Potsdam Conference begins

Potsdam Conference begins

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The final “Big Three” meeting between the United States, the Soviet Union and Great Britain takes place towards the end of World War II. The decisions reached at the conference ostensibly settled many of the pressing issues between the three wartime allies, but the meeting was also marked by growing suspicion and tension between the United States and the Soviet Union.

READ MORE: FDR, Churchill and Stalin: Inside Their Uneasy WWII Alliance

On July 17, 1945, U.S. President Harry S. Truman, Soviet leader Joseph Stalin, and British Prime Minister Winston Churchill met in the Berlin suburb of Potsdam to discuss issues relating to postwar Europe and plans to deal with the ongoing conflict with Japan. By the time the meeting began, U.S. and British suspicions concerning Soviet intentions in Europe were intensifying. Russian armies occupied most of Eastern Europe, including nearly half of Germany, and Stalin showed no inclination to remove his control of the region. Truman, who had only been president since Franklin D. Roosevelt died three months earlier, arrived at the meeting determined to be “tough” with Stalin. He was encouraged in this course of action by news that American scientists had just successfully tested the atomic bomb.

The conference soon bogged down on the issue of postwar Germany. The Soviets wanted a united but disarmed Germany, with each of the Allied powers determining the destiny of the defeated power. Truman and his advisors, fearing the spread of Soviet influence over all Germany–and, by extension, all of western Europe–fought for and achieved an agreement whereby each Allied power (including France) would administer a zone of occupation in Germany. Russian influence, therefore, would be limited to its own eastern zone. The United States also limited the amount of reparations Russia could take from Germany. Discussion of the continuing Soviet occupation of Poland floundered.

When the conference ended on August 2, 1945, matters stood much where they had before the meeting. There would be no further wartime conferences. Four days after the conference concluded, the United States dropped an atomic bomb on Hiroshima in Japan; on August 9, another bomb was dropped on Nagasaki. World War II officially came to an end on August 14, 1945.


Potsdam (German pronunciation: [ˈpɔt͡sdam] ( listen ) ) is the capital and largest city of the German state of Brandenburg. It directly borders the German capital, Berlin, and is part of the Berlin/Brandenburg Metropolitan Region. It is situated on the River Havel some 25 kilometres (16 miles) southwest of Berlin's city centre.

Potsdam was a residence of the Prussian kings and the German Kaiser until 1918. Its planning embodied ideas of the Age of Enlightenment: through a careful balance of architecture and landscape, Potsdam was intended as "a picturesque, pastoral dream" which would remind its residents of their relationship with nature and reason. [2]

The city which is over 1000 years old is widely known for its palaces, its lakes, and its overall historical and cultural significance. Landmarks include the parks and palaces of Sanssouci, Germany's largest World Heritage Site, as well as other palaces such as the Orangery Palace, the New Palace, the Cecilienhof Palace, or the Charlottenhof Palace. Potsdam was also the location of the significant Potsdam Conference in 1945, the conference where the three heads of government of the USSR, the US, and the UK decided on the division of Germany following its surrender, a conference which defined Germany's history for the following 45 years.

Babelsberg, in the south-eastern part of Potsdam, was already by the 1930s the home of a major film production studio and it has enjoyed success as an important center of European film production since the fall of the Berlin Wall. The Filmstudio Babelsberg is the oldest large-scale film studio in the world. [3]

Potsdam developed into a centre of science in Germany in the 19th century. Today, there are three public colleges, the University of Potsdam, and more than 30 research institutes in the city.

Travel News

A new exhibition held in the Cecilienhof Palace, marks the 75th anniversary of the Potsdam Conference that saw Truman, Churchill (later Attlee) and Stalin deliberate on the reorganisation of Europe following the end of the Second World War.

The exhibition, entitled ‘Potsdam Conference 1945 – The Reorganisation of the World’, takes place in the actual Cecilienhof Palace, Potsdam, and opened on 23 June. It will run until the end of the year.

Cecilienhof Palace, red star in courtyard, photo: Peter-Michael Bauers

The exhibition uses diary entries, historical film footage, contemporary documents and loans from Germany and abroad to bring to life the events that led to the signing of the Potsdam Agreement.

Potsdam Conference Exhibition

Mixing artefacts and multi-media, the exhibition presents both the geopolitical decision-making process and the peronal voice of participants at the conference.

There are four topics featured in the Potsdam Conference Exhibition:

  • Berlin Conference – Potsdam Conference: The “Big Three”
  • On the Agenda: Europe’s New Order
  • Off the Record: Asia and the Middle East
  • Turning Point: The World After 1945

Visitors can travel back in time and imagine they are at the conference as well as seeing the historic rooms of the Cecilienhof Palace – including the conference hall and the delegation offices – as well as the garden terrace, where the “big three” were photographed in wicker chairs (see main photo).

COVID-19 Measures

The organisers have implemented a series of measures for the safety of visitors, and as such there is a limit on the number of tickets available. Visitors need to wear a covering over their mouth and nose as well as maintaining a distance of 1.5 metres from other people. No group tours are permitted.

Entry to Potsdam Conference Exhibition

The Cecilienhof SPSG app can be downloaded for free from either App Store or Google Play.

Cecilienhof Palace Cecilienhof Palace Admission and Opening Hours

Tickets costing €14 / €10 (reduced) can be bought at The exhibition is open from Tuesday to Sunday (10am to 5:30pm, with last admission at 4:45pm). The exhibition is wheelchair accessible.

Main photo: US Army Signal Corps © Courtesy of Harry S. Truman Library.

The Potsdam Conference: July 21st 1945 – The Polish Question

At 3:30 PM, Secretary of War Henry Stimson arrived at the Little White House with a full description of the test of the atomic bomb that had taken place five days earlier on July 16th. It was sent to Potsdam by General Leslie Grooves who was overseeing the Manhattan Project back in the U.S. and regularly updating Stimson while he was away at the Conference with the President.

Behind closed doors in Truman’s villa, Stimson read Groove’s document aloud to the President and Secretary of State Jimmy Byrnes. It took some time, as it was fourteen pages double-spaced.

At 530, 16 July 1945, in a remote section of the Alamogordo Air Base, New Mexico, the first full scale test was made of the implosion type atomic fission bomb. For the first time in history there was a nuclear explosion. The test was successful beyond the most optimistic expectations of anyone. Based on the data which it has been possible to work up to date, I estimate the energy generated to be in excess of the equivalent of 15,000 to 20,000 tons of TNT.

Grooves description would go onto note that windows were shattered by the blast as far off as 125 miles from ground zero. The 60 foot high steel tower, from which the bomb fell, immediately evaporated. It left a crater in the New Mexico desert more than two miles wide. It knocked down men more than 10,000 yards away and the mushroom cloud, containing a huge concentration of radioactive material, could be seen for more than 200 miles away.

After reading the document, Stimson looked up at the President to see that he was “tremendously pepped up by it,” as he would record in his diary. “He (Truman) said it gave him an entirely new feeling of confidence.”

Truman went straight to Cecilienhof after the meeting where the 5th plenary session was called to order at 5:05 PM. According to Truman’s biographer, David McCullough: The change in him was pronounced. He was surer of himself, more assertive. It was apparent something had happened. Churchill later told Stimson he could not imagine what had come over the President (Stimson went to see the Prime Minister the next day to read Groove’s report).

Vice President for just 82 days and President of the United States for just over three months, it is hard to imagine that the farmer/failed haberdasher from Missouri was now anything less than fortified as he now sat in the presence of two of the most colossal figures of modern history, negotiating the postwar world.

At one point during this evening’s session, Stalin said that the three governments should issue a statement announcing a renewal of diplomatic relations with the former German satellite nations of Romania, Bulgaria, and Finland. When Truman disagreed, Stalin said the questions would have to be postponed.

“We will not recognize these governments until they are set up on a satisfactory basis,” Truman replied aggressively.

Yet, the biggest and thorniest question of the Conference was Poland, which dominated much of this session.

In vague language at Yalta it had been agreed that Poland would get territory from Germany to the west to compensate what Russia had taken from Poland in the east. At the moment, however, the Red Army was occupying all of Polish territory from Germany’s 1937 border (border with Russia) all the way up to the Soviet zone of occupation in Germany. Furthermore, a Soviet backed, Polish Administrative Area had already been established to run the area.

Truman: The question is not who occupies the country, but how we stand on the question as to who is to occupy Germany. I want it understood that the Soviet [Union] is occupying this zone and is responsible for it. I don’t think we are far apart on our conclusions.

Stalin: On paper it is formerly German territory but in fact it is Polish territory. There are no Germans left. The Soviet [Union] is responsible for the territory.

Truman: Where are the nine million Germans?

Stalin: They have fled.

Churchill: How can they be fed? I am told that under the Polish plan put forward by the Soviets that a quarter of arable land of Germany would be alienated—one-fourth of all the arable land from which German food and reparations must come. The Poles come from the East but 8¼ [8½?] million Germans are misplaced [displaced]. It is apparent that a disproportionate part of the population will be cast on the rest of Germany with its food supplies alienated.

Truman: I propose that the matters of the Polish frontier be considered at the peace conference after consultation with the Polish government of national unity. We decided that Germany with 1937 boundaries should be considered a starting point. We decided on our zones. We moved our troops to the zones assigned to us. Now another occupying government has been assigned a zone without consultation with us. We can not arrive at reparations and other problems of Germany if Germany is divided up before the peace conference. I am very friendly to Poland and sympathetic with what Russia proposes regarding the western frontier, but I do not want to do it that way.

In other words, the Russians could not arbitrarily dictate how things were to be, and there would be no progress on reparations or other matters concerning Germany until this was understood.

Again, the Big Three tabled the question of Poland for further discussion and adjourned.

Truman had shown an unexpected amount of energy and confidence during this session. Churchill was pleased and his Foreign Secretary, Anthony Eden, thought it was Truman’s best day so far. Even Leahy, the President’s Chief of Staff, was impressed, though he was certain – bomb or no bomb – that Stalin had no intention of changing his course in Eastern Europe. He regarded Poland as a “Soviet fait accompli” and since millions of Soviet soldiers occupied the territory to the east, there was little the United States and Great Britain could do about it, short of going to war. This of course was unthinkable.

Finally, it was now Stalin’s turn to host the American and British Delegations for an evening party at his villa. Here, there was no trace of the heated tension from just a couple of hours ago. Stalin wanted to outdo the Americans in a contest of decadence. It’s safe to say that he succeeded as this evening would end up being the best time the President would have during his entire 19 days at Potsdam.

“It started with caviar and vodka…” he wrote in a letter to his daughter, Margaret. “Then smoked herring, then white fish and vegetables, then venison and vegetables, then duck and chicken and finally two desserts, ice cream and strawberries and a wind-up of sliced watermelon. White wine, red wine, champagne and cognac in liberal quantities…Stalin also sent to Moscow and brought his two best pianists and two feminine violinists. They were excellent. Played Chopin, Liszt, Tchaikovsky and all the rest.”

At one point Truman even asked Stalin (also known as the “Man of Steel) how he could drink so much vodka. Through an interpreter, Stalin said, “Tell the president it is French wine, because since my heart attack I can’t drink the way I used to.”

The New Big Three

Late in the afternoon of April 12, 1945, Vice President of the United States Harry S. Truman was sitting in Speaker of the House Sam Rayburn’s office in the U.S. Capitol sipping on Bourbon with some old friends from Congress.

This common afternoon affair was interrupted on this day by a telephone call from White House Press Secretary Steve Early who wished to speak with Truman. Early told Truman to ‘quickly and quietly’ make his way to the White House. “Jesus Christ and General Jackson,” Truman exclaimed before he excused himself, hurried through the Capitol, and got into a car that sped him down Constitutional Avenue and to the main White House entrance where Mrs. Roosevelt was waiting for him inside.

“Harry, the President is dead,” said Mrs. Roosevelt as she put her hand on his shoulder to break the somber news to him. Truman immediately asked if there was anything that he could do for her. “Is there anything that we can do for you,” she famously replied. “For you are the one in trouble now. ”

Harry S Truman sworn in as US President - April 1945

Vice President for just 82 days – whose resume to Washington had featured a high school diploma as the highest level of completed education and recent work experience that included running a farm and then an insolvent haberdashery – Harry Truman was all at once catapulted into the office of the President of the United States. He was now a wartime Commander in Chief of 16 million men that were spread out across Europe and Asia and leader of a country that possessed one of the most terrifying war arsenals on earth.

Across the pond in London, Prime Minister Winston Churchill had lost a counterpart in the struggle against defeating facism and militarism in Europe and Japan. He had also lost a close, personal friend. Yet whoever the new American president was, Churchill knew that he would have to work side by side with him to tackle the most pressing issues confronting the postwar world after victory was achieved.

One issue that Churchill seemed to be perturbed about was the postwar intentions of the Soviet Union. He could see that the wartime spirit of cooperation was fading before his eyes as the Red Army now occupied large parts of eastern and central Europe. In a letter to Truman on May 12, 1945 he expressed his skepticism to the President and said that he was “profoundly concerned about the European situation” and was worried about a premature withdrawal of American armed forces from Europe. He went on to write:

“…What is to happen about Russia? I have always worked for friendship with Russia , but like you, I feel deep anxiety because of their misinterpretation of the Yalta decisions, their attitude towards Poland, their overwhelming influence in the Balkans…,the difficulties they make about Vienna, the combination of Russian power and the territories under their control or occupied, coupled with the Communist technique in so many other countries, and above all their power to maintain very large armies in the field for a long time.”

Churchill waves to crowds in Whitehall on the day he broadcast to the nation that the war with Germany had been won

A week earlier, around the same time that Germany was surrendering, Churchill wrote to Truman about setting up a meeting between the three heads of governments. He felt that matters could no longer be carried out by correspondence and that it was time for a third wartime summit between the Grand Alliance to take place. He also urged Truman to delay his withdrawal of American forces from what was now considered the Soviet occupation zone as agreed upon at Yalta, and to use their occupying position as equity before negotiating with Stalin. Although Truman acknowledged that there should be a meeting involving the heads of government, he also made it clear that it was his position to adhere to the American interpretation of the Yalta agreements, which meant that American forces would soon be leaving the areas they had conquered in what was now the Soviet zone. Some might call this a blunder in hindsight, but Truman, the new guy on the job, most likely did not want to be accused of misinterpreting the Yalta agreements from what Roosevelt had negotiated.

Churchill hoped to meet as soon as possible and wanted the summit to take place around mid-June. He knew that every minute mattered and felt that the Soviets might play for time in order to continue exerting presence in the countries they currently occupied to achieve a kind of permanent political and economic gain. In a letter to Truman on May 11, 1945, he wrote:

“Mr. President, in these next two months the gravest matters of the world will be decided.”

Truman further agreed that a meeting was necessary for the US and Great Britain to come to an understanding with the Soviet Union, but he also felt that Stalin should be the one to propose such a summit as to avoid any suspicion of an Anglo-American gang up on the Soviets. There had already been a few instances that gave the Soviets the right to be pessimistic about working with the Americans in the future. Events like the tumultuous, heated exchange between Truman and Soviet Foreign Ministor Vyacheslav Molotov at the White House in April, the Soviets finding out that the U.S. had secretly met with German representatives in Bern, Switzerland in March to negotiate a separate unconditional surrender, and Truman’s temporary halt on the Lend-Lease to Russia shortly after Nazi Germany had capitulated, all gave the Soviets reasons to believe that America and its new president could not be trusted. Yet, America was still optimistic that they could just work out any problems and smooth over any rifts if they could just sit down at the same table and talk about the future.

In a meeting with Stalin on May 26, 1945, Harry Hopkins, a special advisor and assistant to President Truman who was assigned to dealing with the Soviet Union during WWII, steered the conversation toward the topic of a tripartite meeting. The Soviet dictator was actually much in favor of this and told Hopkins that the question was “ripe and knocking on the door” when it came to the question of setting up a peace conference to settle WWII in Europe but, he also made it clear that it would be wise to select a time and place so that proper preparations could be made. Moreover, Stalin was eager to meet Truman and Churchill and eventually suggested that there would be adequate quarters for such a meeting in the suburbs of Berlin. Truman then sent a letter to Churchill on May 28th stating:

“Stalin has informed me through Mr. Hopkins that he would like to have our three party meeting in the Berlin area and I will reply that I have no objection to the Berlin area.”

The Potsdam Conference: July 17th 1945 – The Big Three

“Promptly a few minutes before 12:00, I looked up from my desk and there stood Stalin in the doorway,” the US President wrote in his diary. “I got to my feet and advanced to meet him he put out his hand and smiled. I did the same, we shook, I greeted Molotov (Foreign Minister) and the interpreter…”

As Truman’s biographer, David McCullough, would write: “He was the absolute dictator of over 180 million people of 170 nationalities in a country representing one-sixth of the earth’s surface, the Generalissimo of gigantic, victorious armies, and Harry Truman, like nearly everyone meeting him for the first time, was amazed to find how small he actually was: ‘A little bit of a squirt,’ Truman described him, as Stalin stood 5’5″(165cm).”

“I can deal with Stalin…He’s honest but smart as hell…,” Truman would later write about Stalin. The Generalissimo, on the other hand, was less sanguine. He once told an aide that Truman was “worthless” and had pretty much already determined that he’d surrender nothing of any kind when the bargaining would begin at Cecilienhof.

The Potsdam Conference: July 24th 1945 – The Nuclear Age Begins

Secretary of War Stimson made his way upstairs to President Truman’s office in the Little White House at 9:20 AM.

He had another message from Washington:

Top Secret: “Operation may be possible any time from August 1 depending on state of preparation of patient and condition of atmosphere. From point of view of patient only, some chance August 1 to 3, good chance August 4 to 5 and barring unexpected relapse almost certain before August 10.”

President Truman had now been given the confirmation that the atomic bomb was waiting to be released.

At 11:30 AM – shortly after Stimson left the Little White House – Churchill and the British military leaders arrived for a conference of the combined Chiefs of Staff. The elite British and American military officials offered the Prime Minister and President a document spelling out the final strategy to bring the war to an end.

A month earlier, President Truman had agreed to plans to invade Japan in early November. Thousands of American soldiers – who’d just returned from the battlefields of Europe – were now preparing to go to war with the Japanese.

The combined Chiefs of Staff at the Little White House told Truman and Churchill that, if the Japanese do not accept the unconditional surrender demand and if the ground invasion takes place, their set goal for ending the war would be November 15, 1946 – 16 months from now.

Truman wrote in his diary, “I asked General (George C.) Marshall what it would cost in lives to land on the Tokyo plain and other places in Japan. It was his opinion that such an invasion would cost at a minimum a quarter of a million American casualties.”

Truman had now fully understood what lay at stake. He knew that the atomic bomb was the most terrible thing ever discovered, but he also believed “it can be made the most useful,” as he’d record in his diary.

It was now time to tell Stalin.

Later on that afternoon, Truman called the eighth plenary session to order at 5:10 PM. On today’s agenda: The governments of Eastern Europe and once again, Poland.

Stalin was determined to get the governments of Bulgaria, Hungary, Finland, and Romania to be regarded the same as Italy.

Truman and Churchill were prepared to welcome Italy into the community of nations for their declaring war on Japan just a few days before the Potsdam Conference began. Furthermore, they also didn’t believe that Italy was being influenced by the Soviets.

Yet, both London and Washington felt that the other said countries were clearly being governed by Soviet puppet regimes, operating behind the Iron Curtain.

Churchill: “We have been unable to get information, or to have free access to the satellite states (Bulgaria, Hungary, and Romania). As soon as we have proper access to them, and proper governments are set up we will recognize them – not sooner.

Stalin: “But you have recognized Italy.”

Truman: “The other satellite states will be recognized when they meet the same conditions as Italy has met…We are asking reorganization of these governments along democratic lines.”

All at the table understood what Truman was really saying – that was, Truman and Churchill would refuse to recognize any government that they believed were being influenced by the Soviet Union.

Stalin: “The other satellites have democratic governments closer to the people than does Italy.”

Truman: “I have made it clear that we will not recognize these governments until they are reorganized.”

Churchill then brought up Romania as an example: “Our mission in Bucharest has been practically confined. I’m sure the Marshal (Stalin) would be amazed to read the long list of incidents which have occurred.”

Stalin responded with rage: “They are all fairy tales!”

The Big Three could not come to an agreement. It was quite clear to the British and American delegations that Soviet expansion was well underway in Eastern Europe and there was nothing Truman and Churchill could do to stop it, unless if they chose to use military force.

And with that, a very contentious eighth plenary session was adjourned.

Truman then made his move.

The President rose from his chair and walked slowly around the conference table to have a private word with the Soviet leader.

The time was 7:30 PM. The Russian interpreter, Pavlov, translated for his boss.

“I casually mentioned to Stalin that we had a new weapon of unusual destructive force,” Truman would later write in his diary. “All he said was that he was glad to hear it and hoped that we would make good use of it against the Japanese.”

Stalin was so bland and seemingly unconcerned about what Truman had just told him. Chip Bohlen, the President’s interpreter noted, “So offhand was Stalin’s response that there was some question in my mind whether the President’s message had got through to him.”

Afterward, Churchill approached Truman and asked, “How did it go?”

“He never asked a question,” Truman responded.

The deed was done. The Americans and the British all assumed that Stalin had no knowledge of the existence of the atomic science. Yet, as Chip Bohlen later noted, “I should have known better than to underrate the dictator.”

What we know now is that Stalin had already known more than the British and Americans could have imagined at that time.

A German-born physicist and naturalized British citizen named Klaus Fuchs had been providing the Soviets with atomic secrets for some time. Moscow judged this information from Los Alamos as “extremely excellent and very valuable.”

Stalin understood perfectly well what Truman had just told him.

When Stalin got back to his villa in Babelsberg, he instructed Molotov, his foreign secretary, to get in touch with the leader of the Soviet atomic project and tell him that he must “speed things up,” according to Marshal Georgy Zhukov, who was there at Stalin’s villa and realized that the two were talking about the atomic project.

There can be no exact date when the Cold War started. However, as historian Charles L. Mee Jr. has pointed out, the nuclear arms race is a different story: “The Twentieth Century’s nuclear arms race began at the Cecilienhof Palace in Potsdam at 7:30 PM on July 24, 1945.”

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.

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.

Potsdam Conference: Atlee, Truman and Stalin

Potsdam Conference Facts: Fast Fact Sheet
Fast, fun facts and Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ's) about the Potsdam Conference.

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

Potsdam Conference Facts for kids
The following fact sheet contains interesting information, history and facts on Potsdam Conference for kids.

Potsdam Conference Facts for kids

Potsdam Conference Facts - 1: 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

Potsdam Conference Facts - 2: 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

Potsdam Conference Facts - 3: 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.

Potsdam Conference Facts - 4: 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.

Potsdam Conference Facts - 5: 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.

Potsdam Conference Facts - 6: 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.

Potsdam Conference Facts - 7: 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.

Potsdam Conference Facts for kids

Facts about the Potsdam Conference Facts for kids
The following fact sheet continues with interesting information, history and facts on Potsdam Conference for kids.

Potsdam Conference Facts for kids

Potsdam Conference Facts - 8: 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.

Potsdam Conference Facts - 9: 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.

Potsdam Conference Facts - 10: 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.

Potsdam Conference Facts - 11: 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.

Potsdam Conference Facts - 12: 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.)

Potsdam Conference Facts - 13: 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.

Potsdam Conference Facts - 14: 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

Potsdam Conference Facts - 15: 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.

Potsdam Conference Facts - 16: 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.

Potsdam Conference Facts - 17: 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.

Potsdam Conference - President Harry Truman Video
The article on the Potsdam Conference provides detailed facts and a summary of one of the important events during his presidential term in office. The following Harry Truman video will give you additional important facts and dates about the political events experienced by the 33rd American President whose presidency spanned from April 12, 1945 to January 20, 1953.

Potsdam Conference: Agreements and Leaders

Potsdam Conference - US History - Facts - Major Event - Agreements - Disagreements - Definition - American - US - USA - Agreements - Disagreements - America - Dates - United States - Kids - Children - Schools - Homework - Important - Facts - Issues - Key - Main - Major - Events - History - Interesting - Agreements - Disagreements - Info - Information - American History - Facts - Historical - Agreements - Disagreements - Major Events - Potsdam Conference

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.

The Potsdam Conference: July 31st 1945 – Settling The Polish Question

All of President Truman’s messages from the War Department in Washington arrived a half a block down the street from his villa at the Army message center, where they were immediately decoded. From there, they were then taken to the Little White House and given to the officers on duty in the Map Room, who then gave them to the President.

Late last night (July 30th), another urgent top-secret cable was received and decoded and then delivered to the President early this morning. It was another message from Secretary of War Stimson’s adviser back in Washington, George Harrison:

“The time schedule on Groves’ project is progressing so rapidly that it is now essential that statement for release by you be available not later than Wednesday, 1 August…”

Truman now knew that the atomic bomb had been fully assembled the most dangerous weapon on earth was now waiting for his approval to be released.

The moment had come for him to make the decision that only he could make.

At 7:48 AM, Berlin time, on this day 73 years ago, President Truman wrote his answer large and clear with a lead pencil on a piece of message paper:

Reply to your suggestion’s approved.

Release when ready, but not sooner than August 2.

As Commander in Chief of the United States Armed Forces, President Truman had now signed off on the use of the atomic bomb.

Everything was now on automatic pilot – that is to say, unless the President had a drastic change of mind, the release was now up to the military.

After a two-day delay due to Stalin’s indisposition, the eleventh plenary session at Cecilienhof was finally called to order at 4:05 PM.

Following British Foreign Minister Bevin’s report on the tenth meeting of the Foreign Ministers from the previous day, Truman said, “The first point on the agenda is the United States proposal regarding reparations, Polish frontier, and admission into the United Nations of various categories of states.”

In other words, it looked as though it was going to be another run-of-the-mill session of the Big Three talking in circles about Poland, reparations, and Eastern bloc countries (the latter, as far as the Americans and British were concerned, were being influenced by the Soviets).

On the topic of reparations:

Bevin: In regard to percentage (reparations) we thought we had met you yesterday by agreeing to 12½ and 7½. We thought that was very liberal.

Stalin: That was not liberal—just the opposite.

Bevin: It was generous.

Stalin: We have a different point of view.

But just when things looked like they were headed for another clash:

Bevin: I will give you 17½ percent on exchange and 7½ on the free.

Stalin: That is your suggestion.

Bevin: I think that it is better.

Stalin: We receive only 7½ percent then? I think 15 and 10 is fair.

Bevin: Well, I will agree.

With no objection from the American delegation, President Truman then said, “The next question is Poland.”

Bevin: I want to settle this but does not the Control Council agreement give it jurisdiction over Germany with its 1937 boundaries? I don’t press the point. What happens in this zone? The Poles take over and the Soviet forces withdraw.

Stalin: The Soviet troops would withdraw if territory did not constitute a line of communication with our troops in Germany. There are two communication lines running through Poland. These are the routes through which our armies are fed just as your[s] are fed through the roads of Belgium and Holland.

Bevin: Troops are limited to your communication needs?

Stalin: Yes. We have already removed four divisions of our troops and we contemplate further reduction by agreement with Polish government. This zone is now actually administered by the Poles.

Bevin: Could you help in this interim period with this air communication?

Stalin: This must be discussed with the Poles…I will do all I can.

Truman: This settles the Polish question.

The Soviet Union would receive 15 percent of German industrial equipment that was not needed in the Western zones. In exchange, they promised to ship food, minerals and other commodities from their zone.

Stalin then negotiated an additional 10 percent of unneeded German industrial equipment from the Western zones without having to pay any compensation.

It’s worth noting that Stalin only agreed to this form of reparations if the ‘temporary’ western frontier of Poland would run along the western Neisse River – temporary in the sense that the issue of Poland’s western frontier would be revisited as part of drafting the official peace treaty.

It’s safe to say that the Polish question was undoubtedly the most contentious issue that had dominated most of the Potsdam Conference. The map below describes the course of the debate surrounding the Polish western frontier at Potsdam.

After talking briefly about prosecuting Nazi war criminals and whether or not the Allies should name names when compiling their list of whom to prosecute, President Truman announced that the Foreign Ministers would meet tomorrow around 11:00 AM and the twelfth plenary session would kickoff at Cecilienhof around 3:00 PM.

The Potsdam Declaration

On July 26, while at the Potsdam Conference, Churchill, Truman, and Nationalist Chinese leader Chiang Kai-Shek issued the Potsdam Declaration which outlined the terms of surrender for Japan. Reiterating the call for unconditional surrender, the Declaration stipulated that Japanese sovereignty was to be limited to the home islands, war criminals would be prosecuted, authoritarian government was to end, the military would be disarmed, and that an occupation would ensue. Despite these terms, it also emphasized that the Allies did not seek to destroy the Japanese as a people.

Japan refused these terms despite an Allied threat that "prompt and utter destruction" would ensue. Reacting, to the Japanese, Truman ordered the atomic bomb to be used. The use of the new weapon on Hiroshima (August 6) and Nagasaki (August 9) ultimately led to the surrender of Japan on September 2. Departing Potsdam, the Allied leaders would not meet again. The frosting over of US-Soviet relations that began during the conference ultimately escalated in the Cold War.



  1. Trey

    Everything goes like clockwork.

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