tv Susan Butler on Roosevelt and Stalin CSPAN April 26, 2015 2:00pm-2:46pm EDT
are. but then there are a whole regions of the imagination that writing gives us access to. sometimes we are writing about things that haven't happened at all and that might also be important to scour and excavate in question. i just wonder if as many tools that might help them to mind the different kinds of material. >> host: tracy k. smith won the pulitzer in 2012 for her book of poetry, life on mars. she has written a memoir. "ordinary light." here is the cover. you're watching booktv on c-span2. we are on location at prints in university. -- princeton university.
[applause] >> i want to thank bob clark. i do remember very well. i was trying to figure out whether roosevelt and stalin had seen the messages before they replied to each other's messages and it was all greek to me. and bob interpreted it so that i could figure out what was going on. and that book came out in 2005 and i have been really, i guess
talking about and thinking about and writing about roosevelt and stalin for at least ten years and this book has been the result of all i learned when i was putting together the messages but this book, roosevelt and stalin, is really roosevelt's book. it's about how roosevelt really went been winning the war organizing the postwar world and making stalin and churchill fit in with hi licenses. they were both a tough sell. what is notable is how he kept changing stalin's mind. i thought i might find the opposite but i found that stalin did his bidding. we think of world war ii as the last good war and have woven myths about it, which is natural. it's very hard for all of to us be objective about our past. in fact i suppose you could say it's almost impossible.
how many here have visited omaha beach? anybody here visited omaha beach? that very unusual. usually there are half the audience and the reason i ask is because americans tend to think we -- we all tend to think we beat hitler and the german army mostly by ourselves. we didn't. turned out the russians killed 90%, 4.7 million of german soldiers who died. we killed a little over a tenth. half a million. and it also turns out that most of what we now think about as world war ii, has been skewed by the years in between. i'm going to start by ticking off the highlights of the ftr-stalin relationship that existed.
because of pressure from roosevelt, stalin restored religion in the soviet union. because fdr insisted on the unconditional century renter of germany -- surrender of germany and refused to deoffend what he meant, stalin did also. because ftr insisted that china be one of the father major players -- four major players in the post world war organization, along with great britain america, and the soviet union stalin agreed. because fdr insisted, stalin agreed to free and unfettered elections in poland, but he trusted fdr stalin signed an agreement whereby russian troops would invade japan before american troops. because fdr insisted stalin agreed that any nation could bring up any subject for
discussion in the security council. roosevelt began influencing stalin in 1941, when stalin was desperate for help, when it looked as if hitler's army was about to take moscow overwhelm russia. fdr greaterred a group of reports to the white house and told them about the russian constitution that granted freedom of conscience and freedom of religion in russia. the first results were fix. when congressman fish heard about it, he suggested the president event stalin to the house so he could be baptized in the white house swimming pool. and then suggest head take him to sunday school. more to the point fdr told if a recall harryman on his way to meet stalin to work another russia's immediate armament
means to pressure centralin to open the churches. two years later stalin not only opened all the russian orthodox churches and seminaries throughout the soviet union he freed the three russian her to docks patriarchs whom he had put in jail in 1925. the churches remained open throughout stalin's life. their relationship goes back to 1933 when fdr resumed diplomatic relation with the soviet union a move opposed by, for example most of the state department, including george kenyan although it was backed by most of the business leaders in america. stalin and lenin had been trying to establish a diplomatic relationship with america since 1919. stalin was so grateful he put fdr's photo on the front pages
of russian papers, and he had the newspaper write quote it is necessary to pay full tribute to the initiative taken by the president of the united states. when germany laid the keel of the bismarck in 1936, the largest ship germany had ever built, stalin tried to have a light ship built in america because russia did not have the capability. fdr defended the project even as antisoviet u.s. naval person until sabotaged by thenning to withdraw all future business from any company that was interested. fdr's new stalin wanted the navy to counter hitler, and stalin was informed of fdr's involvement. in 1939 increasingly concerned with the menace of hoyt hero. roosevelt tried to strengthen
stalin's hand get hitler. fdr pushed a reluctant foreign office to respond to a russian request for a military alliance with britain and france. it was only after the british foreign officer alternated between rudeness and procrastination, that been russia opened up talks with nazi germany that wended up with the signing of the nazi-soviet pact. fdr meddled still further as he realized the english-russian negotiations failed. he sent stalin a letter bay devious route warning him not to sign on with hitler. it was of course too little and too late. fdr had no delusions about stalin. in 1940, speaking to a group of students gathered at the white house, he famously said that stalin's dictatorship was quote, as absolute as any other dictatorship in the world and that quote he was guilty of
the indiscriminate killings of thousands of innocent victims. from the start fdr was thinking of how to curb russia's might after the war was won. one night in 1942, after dinner at the white house fdr confided this to the canadian prime minister mckenzie king. i'm quoting from king's diary december 5, 1942. quote. the president said he would like to discuss tonight the question of disarmament and freeing stall -- bringing stalin into the picture. he said that was very necessary. then he asked me if remembered the saying of senator watson, if you cannot beat the devil join him. he said russia was going to be very powerful. the thing to do now is to get plans definitely made for diarmament. later in the evening king wrote in his diary fdr repeat
watson's if you cannot beat him, join him and then went on to say it was clear that the u.s. britain and china could not defeat russia. the thing to too was to get them all working on the same lines. he then came to what he said was confidential and added for god's sake don't give me away. two months after stalin opened the churches, secretary of state hall was in moscow with a meeting, setting up the tehran conference. hall announced as they met that fdr wanted china to be a signatory, along with britain russia and america in a four-pour statement calling for unite action against the axis powers and the creation of an international peace-keeping organization. fdr unique in his generation, did not think the white racing should rule the world -- the white race should rule the world.
molotov resupplied that stalin refused to agree to china as the fourth policeman whereupon hull said he would pack his bags and go home. before the meeting was over, molotov read a note from stalin announcing he had changed his mind and china became the fourth signatoriy. when fdr and stalin finally met at tehran in late november, 1943, they discovered they had a lot in common. particularly an aversion to colonialism and as they talked about france, realized they shared a dislike of both the country and of its leaders. said fdr no frenchman over 40 and particularly in frenchman who has ever taken partner present french government should be allowed to rush to positionness the future. said stalin of the french ruling class, they should not be entitled to share in any of the
benefits of the peace in view of their past record of collaboration with germany. >> fdr was not only chair of the tehran conference; he dominated the proceedings as the conference progressioned he allowed stalin to wear down winston churchill who kept throwing up roadblocks to invasion and coming up with new reasons to postpone it. fdr and stalin finally set the date for the normandy invasion, in spite of churchill who was afraid stalin would double cross them. churchill had no understanding of stalin and was comparing him to a crocodile. fdr was haunted by the tragedy of the botched versailles piece conference. he wanted to make sure on his watch the germans would suffer. that led him to decide that
after the war was over, there would be no gathering of heads of state no time when he would not be in control. he did this by calling for the unconditional surrender of germany and refusing to define what he meant. that solved the problem. there would be no negotiated peace, no one able to fer fear -- interfere what if he and general marshall decided no interference. as fdr said to a reporter in hon lieu flew 1944, in response to voiced fears that such a policy was prolonging the war that was not a bad thing. quote, there had been a good deal of complaint among some of the nice, high-minded people about unconditional surrender that we changed the term -- that if we changed the term, unconditional surrender germany might surrender more quickly and it is too tough and too
rough. unconditional surrender still stands asked the reporter? yes, said roosevelt. practically all germans deny the fact they surrendered in the last war. but this time they are going to know it. fdr felt so strongly on the subject he once said to the secretary of the treasury, quote, you have to castrate the german people or treat them in such manner they're couldn't keep reproducing people who want to continue the way they have in the past. i want to speak a bit about hitler. hitler's image has changed. today his attempted extermination of the jewish race takes center stage so it's easy to forget that he was just as methodol about killing off the slaves whom he also considered like the jews, inferior begs and he was possibly even more
efficient. he killed 27 million russians, 16% of the population. he boasted he planned to turn russia and poland into slave nation. the conflict, he announced will be very different from the conflict in the west, and poland was the only country outside the fatherland where death camps were constructed. to serve the dual purpose of finishing off russians as well as pols, three of the death camps were built on the polish-russian borderes. he instructed his generals to level lenin grad to target key buildings. his directive was quote it is intended to surround the city and then raze it to the ground. requests to bell allowed to surrender will be rejected. we have no interest in preserving any part of the
population of that large city. hitler's master plan called for the uprooting of the remaining pollses, ukrainians, and replacing them with germans germans who would kill slav lands with the latesting a culture machinely and produce buntous harvests of food for the growing german nation. given this mindset it followed that all russian soldiers taken prisoner were routinely brutalized tended open fields and starved to death if death by exposure hadn't killed enough of them. more than half of the russian soldiers that were captured died. another area of agreement roosevelt and stalin discovered at tehran was that both believed it was simple play matter of time no matter what post war measures were taken before germany would again rise up and menace europe. stalin, of there south from fdr an alliance that would stop or
deal with their next attack. fdr knew this and it dovetailed with his mindset. he kept emphasizing the four powerful nation, the four policemen who would take form with the addition of france as the permanent members of the security council would ride herd on the rest of the nations. he assumed that his rooms would be bugged at the russian embassy. stalin developed a habit of dropping by his rooms to make sure he was being well taken care of. he happened to see stalin one morning and obviously intent on visiting the president. she translated at stalin asked may i come in? roosevelt said, welcome. the conversation began with stalin's simple questions to roosevelt.
how are you? did you have a good sleep? the president replied yes i had a good sleep. i like it here. however, the frogs kept croaking in the pond and i could not fall asleep. i turned around -- in agitation i forgot what was the russian for a frog. i said, josef those little yellow animals croaking in the pond did not let the president of the u.s.a. sleep. according to -- all the frogs were killed. before the session at tehran, fdr decided to approach stalin as informally as stalin approached him. fdr felt he needed that intimacy to make stalin accept his plans which included an acceptance of power restraints. on the last full day at tehran, he went about getting it in his
own peculiar way. as roosevelt later told francis perkins, he secretary of labor -- the first woman in a cabinet position -- he felt drastic measures were called for because otherwise what we were doing could have been done by the foreign ministers. his campaign to get permanent with stalin was done at churchill's expense. as they entered the conference room fdr recounted i had just a moment to say to him winston i hope you won't be sore at me for what i'm going to do. churchill's reaction had been to shift his cigar in his mouth and grunt. as soon as they were seated around the table roosevelt recounted to perkins i talked privately to stalin. i didn't say anything i hadn't said before, but it appeared quite chummy and confidential. and enough so that the other russians joined us to listen. still, no smiles from stalin.
then i said, licking my hand up to cover a whisper which had to be interpreted winston is so cranky this morning he got up on the wrong side of bed. a vague smile passed over stalin's eye and i decided i was on the right track. i began to tease churchill about his britishness, about john -- about his cigars. about his habits. it began to register with stalin. winston got red and scowled and the more he did so, the more stalin smiled. finally stalin broke out into a deep hearty guff a few and for the first time in three days, i saw light. i kept it up until stalin was laughing with me. and then it was that i called him uncle joe. he would have thought me fresh the day before, but that day he laughed and came over and shook
my hand. from that time on our relations were personal. by the summer of 1944, stalin made a great ideological concession to roosevelt. he agreed that russia would be one of the founding members of the world bank and the imf. he even agreed to the amount morgan tall insisted they contribute. he authorized the minister of foreign trade to state russia was very anxious to cooperate with the unites nations in post war matters and felt there was special need for some stablize edmond tear -- stabilized monster system after the war. the russians want to collaborated he wrote to friends, and that summer, month later -- a month after d-day stalin created the council for religious affairs. after that, catholic churches,
armenian churches, even muslim mosques began to function. dealing with the world's most paranoid leader wasn't easy. there would be good days, particularly at yalta in february 1945. roosevelt prevailed on stalin to sign two remarkable documents totally an the cal to his political philosophy, one on the subject of poland and said this polish provisional government of national unity shall be pledged to the holding of free and unfettered elections as soon as possible on the basis of universal suffrage and secret ballot in the history of eastern europe there had over in been a free election or anything close to one. the other document stalin signed at yalta was the declaration on liberated europe.
this read, the establishment of order in europe and the rebuilding of national economic life must be achieved by processes which will enable the liberated peoples to destroy the last vestages of naziism and fascism and to create democratic institutions of their own choice. this is a principle of the atlantic charter. the right of all people to choose the form of government under which they will live. stalin also agreed that there would be no veto of the agenda in the security council of the proposed united nations. churchill's doctor, privileged tatoo transpired atal tacoma was so struck by stalin's conciliatory attitude, quote one cannot help noticing stalin 's defer residence to the president's opinions.
this does not come naturally to stalin. what is hinted it's? fdr and russia reached an agreement where russia would enter the war with a japan after germi surrendered. this meant the russians would invade before the american invasion scheduled for november in return roosevelt agreed to give the soviet union what japan had taken from them in 1945. said admiral king after the agreement was announced atal tacoma we have just saved two million americans. there were serious problems after yalta. there were disputes over the perceived callous treatments at the hands of the soviets of those american soldiers released from prinze as the russian army freed poland, of stalin's absolute hysteria when he perceived ongoingly that the u.s. and the u.k. were negotiating a separate peace with german generals which fdr
answered in a moving, emotional cable, explaining no separate peace was contemplated. quote, roosevelt it would be one of the great tragedies of history if, at the very moment of victory now within our grasp such distrust, such lack of faith, should prejudice the entire undertaking. frankly, i cannot avoid a feeling of bitter resentment toward your informers whoever they are for such vial misrepresentation of my actions. upon receiving this cable stalin was obviously reassured. that afternoon he had molotov announce that russia denounced its nonaggression pact with japan. you will read of ftr's -- excuse me -- of fdr's unceasing efforts
to make churchill get along with stalin in cable after cable to churchill, fdr insisted stalin had to be consulted and included in all decisions. the cables fdr sent to churchill and stalin, the day before he died were so inn concern with bolstering their shared alliance. to stalin, he wrote quote there must not in any event be mutual mistrust and minor misunderstandings should not arise in the future. his last words to churchill were our course, thus far is correct. roosevelt pushed churchill a number of times to loosen britain's hold on its colonies. it was after he appointed a particularly aggressive ambassador to india that churchill made the comment have not become the king's first minister in order to preside over the liquidation of the
british empire. ftr gave a press conference while steaming home afterral tacoma during which he replied in response to the reporter's question all that territory out there, he, churchill wants them all back just the way they were? yes, replied roosevelt. he is mid-victorian on all things like that. and in response to the reporter's comment this idea of churchill seems inconsistent with the policy of self-determination. the president had answered, yes that is true. roosevelt was heard to say after one of his last meetings with churchill, yes i am tired. so would you be if you had spent the last five years pushing winston uphill in a wheelbarrow. fdr's death april 12th stunned stalin. he ordinary all government agencies in moscow to hang black bordered flags of mourning.
the front pages of all soviet papers announcing the president's death were bordered in black. roosevelt's death changed everything. at the san francisco conference, ambassador grow mikko begantrack only the composition of the interim polish government. then the beginning of june he suddenly announced the soviet union noisinessed the nation could be of the agenda in the security council and upset secretary of state told him it would be utterly impossible for us to join an organization holding veto power over discussion. it was only when harry hawkins talk to stalin and today hem if wanted to continue the alliance and expect economic help from america he had to honor the yalta for examples he made to
fdr. on poland, and he had to withdraw hi insistence on veto over the agenda in the security council. after these meetings, immediately after these meetings with hopkins stalin acquiesced,tracked on both matters. on july 16 the first atomic bomb was detonated in new mexico. i want to end by talking about fdr and the atom bomb. i think i have uniquely discovered every conversation fdr had about sharing control -- sharing knowledge of the bomb with stalin. on the evidence i have found i am sure he would have shared control with russia. he told me mckenzie king a month before he died that he thought the time had come to tell them how far the develops had gone. all the nuclear scientists, including that or bush and james
conan, coheads of the manhattan project advocated this because they were sure the soviet union would have a bomb within four years. and of course they were right. just before he died, fdr asked his speech writer, robert sherwood to find him a jefferson quote on the subject of science to include in his speech on april 13. jefferson's birthday. the quote is as follows: thomas jefferson himself a distinguished scientist opposite spoke of the brotherly spirit of science which unites into one family all the voters of whatever agreed -- chafer grade and however disbursed throughout the different quarter of the globe. fdr died the day before he was to give the speech. germany surrendered may 8, 19
45678 stalin promised fdr august 8th three months to the day after the surrender of germany, the soviet union declared war on japan. on august 9, one million soviet troops poured over the border into manchuria. later that same day the second atom bomb annihilated nagasaki. two atomic bombs and a two-front wore stunned japan. self days later japan surrendered. most americans mesmerized by the force of the atom bomb, believed that america was solely responsible for the japanese capitulation the japanese and the russian knows differently. it didn't help when truman gave his victory speech in september without mentioning russian participation. i'd like to throw in an interesting but little known fact. before the war the soviet union and the united states were rough
if there same size in terms of population. they were slightly larger, about 160 million to our 135 million. of course there have been changes and of course that included the ukraine. so you can say that before the war, russia and america were roughly the same size in terms of population. but the russian population today is essentially the same as it was. it's 143 million. we are now over 300 million. they are now half our size. essentially russia has never recovered from world war ii. thank you very much. [applause] >> we're taking questions. ask you to queue up here to microphone. >> hitler and stalin were
tyrants, but isn't it true that during the '30s with ukraine and purge trials and the go lags that hitler mass mushed erred more people than hitler? >> you mean stalin -- >> mine stalin i'm sorry. >> actually that's not true. no. but the major difference between the two of them is sort of in my mind ideological. stalin killed because he was trying to create a greater russia and that's why he killed the -- the greater number of russians he killed when he was trying to change farming into collective farming. hitler was trying to annihilate the slav races and the jewish races. yes? >> thank you. i just thought in reading your book the other day and i'm up a
to page 75, which is first impressions chapter. i'm enjoying it very much. >> thank you. >> the question is in the tehran section, chapter before, it talks about fdr not wanting to travel to meet stalin there because of a constitutional policy -- >> yes concerns. >> and one thing that you didn't mention and that i am not clear on myself is if there's a ten-day -- if congress signs to served a bill to the president for him to act on the bill and then have it returned to congress under the terms of the constitution how was woodrow wilson able to spend months over in europe after world war i for the versailles meeting. >> that's a very interesting question. never thought about it before. i don't have the slightest idea.
>> i know you didn't mention it in here. i figured i'm missing something. >> thank you. i'll research it. >> thank you. anybody else? >> i sort of hoped there would be more questions on my take on -- good. >> i recall from where i don't remember -- that the concern after world war ii about germany rising up again that stalin -- one of stalin's ideas was to simply murder all the officers in the german army, which kind of appalled the west. >> that happened at tehran. there was a toast made here, here's to the death of 50,000 german officers, and everybody
toasted it, and churchill got really angry and hot under the collar. he had too much to drink too much brandy, and stormed out and was angry at everybody who agreed with stalin, toasting the death of all these germ january -- german officers. >> okay. >> i'm just curious do you think that stalin knew he was being manipulated by fdr or that he just truly agreed with the ideas that fdr was putting forward? did he have a sense that ftr was -- >> what i have concluded after all this time of studying stalin is that he is much more intelligent than we ever gave him credit for. he had an extensive library with many many history books and in the books his library was
preserved and he underlined all the things that were important to him. he knew exactly what was going on and he was of course a communist but also a very strong nationalist, and so when he was looking for was a greater russia and the only way that there was going to be a greater russia was if roosevelt gave it to him. so no fool he. he was going to get along with the most powerful country in the world, which was us. >> thank you. >> i'll just ask you one question while this nice lady is coming up. what's the russian perception today of the roosevelt-stalin relationship or is there one? >> in the first place if you go to moscow there's a museum which they -- which is very important to them, which is a museum
showing all the aid that america gave to russia. they -- they consider that world war ii is -- they call it the great patriotic war. it was the height of their greatness, and they remember it with nostalgia and remember us really with a great deal of appreciation and nostalgia and to the incredible astonishment of the rest of the world the question has been in the last 20 years, if stalin were going to run for office now probably more than half of russia would vote for him. because he presided over their greatest years. so they have totally a different perception of what happened in world war ii than we do, really.
>> i was recently in estonia and i didn't know that much about stalin but i was stunned. for me he was like another hitler in the way that he would absolutely plan how to hurt and to unmercifully kill people, and that is step anybody one. step number two did roosevelt know this part of stalin? >> yes roosevelt knew it very well. he discussed the future of the estona laugh via and lithuania, the three baltic states and there was -- he was bent on influencing stalin to the greatest extent he could. roosevelt didn't think he was going to die. he thought that in another 10 or 20 years he would be able to sort of tame stalin and make him
a more responsible person, but in the meantime, he wasn't about to throw over the united nations for the sake of lithuania latvia and estonia. he believed countries had to run their own affairs and those three countries had belonged to russia before world war i. i mean, you can't -- he was a very tough man and he did a great deal of evil, but all roosevelt could do was harness him and hopefully change him and he made small changes as i said. stalin opened the churches, only bus of fdr. that is something that is totally amazing and most people don't know it, and it's not even -- it's not acknowledged today.
>> by the way catherine hrari massachusetts a in went to an eastern service and she couldn't raise her arms them church was so jammed that she cooperate raise her arms. they were packed in so closely. juster so, for the american opinion that was against yalta and complained about yalta and maybe continues today in some form what other arguments against what happened and how do you do them? >> i think it's basically an fdr sentiment which is -- an anti-fdr sentiment. i would characterize it as irrational. thank you. >> does it have any force? >> i think there are people who believe all kinds of things to in the world without any -- the world is full of strange ideas.
i would hope that more and more people would appreciate what fdr did, and how he began to bring stalin on a road to being civilized. >> good evening. thank you for joining us today. >> hi. >> you touched on it a little bit. i've been curious how you would feel if roosevelt had lived, had events unfolded as to posed to what did happen with the start of the cold war. >> i don't know. it's conjecture. thank you for bringing up the question. i think that if hey had lived there there's a chance there wouldn't have been a cold war. it was the atom bomb that changed everything as far as the soviet union was concerned. we withheld knowledge of the greatest weapon that had ever been devised and after all we were supposed to have been their best friends and we were supposed to have been equal allies. that was roosevelt's big effort with stalin, was to bring him in as an equal.
and make him really realize he was an equal and for that reason to try and be more civilized, and he was doing a good job bringing him along and he certainly would not have -- by then, by the summer, burns james burns was our secretary of state under harry truman, and he was holding the atom bomb on his hip. he was -- it was a threat. so instead of bringing people together which i'm sure ftr would have done, it divided us, strongly divided our two countries. >> thank you all for the great questions, and susan, thank you for a great lecture. [applause]
>> she'll be available to sign book ted new deal store. thank you all for coming. [inaudible conversations] you're watching booktv on c-span2. hearings a look at the primetime lineup for tonight. beginning at 6:30 eastern joseph califano, domestic policy aid to president linton -- lyndon johnson and then democracy in the dark this seduction of government secrecy can i. on "after words" as 9 eastern and then at 10:00 a