On August 25, a French division led the Allies into Paris. The French, under the leadership of General Charles de Gaulle , were slated to quickly regain control of their country. According to U.S. president Franklin D. Roosevelt , who wanted American forces out of Europe as soon as possible, the American troops should not stay in Europe longer than a year after Germany’s defeat.
On the Eastern Front, the Red Army was also making good progress against the Nazis. By autumn, Soviet forces had advanced into Poland, Hungary, and Romania. British prime minister Winston Churchill, concerned about what was going to happen to these countries after the Soviets occupied them, traveled to Moscow in October and offered Joseph Stalin a secret deal.
Pointing out that he had not consulted his cabinet or Parliament about this offer, Churchill handed Stalin a document outlining the percentage of influence he thought the USSR and Great Britain should exercise over key eastern European countries after the war. Stalin made only one change, and although the two leaders did not finalize a formal agreement, this was a crude but genuine first attempt to negotiate the postwar future of eastern Europe. However, one country was so important that Churchill left it off his list: Poland.
Stalin had broken off relations with the Polish government-in-exile in 1943, but Churchill now managed to get Stalin to meet with them in Moscow. Amid an atmosphere of mutual distrust, Churchill asked the Poles to make “a great gesture in the interest of European peace.” The great gesture he pictured was the sacrifice of land in eastern Poland that Stalin coveted. Churchill wanted to compensate the Poles with German territory. This massive shift in Poland’s borders would radically change the lives of millions of people.
When the leaders of the Polish government-in-exile told Churchill they could not make such an agreement without asking the Polish people, the prime minister was exasperated, calling them “callous people who want to wreck Europe.” He knew Stalin would never cooperate with the Poles if they did not cede eastern Poland. Their refusal led Churchill to exclaim, “In this war what is your contribution to the Allied effort? What did you throw into the common pool? You may withdraw your divisions if you like. You are absolutely incapable of facing facts. Never in my life have I seen such people!” The Polish issue remained unresolved.