Stalin had retreated to his Dacha after hearing of the first reports and after he fully realized the scope and magnitude of the catastrophe taking place. He spent days in stunned seclusion in his dacha outside Moscow.
“We were witness to his moment of weakness,” recalled Beria later, “and for that he’ll never forgive us.”
Stalin was looking thinner, haggard and hadn’t changed his clothes. He had on his face a look of fear. Mikoyan later wrote, “I have no doubt – he decided we had come to arrest him.”
“Why have you come?” Stalin asked. Molotov stepped forward, “We’re asking you to return to work.”
Stalin dithered, “But can I live up to people’s expectations? Can I lead the nation to a final victory? There may be more deserving candidates.” “There’s none more worthy,” said Voroshilov.
Molotov told Stalin of their idea to form a State Defence Committee, to which Stalin asked, “Yes, but with whom at its head?” ”You, Comrade Stalin,” came the answer, “You.”