Yalta conference

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The "Big Three" at Yalta

The Yalta Conference was the meeting in February of 1945, the last year of World War II, between President Franklin Roosevelt, Soviet Premier Joseph Stalin and British Prime Minister Winston Churchill (the big three) at Yalta on the Crimean Peninsula in the USSR. The conference was held at the Livadia Palace, a former summer home of the Tsars in the Crimea. It opened February 4, 1945. the chief questions were (1) the adoption of the Dumbarton Oaks plan for the United Nations, (2) the conditions of the approaching German surrender, (3) the treatment of Poland and the other liberated countries. It was during this conference that Roosevelt saw a significant decrease in his health. Upon his return to the United States, he soon became very ill and died in April.

The United Nations plan, which had been agreed to in principle by Soviet Union long before, was no longer an issue. There was the question of voting to be settled and this was done without any difficulty by agreeing in full to Stalin's desires. The formal proposal to hand over eastern Poland east of the Curzon line was made by Roosevelt himself.[1] In western Poland, Stalin already had a government there representing no one but Stalin. FDR agreed, however, that this provisional government should be "reorganized" to include "democratic leaders from Poles abroad." Stalin agreed to hold an election, which he said "he could do in a month." The election was not held for 23 months and Poland ended with nothing but Communists in the government [2] of a country where they did not represent 10 per cent of the people, while the other elements fled Poland for their lives. To compensate Poland it was agreed to give Poland a part of East Prussia, a totally German land. Most Poles view the Yalta conference as betrayal by their allies in the West.

The main agreement of the conference regarded the decision for an unconditional surrender of the Nazis. They agreed to divide Germany into four occupation zones, with Berlin itself further divided into zones. They also agreed that free elections would be held in Soviet controlled Eastern Europe, but Stalin never had any intention of fulfilling this promise. The USSR also agreed to take part in the war against Japan, though they played a negligible role.

Roosevelt agreed to have all fugitive Soviet nationals or citizens of satellite nations and tens of thousands of POW's who elected to stay this side of the Iron Curtain, returned to the Soviet Union. This was in contravention of the Geneva Convention. The Saturday Evening Post commented:

With this shameful agreement as their authority, Russian MVD agents strode through the displaced-persons camps after the war and put the finger on thousands who had managed to escape the Soviet tyranny. These miserable victims were herded into boxcars and driven back to death, torture or the slow murder of the Siberian mines and forests. Many killed themselves on the way. Also under a Yalta agreement, the Russians were permitted to use German prisoners in forced labor as an item in 'reparations account.' For such inhumanities there is no excuse.[3]

Roosevelt told a joint session of the U.S. Congress upon his return that the Yalta conference "marked the end of the system of unilateral action and exclusive alliance and spheres of influence and balances of power and all the other expedients that have been tried for centuries and have always failed." [4]


The New Republic, whose editors included FDR speechwriter and Soviet spy Michael Straight, published soon afterwards, "on the whole, the results at Yalta represent a substantial victory for Stalin." [5]


Further reading

References

  1. Speaking Frankly, James F. Byrnes, New York: Harper & Bros., 1947, p. 29.
  2. Speaking Frankly, Byrnes, op.cit., p. 32.
  3. Saturday Evening Post, Editorial, April 11, 1953, pg. 12.
  4. Report to Congress by President Franklin D. Roosevelt On the Crimea Conference, March 1, 1945.
  5. New Republic, February 19, 1945, p. 243.