It’s rare that any historians question the presumption that the Americans, specifically President Franklin D. Roosevelt, were the ones who betrayed Eastern Europe to the Soviets, thus leading to the Cold War and the unnecessary suffering of billions.
But that piece of historical sleight-of-hand is disputed in the April issue of WWII History by William Weidner, a U.S. Army veteran and author of the award-winning book, Eisenhower & Montgomery at the Falaise Gap. No historical theme is too sacred for WWII History to re-examine, and Weidner dismantles this common fallacy in detail.
Notes Weidner, “It is easy to look back through history with the clarity of vision that hindsight provides and condemn President Roosevelt because he was not able to predict the unfortunate conditions that eventually emerged in communist Eastern Europe.”
Instead, argues Weidner, it was the British, not the Americans, who had “misplayed their role in European politics,” culminating in the infamous and casual division of Eastern Europe between Britain and the Soviet Union of Joseph Stalin.
It began, of course, with the nonaggression pact, the Munich Agreement, that British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain had signed with Adolph Hitler in 1939. And that single act drove everything that came after; there was nothing that President Roosevelt or the Americans could have done to rescue the people of Eastern Europe.
The only party to the war who later said there was, it turns out, was the British – and Weidner asserts that this was a calculated effort to deflect blame for the betrayal of Eastern Europe that the British had committed with the Munich pact in 1939.
Indeed, by the time Winston Churchill had replaced Chamberlain, Hitler had already calculated correctly that neither the British nor the French would fight in Europe on Poland’s behalf – the second betrayal of Eastern Europe.
Weidner firmly believes that if Churchill and the British had been willing to attack the Germans while Hitler was preoccupied with Poland, the entire war might have ended before 1940.
Churchill spent the rest of the war trying to convince the Americans, specifically Dwight D. Eisenhower and President Roosevelt, to fight the war in such a way as to preserve British political power in Europe – clearly something that was not of any interest to the Americans. Weidner is willing to concede that some fault lies with General Eisenhower, but it was largely to the extent of Eisenhower trying to placate Churchill and the British military command.
And despite British historians’ post-war attempts at laying blame at the feet of General Eisenhower and President Roosevelt, Weidner notes, “It was Churchill, not Roosevelt, who traveled to Moscow for an infamous October 1944 meeting with Joseph Stalin during which the parties discussed the future of Eastern Europe. “
One of the results of Churchill’s meeting with Stalin was an agreement on the percentages of influence each country wanted over the states in Eastern Europe. It was Churchill, not President Roosevelt, who drew up a list of percentages of influence that each country would have over the Eastern European nations after the war; and it was Churchill who agreed when Stalin even increased the already-generous percentage that Churchill had initially granted to Russia over Bulgaria.
Concludes Weidner, “The United States had no prewar treaty with any country in Europe. Nothing Dwight. D. Eisenhower did in Europe or President Roosevelt did in Washington, D.C., would change those basic facts. The word ‘betrayal’ implies a broken agreement or a violation of confidence, or of trust, a deception. The countries of Eastern Europe were betrayed, but it was not by the United States.”
This fascinating look into the maneuverings of politicians – Churchill, President Roosevelt, Joseph Stalin, Hitler – who willingly used the people all along the Eastern Front like pawns on a chessboard is just one of the groundbreaking articles in the April issue of WWII History. Readers will also discover who predicted the death of President Roosevelt in office and, in another look at the tragedy of Eastern Europe, dig into the assassination of SS Obergruppenfuhrer Reinhard Heydrich, appointed by Hitler to crush the spirit of the Czech people.
Check out the Table of Contents here to see the complete list of fascinating articles and analyses now available in this issue.
Meanwhile, who do you blame for the sacrifice of Eastern Europe to Joseph Stalin and the brutal Soviet regime? Tell us in the comments below!