The Atlantic Charter is hailed by some as Churchill and Roosevelt's vision of a more peaceful and egalitarian post-war world: a world where countries would not seek territorial expansion, aggressors would be disarmed, all nations would have the right to govern themselves and there would be social and economic welfare for all.

The Atlantic Charter is considered by some to be a logical successor document to Woodrow Wilson's 14 Points.  In a way it was.   Just as Wilson's 14 Points were turned into a bitter fraud by the Versailles Treaty, so too would the following promises of England and America be turned into a grim charade.

In order to understand the Charter better, it is important to understand where the war was going at the time that it was written. By 1940, it was starting to look like Germany could potentially win the war. Germany occupied northern France and all of France's Atlantic coastline down to the border with Spain, so now they were at Great Britain's doorstep. While the British were able to repel the Germans with their Air Force, they were desperate for American aid in the war effort.

The trouble was that the American population was very pro-isolationist at this time. After World War I, they had become adamantly opposed to joining another international war. From 1935, U.S. neutrality acts had forbidden the selling of war supplies to belligerent countries. In November 1939, a revised neutrality law authorized the sale of war supplies on a cash-and-carry basis, but forbade U.S. vessels and nationals from traveling in combat zones. Yet in 1940, Roosevelt began preparing for a possible U.S. entry into the war. Gaining the sympathy of the American people for the Allied cause was key to entering the war.

On August 14th, 1941, Roosevelt and Churchill met together on a ship in the North Atlantic off the coast of Newfoundland. The two agreed on presenting a plan for a new world based on an end to tyranny and territorial aggrandizement, the disarmament of aggressors, and the full cooperation of all nations for the social and economic welfare for all. The Atlantic Charter was also designed as a counterthrust to a possible new Hitler peace offensive as well as a statement of postwar aims. The Charter they drafted ended up agreeing upon eight common principles that both The United States and Great Britain claimed they would support.

When the Charter was released to the public, it was titled "Joint Declaration by the President and the Prime Minister" and was generally known as the "Joint Declaration."

What is particularly odd is that no signed version of the document ever existed. The document was threshed out through several drafts and the final agreed upon text was telegraphed to London and Washington. President Roosevelt gave Congress the Charter's content on 21 August 1941. He said later, "There isn't any copy of the Atlantic Charter, so far as I know. I haven't got one. The British haven't got one. The nearest thing you will get is the [message of the] radio operator on Augusta and Prince of Wales. That's the nearest thing you will come to it ... There was no formal document."[1]

While one of the key goals of writing the Charter was to inspire Americans to get involved in the war effort, much to Roosevelt's frustration, this didn't work. It wasn't until the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor in December 1941, that American public opinion shifted to war.


The Charter was quickly and widely endorsed by Allied nations and leading organizations. At the subsequent meeting of the Inter-Allied Council in London on 24 September 1941, the governments in exile of Belgium, Czechoslovakia, Greece, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, and Yugoslavia, as well as the Soviet Union, and representatives of the Free French Forces, unanimously adopted adherence to the common principles of policy set forth in the Atlantic Charter.

Raising support in Germany: The British also dropped millions of flysheets over Germany to allay fears of a punitive peace that would destroy the German state. The text cited the Charter as the authoritative statement of the joint commitment of Great Britain and the U.S. "not to admit any economical discrimination of those defeated" and promised that "Germany and the other states can again achieve enduring peace and prosperity."

The Axis powers interpreted the Atlantic Charter as a potential alliance against them. In Tokyo the Atlantic Charter raised support for the militarists in the Japanese government, who pushed for a more aggressive policy against the U.S. and Britain. [2]

The Arcadia Conference and the Declaration by United Nations: From December 22, 1941 to January 14th, 1942, the first Anglo-American conference after U.S. entry into the war was held in Washington D.C. President Roosevelt, Prime Minister Churchill, and their staffs of military and civilian advisors solemnly agreed to wage war against the Axis until victory. At this meeting they also agreed to give first priority to the European theater of war; to forge a constricting ring around Germany by air attack and blockade; to stage an eventual invasion of the European continent; and to land their forces in North Africa. The two powers also decided to form a Combined Chiefs of Staff, paving the way for the closest military collaboration between two sovereign states in history.

During the conference, 26 countries, including the United States, Britain, the USSR, and China, signed a Declaration by United Nations. The signatories endorsed the Atlantic Charter and agreed to use all of their military and economic resources to defeat the Axis. They also pledged not to make a separate armistice or peace with their common enemies.

The amazing thing about the Charter is that it forged an agreement between a range of countries that all held diverse opinions. The agreement proved to be one of the formative steps towards the creation of the United Nations.



Churchill in turn was troubled by the implications that this Charter would have for the territories of the British Empire. In fact, he repudiated many key aspects of the Charter not too long after it was written. Along with several members of his Cabinet, he was particularly alarmed by the third point of the Charter, which mentioned the rights of all peoples to choose their own government. He was concerned that this clause acknowledged the right of colonial subjects to agitate for decolonization.

As Roosevelt's speech writer Robert E. Sherwood mentioned, "it was not long before the people of India, Burma, Malaya, and Indonesia were beginning to ask if the Atlantic Charter extended also to the Pacific and to Asia in general." With a war that could only be won with these allies, Roosevelt's solution was to put some pressure on Britain but to postpone until after the war the issue of self-determination of the colonies. [3]

Yet in a September 1941 speech, Churchill claimed that the charter was only meant to apply to states under German occupation, and certainly not to the people who formed part of the British Empire. Churchill rejected its universal applicability when it came to the self-determination of subject nations, such as British India. He eventually stated that he considered the Charter to be an "interim and partial statement of war aims designed to reassure all countries of our righteous purpose and not the complete structure which we should build after the victory [4]."

Indeed, around the same time the Charter was being drafted and promoted, Great Britain was busy with violating point number one of the Charter, "no territorial expansion." In August of 1941, the British along with the Soviets invaded Iran. Even though Iran was technically neutral in the war, the Anglo-Soviet forces took over their government for being "too pro-German." It was not coincidental that they needed to secure Iranian oil fields in order to establish Allied supply lines for the Soviets fighting Axis forces on the Eastern Front.



The Poles were also alarmed by the implications of the Charter. The office of the Polish Government in Exile wrote to warn Władysław Sikorski that if the Charter was implemented with regards to national self-determination, it would make the desired Polish annexation of Danzig, East Prussia and parts of German Silesia impossible, which led the Poles to approach Britain asking for a flexible interpretation of the Charter.

During the war Churchill also allowed an interpretation of the Charter that let the Soviet Union continue to control the Baltic States. Initially this interpretation was rejected by the U.S, but they did not press the issue against Stalin while he was fighting the Germans.



The most obvious and glaring example of the Allies violating their own Charter came in the treatment of Germany after the war.

We hear a lot about the horrific crimes committed by the Germans during World War II, but little is mentioned of what happened to the Germans after World War II. In this era, the victorious allies unleashed a horrific era of destruction, looting, starvation, rape, "ethnic cleansing," and mass killing. Times magazine calls this era "history's most terrifying peace" [5].

The Allies broke up the territory of the former Reich without so much as a plebiscite to discuss the matter. Germany lost around 25% of its pre-war territory, an estimated 15 million Germans were expelled from their former lands and more than 2 million were killed in the process (Source: Necrometrics).

The usual rights guaranteed to prisoners of war were also completely ignored with German POW's. The U.S. and British authorities scrapped the Geneva convention and stripped millions of captured German soldiers of their status, and their rights as prisoners of war [6].

Read our report on The Seizure of Eastern German Territories for more information on this matter.



It should be noted that China and The Soviet Union were signatories on The Declaration by United Nations in 1942, the document that endorsed the principles of The Atlantic Charter. These are two nations that would go on to commit the largest mass murders of their own civilians in history, ratcheting up a death toll that was larger than the number of people killed during World War II. Mao reportedly killed 40 million of his own people (and that number is more likely 80 million accounting for all the unrecorded deaths) Source: Necrometrics. Stalin in turn killed 20 million Necrometrics. In terms of territorial aggrandizement, the Soviet Union carved up a good part of Eastern Europe (map of territorial acquisition) (map of Soviet Union Expansion into the Eastern Bloc 1938-1948).

This is also not to mention America's countless wars for 'freedom' in the post war world. In the Korean War 3-4 million were killed and 18 out of 22 North Korean cities were bombed Necrometrics. In the Vietnam War, in which America took the side of the colonizers (The French), 5.5 million died. In Iraq, more than 1.5 million have died from a combination of war and sanctions. In total, America has bombed 33 countries since the end of World War II.

So was the Atlantic Charter meant to build a more egalitarian world for all or simply the winners of the war? It is a troubling question indeed



[1] Gunther, John (1950). Roosevelt in retrospect: a profile in history. New York: Harper & Brothers. pp 15-16

[2] Sauer, Ernst (1955). Grundlehre des Völkerrechts, 2nd edition (in German). Cologne: Carl Heymanns. p.407

[3] Borgwardt, Elizabeth (2007). A New Deal for the World: America's Vision for Human Rights. Harvard University Press. p.29

[4]: Prażmowska, Anita (1995). Britain and Poland, 1939–1943: the betrayed ally. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press. p. 93.

[5] Time magazine issue of Oct. 15, 1945.

[6] Günter Bischoff and Stephen Ambrose, Eisenhower and the German POWs (Louisiana State University Press, 1992), pp. 9-10 (incl. n. 24), 58-64, 147 (n. 33), 178.



AUGUST 14, 1941

The President of the United States of America and the Prime Minister, Mr. Churchill, representing His Majesty's Government in the United Kingdom, being met together, deem it right to make known certain common principles in the national policies of their respective countries on which they base their hopes for a better future for the world.

First, their countries seek no aggrandizement, territorial or other;

Second, they desire to see no territorial changes that do not accord with the freely expressed wishes of the peoples concerned;

Third, they respect the right of all peoples to choose the form of government under which they will live; and they wish to see sovereign rights and self government restored to those who have been forcibly deprived of them;

Fourth, they will endeavor, with due respect for their existing obligations, to further the enjoyment by all States, great or small, victor or vanquished, of access, on equal terms, to the trade and to the raw materials of the world which are needed for their economic prosperity;

Fifth, they desire to bring about the fullest collaboration between all nations in the economic field with the object of securing, for all, improved labor standards, economic advancement and social security;

Sixth, after the final destruction of the Nazi tyranny, they hope to see established a peace which will afford to all nations the means of dwelling in safety within their own boundaries, and which will afford assurance that all the men in all lands may live out their lives in freedom from fear and want;

Seventh, such a peace should enable all men to traverse the high seas and oceans without hindrance;

Eighth, they believe that all of the nations of the world, for realistic as well as spiritual reasons must come to the abandonment of the use of force. Since no future peace can be maintained if land, sea or air armaments continue to be employed by nations which threaten, or may threaten, aggression outside of their frontiers, they believe, pending the establishment of a wider and permanent system of general security, that the disarmament of such nations is essential. They will likewise aid and encourage all other practicable measure which will lighten for peace-loving peoples the crushing burden of armaments.

Franklin D. Roosevelt

Winston S. Churchill



A Joint Declaration By The United States Of America, The United Kingdom Of Great Britain And Northern Ireland, The Union Of Soviet Socialist Republics, China, Australia, Belgium, Canada, Costa Rica, Cuba, Czechoslovakia, Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Greece, Guatemala, Haiti, Honduras, India, Luxembourg, Netherlands, New Zealand, Nicaragua, Norway, Panama, Poland, South Africa, Yugoslavia.

The Governments signatory hereto,

Having subscribed to a common program of purposes and principles embodied in the Joint Declaration of the President of the United States of America and the Prime Minister of Great Britain dated August 14, 1941, known as the Atlantic Charter,

Being convinced that complete victory over their enemies is essential to defend life, liberty, independence and religious freedom, and to preserve human rights and justice in their own lands as well as in other lands, and that they are now engaged in a common struggle against savage and brutal forces seeking to subjugate the world,


(1) Each Government pledges itself to employ its full resources, military or economic, against those members of the Tripartite Pact and its adherents with which such government is at war.

(2) Each Government pledges itself to cooperate with the Governments signatory hereto and not to make a separate armistice or peace with the enemies.

The foregoing declaration may be adhered to by other nations which are, or which may be, rendering material assistance and contributions in the struggle for victory over Hitlerism



The Big Four: The Republic of China, The Soviet Union, The United Kingdom, The United States

British Commonwealth: Australia, Canada, India, New Zealand, South Africa

Central American and Caribbean Powers: Costa Rica, Cuba, Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Guatamala, Haiti, Nicaragua, Panama

In Exile: Belgium, Czechoslovakia, Greece, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Yugoslavia

Later Signatories:

1942: Ethiopia, Mexico, Philippines

1943: Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Iran, Iraq,

1944: France, Liberia

1945: Chile, Ecuador, Egypt, Lebanon, Paraguay, Peru, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Turkey, Uruguay, Venezuela