History Podcasts

JULY 1945 Potsdam Conference - History

JULY 1945 Potsdam Conference - History

We are searching data for your request:

Forums and discussions:
Manuals and reference books:
Data from registers:
Wait the end of the search in all databases.
Upon completion, a link will appear to access the found materials.

British Prime Minister Atlee, US President Truman and Soviet Premier Stalin

The three allies met on July 17th, 1945, in Potsdam, Germany. As the conference opened, American President Truman received word of the successful detonation of the atomic bomb. It was agreed that Germany would initially be governed by the Allied Control Council, made up of military commanders from the four zones of occupation. It was agreed that each of the occupiers would take reparations from their own zones, since the western zones included most of the industrial areas. The Western powers agreed to transfer 10% of the industrial equipment of their zone to the Soviets, and another 15% for food and other raw materials.The Polish problem could not be solved, however, and the Western powers would not recognize the western borders of Germany..

JULY 1945 Potsdam Conference - History

(Potsdam, Germany, July 1945)
Events > Dawn of the Atomic Era, 1945

  • The War Enters Its Final Phase, 1945
  • Debate Over How to Use the Bomb, Late Spring 1945
  • The Trinity Test, July 16, 1945
  • Safety and the Trinity Test, July 1945
  • Evaluations of Trinity, July 1945
  • Potsdam and the Final Decision to Bomb, July 1945
  • The Atomic Bombing of Hiroshima, August 6, 1945
  • The Atomic Bombing of Nagasaki, August 9, 1945
  • Japan Surrenders, August 10-15, 1945
  • The Manhattan Project and the Second World War, 1939-1945

After President Harry S. Truman received word of the success of the Trinity test, his need for the help of the Soviet Union in the war against Japan was greatly diminished. The Soviet leader, Joseph Stalin, had promised to join the war against Japan by August 15th. Truman and his advisors now were not sure they wanted this help. If use of the atomic bomb made victory possible without an invasion, then accepting Soviet help would only invite them into the discussions regarding the postwar fate of Japan. During the second week of Allied deliberations at Potsdam, on the evening of July 24, 1945, Truman approached Stalin without an interpreter and, as casually as he could, told him that the United States had a "new weapon of unusual destructive force." Stalin showed little interest, replying only that he hoped the United States would make "good use of it against the Japanese." The reason for Stalin's composure became clear later: Soviet intelligence had been receiving information about the atomic bomb program since fall 1941.

The final decision to drop the atomic bomb, when it was made the following day, July 25, was decidedly anticlimactic. How and when it should be used had been the subject of high-level debate for months. A directive (right), written by Leslie Groves, approved by President Truman, and issued by Secretary of War Henry Stimson and General of the Army George Marshall, ordered the Army Air Force's 509th Composite Group to attack Hiroshima, Kokura, Niigata, or Nagasaki (in that order of preference) as soon after August 3 as weather permitted. No further authorization was needed for subsequent atomic attacks. Additional bombs were to be delivered as soon as they became available, against whatever Japanese cities remained on the target list. Stalin was not told. Targeting now simply depended on which city was not obscured by clouds on the day of attack.

Colonel Paul Tibbets's 509th was ready. They had already begun dropping their dummy "pumpkin" bombs on Japanese targets, both for practice, and to accustom the Japanese to overflights of small numbers of B-29s. The uranium "Little Boy" bomb, minus its nuclear components, arrived at the island of Tinian aboard the U.S.S Indianapolis on July 26, followed shortly by the final nuclear components of the bomb, delivered by five C-54 cargo planes. On July 26, word arrived at Potsdam that Winston Churchill had been defeated in his bid for reelection. Within hours, Truman, Stalin, and Clement Attlee (the new British prime minister, below) issued their warning to Japan: surrender or suffer "prompt and utter destruction." As had been the case with Stalin, no specific mention of the atomic bomb was made. This "Potsdam Declaration" left the emperor's status unclear by making no reference to the royal house in the section that promised the Japanese that they could design their new government as long as it was peaceful and more democratic. Anti-war sentiment was growing among Japanese civilian leaders, but no peace could be made without the consent of the military leaders. They still retained hope for a negotiated peace where they would be able to keep at least some of their conquests or at least avoid American occupation of the homeland. On July 29, 1945, the Japanese rejected the Potsdam Declaration.

There is probably no more controversial issue in 20th-century American history than President Harry S. Truman's decision to drop the atomic bomb on Japan. Many historians argue that it was necessary to end the war and that in fact it saved lives, both Japanese and American, by avoiding a land invasion of Japan that might have cost hundreds of thousands of lives. Other historians argue that Japan would have surrendered even without the use of the atomic bomb and that in fact Truman and his advisors used the bomb only in an effort to intimidate the Soviet Union. The United States did know from intercepted messages between Tokyo and Moscow that the Japanese were seeking a conditional surrender. American policy-makers, however, were not inclined to accept a Japanese "surrender" that left its military dictatorship intact and even possibly allowed it to retain some of its wartime conquests. Further, American leaders were anxious to end the war as soon as possible. It is important to remember that July-August 1945 was no bloodless period of negotiation. In fact, there were still no overt negotiations at all. The United States continued to suffer casualties in late July and early August 1945, especially from Japanese submarines and suicidal "kamikaze" attacks using aircraft and midget submarines. (One example of this is the loss of the Indianapolis, which was sunk by a Japanese submarine on July 29, just days after delivering "Little Boy" to Tinian. Of its crew of 1,199, only 316 sailors survived.) The people of Japan, however, were suffering far more by this time. Air raids and naval bombardment of Japan were a daily occurrence, and the first signs of starvation were already beginning to show.

Alternatives to dropping the atomic bomb on a Japanese city were many, but few military or political planners thought they would bring about the desired outcome, at least not quickly. They believed the shock of a rapid series of bombings had the best chance of working. A demonstration of the power of the atomic bomb on an isolated location was an option supported by many of the Manhattan Project's scientists, but providing the Japanese warning of a demonstration would allow them to attempt to try to intercept the incoming bomber or even move American prisoners of war to the designated target. Also, the uranium gun-type bomb (right) had never been tested. What would the reaction be if the United States warned of a horrible new weapon, only to have it prove a dud, with the wreckage of the weapon itself now in Japanese hands? Another option was to wait for the expected coming Soviet declaration of war in the hopes that this might convince Japan to surrender unconditionally, but the Soviet declaration was not expected until mid-August, and Truman hoped to avoid having to "share" the administration of Japan with the Soviet Union. A blockade combined with continued conventional bombing might also eventually lead to surrender without an invasion, but there was no telling how long this would take, if it worked at all.

The only alternative to the atomic bomb that Truman and his advisors felt was certain to lead to a Japanese surrender was an invasion of the Japanese home islands. Plans were already well-advanced for this, with the initial landings set for the fall and winter of 1945-1946. No one knew how many lives would be lost in an invasion, American, Allied, and Japanese, but the recent seizure of the island of Okinawa provided a ghastly clue. The campaign to take the small island had taken over ten weeks, and the fighting had resulted in the deaths of over 12,000 Americans, 100,000 Japanese, and perhaps another 100,000 native Okinawans.

As with many people, Truman was shocked by the enormous losses suffered at Okinawa. American intelligence reports indicated (correctly) that, although Japan could no longer meaningfully project its power overseas, it retained an army of two million soldiers and about 10,000 aircraft -- half of them kamikazes -- for the final defense of the homeland. (During postwar studies the United States learned that the Japanese had correctly anticipated where in Kyushu the initial landings would have taken place.) Although Truman hoped that the atomic bomb might give the United States an edge in postwar diplomacy, the prospect of avoiding another year of bloody warfare in the end may well have figured most importantly in his decision to drop the atomic bomb on Japan.

  • The War Enters Its Final Phase, 1945
  • Debate Over How to Use the Bomb, Late Spring 1945
  • The Trinity Test, July 16, 1945
  • Safety and the Trinity Test, July 1945
  • Evaluations of Trinity, July 1945
  • Potsdam and the Final Decision to Bomb, July 1945
  • The Atomic Bombing of Hiroshima, August 6, 1945
  • The Atomic Bombing of Nagasaki, August 9, 1945
  • Japan Surrenders, August 10-15, 1945
  • The Manhattan Project and the Second World War, 1939-1945

Previous Next

The Potsdam Conference: July 26th 1945 – The Potsdam Declaration

With the British leaders back in London, there would be no negotiations or a plenary session held today.

But President Truman got up early as usual and boarded a flight for Frankfurt. When he touched down at the U.S. Army airfield there, Supreme Allied Commander General Eisenhower greeted the President along with an honor guard from the 508th Parachute Infantry.

Army units lined the roadways for over 30 straight miles and Truman rode past them in Eisenhower’s armored car with the general, inspecting the troops.

The car steered deeper into the countryside, through quaint villages that had not been bombed. It was a reminder that not every single German had supported the Nazis, as there were plenty of Germans who had lived reluctantly through WWII and had lost so much – family members, businesses, and their overall every way of life.

The group eventually ended up back at the Frankfurt headquarters where Eisenhower had organized the military government of the American Occupied Zone in Germany. The offices were housed in a building formerly owned by I.G. Farben, the giant chemical company that had supplied the poisons to gas millions of innocent victims in the Nazi death camps during the Holocaust.

When Truman returned to the Little White House in Babelsberg around 7:00 PM that evening, he had learned that the people of Great Britain had elected Clement Attlee as their new prime minister. Several couldn’t believe it, but the Soviets seemed the most upset of all.

According to Truman’s biographer, David McCullough, ‘How could this possibly be, Molotov kept demanding. How could they not have known the outcome in advance?’ Stalin postponed the Conference for another couple days and was seen by no one.

“First Roosevelt, now Churchill,” Truman noted privately. The old order was cleary passing.

Finally, at 9:30 PM Berlin time, the President’s Press Secretary and personal friend, Charlie Ross, handed the a finalized version of the Potsdam Declaration to the press whose job it would now be to spread this document all the way to Tokyo.

“We the President of the United States, the President of the National Government of the Republic of China, and the Prime Minister of Great Britain, representing the hundreds of millions of our countrymen, have conferred and agree that Japan shall be given an opportunity to end this war,” it began.

“We call upon the Government of Japan to proclaim now the Unconditional Surrender of all its armed forces,” it was announced from Potsdam. “The alternative for Japan is ‘prompt and utter destruction.”

Ross cabled his assistant back in Washington and informed him that President Truman’s wish was to get word to the Japanese people in every possible way. Soon, airplanes were flying over the mainland of Japan and dropping upwards of some 600,000 leaflets. The Potsdam Declaration would soon start to be read over the radio, and news of it appeared on the front pages of newspapers all over the globe in the morning.

At the Little White House that evening, Truman tried to relax out on his lakefront porch. The President was exhausted and he knew that Stalin was going to be furious.

The Generalissimo had never been consulted on the Potsdam Declaration before it had been released.

But then again, the Soviet Union was not yet at war with Japan and thus had no authority to make any official demand.

At the same time that the ultimatum was being released to the press, Truman had a special messenger walk the Potsdam Declaration up the street to Soviet Foreign Secretary Molotov. Even though the plenary sessions would still be suspended for another day, the President was certain that he’d be hearing from the Soviets the next morning.

The Potsdam Conference: July 28th 1945 – The New Big Three

The British delegation had finally returned to Potsdam with new Prime Minister Clement Attlee and new Foreign Minister Ernest Bevin at the helm. Serving as Deputy Prime Minister under Churchill and anticipating a possible change in leadership, it should be noted that Attlee had been present for each plenary session since the Potsdam Conference began on July 17th.

Before heading to Cecilienhof, Attlee made his way to the Little White House at 9:15 PM to personally reach out and have a private word with President Truman. In many ways Truman would see that Attlee was much different than his predecessor.

Unlike Churchill, Attlee didn’t seem to have an ego, but he seemed to lack charisma. As historian A.J. Baime would write, “Clement Attlee had the look of an aging university professor – a bald dome ringed with hair, balanced on thin shoulders, lips curled around an ever-present pipe. He was an Oxford man with a conventional middle-class upbringing who had risen to the ranks of national power in Britain quietly…”

Many within the American delegation found it hard to believe that the British people had elected this man to head His Majesty’s government at this critical moment in world history.

Even the Soviets seemed to feel the same way. As Admiral Leahy chronicled: “Although Churchill was their antagonist at almost every turn, Stalin and his top advisors appeared to have had a high personal regard for Churchill. There was a noticeable coolness in their attitude after Attlee took over.”

The British and American delegations made their way to the Cecilienhof Palace to meet the Soviet delegation for the tenth plenary session, which was called to order by President Truman at 10:30 PM.

The ‘new’ Big Three sat down at the large round-oak table to resume business. Right away, Stalin asked to make a statement.

“The Russian delegation was given a copy of the Anglo-American declaration to the Japanese people,” he said. “We think it’s our duty to keep each other informed.”

His tone seemed to suggest that he was a bit disappointed in the Americans and British, but then he said nothing further on the subject. Maybe he thought he would put it aside for now and bring it up at a later date. It’s difficult to say. At any rate, Stalin had addressed the issue that President Truman knew would anger the Soviets, but now for the moment it was time to move onto a related topic.

“I received another communication informing me more precisely of the desire of the Emperor to send a peace mission headed by Prince Konoye, who stated to have great influence in the Palace,” Stalin then said. “It was indicated that it was the personal desire of the Emperor to avoid further bloodshed. In this document there is nothing new except the emphasis on the Japanese desire to collaborate with the Soviets. Our answer of course will be negative.”

This sort of reaching out or “peace feeler” that Stalin had just communicated could only mean that the Japanese wanted to negotiate the terms of surrender – thus undoubtedly being in clear violation of the unconditional surrender demand.

By issuing the Potsdam declaration on July 26th, the Americans, British and Chinese had given the enemy the opportunity to surrender.

“I appreciate very much what the Marshal has said,” Truman responded. And then he moved to start with that evening’s agenda.

In short, Truman didn’t have to negotiate or make any concessions with the Soviets regarding peace with Japan. He was sitting at the round-table in Cecilienhof with, as he would later say, “an ace in the hole and and ace showing.” That is to say, the ace in the hole was the atomic bomb and the ace showing was American economic and military power. Unconditional surrender was still on the table for the Japanese if they wished to accept it.

Tonight’s agenda was mostly dominated by discussion on how Italy should pay war reparations. In short, right before the session adjourned just minutes before midnight, the Big Three agreed that heavy machinery and war equipment would be extracted as payment for peacetime production.

Potsdam Declaration

Our editors will review what you’ve submitted and determine whether to revise the article.

Potsdam Declaration, ultimatum issued by the United States, Great Britain, and China on July 26, 1945, calling for the unconditional surrender of Japan. The declaration was made at the Potsdam Conference near the end of World War II.

Two months after Germany surrendered, Allied leaders gathered in Potsdam, Germany, to discuss peace settlements, among other issues. However, although the European phase of the conflict had ended, the war continued in the Pacific theatre as Japan remained committed to fighting. U.S. Pres. Harry S. Truman, British Prime Minister Winston Churchill, and Chinese Nationalist leader Chiang Kai-shek thus drafted a declaration that defined the terms for Japan’s surrender and made dire warnings if the country failed to put down its weapons Soviet leader Joseph Stalin was not part of the ultimatum because his country had not yet declared war on Japan.

The declaration claimed that “unintelligent calculations” by Japan’s military advisers had brought the country to the “threshold of annihilation.” Hoping that the Japanese would “follow the path of reason,” the leaders outlined their terms of surrender, which included complete disarmament, occupation of certain areas, and the creation of a “responsible government.” However, it also promised that Japan would not “be enslaved as a race or destroyed as a nation.” The declaration ended by warning of “prompt and utter destruction” if Japan failed to unconditionally surrender.

Potsdam Conference – Day 11: Friday, July 27, 1945

Vyacheslav Molotov showed up at the Little White House for a one on one meeting with Jimmy Byrnes at 6:00 PM.

The Truman Villa (“The Little White House”) Kaiserstr. 2 (today Karl-Marx-Str.)

Molotov appeared furious and quickly lashed out. “Why were we not consulted regarding this ultimatum with Japan?”

Byrnes calmly stated the obvious – that is, “We did not consult the Soviet Government since the latter was not at war with Japan and we did not wish to embarrass them,” according to Byrnes’s interpreter on the scene, Chip Bohlen. “Mr. Molotov replied that he was not authorized to discuss this matter further. He left the implication that Marshal Stalin would revert to it at some time.”

Meanwhile, the British delegation still hadn’t returned from London so the tenth plenary session would be put on hold for another day.

This gave Byrnes and Molotov a chance to negotiate one of the Conference’s most contentious issues: reparations and the future of Germany.

Secretary of State Byrnes

The Soviet Union had shed more blood and suffered more death in WWII than any other nation by far, and the Soviets expected to get the lion’s share of reparations in return.

First and foremost, the Soviets were first demanding that Germany pay $20 billion in reparations of which half would go to the USSR. This figure was introduced at the Yalta Conference and accepted by Roosevelt not as an agreement, but rather “as a basis for discussion.”

This money was critical to the Soviet plan for postwar expansion and Molotov pressed Byrnes on agreeing to it. But Byrnes had to remind the Soviet Foreign Minister and explain to him in the simplest of terms that the $20 billion figure was set up at Yalta as a basis for discussion.

“If you say I owe you a million dollars and I say I will discuss it with you,” Byrnes would famously say during this meeting, “that does not mean I am going to write you a check for a million dollars.”

But he didn’t. Byrnes’s analogy wasn’t sinking in the Soviets wanted to get paid.

Yet, Byrnes knew that the $20 billion just wasn’t practical. He explained to Molotov and reminded him that Germany was in shambles hundreds of thousands were starving, and were in desperate need of food, water and shelter.

And really the only way that Germany would be able to pay this would be through loans from the United States, which would likely never be paid back. History would therefore be repeating itself, as this was exactly the mistake that the United Sates made after WWI, and the American people would simply and surely not stand for it again.

Foregin Minister Molotov

So Byrnes had to come up with something else – that is, “namely, that each country would obtain its reparations from its own zone (of occupation) and would exchange goods between the zones,” Byrnes said.

Molotov immediately wanted clarification. Did this mean that each of the four occupying powers “would have a free hand in their own zones (to extract reparations) and would act entirely independently of the others?”

It’s funny that Molotov would even bring this up, for there was already ample evidence that the Soviets had been looting territories that the Red Army had conquered – in especially Germany.

President Truman had appointed a man named Edwin Pauley, a wealthy California oilman, as the U.S. representative on the Allied Reparations Committee. Pauley had been touring Germany and observed as he would write, “Red Army men packing woodworking machines, bakery ovens, textile looms, electric generators, transformers, telephone equipment – countless items, most of which could not be considered war potential, and assuredly not war booty. Yet there they were, moving before my eyes, on their way to the Soviet Union.”

In other words, the Soviets had already begun paying themselves at Germany’s expense.

When Byrnes asked Molotov if the Soviet authorities were removing German equipment and materials, even household goods, for transport to the USSR, Molotov did not deny it. “Yes,” he said. “This is the case.”

Yet, Byrnes was talking solely about reparations from each occupying power’s own zone, which hadn’t (wasn’t supposed to) even begun.

According to the meeting minutes: “The Secretary knew that there were some practical issues that needed to be confronted…The Russians grew the most food but had less industry the British zone had the most manufacturing but would need to import food. These economic complexities would require trade, and meanwhile, each occupying nation would be extracting reparations from its own zone.”

Byrnes’s plan was an attempt to create a mechanism for a peaceful occupied Germany that would eventually reunify. He wanted to avoid future conflict between the United States and the Soviet Union, and thus diving Germany between east and west.

Interpreter Chip Bohlen recorded in his notes: “The Secretary said that he felt that without some such arrangement the difficulties would be insurmountable and would be a continued source of disagreement and trouble between our countries.”

Molotov, however, refused to let the $20 billion figure go and began to point fingers at the Americans that they were breaking the promise they had made at Yalta.

The meeting ended where it had started, with no agreement. Already, the hope for a peaceful reunification of Germany was slipping away.

Japanese Prime Minister Suzuki

Meanwhile in Tokyo, Prime Minster Kantaro Suzuki and his cabinet had met during the morning to discuss the release of the Potsdam Declaration.

Suzuki decided to simply ignore the matter. The declaration, he said at a press conference, was nothing but a rehash of old proposals and as such, beneath contempt. He would “kill (it) with silence,” he said.

The Potsdam Declaration had clearly warned the Japanese of “prompt and utter destruction” if they did not accept it.

Potsdam Agreements

At the end of the conference, the three heads of government agreed on the following actions. All other issues would to be answered by the final peace conference to be called as soon as possible.

  • Allied Chiefs of Staff at the Potsdam Conference would temporarily partition Vietnam at the 16th parallel (just North of Da Nang) for operational convenience.
  • It was agreed that British forces would take the surrender of Japanese forces in Saigon for the southern half of Indochina, whilst Japanese troops in the northern half would surrender to the Chinese.
  • Issuance of a statement of aims of the occupation of Germany by the Allies: demilitarization, denazification, democratization, decentralization, and decartelization.
  • Division of Germany and Austria respectively into four occupation zones (earlier agreed in principle at Yalta), and the similar division of each capital, Berlin and Vienna, into four zones.
  • Agreement on the prosecution of Nazi war criminals.
  • Reversion of all German annexations in Europe, including Sudetenland, Alsace-Lorraine, Austria, and the westernmost parts of Poland
  • Germany’s eastern border was to be shifted westwards to the Oder–Neisse line, effectively reducing Germany in size by approximately 25% compared to its 1937 borders. The territories east of the new border comprised East Prussia, Silesia, West Prussia, and two thirds of Pomerania. These areas were mainly agricultural, with the exception of Upper Silesia which was the second largest centre of German heavy industry.
  • “Orderly and humane” expulsions of the German populations remaining beyond the new eastern borders of Germany from Poland, Czechoslovakia, and Hungary, but not Yugoslavia.
  • Agreement on war reparations to the Soviet Union from their zone of occupation in Germany.
  • Ensuring that German standards of living did not exceed the European average.
  • Destruction of German industrial war-potential through the destruction or control of all industry with military potential.
  • A Provisional Government of National Unity recognized by all three powers should be created in Poland.
  • Poles who were serving in the British Army should be free to return to Poland, with no security upon their return to the communist country guaranteed.
  • The provisional western border of Poland should be the Oder–Neisse line, defined by the Oder and Neisse rivers.
  • The Soviet Union declared it would settle the reparation claims of Poland from its own share of the overall reparation payments.


A number of changes had taken place in the five months since the Yalta Conference and greatly affected the relationships among the leaders. The Soviets occupied Central and Eastern Europe, and the Red Army effectively controlled the Baltic States, Poland, Czechoslovakia, Hungary, Bulgaria, and Romania. Refugees fled from those countries. Stalin had set up a puppet communist government in Poland, insisted that his control of Eastern Europe was a defensive measure against possible future attacks, and claimed that it was a legitimate sphere of Soviet influence. [8]

Winston Churchill, who had served for most of the war as British prime minister in a coalition government, was replaced during the conference by Clement Attlee. Churchill's administration had a Soviet policy since the early 1940s that differed considerably from Roosevelt's and believed Stalin to be a "devil"-like tyrant, who led a vile system. [9] A general election was held in the United Kingdom on 5 July 1945, but its results were delayed to allow the votes of armed forces personnel to be counted in their home constituencies. The outcome became known during the conference, when Attlee became the new prime minister.

Roosevelt had died on 12 April 1945, when US Vice-President Harry Truman assumed the presidency, which saw VE Day (Victory in Europe) within a month and VJ Day (Victory in Japan) on the horizon. During the war, in the name of Allied unity, Roosevelt had brushed off warnings of potential domination by Stalin over parts of Europe by explaining, "I just have a hunch that Stalin is not that kind of a man. I think that if I give him everything I possibly can and ask for nothing from him in return, 'noblesse oblige,' he won't try to annex anything and will work with me for a world of democracy and peace." [10]

Truman closely followed the Allied progress of the war. George Lenczowski noted that "despite the contrast between his relatively modest background and the international glamour of his aristocratic predecessor, [Truman] had the courage and resolution to reverse the policy that appeared to him naive and dangerous," which was "in contrast to the immediate, often ad hoc moves and solutions dictated by the demands of the war." [11] With the end of the war, the priority of Allied unity was replaced by the challenge of the relationship between the two emerging superpowers. [11] Both leading powers continued to portray a cordial relationship to the public, but suspicion and distrust lingered between them. [12]

Truman was much more suspicious of the Soviets than Roosevelt had been and became increasingly suspicious of Stalin's intentions. [11] Truman and his advisers saw Soviet actions in Eastern Europe as aggressive expansionism, which was incompatible with the agreements committed to by Stalin at Yalta in February. In addition, Truman became aware of possible complications elsewhere after Stalin had objected to Churchill's proposal for an Allied withdrawal from Iran ahead of the schedule that had been agreed at the Tehran Conference. The Potsdam Conference was the only time that Truman met Stalin in person. [13] [14]

At the Yalta Conference, France was granted an occupation zone within Germany. France was a participant in the Berlin Declaration and was to be an equal member of the Allied Control Council. Nevertheless, at the insistence of the Americans, Charles de Gaulle was not invited to Potsdam, just as he had been denied representation at Yalta for fear that he would reopen the Yalta decisions. De Gaulle thus felt a diplomatic slight, which became a cause of deep and lasting resentment for him. [15] Other reasons for the omission included the longstanding personal mutual antagonism between Roosevelt and de Gaulle, ongoing disputes over the French and American occupation zones, and the anticipated conflicts of interest over French Indochina. [16] It also reflected the judgement of the British and the Americans that French aims, with respect to many items on the conference's agenda, were likely to contradict agreed-upon Anglo-American objectives. [17]

At the end of the conference, the three heads of government agreed on the following actions. All other issues were to be resolved by the final peace conference, which was to be called as soon as possible.

Germany Edit

  • The Allies issued a statement of aims for their occupation of Germany: demilitarization, denazification, democratization, decentralization, dismantling, and decartelization. More specifically, as for the demilitarization and disarmament of Germany, the Allies decided to abolish the SS the SA the SD, the Gestapo the air, land, and naval forces and organizations, staffs, and institutions that were in charge of keeping alive the military tradition in Germany. Concerning the democratization of Germany, the "Big Three" thought it to be of great importance for the Nazi Party and its affiliated organizations to be destroyed. Thus, the Allies would prevent all Nazi activity and prepare for the reconstruction of German political life in a democratic state. [18]
  • All Nazi laws would be abolished, which established discrimination on grounds of race, creed, and political opinion and as a result could not be accepted in a democratic country. [19]
  • Both Germany and Austria were to be divided into four occupation zones, as had been agreed in principle at Yalta, and similarly, each capital (Berlin and Vienna) would be divided into four zones.
  • Nazi war criminals were to be put on trial. Specifically, at the Potsdam Conference, the three governments tried to reach an agreement on trial methods for war criminals whose crimes under the Moscow Declaration of October 1943 had no geographical restriction. Meanwhile, the leaders were aware of ongoing weeks-long discussions in London between the representatives of the United States, the United Kingdom, France, and the Soviet Union. Their purpose was to bring the war criminals to trial as soon as possible and eventually to justice. The first list of defendants would be published before September 1. The leaders' objective was that the London negotiations would have a positive result validated by an agreement, which was signed at London on August 8 1945. [20]
  • All German annexations in Europe were to be reversed, including the Sudetenland, Alsace-Lorraine, Austria, and the westernmost parts of Poland.
  • Germany's eastern border was to be shifted westwards to the Oder–Neisse line, which effectively reduced Germany in size by approximately 25% from its 1937 borders. The territories east of the new border were East Prussia, Silesia, West Prussia, and two thirds of Pomerania. The areas were mainly agricultural, with the exception of Upper Silesia, which was the second-largest centre of German heavy industry.
  • "Orderly and humane" expulsions of the German populations remaining beyond the new eastern borders of Germany were to be carried out from Poland, Czechoslovakia, and Hungary but not Yugoslavia. [21]
  • Nazi Party members who held public positions and who opposed postwar Allied aims were to be removed from office. They were to be replaced by those who, based on their political and moral beliefs, were in support of a democratic system. [22]
  • The German judicial system was to be reorganized based on democratic ideals of equality and justice under law. [23]
  • The German educational system was to be controlled to eliminate fascist doctrines and to develop democratic ideas. [24]
  • The Allies encouraged the existence of democratic parties in Germany with right of assembly and of public discussion. [25]
  • Freedoms of speech, press, religion, and religious institutions were to be respected. The formation of free trade unions was to be permitted as well. [26] to the Soviet Union from its zone of occupation in Germany were agreed upon. In addition to the reparations, the Soviet Union would also receive reparations from the western zones of occupation, but it had to give up all claims on German industries in the western zones. Specifically, 15% of usable industrial capital equipment, consisting of metallurgical, chemical, and machine manufacturing industries, was to be removed from the western zones in exchange for food, coal, potash, zinc, timber, clay, and petroleum products from the eastern zones. The Soviet Union bore the responsibility of transferring the products from the eastern zone within five years. Moreover, 10% of the industrial capacity of the western zones unnecessary for the German peace economy were to be transferred to the Soviet Union within two years, without any obligation of further payment of any kind in return. The Soviet Union promised to settle the reparation claims of Poland from its own share of reparations. [27] Stalin successfully proposed for Poland to be excluded from the division of German compensation and to be later granted 15% of the compensation given to the Soviet Union. [7][28] The Soviet Union did not make any claims on gold captured by Allied troops in Germany. [29]
  • The conference concluded that it was necessary to set limits regarding the disposition and future use of the defeated German navy and of merchant ships. The American, British, and Soviet governments decided that they would assign experts to co-operate, which would soon lead to principles to be agreed upon and announced by the three governments. [30]
  • War reparations to the United States, the United Kingdom, and other countries would be received from their own zones of occupation, with the amounts to be determined within six months. The United States and the United Kingdom would give up all claims on German industries located in the eastern zone of occupation, as well as on German foreign assets in Bulgaria, Finland, Hungary, Romania, and eastern Austria. The removal of industrial equipment from the western zones to satisfy reparations was to be completed within two years from the determination of reparations. The Allied Control Council was to make the determination of the equipment following policies set by the Allied Commission and with the participation of France. [7][31]
  • The German standard of living was to be prevented from exceeding the European average. The types and amounts of industry to be dismantled to achieve that was to be determined later (see Allied plans for German industry after World War II).
  • The German industrial war potential was to be destroyed by the destruction or control of all industries with military potential. To that end, all civilian shipyards and aircraft factories were to be dismantled or otherwise destroyed. All production capacity associated with war potential, such as metal, chemicals, or machinery factories, were to be reduced to a minimum level, which would later be determined by the Allied Control Commission. The manufacturing capacity thus made "surplus" was to be dismantled as reparations or otherwise destroyed. All research and international trade were to be controlled. The economy was to be decentralised by decartelisation and reorganised, with the primary emphasis on agriculture and peaceful domestic industries. In early 1946, an agreement was reached on the details of the latter in which Germany was to be converted into having an agricultural and light industrial economy. German exports were to be coal, beer, toys, textiles, etc., which would take the place of the heavy industrial products that had been most of Germany's prewar exports. [32]

France, having been excluded from the conference, resisted implementing the Potsdam agreements within its occupation zone. In particular, the French refused to resettle any Germans expelled from the east. Moreover, the French did not accept any obligation to abide by the Potsdam agreements in the proceedings of the Allied Control Council. In particular, it reserved the right to block any proposals to establish common policies and institutions across Germany as a whole and anything that could lead to the eventual emergence of an unified German government. [33]

Austria Edit

The Soviet Union proposed for the authority of Karl Renner's provisional government to be extended to all of Austria. The Allies agreed to examine the proposal after of British and American forces entered Vienna. [34]

Poland Edit

  • A Provisional Government of National Unity, created by the Soviets and known as the Lublin Poles, was to be recognized by all three powers. The Big Three's recognition of the Soviet-controlled government effectively meant the end of recognition of the London-based Polish government-in-exile.
  • The British and the Americans governments took measures for the Polish Provisional Government to own property in the territories of Poland and to have all the legal rights to the property so that no other government could have it. [35]
  • Poles serving in the British Army would be free to return to Communist Poland but with no guarantee of their security upon their return. [dubious – discuss]
  • All Poles who returned to Poland would be accorded personal and property rights. [36]
  • The Polish Provisional Government agreed to hold, as soon as possible, free elections with widespread suffrage and secret ballots. Democratic and anti-Nazi parties would have the right to take part, and representatives of the Allied press would have full freedom to report on developments during the elections. [37]
  • The Soviet Union declared that it would settle the reparation claims of Poland from its own share of the overall reparation payments. [7][38]
  • The provisional western border would be the Oder–Neisse line, defined by the Oder and Neisse Rivers. Silesia, Pomerania, the southern part of East Prussia, and the former Free City of Danzig would be under Polish administration. However, the final delimitation of the western frontier of Poland would await the peace settlement, which take only place 45 years later, in 1990, during the Treaty on the Final Settlement with Respect to Germany. [7]

The Soviet Union proposed to the Conference for the territorial questions to be resolved permanently after peace was established in those regions. More specifically, the proposal referred to the section of the western Soviet border near the Baltic Sea. The area would pass from the eastern shore of the Bay of Danzig to the east, north of Braunsberg and Goldap, to the meeting point of the frontiers of Lithuania, the Polish Republic, and East Prussia.

After the conference considered the Soviet recommendation, it agreed for the city of Königsberg and the area next to it to be transferred to the Soviet Union.

Truman and Winston Churchill guaranteed that they would support the proposals of the conference when peace was eventually ensured. [39]

Italy Edit

The Soviet Union made a proposal to the conference concerning the mandated territories and conformed with what had been decided at the Yalta Conference and the Charter of the United Nations.

After various opinions on the question had been discussed, the foreign prime ministers agreed that it was essential to decide at once the preparation of a peace treaty for Italy, combined with the disposition of any former Italian territories. In September, the Council of Ministers of Foreign Affairs would examine the question of the Italian territory. [40]

Orderly transfers of German populations Edit

At the conference, the Allied leaders confirmed their previous commitment to the removal of German populations from Poland, Czechoslovakia, and Hungary, which the governments of those countries had already begun to put into effect. All three at Potsdam were convinced that the transfer of the German populations should be completed as soon as possible. They emphasized that the transfers should proceed in an orderly and humane manner, but up to two million German civilians were eventually killed during the expulsions. [ citation needed ]

The leaders decided that the Allied Control Council in Germany would deal with the matter giving priority to the equal distribution of Germans among the zones of occupation. Representatives on the Control Council were to report to their governments and each zonal administration on the number of people who had already entered Germany from the eastern countries. [7] The representatives would also form an estimation ob the future pace of transfers and focus on the German capacity to take people in.

The Eastern countries' governments were informed of the methods of further transfers and were requested for a temporary suspension of the expulsions until the Allied Control Council had reported. The Big Three had been concerned by reports from the Control Council and so would examine the matter. [41]

Revised Allied Control Commission procedures in Rumania, Bulgaria, and Hungary Edit

The Big Three took notice that the Soviet representatives on the Allied Control Commissions in Rumania, Bulgaria, and Hungary had communicated to their British and Americans colleagues proposals for refining the work of the Control Commission since the war in Europe had ended. The three leaders agreed on the revision of the procedures of the commissions in these countries and took into consideration the interests and responsibilities of their own governments, which together presented the terms of the armistice to the occupied countries. [7] [42]

Council of Foreign Ministers Edit

The Conference agreed on the establishment of a Council of Foreign Ministers to represent the five principal powers, continue the essential preliminary work for the peace settlements, and assume other matters that could occasionally be committed to the Council by agreement of the governments participating it. The establishment of the Council in question did not contradict the agreement of the Yalta Conference that there should be periodic meetings among the foreign secretaries of the three governments. According to the text of the agreement for the establishment of the Council, this was decided: [7]

  1. A Council composed of the Foreign Ministers of the United Kingdom, the Union of the Soviet Socialist Republics, China, France and the United States should be established. [7][43]
  2. (I) The Council should meet in London and form the Joint Secretariat. Each of the foreign ministers would be accompanied by a high-ranking deputy, properly authorized to continue the work of the Council in the absence of their foreign minister, and by a small staff of technical advisers. (II) The first meeting of the Council should be held in London not later than 1 September 1945. Meetings could also be held by common agreement in other capitals. [7][44]
  3. (I) The Council should be authorized to write, with a view to their submission to the United Nations, treaties of peace with Italy, Rumania, Bulgaria, Hungary, and Finland, and to propose settlements of territorial issues pending the termination of the war in Europe. The Council should also prepare a peace settlement for Germany to be accepted by the government of Germany when a government adequate for the purpose is established. (II) To accomplish the previous tasks, the Council would be composed of the members representing those states which were signatories to the terms of surrender imposed upon the enemy state concerned. [45]
  4. (I) On any occasion the Council would consider a question of direct interest to a state not represented, such state should be requested to send representatives to participate in the discussion of that question. (II) The Council would be able to adapt its procedure to the particular problem under consideration. In some cases, it could hold its initial discussions before the participation of other interested states. Following the decision of the Conference, the Big Three have each addressed an invitation to the Governments of China and France, to adopt the text and to join in establishing the Council. [7][46]

Concluding peace treaties and facilitating membership in United Nations Edit

The Conference agreed to apply common policies for determining, at the earliest opportunity, the terms of the peace.

In general, the Big Three desired that dispositions of Italy, Bulgaria, Finland, Hungary, and Romania should be resolved by the end of the negotiations. They believed that the other Allies would share their point of view.

As the disposition of Italy was one of the most important issues that required the attention of the new Council of Foreign Ministers, the three governments were especially concerned with concluding a peace treaty with Italy, especially as it had been the first of the Axis powers to break with Germany and to participate in Allied operations against Japan.

Italy was making significant progress in gaining its freedom and rejecting the previous fascist regime, and it had paved the way for the re-establishment of democratic governments. If Italy had a recognized and democratic government, it would be easier for the Americans, the British, and the Soviets to support the membership of Italy in the United Nations.

The Council of Foreign Ministers also had to examine and prepare the peace treaties for Bulgaria, Finland, Hungary, and Romania. The termination of peace treaties with recognized and democratic governments in thosre four would allow the Big Three to accept their requests to be members of the United Nations. Moreover, after the termination of peace negotiations, the Big Three agreed to examine in the near future the restoration of the diplomatic relations with Finland, Romania, Bulgaria, and Hungary. The Big Three were sure that the situation in Europe after the end of World War II would allow representatives of the Allied press to enjoy freedom of expression in the four countries.

1. Membership in the United Nations is open to all other peace-loving States who accept the obligations contained in the present Charter and, in the judgment of the organization, are able and willing to carry out these obligations

2. The admission of any such state to membership in the United Nations will be effected by a decision of the General Assembly upon the recommendation of the Security Council.

The leaders declared that they were willing to support any request for membership from states that had remained neutral during the war and fulfilled the other requirements. The Big Three felt the need to clarify that they were reluctant to support application for such membership from the Spanish government, which had been established with the support of the Axis powers. [47]

War Time Conferences – 1945

The war time conferences represent the high water mark of collaboration between the allies and also the place where some of the key themes of the Cold War first began to emerge in the agreements and sources of tension at those meetings: the division of Germany and Berlin, Stalin’s intentions for Eastern Europe, and emergence of the Atomic bomb.

One of the key features of the Wartime meetings that was particularly apparent at Tehran (1943) and at Yalta (February 1945) was the relationship between Roosevelt and Stalin. It should be recalled that America had given diplomatic recognition to the USSR for the first time in 1933 – during Roosevelt’s presidency – and that there had been a degree of co-operation and sharing of expertise during the 1930s. In 1932, for example, the Dnieper (or Dneprostroi) Hydro-electric Dam was completed in 1932 with the help of six American Engineers who had worked on a similar project at Niagra and were subsequently awarded the Order of the Red Banner of Labour. Under Roosevelt, America adopted schemes of publicly funded work creation known as the ‘New Deal’ that was less about private enterprise than about government intervention. So there was in some ways greater sympathy between the two powers in the 1930s than there had been in the booming 󈧘s. This was of course interrupted by the Nazi-Soviet Pact of August 1939, but America supported Russia after 1941 in the form of ‘lend lease’. The understanding between Roosevelt and Stalin was more than a case of personalities who happened to get along therefore.

Yalta, February 2nd-11th, 1945

In many ways, the Yalta meeting was the high water mark of US-USSR co-operation, but it also marked the limits of the relationship.

Together the ‘big three’ issued The Declaration of Liberated Europe which promised to allow the people of Europe “to create democratic institutions of their own choice”. The declaration pledged, “the earliest possible establishment through free elections governments responsive to the will of the people.” This reflected the statements of the Atlantic Charter agreed between American and Great Britain in August 1941, which promised “the right of all people to choose the form of government under which they will live.”

Roosevelt took this at face value and gave a lot of ground at Yalta, where the big three agreed in respect of Germany that:

  • the first priority was its unconditional surrender
  • it would undergo de-militarization and de-nazification and Nazi war criminals would be put on trial
  • it would be split into four occupied zones including one for France that would be formed out of the American and British zones
  • reparations could be taken, were partly in the form of forced labour and that a reparation council would be created and located in the Soviet Union

In addition, the status of Poland was discussed. It was agreed that:

  • the communist Provisional Government of the Republic of Poland installed by the Soviet Union would be reorganised “on a broader democratic basis”
  • Stalin pledged to permit free elections in Poland
  • The Polish eastern border would follow the Curzon Line (originally established after WWI, but ignored by the Treaty of Riga (1921), and Poland would receive territorial compensation in the west from Germany

In return Stalin undertook to::

  • participate in the UN
  • accept only two Republics apart from Russia would be granted membership of the UN – Belorussia and Ukraine
  • enter the fight against the Empire of Japan “in two or three months after Germany has surrendered and the war in Europe is terminated”.

Stalin did well out of Yalta. Roosevelt brushed off warnings that Stalin would build his own dictatorship in parts of Europe held by the Red Army. He explained that “I just have a hunch that Stalin is not that kind of a man”, and reasoned, “I think that if I give him everything I possibly can and ask for nothing from him in return, ‘noblesse oblige’, he won’t try to annex anything and will work with me for a world of democracy and peace.”

Potsdam, July 17th to August 2nd, 1945

In the 5 months between Yalta and Potsdam a lot of change had occurred.

The most important difference was that Nazi Germany surrendered on 7th May 1945. Without that common enemy it was not clear what else the Soviet Union and the United States still had in common. Perhaps things would have been different were not for three further changes:

Firstly, the Soviet Union now occupied Central and Eastern Europe. By July, the Red Army effectively controlled the Baltic states, Poland, Czechoslovakia, Hungary, Bulgaria and Romania. In violation of his promises at Yalta, Stalin had set up a communist government in Poland. He insisted that his control of Eastern Europe was a defensive measure against possible future attacks and claimed that it was a legitimate sphere of Soviet influence. Stalin broke the pledge taken in the Declaration of Liberated Europe by encouraging Poland, Romania, Bulgaria, Hungary, and many more countries to construct a Communist government, instead of letting the people construct their own. The countries later became known as Stalin’s Satellite Nations

Secondly, in America Franklyn Delaney Roosevelt had succumbed to a cerebral hemhorrage on April 12 and was replaced by his Vice-President, Harold S. Truman. Truman had won the nomination to the Vice Presidency in the expectation that Roosevelt would not live out his fourth term in office. He was the preferred candidate to Roosevelt’s previous Veep – Henry Wallace – who had been considered too left wing and too sympathetic to labour interests. As a result, America now had a more right wing, more realist and more anti-communist, Commander-in-Chief at the closing stages of World War II. Truman and Churchill believed that Roosevelt had been duped by Stalin at Yalta.

Thirdly, Truman rose to office just at the point when the Manhattan Project was about to test its first Atomic bomb. Truman was determined to change the direction of American policy before Potsdam and he saw Soviet actions in Eastern Europe as aggressive expansionism which was incompatible with the agreements Stalin had committed to at Yalta the previous February. Truman’s confidence was no doubt boosted when, just before Potsdam (July-August, 1945), the first nuclear test codenamed Trinity had succeeded, bolstering his confidence at the meeting, which he was said to have ‘bossed’.

The first agreements made at Potsdam were to do with what was to happen to Germany after the war. It was agreed that:

  • it would be demilitarized, denazified, democratized
  • both Germany and Austria would be divided respectively into four occupation zones (earlier agreed in principle at Yalta), and similarly each capital, Berlin and Vienna, was to be divided into four zones
  • Nazi war criminals would be put to trial.
  • all German annexations in Europe were to be reversed, including the Sudetenland, Alsace-Lorraine, Austria, and the westernmost parts of Poland
  • Germany’s eastern border would be shifted westwards to the Oder–Neisse line, effectively reducing Germany in size by approximately 25% compared to its 1937 borders
  • the expulsions of German populations remaining beyond the new eastern borders, from Poland, Czechoslovakia and Hungary, were to be “Orderly and humane”
  • reparations to the Soviet Union would come from their zone of occupation in Germany and that 10% of the industrial capacity of the western zones unnecessary for the German peace economy would be transferred to the Soviet Union within 2 years
  • German standards of living would not exceed the European average The types and amounts of industry to dismantle to achieve this was to be determined later
  • German industrial war-potential would be destroyed, through the destruction or control of all industry with military potential. Henceforth the German industry would focus solely on domestic goods

A second area of discussion was over Poland:

  • A Provisional Government of National Unity recognized by all three powers should be created (known as the Lublin Poles). When the Big Three recognized the Soviet controlled government, it meant, in effect, the end of recognition for the existing Polish government-in-exile (known as the London Poles).
  • Poles who were serving in the British Army should be free to return to Poland, with no security upon their return to the communist country guaranteed.
  • The provisional western border should be the Oder–Neisse line, defined by the Oder and Neisse rivers
  • Stalin proposed and it was accepted that Poland was to be excluded from division of German compensation
  • The Soviet Union declared it would settle the reparation claims of Poland from its own share of the overall reparation payments.

Yalta, February 1945 – PODCAST – agreements on: Prosecution of Nazis Occupied Germany to be Divided after the war into 4 Zones Call democratic elections in liberated territories All countries to join the UN Soviet Union to join the war against Japan after Germany’s defeat Transfer of Polish citizens westward along with Polish borders and democratic elections to take place in Poland.

Potsdam, July 1945 – CLASP – sources of tension: Clash of personalities (Truman replaced Roosevelt) Loss of common enemy (Hitler had been defeated) Stalin had broken his word over Poland.
GRENADE – agreements on: Germany to be rebuilt and restored Reparations to be taken from occupied zone by occupying power, if required Ethnic Germans to be removed from Czechoslovakia, Poland and Hungary Nuremberg trials would proceed Allied Control Commission to de-Nazify and reorganise German life Democracy to be restored Europe to be rebuilt by a Council of Foreign Ministers.

History Of Potsdam Conference

The Potsdam Conference held between 17th July and 2nd August 1945 was attended by the heads of state of the UK, the US, France and the USSR. The main aim of the conference was to implement the agreement reached during the Yalta Conference. Another outcome of this conference was that the growing tension between the US, the UK and the USSR increased. Also, the US and the Russians grew suspicious of one another.

During the conference, the countries also wanted to discuss what to do with the war being pursued by the Japanese. However, the US and the UK were suspicious about the intentions of the Russians, as the Russian army had spread its wings across major part of Eastern Europe. During the course of the conference, the western allies found that Joseph Stalin had no intentions of decreasing Russian army presence in any of the occupied countries.

The Russians were keen on disarming Germany, while the other allies wanted their share of the vanquished nation. However, the US were worried that communism would spread across Germany and rest of Western Europe if a tough stance was not taken against Russia. So, after a lot of negotiation, it was decided that Germany would be divided into 4 zones, with each of the Allied nation administering one zone. The Russians were given the eastern zone of Germany and the rest of the country was divided between the US, France and the UK. Furthermore, the US also restricted the amount that the Russians would get as reparation from the Germans. However, they could do much about the occupation of Poland by Russia.

Sadly, when the Potsdam Conference came to end, no much headway was made. Things were still the same as they were before the conference. This was the last conference held during war time. And, 4 days after the conference ended, the US dropped 2 atomic bombs on Japan. Finally, the Second World War came to an official end on 14th August 1945.

Infoplease.com: Potsdam Conference

The Potsdam Conference held in 1945 between the Allied nations had an effect on Germany. The conference was convened to decide how the territories that were occupied by Nazi Germany were to be divided between the UK, the US, France and the Soviet Union. This conference managed to reduce the size of Germany and also divided the country into two. More..

Watch the video: The Potsdam Conference - When the Cold War began (June 2022).


  1. Vudoran

    The highest number of points is achieved. In this nothing there is a good idea. Ready to support you.

  2. Adolf

    In my opinion, it is the wrong way to go.

  3. Kagale

    I can't write detailed comments, there have always been problems with this, I just want to say that the infa is interesting, I bookmarked it, I will watch the development. Thanks!

  4. Jenyd

    I am well versed in this. I can help in resolving the issue. Together we can find a solution.

  5. Kajirr


Write a message