So, in January 1943 FDR met with Churchill and demanded that the war be continued until Germany accepts an unconditional surrender. Churchill however disagreed but went along so he would not alienate FDR and American support. In a somewhat funny episode, the big three (FDR, Churchill and Stalin) met in Tehran, Iran in November 1943. Stalin demanded that the Allies shoot 50,000 Germans after the war is won. Morgenthau went a step further and took it upon himself to write a plan to govern the defeated Germany. At times FDR supported his friends plan at other times he didnt. He met at Potsdam with Churchill and Stalin after the Allied victory to decide Germanys fate.
The main character in Michael Beschloss's The Conqueror's is Franklin Roosevelt's Secretary of the Treasury, Henry Morgenthau Jr. Morgenthau's primary qualification for the position, which he had held since the early days of the first Roosevelt administration, was that he was FDR's neighbor in Duchess County, New York. Outraged by the reports of the Holocaust, which FDR showed little response to in private or public, Morgenthau found a mission in life, to punish the Germans for this crime.
In The Conquerors he takes an in-depth behind the scenes look at decision making by the Roosevelt and Truman administrations regarding treatment of Jewish refugees, the Holocaust, and what to do with post-war Germany. Also, Beschloss points out that both the Roosevelt and Truman administrations were anti-Semitic with FDR being less overt due to Eleanors influence.
I expected the book to be about the strategy and battles of the war against Nazi Germany. Instead the book is really focused on the question of what to do with Nazi Germany after the war was won. Yet Beschloss devotes a major part of this book to the influence of Secretary of the Treasury, Henry Morgenthau. Initially, Roosevelt and Stalin were in favor of the Morgenthau Plan, although Churchill was appalled by it. Others in Roosevelt's cabinet resisted and fought against it as you will see while reading the book. When Roosevelt died in his fourth term, Truman had to deal with the question as the war in Europe ended and the American Army had no plan to follow. Both FDR and HST are credited with antisemitic remarks and others in the administration fought against helping the fleeing Jews in Europe. My greatest "Aha" moment in the book was when Truman was negotiating with Stalin in Potsdam.
Noting that Germany evolved, even after reunification, into a peaceful representative democracy, author Beschloss is interested in what went right and how it came to be so despite the passionate debates between and within the allied governments.
I admit that upon reading this book the first time in early 2003 I thought that the primary thrust of Beschloss thesis would be focused on the tactics of the military commanders, the major battles fought and the leadership provided by the two presidents listed in the title. My second reading has confirmed that this is an important book for those interested in World War II Germany. It was not, however, a book about Roosevelt and Truman so much as a book about the Morgenthau Plan and its impact on the conduct of the war and the post war period. The majority of the book dealt with the transformation of the painfully shy Dutchess County neighbor and long time friend of Roosevelt, Henry Morgenthau, Jr. The author paints a detailed picture of the man who for years attempted to ignore (or hide from) his German-Jewish roots while serving as FDRs Treasury Secretary and explains how he eventually became a committed Zionist, obsessed with Hitlers intentions to achieve the final solution to the Jewish problem. Beschloss brackets Morgenthaus gripping story and his Carthaginian plan for post war Germany with good, solid and well researched World War II information. Neither Morgenthau, Baruch nor any of the Jew boys will be going to Potsdam (246) You get an even better feel for this when reading comments like those voiced by the Ambassador to England, Joseph Kennedy, who said that dragging this nation into a Jewish war would result in more blood running in the streets of New York than Berlin. As a result the author focuses most of the book on Morgenthau's experiences which primarily consist of bureaucratic infighting among the Treasury, State, War Departments and the new Truman Administration, much of it driven by latent anti-Semitism. While publicly supporting Morgenthau, FDR carried an intense private opposition to his plan to reduce Germany to a group of pastoral city-states. Beschloss spends a good deal of time on FDRs Machiavellian management style and how he pitted cabinet members and advisers against one another and then reigning them in only when they are about to go entirely off the reservation. This left Truman woefully unprepared to assume his role as the 33rd president and to be the man that would push two towering figures of the last century, Churchill and Stalin, to agree to his plan to remake Germany while holding off the growing Soviet threat to Western Europe and at the same time supporting a nearly bankrupt England. Beschloss quotes the historian Thomas Alan Schwartz who noted that surveys made a decade after the German defeat revealed that most Germans still thought that Germanys best times in recent history had been during the first years of the Nazis.
McCloy, you're going to be the first high commissioner for Germany." That wacky FDR!