Visit Your Local PBS Station PBS Home PBS Home Programs A-Z TV Schedules Watch Video Donate Shop PBS Search PBS

WW II: Behind Closed Doors

Stalin, the Nazis and the West

The Conferences


Phase 1: Set up

  1. Split class into three nation groups and the media representatives.
  2. Assign roles within each nation group. These include:
    1. Leader (Churchill, Roosevelt, or Stalin) – 1 student
      Main Role: Acts as the lead negotiator and helps direct all side deals. Ultimately, his/her decisions will shape the final agreements.
    2. Chief Advisor (Secretary of State, Foreign Minister) – 1–2 students
      Main Role: Acts as the confidant of the leader. Helps him/her direct activity by the other members of the group. Can act as the contact person for foreign diplomats.
    3. Secretary – 1 student
      Main Role: Actively tracks all decisions, map movements, and potential plans made by the leader. Works closely with the chief advisor to ensure accuracy.
    4. Diplomats – 3–5 students
      Main Role: Serve as consultants for the leader and negotiate with foreign diplomats when directed. Each diplomat will be charged with researching specific topics and briefing the leader for the upcoming conference.
  3. The press group should break into groups of 2–3 students. For each round, they will be assigned specific topics to present to the class in a “newsreel” type presentation (either live or through the use of video). Number of topics assigned to each group will depend upon the size of the class.

Phase 2: Tehran

Churchill had met both Roosevelt and Stalin independently before the Teheran Conference in 1943, but all three leaders had not had the opportunity to discuss the vital issues of the war face-to-face. The meeting in Iran provided the first opportunity for Roosevelt and Stalin to test each other’s limits.

Press Preparations

  • The press will create short presentations on all of the events listed below. Each topic review should include the participants involved, a quick summary of the facts, and how it affected the Allied war effort.
  • Atlantic Charter
  • Lend-Lease Act
  • Moscow meeting between Churchill and Stalin
  • Casablanca meeting between Churchill and Roosevelt
  • Cairo Meeting between Churchill, Roosevelt, and others
  • German invasion of the Soviet Union
  • Battle of Moscow
  • Attack on Pearl Harbor
  • Battle of Stalingrad

Nation Group Preparations

  1. Nation groups should review the provided Phase 2 National Conference Goals , which specifically address the needs of each nation at this point in the war.
  2. Research goal topics using the provided links. Consider the background of each goal, why your nation has taken this stance, and the consequences of following a different course. Divide the goals among the members of the group.
  3. Discuss each topic as a nation and prepare an argument for your position on this topic.
  4. Develop a short presentation about the war from your nation’s perspective and outline the major topics your country wishes to discuss and come to terms on during this conference.

Conference Proceedings

  1. Begin the official conference. Allow the teacher or a designated host nation to begin the proceedings with a short ceremony welcoming the leaders of the three main Allied nations.
  2. Have the press give their short presentations to establish the military and political context of the meeting.
  3. Select one country to begin the negotiations. That country will select a topic to discuss.
  4. Each nation should then share its stance on the topic and explain its rationale. If no immediate agreement is reached, then the topic should be temporarily tabled until later. Compromises and trade-offs will have to be made over the course of the conference.
  5. Periodically, the conference should be temporarily adjourned to allow each nation to discuss its options and hold secret diplomatic meetings with a single other nation. This time can be used to probe the willingness of the nations to make compromises.
  6. Although consensus is important, all final agreements must be approved by Stalin.
  7. Once decisions have been made on all of the topics, a single statement paper will be jointly written. Each topic should include one to two sentences detailing and explaining the decision. The paper should also include statements of unity and friendship.
  8. After the proceedings are over, each nation group should meet privately and review the statement. The group secretary should write down any secret reservations your nation has about any part of the agreement.
  9. Throughout the conference, the press should take notes on the proceedings. If possible, they should secure quotes from the participants, on and off the record, about the meeting process. At the end of each conference, each member of the press should write a short article about the proceedings.

Phase 3: Yalta / Potsdam

As the war nears the end and then after the war, the national leaders met two more times to discuss plans for a postwar world. For this simulation, the final two meetings have been combined. (It is important to note that there was a change in leadership in both the United States and Great Britain between these two conferences. After the passing of Roosevelt, Harry S. Truman became president, and when Churchill was ousted as prime minister, Clement Atlee took his place.) For the sake of this simulation, students acting as the leader should maintain their original identity as Roosevelt or Churchill.

Press Preparation Instructions

  1. Quebec Conference
  2. Moscow Conference (October 1944)
  3. Battle of Kursk
  4. Battle of Leningrad
  5. D-Day
  6. Battle of the Bulge
  7. Hitler’s suicide and Germany’s surrender
  8. Battles of Iowa Jima and Okinawa

National Group Preparations

Repeat the preparations used in the previous phase, using the Phase 3 National Conference Goals .

Conference Proceedings

Repeat the conference proceedings used in the previous phase.

Post-Conference Discussions
  1. Once finished, debrief the conference proceedings as a class. Compare the documents produced at the actual conferences with the student-created ones.
  2. Discuss the issues of mistrust that arose from these meetings and ultimately lead to the Cold War.
  3. Students should write a final reflection on the process, their role, and the importance of the conferences.

Resource Links

Press Resources

In addition to these general resource links, use a textbook or other online resources.

Phase 1 and 2 Resources

Phase 3 Resources