By then, prospects for a swift end to the war in Europe looked good once again. Red Army soldiers were less than fifty miles from Berlin and the Western Allies had recovered and were crossing into the Rhineland.
“Churchill looked at Roosevelt sort of very solicitously. Churchill, I suppose, had no surprise, as I had and anyone else who had seen Roosevelt previously, to see this gaunt, very thin figure. His face was waxened to sort of yellow and very drawn, very thin. And a lot of the time he was sort of sitting there with his mouth open, sort of staring ahead. So that was quite a shock to see him in that state.”– Hugh Lunghi, British delegation, Yalta Conference
At Yalta, the war’s most famous conference, the Allies agreed to form the United Nations, one of Roosevelt’s key objectives. They also settled on the boundaries of postwar Poland and those of a smaller postwar Germany, and a seemingly cooperative Stalin agreed that Poland’s government should be democratically elected. He vowed that elections could take place within a month of Germany’s defeat.
But just a few weeks after signing the Yalta agreement, senior Soviets officials invited sixteen leading non-Communist political figures representing the Polish government-in-exile , including the former commander of the Polish Home Army , to lunch in Warsaw. Once there, the Poles were transported over seven hundred miles to the Lubyanka prison in Moscow, where they were imprisoned, interrogated, and put on trial. Thirteen received prison sentences.
While Churchill was outraged by Stalin’s actions in Poland, Roosevelt tried his best to get along with the Soviet leader. Americans made up the bulk of the Allied forces still fighting against Japan in the Pacific, and the president was counting on Stalin’s promise to enter that brutal and bloody conflict after the war in Europe was over. In March 1945, it seemed that the battle in the Pacific could drag on for many months, if not years, before the Japanese surrendered.
President Roosevelt would not witness the defeat of Germany or Japan. On April 12, in Warm Springs, Georgia, Roosevelt suffered a cerebral hemorrhage and died. He had been president for twelve years.