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Potsdam Conference

Harry S Truman

Potsdam Conference: Harry S Truman was the 33rd American President who served in office from April 12, 1945 to January 20, 1953. One of the important events during his presidency was the Potsdam Conference.

Definition and Summary of the Potsdam Conference
Summary and definition:
The Potsdam Conference was the last of the WW2 wartime summit meetings, held from 17 July 17, 1945 to August 2, 1945, between the United States, Great Britain and Russia. The Potsdam Conference was held at Potsdam, a suburb of Berlin, in Germany.

It was led by the three heads of government consisting of Harry S. Truman, Clement Attlee and Joseph Stalin. The war in Europe was nearly over and the purpose of the Potsdam Conference was to clarify and implement the terms for the for the end of WW2 that had been agreed at the Yalta Conference, which had been held two months earlier. The Potsdam Conference the led to tensions between the United States and Russia and contributed to the start of the Cold War.

What three powers met at the Potsdam Conference? The three powers that met at the Potsdam Conference were the United States, Great Britain and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics

What leaders were at the Potsdam Conference? The leaders who attended the Potsdam Conference were President Harry Truman of the United States of America, Clement Attlee, Prime Minister of Great Britain, and Marshal Joseph Stalin of the USSR

Where was the Potsdam Conference? The Potsdam Conference took place at Potsdam, a suburb of Berlin, Germany

What date was the Potsdam Conference? The Potsdam Conference  began on 17 July 17, 1945 and ended on August 2, 1945

Facts about Potsdam Conference
The following fact sheet contains interesting facts and information on Potsdam Conference.

The Potsdam Conference was held at Cecilienhof, the home of Crown Prince Wilhelm Hohenzollern, in Potsdam, near Berlin between The US, UK and the USSR from 17 July 17, 1945 to August 2, 1945

The purpose of the summit meeting was to follow up the discussions and agreements made at the Yalta Conference regarding the establishment of post-war order, German reparations and peace treaty issues

Important changes in leadership had occured in the short space of just two months between the Yalta and Potsdam conferences. US President Franklin D. Roosevelt died on April 12, 1945 and Vice-President Harry Truman had assumed the presidency. The British Prime Minister Winston Churchill had lost the election and been replaced by Clement Attlee.

Joseph Stalin considered the new, inexperienced leaders as inferior to himself setting an acrimonious tone between the important heads of government which was already difficult due to Stalin already breaking some of the agreements reached at Yalta.

The subject of war reparations by Germany was a contentious issue and the demands of Stalin were seen by the US and Great Britain as unrealistic and unreasonable.

The Communists had broken their promise of free elections in Eastern Europe and Stalin had arrested non-communist leaders of Poland and refused to allow more than 3 Non-Communist Poles to serve in the 18-member Polish Government.  The Soviets had also violated the Declaration of Liberated Europe by pressurizing the King of Romania to appoint a Communist government.

Russian military forces, the Red Army, in driving back the Nazis were now occupying large areas in Eastern European countries that had once been claimed by Nazi Germany.

Stalin was determined that Russia would never be invaded again and  insisted that his control of Eastern European countries was a defensive measure against possible future attacks claiming that it was a legitimate sphere of Soviet influence.

The "Percentages Agreement" between Stalin and Churchill during the Fourth Moscow Conference in October 1944 had agreed how to divide various European countries into spheres of influence. The British and the Soviets had agreed to divide Europe into spheres of influence, with one country having "predominance" in one sphere, and the other having "predominance" in another sphere. Stalin was determined to extend the Soviet Sphere of Influence.

The strongly anti-communist President Truman was highly suspicious of Stalin and  adopted a hard line against the Soviets. Open disagreements erupted between the US and the Soviets about how Stalin was treating Poland. All former German territory east of the Oder and Neisse rivers was transferred to Polish and Soviet administration, pending a final peace treaty.

From the US point of view their situation had changed dramatically since the Yalta Conference at which time the Americans believed they needed the Soviets to help in the war against Japan. By the time the Potsdam Conference convened as the US had successfully tested the Atomic Bomb.

The 'Potsdam Declaration' was issued on July 26, 1945 presenting an ultimatum to Japan stating that, if Japan did not surrender, it would face "prompt and utter destruction". (The atom bomb was not actually mentioned.)

The agreements made at the Potsdam Conference were that Germany would be split into four zones of occupation (the United States, Great Britain, the Soviet Union and France) aimed at outlawing National Socialism and abolishing Nazi ideology. The Allied Control Council was set up as a military occupation governing body of the Allied Occupation Zones in Germany. The leaders also agreed that Nazi war criminals would be judged and sentenced.

A Council of Foreign Ministers was established to consider peace settlements. Truman forced Stalin to back down on his demands for heavy war reparations from Germany and a method for German reparations payments was outlined

Rarely has any agreement been so consistently breached as the provisions made in the Potsdam Agreement. The work of the Allied Control Council for Germany was at first blocked by France, which did not feel bound by an agreement to which it had not been party.

The Iron Curtain began to descend separating the Communist countries of Eastern Europe under the influence of Russia from the democratic countries of the West.

The vague wording of the Potsdam Agreement, with its tentative provisions, allowed a wide range of interpretation and these have been blamed for its failure to meet its objectives. The Cold War followed...

US American History
1945-1993: Cold War Era

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