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Potsdam Conference

POTSDAM CONFERENCE

The Potsdam Conference was the last of the wartime summits among the Big Three allied leaders. It met from July 17 through August 2, 1945, in Potsdam, a historic suburb of Berlin. Representing the United States, the Soviet Union and Great Britain respectively were Harry Truman, Josef Stalin and Winston Churchill (who was replaced midway by Clement Atlee as a result of elections that brought Labor to power). Germany had surrendered in May; the war with Japan continued. The purpose of the Potsdam meeting was the implementation of the agreements reached at Yalta. The atmosphere at Potsdam was often acrimonious, presaging the imminent Cold War between the Soviet Union and the West. In the months leading up to Potsdam, Stalin took an increasingly hard line on issues regarding Soviet control in Eastern Europe, provoking the new American president and the British prime minister to harden their own stance toward the Soviet leader.

Two issues were particularly contentious: Poland's western boundaries with Germany and German reparations. When Soviet forces liberated Polish territory, Stalin, without consulting his allies, transferred to Polish administration all of the German territories east of the Oder-Neisse (western branch) Rivers. While Britain and the United States were prepared to compensate Poland for its territorial losses in the east, they were unwilling to agree to such a substantial land transfer made unilaterally. They would have preferred the Oder-Neisse (eastern branch) River boundary. The larger territory gave Poland the historic city of Breslau and the rich industrial area of Silesia. Reluctantly, the British and Americans accepted Stalin's fait accompli, but with the proviso that the final boundary demarcation would be determined by a German peace treaty.

Reparations was another unresolved problem. The Soviet Union demanded a sum viewed by the Western powers as economically impossible. Abandoning the effort to agree on a specific sum, the conferees agreed to take reparations from each power's zone of occupation. Stalin sought, with only limited success, additional German resources from the British and American zones. Agreements reached at Potsdam provided for:

Transference of authority in Germany to the military commanders in their respective zones of occupation and to a four-power Allied Control Council for matters affecting Germany as a whole.

Creation of a Council of Foreign Ministers to prepare peace treaties for Italy, Bulgaria, Finland, Hungary, and Romania and ultimately Germany.

Denazification, demilitarization, democratization, and decentralization of Germany.

Transference of Koenigsberg and adjacent area to the Soviet Union.

Just prior to the conference, Truman was informed of the successful test of the atomic bomb in New Mexico. On July 24 he gave a brief account of the weapon to Stalin. Stalin reaffirmed his commitment to declare war on Japan in mid-August. While the conference was in session, the leaders of Britain, China, and the United States issued a proclamation offering Japan the choice between immediate unconditional surrender or destruction.

Though the facade of allied unity was affirmed in the final communiqué, the Potsdam Conference marked the end of Europe's wartime alliance.

See also: teheran conference; world war ii; yalta conference

bibliography

Feis, Herbert. (1960). Between War and Peace: The Potsdam Conference. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.

Gormly, James L. (1990). From Potsdam to the Cold War: Big Three Diplomacy, 19451947. Wilmington, DE: SR Books.

McNeil, William H. (1953). America, Britain and Russia: Their Cooperation and Conflict, 19411946. London: Oxford University Press.

Wheeler-Bennett, John W., and Nicholls, Anthony. (1972). The Semblance of Peace: The Political Settlement after the Second World War. London: Macmillan.

Joseph L. Nogee

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"Potsdam Conference." Encyclopedia of Russian History. . Encyclopedia.com. 26 Jul. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

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Potsdam Conference

POTSDAM CONFERENCE

POTSDAM CONFERENCE took place in a suburb of Berlin from 17 July to 2 August 1945. President Harry S. Truman, Marshal Joseph Stalin, and Prime Minister Winston Churchill (replaced at midpoint by the newly elected Clement Attlee) met to reach accord on postwar Germany and the Pacific war. The "big three" confirmed a decision, made at Yalta, to divide Germany into British, American, Russian, and French occupation zones. They pledged to treat Germany as a single economic unit while allowing each of the four occupying commanders to veto any decision. Germany was slated for total disarmament, demilitarization, the trial of war criminals, and denazification. Other provisions included reparations (with the final sum unspecified); the forced return of 6.5 million Germans from Poland, Czechoslovakia, and Hungary in an "orderly and humane manner"; and the temporary retention of the Oder-Neisse boundary. The Council of Foreign Ministers, a body composed of the United States, Great Britain, France, and Russia, was entrusted with preparing peace terms for Italy, Romania, Bulgaria, Austria, Hungary, and Finland. On 14 July, having been informed of the successful atomic tests at Alamogordo, New Mexico, three days before, Truman told an unsurprised Stalin, "We have perfected a very powerful explosive which we are going to use against the Japanese and we think it will end the war."

As Russia had not yet declared war on Japan, the Potsdam Declaration of 26 July 1945 was signed only by the United States and Great Britain, though with China's concurrence. It threatened the "utter devastation of the Japanese homeland" unless Japan accepted "unconditional surrender." Specific terms included total disarmament, the destruction of its "war-making power," the limitation of Japan's sovereignty to its home islands, stern justice to "all war criminals," the establishment of "fundamental human rights," the payment of "just reparations in kind," and the limitation of its economy to peacetime undertakings.


BIBLIOGRAPHY

Feis, Herbert. Between War and Peace: The Potsdam Conference. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1960.

Gormly, James L. From Potsdam to the Cold War: Big Three Diplomacy, 1945–1947. Wilmington, Del.: Scholarly Resources, 1990.

Mee, Charles L., Jr. Meeting at Potsdam. New York: M. Evans, 1975.

Justus D.Doenecke

See alsoGermany, American Occupation of ; Japan, Relations with ; World War II ; Yalta Conference .

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"Potsdam Conference." Dictionary of American History. . Encyclopedia.com. 26 Jul. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

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Potsdam Conference

Potsdam Conference, meeting (July 17–Aug. 2, 1945) of the principal Allies in World War II (the United States, the USSR, and Great Britain) to clarify and implement agreements previously reached at the Yalta Conference. The chief representatives were President Truman, Premier Stalin, Prime Minister Churchill, and, after Churchill's defeat in the British elections, Prime Minister Attlee. The foreign ministers of the three nations were also present. The so-called Potsdam Agreement transferred the chief authority in Germany to the American, Russian, British, and French military commanders in their respective zones of occupation and to a four-power Allied Control Council for matters regarding the whole of Germany. The Allies set up a new system of rule for Germany, aimed at outlawing National Socialism and abolishing Nazi ideology, at disarming Germany and preventing its again becoming a military power, and at fostering democratic ideals and introducing representative and elective principles of government. The German economy was to be decentralized, and monopolies were to be broken up; the development of agriculture was to be emphasized in reorganizing the German economy. All former German territory E of the Oder and Neisse rivers was transferred to Polish and Soviet administration, pending a final peace treaty. The German population in these territories and in other parts of Eastern Europe was to be transferred to Germany. A mode for German reparations payments was outlined. A Council of Foreign Ministers was established to consider peace settlements. The so-called Potsdam Declaration issued (July 26) by the conference presented an ultimatum to Japan, offering that nation the choice between unconditional surrender and total destruction. (The atom bomb was not actually mentioned.) Rarely was any agreement so consistently breached as was 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 council had not even begun to function when the rift caused by the cold war broke it up. The vague wording and tentative provisions of the Potsdam Agreement, allowing a wide range of interpretation, have been blamed for its failure.

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"Potsdam Conference." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. . Encyclopedia.com. 26 Jul. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

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Potsdam Conference

Potsdam Conference (1945).On 17 July 1945, Josef Stalin, Harry S. Truman, and Winston S. Churchill (who was replaced on 28 July by Clement Attlee) met for eleven days at Potsdam near Berlin. They faced two related issues: ending the war against Japan and restructuring Germany and Eastern Europe.

Germany ranked high on everyone's list of problems. Truman's goal was to create principles to guide the proposed Allied Control Council in preparing for unification of Germany. Stalin was concerned about reparations and Germany's border with Poland. Accepted were the American principles, including denazification, demilitarization, and democratization, and the Soviet desire for the Oder and Neisse Rivers as Germany's eastern border. Agreeing on reparations was difficult and was resolved only at the end of the conference by a formula calling for each power to take reparations from its zone, with the Soviets receiving some from other zones.

As for Japan, Stalin agreed to Soviet entry into the war by mid‐August, while Truman informed Stalin in vague terms about a new weapon to be used against Japan, but failed to specify that it was an atomic bomb. At the end of the meeting, Truman and Attlee issued the Potsdam Declaration, calling upon Japan to surrender unconditionally or face destruction.

Specifics about reparations and issues of Soviet‐occupied Eastern Europe were deferred to a newly created Council of Foreign Ministers, which was to draft the peace treaties. This allowed general agreement, and left each power partially satisfied. Much was left undone, and the Big Three's ability to cooperate and work toward similar postwar goals was still unknown. Potsdam remains a transition point as the former Allies moved from World War II to the Cold War.
[See also World War II: Postwar Impact; World War II: Changing Interpretations.]

Bibliography

Herbert Feis , Between War and Peace: The Potsdam Conference, 1960.
Charles Mee, Jr. , Meeting at Potsdam, 1975.

James Gormly

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"Potsdam Conference." The Oxford Companion to American Military History. . Encyclopedia.com. 26 Jul. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

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Potsdam conference

Potsdam conference, 16 July–2 August 1945. This overlapped a British general election, Churchill and Eden being replaced midway by Attlee and Bevin (Labour). The Americans and Russians, however, observed no significant change in British policy, with both struck by Bevin's pugnacity. A compromise was reached on German reparations—the Treasury having earlier expressed its concern at the cost of the British occupation zone unless reparations were restricted and Germany treated as one economic unit. Churchill hoped that the acquisition of the atomic bomb by the USA would increase the bargaining power of the West with the USSR as well as hasten the end of the war with Japan.

C. J. Bartlett

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Potsdam Conference

Potsdam Conference (July–August 1945) Summit meeting of Allied leaders in World War II, held in Potsdam, Germany. The main participants were US President Harry S Truman, Soviet leader Joseph Stalin and the British Prime Minister, at first Churchill, later Attlee. It dealt with problems arising from Germany's defeat, including the arrangements for military occupation and the trial of war criminals, and issued an ultimatum to Japan demanding surrender.

http://www.trumanlibrary.org/teacher/potsdam.htm

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