb. understanding this conference with the exception of this, you have to go back to 1919, not looking forward to the cold war. there were two major outcomes of this that we have to see in connection with 1919. not a cold war problem, but a
first world war problem. the borders of europe, the new borders of germany. the argument in 1919 had been to redraw the borders, figure out roughly where yugoslavia or poland or hungary ought to be an start redrawing the borders. so they figure that was impossible to do. even theoretically you could lesure out where all po lived, you could not create a state that could defend itself and feed itself. so in 1949, they went with a different approach. that is, to re-create the borders for power balance but move people into those new countries. the best estimates argue 35 million people boarded -- moved borders as countries shifted. the americans knew that the russians were doing this. they knew they were doing it quite early. they knew they were killing people or showed any reluctance at all. but united states looked the other way. they did so because they knew
that it would solve the 1919 problem. it would fix the ethnic borders of europe. poland is the country of course that paid the price. of key is the polish city sentence which is right across the border in the northeast there. uprica believed it was still for negotiation. whether it would be polish or german. by the time the americans got to potsdam, the russians had already replaced german language signs with polish signs. they had moved turkey into catholic churches. they had already closed all of the newspapers and reopened polish ones. the second decision that has to be understood in connection with 1919 is the division of germany. own, was an americans british sound, french sound, later -- british zone, french zone, later to become west germany.
he was horrified by the reparations at the end of the first world war, he did not want reparations at the end of the second. they did not want americans in germany and have somebody else, the russians, take the money out. they knew they were taking everything not nailed down out of germany and poland. so this idea to divide germany for economic purposes, the idea was this. if the russians wanted to take out the reparations in kind, they could do it. factories, whatever you want. that in the western zone, americans and british would make sure that did not happen. if they did, they wanted to put resources into germany rather than take resources out, there would be nothing to stop them. that is the origin of the division of germany. there was no intent on the lines of anybody in potsdam that it would lead to political division and to those divisions being in place for half a century. the most important thing i want to highlight is that these
decisions that came out upon sam in 1945 -- came out of potsdam in 1945 went as people in 1945 understood them. they went from potsdam optimistic. they knew there would be future problems in the united nations, but they thought they had all the way solved. and they believed most importantly that the problem of germany had been solved. they believed they had fixed the mistakes of 1919 as they understood them. that, it seems to me, is the key to understanding this historical moment in july and august of 1945. the potsdam conference represented the final paragraph of the european and world history that started with sorry sarajevo in9 -- 1914. berlin, poland, yugoslavia, will appear less factors in their own right then as pawns in the game
of super rivals. and if you imagine potsdam in the summer in 1945, they passed over desperately trying not to repeat. thank you. [applause] we have some microphones for questions if anybody has any. yes, sir. >> you haven't mentioned george marshall, yet he was an influential figure in roosevelt administration. michael neiberg: he was. one of the margin -- reasons i did not talk about marshall was because this was a peace conference, not a wartime conference. there are very few generals actually at potsdam. the only time they show up is in the interim election for the british.
they find out who has won the british election. eisenhower passing the budget comes to pay respect for the new president. marshall is important to truman pre-potsdam because you see him as the guy who really understand the way the world was organized and structured. it is no coincidence he wants marshall to be secretary of state once he has had it with james burns. but this is a peace conference, not a war conference, which means diplomats, not general, are in charge. it is another indication to me they are not inking cold war. they are thinking political problems. serve. went before truman before this conference and told him specifically, we don't need the russians. i can defeat japan using embargo and bombing, yet truman went to potsdam and he felt compelled that he had to get the russians to stay in the war.
ignore he enter -- eisenhower's advice? michael neiberg: there was an agreement to invade china, send troops to china. there were 1.2 chinese soldiers -- japanese soldiers in china. if we are going to have to fight them either in japan or china, i want help. our army is not that big. as soon as the war in europe ends, we will mobilize half the army. the other reason is, even if the atomic bomb works, those 1.2 million japanese soldiers in china right not survive under -- not surrender. the thinking is even if this works,the atomic bomb you still do want the entire responsibility of invasion of japan or in television of china gogo -- invasion of china to on your shoulders alone. so they will participate in a
war against japan, truman writes his wife or daughter and says, i got what i want. the rest is great. that is the reason. sir. on the putting myself position of being in charge of security at potsdam. i have never heard it discussed before, but i have been intrigued by the fact there is millions of deep globalized -- demobilized german soldiers all around this conference. did anybody worry about that? michael neiberg: everybody worried about that. what they do is, there is an entire american -- i think it is an armored division sent to berlin to clear the streets when truman and the dignitaries go through. potsdam is self, there is a bridge, ironically called the friendship bridge, they goes into the compound that the russians don't want anybody near. the conference stuns almost everybody that was there, especially the americans and
british. they just can't figure out why all the security. potsdam, for those who have been there, it is not like you just show up. there is one rail line and one company road that goes into it. they are worried about all of these germans running around, but i don't think too many people were worried it would show up in potsdam. security, i would not have wanted to be a security officer in potsdam. and in the of. war museum of britain, they kept all this stuff. the stuff you had to go through to get certified. worse than our stuff today. >> is that why president roosevelt chose truman instead of burns? michael neiberg: does not appear roosevelt made the decision. he got at flynn from new york city who did it. if there was a disgruntled -- conservative democratic wing that wanted burns who was a segregationist, south carolinians, someone they recognize. the more liberal wing wanted a
person they were more familiar with, the current sitting vice president. truman was the center guy. if you a fascinating, really thought franklin roosevelt was going to die, burns was the obvious choice. they picked truman. and if you really thought roosevelt was going to die, as it has roosevelt became president, you would give him responsibilities, but nobody did that. and i went to the truman library, he said from roosevelt to truman, don't bother me. work through the chief of staff. i don't want to bother you. if you really thought roosevelt had weeks or months to live, that is not what you would have done. mentioned bolin, love and tannin and the conflicting analyses a were revealing to truman -- they were revealing to truman.
i wondered if you could pick one of the three you would agree with. michael neiberg: i think canon said, world war ii has brought all of the war stats including paranoia, suspicion of everybody -- >> could you link that to stalin's position? michael neiberg: what he is telling truman, there are things you are going to talk about at potsdam most importantly poland that are existential for the russians. and tangential for you at best. if you go in and say, the border of poland is going to be here, we are going to fight you. the russians will fight you. they will put more into the field than you would. so what you need to do it recognize those red lines, to use the modern phrase, are to the russians. if you are willing to fight a third world war over 50 miles of polish territory, then you have that opportunity.
what you should do is back off for now, create a system in which you can let the contradictions of the russian system work on itself, let it collapsed within, because if you try to push from without, you will have a problem that is being forced back the other way. that is canon's great advice. anelieve in canon, i read interesting interview later in life, and he said yeah, i had a couple of ideas for the conference, but i also had a lot of really bad ones. [laughter] any other questions? >> i think that is all we have for questions. let's give a warm -- [applause] michael neiberg: thanks, everybody. [applause] [captions copyright national cable satellite corp. 2016] [captioning performed by the national captioning institute, which is responsible for its caption content and accuracy.
visit ncicap.org] you are watching "american history tv," all weekend every weekend on c-span3 . to join the conversation, like us on facebook at c-span history. the frederick meyer gardens and sculpture park opened on the northwest side of grand rapids in 1995. the 158 acre campus features indoor and outdoor gardens and sculptures. one of the well-known attractions is the american horse, built by nina ackerman. it was inspired by an unfinished leonardo da vinci sculpture started in the 15th century. with the help of the comcast cable partners, c-span is featuring the city of grand rapids on "american history tv." up next, we take you b