The first time I heard the story about the plans for German officers once the surrender happened was that Stalin wanted to summarily execute 50 thousand of them, Churchill was very angry about this idea and Roosevelt jokingly tried to diffuse the situation by saying, "Okay, how about 25 thousand?"

But I have now read that it wasn't Stalin who wanted the executions; it was Churchill. Frankly, the idea that Stalin wanted to do it makes a lot more sense from various standpoints.

I would like to know what is the generally accepted story among historians.

1 Answer 1


Stalin made the suggestion of executing 50,000 German officers at the Tehran Conference in 1943. The story was reported by President Roosevelt’s son Elliot and in Churchill's memoirs after the war.

It's worth noting that Stalin had ordered the execution of some 15,000 Polish officers at Katyn earlier in the war. The discovery of the bodies of these officers had been announced by the Nazis on 13 April 1943. In context, Stalin's proposal would certainly have sounded credible.

The idea that the suggestion came from Churchill may come from news articles about some recent discoveries regarding the 1945 Yalta Conference. The declassified documents appear to show that Britain opposed the establishment of the Nuremberg war crimes tribunals, apparently preferring the idea of summary execution and imprisonment without trial for Nazi war-criminals.

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