Potsdam Conference

Potsdam Conference

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.

The leaders of the victorious countries met once more at Potsdam in July, 1945. Franklin D. Roosevelt, who had died in April, 1945, had been replaced by the Vice-President, Harry S. Truman. While the conference was taking place, the British General Election results were announced. The landslide victory of the Labour Party meant that Clement Attlee replaced Winston Churchill as Britain's main negotiator.

Although Germany had been defeated, the USA and Britain were still at war with Japan. At Yalta, the Allies had attempted to persuade Joseph Stalin to join in the war with Japan. By the time the Potsdam meeting took place, they were having doubts about this strategy. Churchill in particular, were afraid that Soviet involvement would lead to an increase in their influence over countries in the Far East.

At Yalta, Stalin had promised to enter the war with Japan within three months of the defeat of Germany. Originally, it was planned that the conference at Potsdam would confirm this decision. However, since the previous meeting the USA had successfully tested the Atom Bomb. Truman's advisers were urging him to use this bomb on Japan. They also pointed out that its employment would avoid an invasion of Japan and thus save the lives of up to two million American troops.

When Harry S. Truman told Joseph Stalin that the USA had a new powerful bomb he appeared pleased and asked no further questions about it. Truman did not mention that it was a atomic bomb and it appears that Stalin did not initially grasp the significance of this new weapon. However, with the dropping of the Atom Bomb on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in August, 1945, the Japanese quickly surrendered and the Allies were successful in preventing Soviet gains in the Far East.

Stalin's main concern at Potsdam was to obtain economic help for the Soviet Union. Nearly a quarter of Soviet property had been destroyed during the Second World War. This included 31,000 of her factories. Agriculture had also been badly hit and food was being strictly rationed. Joseph Stalin had been told by his advisers that undernourishment of the workforce was causing low-productivity. He believed that the best way to revive the Soviet economy was to obtain massive reparation payments from Germany.

Unlike at Yalta, the Allies were no longer willing to look sympathetically at Stalin's demands. With Germany defeated and the USA now possessing the Atom Bomb, the Allies no longer needed the cooperation of the Soviet Union. Stalin felt betrayed by this change of attitude. He believed that the death of Franklin D. Roosevelt was an important factor in this.

The ending of lend-lease supplies to the Soviet Union immediately the war ended with Germany in May, 1945 and the insistence that Henry Wallace, the US Secretary of Commerce, resign after he made a speech in support of Soviet economic demands, convinced Stalin that the hostility towards the Soviet Union that had been in existence between the wars, had returned.

In order to eliminate Germany's war potential the production of arms, ammunition and implements of war as well as all types of aircraft and sea-going ships shall be prohibited and prevented. Production of metals, chemicals, machinery and other items that are directly necessary to a war economy shall be rigidly controlled and restricted to Germany's approved post-war peacetime needs to meet the objectives stated in Paragraph 15. Productive capacity not needed for permitted production shall be removed in accordance with the reparations plan recommended by the Allied Commission on Reparations and approved by the Governments concerned or if not removed shall be destroyed.

At the earliest practicable date the German economy shall be decentralized for the purpose of eliminating the present excessive concentration of economic power as exemplified in particular by cartels, syndicates, trusts and other monopolistic arrangements.

In organizing the German economy primary emphasis shall be given to the development of agriculture and peaceful domestic industries.

During the period of occupation Germany shall be treated as a single economic unit.

He (Truman) would come prepared on each subject with a short, firm declaratory statement of US policy, and when he had said his little piece he did little in subsequent discussion except reaffirm it. Winston was good but patchy. He was perhaps too ready to indulge in long dissertations which were evidently not to President Truman's taste.

Stalin, on the other hand, spoke quietly, shortly, in little staccato sentences which Pavlov, his young interpreter, translated immediately into forceful English. In the discussions Stalin was often humorous, never offensive; direct and uncompromising. His hair was greyer than I expected, and was thinning. His eyes looked to me humorous, and often showed as mere slits, but he had a trick of looking up when he was thinking or speaking, to the ceiling to the right, and much of the time he would be pulling at a Russian cigarette.

The Gradual Growth of Administration in the British Zone. The decision of the Potsdam Conference to treat Germany as a single economic unit proved impossible to carry out. The victorious powers had made an agreement that required unanimity by the Control Council for every decision. (The Allied Control Council was the four-power body set up to decide questions concerning Germany as a whole.) But the four powers were never agreed on their programme for Germany and the Soviet Union in particular pursued its own policy. At first even the three Western powers disagreed over policy towards Germany.

The four occupation zones were drifting further and further apart economically and the economic chaos grew from the spring of 1945 onwards. Germany's economic structure required an exchange of agricultural products from the East, and to a lesser extent the South of the country, with the industrial production of the Ruhr and of other industrial regions. This exchange was stopped by the division of the country into four zones. The zonal commanders acted on the directives of their respective governments and each pursued his own policy in his own zone. This could only further hinder an economy already largely paralysed by the ravages of war.

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

Historical Analysis

What happened at the Potsdam Conference, and how does it continue to shape the world in which we live?

Watch a live panel discussion, moderated by Stanford professor Norman Naimark, featuring George P. Shultz, Stuart Canin, and Stanford professor Scott Sagan, that sheds light on what happened at Potsdam when Canin was there.

Read the introductory text below adapted from remarks given by Norman Naimark on November 19, 2014, at Stanford’s Bing Hall. Professor Naimark is the Sakurako and William Fisher Family Director of the Stanford Global Studies Division, the Robert and Florence McDonnell Professor of East European Studies, and a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution at Stanford University.

Potsdam was the third and final Big Three conference that set the terms for the end of the Second World War.

The Allied leaders—representatives of the United States, Great Britain, and the Soviet Union, the so-called Grand Alliance—met in Tehran in November 1943, Yalta in February 1945, and then Potsdam from July 17 to August 2 , 1945. In the months separating Yalta and Potsdam, several key changes took place. President Roosevelt died in April, leaving Vice President Harry Truman to assume the presidency and take up the final negotiations. Prime Minister Clement Attlee defeated Winston Churchill in the British general election and replaced him as Britain’s representative halfway through the Potsdam Conference. Joseph Stalin attended all three major conferences by the time the Potsdam Conference began in July, he effectively controlled all of Eastern Europe.

Despite differing politics, the Allies shared common goals at each conference: first and foremost, to end the war in victory. After all, this had been the bloodiest war in the history of the modern world all were eager to bring it to an end by any means necessary. The secondary goal was to secure the peace.

The Allies achieved their primary goal of victory, but securing the peace proved difficult. The events of the war and of these conferences led almost inexorably to the Cold War, from one set of dangers to another.

The Big Three triple handshake, Charles Hodges Photographs, Envelope K, Hoover Institution Archives, courtesy of Hoover Institution Library & Archives, Stanford University


On 16 July the Americans conducted an atomic test at Alamogordo, in the desert of New Mexico. By 21 July, it was clear that this had been a resounding success, and the news buoyed up Truman and the American delegation. It also had an effect on their strategy. The Soviets had promised to enter the war against Japan in the middle of August, and U.S. army commanders, fearful of heavy losses when they invaded the Japanese home islands, still regarded this commitment as militarily vital. But Byrnes, in particular, thought that the bomb could enable the Americans to end the Pacific war without Soviet help he even hoped it might make Stalin more tractable in Europe. On 24 July Truman told Stalin, with studied casualness, that the Americans had a new weapon of unusual destructive power. Stalin, equally casually, said he hoped they would make good use of it against Japan. Possibly Stalin was dissimulating more likely, although aware of the U.S. project from Soviet agents, he did not appreciate its full significance until after the bomb was dropped on Japan.

Truman gave fuller details to Churchill: the British were collaborators in the bomb project, albeit now very much as junior partners. The two leaders agreed to issue an oblique final warning to Japan and the so-called Potsdam Proclamation of 26 July threatened the Japanese with "prompt and utter destruction" if their government did not immediately order "the unconditional surrender of all Japanese armed forces." When the Japanese prime minister announced four days later that there was "nothing important or interesting in the Allied declaration," Truman confirmed his order to use the atomic bomb, which was dropped on Hiroshima on 6 August.

Potsdam Conference - History

The Potsdam Conference was attended by the leaders of three nations including the United States, Great Britain, and the Soviet Union. This conference was held in Potsdam, Germany so these leaders could negotiate significant terms after the end of World War II. It lasted from July 17 until August 2, 1945, and it followed the Yalta Conference that took place in February, 1945.


When Churchill, Roosevelt, and Stalin met during the Yalta Conference, they agreed to discuss the postwar borders throughout Europe. After Germany’s defeat and surrender on May 8, 1945, the Allied leaders have decided to meet at Potsdam to settle the discussions at Yalta. While the Allies maintained their commitment to fight a joint war in Pacific regions, the absence of a common enemy led to challenges in attaining the consensus with regard to the postwar reconstruction throughout Europe.

The main issue discussed at Potsdam was the concerns of how the Allies would handle Germany. During the Yalta Conference, the Soviet Union pressed for massive postwar reparations intended from Germany, and half of these were assigned to Soviet Union. Although Roosevelt acceded to these demands, Harry Truman was resolute to mitigate the case of Germany by obliging the occupying countries to precise reparations from their own occupation zones.

Byrnes and Truman encouraged such position because of the desire to prevent such situation from being repeated, which was believed to have been caused by the Versailles Treaty. With the huge reparation payments assigned to Germany after World War I, more problems were created and led to World War II. Numerous scholars agree that the massive reparations that handicapped the financial and economic status of Germany fueled the rise to power of the Nazis.


The leaders of the Allied Powers managed to come to terms at the conference after numerous disagreements. For instance, they confirmed the status of the disarmed and demilitarized Germany under the four zones that were occupied by the Allied forces. Based on the protocol of the Potsdam Conference, there was a need for a total demilitarization and disarmament of Germany. Furthermore, all aspects of the German industry that may be used for military purposes must be dismantled. There was also a necessity to eliminate the military and paramilitary German forces. Moreover, Germany’s production of military hardware was greatly forbidden.

With all these conditions, the society of Germany was needed to be remade along the democratic lines by abolishing discriminatory laws that were created during the Nazi Era. In addition, all Germans that were responsible for massive damages and loss of lives were to be arrested and deemed as war criminals.

During the conference at Potsdam, it was also discussed that there was a need to purge the educational and judicial systems of Germany so it would be free of authoritarian influences. It was also necessary to encourage political parties in administering Germany at the state and local levels. However, the need to reconstitute the German government was postponed, and the Allied Control Commission would head the country for an indefinite period.


A significant matter that was addressed at the conference was the revision of the Polish-Soviet-German borders, as well as the expulsion of millions of Germans from disputed territories. Following the changes in the Polish-Soviet border, Poland obtained a large portion of German territory, and it began to deport German residents that were in question. The same fate happened to Germans in various territories that were residing in other nations.

Although the negotiators at the conference were aware of this situation, they did not take any action. Instead, they declared that the transfers must be affected in a humane and orderly manner. Moreover, Hungarians, Poles, and Czechs suspended more deportations temporarily.

Aside from settling various matters related to Poland and Germany, the negotiators agreed on the formation of a special council that would receive authority on behalf of China, Soviet Union, Great Britain, and the United States. The Council would draft significant peace treaties with the former allies of Germany.

Post-war divisions

The origins of the Cold War can be found in the aftermath of World War II. It began with post-war divisions between the Soviet Union, the United States and their respective allies. At wartime conferences in Yalta and Potsdam, the leaders of these nations attempted to construct a peaceful post-war world – but this was thwarted by competing interests, mistrust and broken promises.

Twin dictators

During the 1930s, most politicians in the West viewed Nazi Germany and Soviet Russia in similar terms. While Nazism and communism occupied opposite ends of the political spectrum, both ideologies were seen as dangerous and threatening. Adolf Hitler and Joseph Stalin may have hated one another but to the West they were mirror-image dictators, each guilty of political oppression, brutality and disregard for humanity.

In August 1939, Hitler and Stalin signed a non-aggression treaty, promising not to declare war on each other for a decade. When Hitler’s forces invaded western Poland in September, triggering World War II, Stalin’s Red Army was invading and occupying Poland from the east.

This development horrified Western observers, who feared the two dictators had reached an agreement to divide and conquer Europe. In reality, the Nazi-Soviet non-aggression treaty was simply a stalling tactic. Hitler always intended to break the treaty and invade Russia and Stalin was aware of his intentions.

The awkward alliance

Against the advice of his generals, the Nazi leader ordered an attack on the USSR in June 1941. The Nazi invasion pushed Stalin and his country into an awkward but strategically important military alliance with the Allies. By October 1941, the US was providing the Soviets will military aid under Lend-Lease provisions.

During World War II, Stalin participated in several high-level conferences with American and British leaders. The first of these summits was held in Tehran, Iran in November-December 1943 and a second in Yalta in February 1945. At both summits, Stalin shared the conference table with two men who had once reviled him as a tyrant: Franklin Roosevelt and Winston Churchill.

Their initial meetings were strained but by the Yalta conference, communication and cooperation between the so-called ‘Big Three’ had reached its strongest level. The Nazi invasion of the Soviet Union had stalled and then failed and the D-Day landings had been successful. By early 1945, Hitler’s forces were just weeks from defeat as Soviet and Allied forces moved into Germany from east and west respectively. At Yalta, the three leaders turned their attention toward organising the post-war world and rebuilding war-ravaged Europe.

Personal relationships

Personal relations between Stalin, Churchill and Roosevelt were mixed. Roosevelt enjoyed amicable relations with Stalin, at least superficially, and was optimistic about his ability to manage the Soviet leader as an ally.

Aware that Roosevelt was in poor health, Stalin gave him a warm welcome in Yalta and expressed hope that a US-Soviet alliance might continue in peacetime: “I want to drink to our alliance, that it should not lose its character. I propose a toast to our alliance, may it be strong and stable.”

Roosevelt also showed empathy for the significant losses sustained by the Soviet Union. More than 20 million Russians had been killed, another 25 million rendered homeless, 7 million horses killed and 65,000 kilometres of railway line destroyed. Stalin suggested a reparations figure of $10 billion and Roosevelt supported his claim.

Cautious Winston

Not all shared Roosevelt’s hopeful attitude towards Stalin. Winston Churchill showed some respect and admiration for Stalin (he once observed in private that “I like this man”) but his views about Soviet communism and the workability of a post-war alliance were consistently pessimistic.

Churchill communicated with Stalin much less frequently than did Roosevelt. The British prime minister was cautious about revealing too much to his Soviet counterpart and the two occasionally exchanged sarcasm or jibes. This distance is hinted at in press-call photographs of the wartime conferences, where Stalin and Churchill were usually separated by Roosevelt.

For Churchill, allying with Stalin to defeat Hitler was nothing more than choosing between the lesser of two evils.

The future of Poland

The main issue on the table at Yalta was the future of Poland. Both Roosevelt and Churchill were acutely aware that Stalin had double-crossed the West before over Poland. Stalin’s 1939 pact with Hitler included a secret clause to divide Polish territory between Germany and the USSR.

At Yalta, Stalin was quite frank in his discussions about Poland. He admitted liability for entering into a pact with Hitler – but justified it by explaining that Poland had often been used as a corridor for attacks on Russia. It was therefore important for Russia to have a stake in Polish territory, Stalin said, to ease fears of invasion from the west.

Roosevelt and Churchill accepted this and agreed to let the Soviet Union retain keep the eastern half of Poland. In return, Stalin promised to permit free elections in Poland.

This agreement drew stinging criticism back in Britain, where Churchill was accused in parliament of ‘selling out’ the Poles. The violation of Polish sovereignty had triggered Britain’s declaration of war on Germany – and now Churchill had “bargained it away” at Yalta.

Promises broken

Stalin had no intention of honouring his promises on Poland. Instead, Soviet occupying forces in Poland delayed elections there while they nullified opposition. In March 1945, they arrested 16 Polish political leaders, conducted a show trial in Moscow and detained them in a labour camp. Polish elections weren’t held until January 1947, by which time Soviet agents had engineered a victory for local communists.

Roosevelt soon realised that he had been wrong to trust the Russian leader. On April 1st 1945, the US president wrote Stalin a firm letter of protest over the lack of democratic developments in Poland.

“I cannot conceal from you the concern with which I view the development of events… since our fruitful meeting at Yalta,” Roosevelt said. He pointed out the “discouraging lack of progress” in the implementation of a Polish democratic government, and said that “a thinly disguised continuance of the present Warsaw regime would be unacceptable and would cause the people of the United States to regard the Yalta agreement as having failed”.

Two weeks later Roosevelt was dead, following a massive stroke brought on by long-term illnesses and the immense workload of more than a dozen years in the presidency.

Potsdam Conference

Allied leaders met again in Potsdam, Germany in July 1945. By this time, the situation had changed significantly. The war in Europe was over and the war against Japan was in its final weeks. Soviet forces occupied much of eastern Europe including the Baltic states, Poland, Hungary, Czechoslovakia and Romania. There had been no free elections held or scheduled in Poland, which was still occupied by Soviet forces.

The leadership of the major Allied powers had also changed. Roosevelt had been replaced by his vice-president, Harry Truman, a no-nonsense World War I veteran turned shopkeeper who was more interested in containing communism than a productive relationship with Stalin. Churchill himself was replaced by Clement Atlee midway through the Potsdam conference after losing a general election in Britain.

Western leaders were by now under no illusions about Stalin, so the negotiations at Potsdam were much more cautious and restrained.

Among the terms agreed to in Potsdam:

    Germany would be occupied by the Allies (US, Britain, France and the Soviet Union) in four discrete zones, for an indeterminate period of time. Allied military commanders would act as the government in their respective zones.


The conferences at Yalta and Potsdam exposed fundamental post-war divisions that contributed to the unfolding Cold War.

Stalin wanted a Soviet sphere of influence in eastern Europe, ostensibly to protect Russia from a western attack. The Soviet leader wanted to divide and cripple Germany so that it could never again threaten his country he also wanted massive reparations from Germany to help rebuild the war-ravaged USSR.

The Americans and British were uncertain about what to do with post-war Germany – but they wanted European nations to have political systems and governments based on self-determination and democratic principles.

Stalin was a cunning negotiator and couldn’t be taken at his word. He had a fundamental distrust of Western leaders and was paranoid about their intentions toward Russia. Stalin made promises he had no intention of keeping, chiefly to buy time to establish Soviet-controlled regimes and satellite states in eastern Europe.

This Soviet encroachment established the first battleground for the Cold War: Europe divided by the Iron Curtain.

A historian’s view:
“In the end, [Churchill] knew well that when he dealt with the Soviet tyrant he dealt with the “devil” and that the Soviet system was vile. Here lay the crucial difference between Churchill and Franklin Roosevelt. Churchill proved willing throughout the war to negotiate geopolitical deals with the Soviets, but Roosevelt rejected this approach and ambitiously aimed higher. He hoped to domesticate and to civilise the Soviet “devil” to adopt the American way. “Churchill”, as Patrick Glynn persuasively argued, “…understood the essential nature of the Soviet regime and of Stalin. Roosevelt, whatever his other virtues and abilities, never did”.”
Wilson Miscamble

1. Before World War II, Allied leaders viewed Joseph Stalin as a malevolent dictator, in a similar vein to Adolf Hitler. The Nazi-Soviet Non-Aggression Pact (1939) only confirmed these fears.

2. In 1941 the Allies entered into an unlikely alliance with Stalin. Allied leaders dealt with him at conferences in Tehran (December 1943), Yalta (February 1945) and Potsdam (July 1945).

3. The organisation of post-war Europe was discussed at these conferences. At Yalta, Stalin promised to allow free elections in Poland, provided the USSR retained large areas of eastern Poland.

4. Stalin reneged on this promise. With the death of Roosevelt, this led to greater suspicion about Soviet motives. As a result, the Potsdam conference was conducted in a less conciliatory tone.

5. The Potsdam conference finalised the post-war occupation and division of Germany, as well as the future of Poland – but the tensions, animosity and mistrust that emerged during these wartime negotiations contributed to the unfolding Cold War.

The Potsdam Conference

The Potsdam Conference was held from July 16th, 1945 to August 2nd 1945. The Potsdam Conference is considered to be the last of World War Two’s conferences. At Yalta and Tehran, the so-called ‘Big Three’ attended – Churchill, Roosevelt and Stalin. At Potsdam, America was represented by Harry Truman, the Soviet Union still by Stalin and Britain, first by Winston Churchill and then by Clement Atlee, who defeated Churchill in the post-war British election in 1945 which took place during the actual conference. Churchill attended the conference up to July 24th, and Atlee, as Prime Minister of Britain, after this date until the close of the conference.

The issues that had to be discussed at the conference were many. However, by the time of the finish, America had still not used the atomic bomb on Hiroshima so Stalin, with a huge military presence in the east of Europe, could afford to be forceful and confident of getting what he wanted. All Truman would say at Potsdam was that America had a weapon of awesome power – but that meant little to a leader who had millions of soldiers stationed in eastern Europe.


The area was formed from a series of large moraines left after the last glacial period. Today, only one quarter of the city is built up, the rest remaining as green space.

There are about 20 lakes and rivers in and around Potsdam, such as the Havel, the Griebnitzsee, Templiner See, Tiefer See, Jungfernsee, Teltowkanal, Heiliger See, and Sacrower See. The highest point is the 114-metre (374 ft) high Kleiner Ravensberg.

Subdivisions Edit

Potsdam is divided into seven historic city Bezirke and nine new Stadtteile (villages), which joined the city in 2003. The appearance of the city quarters is quite different. Those in the north and in the centre consist mainly of historical buildings, the south of the city is dominated by larger areas of newer buildings.

The city of Potsdam is divided into 34 Stadtteile (or quarters), [4] which are divided further into 84 statistical Bezirke.

Today one distinguishes between the older parts of the city (areas of the historic city and places suburbanized at the latest in 1939) - these are the city center, the western and northern suburbs, Bornim, Bornstedt, Nedlitz, Potsdam South, Babelsberg, Drewitz, Stern and Kirchsteigfeld - and those communities incorporated after 1990 which have since 2003 become Stadtteile - these are Eiche, Fahrland, Golm, Groß Glienicke, Grube, Marquardt, Neu Fahrland, Satzkorn and Uetz-Paaren. [5] The new Stadtteile are located mainly in the north of the city. For the history of all incorporations, see the relevant section on incorporation and spin-offs.

Structure with statistical numbering: [6]

  • 1 Potsdam Nord
    • 11 Bornim
    • 12 Nedlitz
    • 13 Bornstedt
    • 14 Sacrow
    • 15 Eiche
    • 16 Grube
    • 17 Golm
    • 21 Nauener Vorstadt
    • 22 Jägervorstadt
    • 23 Berliner Vorstadt
    • 31 Brandenburger Vorstadt
    • 32 Potsdam West
    • 33 Wildpark
    • 41 Nördliche Innenstadt
    • 42 Südliche Innenstadt
    • 51 Klein Glienicke
    • 52 Babelsberg Nord
    • 53 Babelsberg Süd
    • 61 Templiner Vorstadt
    • 62 Teltower Vorstadt
    • 63 Schlaatz
    • 64 Waldstadt I
    • 65 Waldstadt II
    • 66 Industriegelände
    • 67 Forst Potsdam Süd
    • 71 Stern
    • 72 Drewitz
    • 73 Kirchsteigfeld
    • 81 Uetz-Paaren
    • 82 Marquardt
    • 83 Satzkorn
    • 84 Fahrland
    • 85 Neu Fahrland
    • 86 Groß Glienicke

    Climate Edit

    Officially the climate is oceanic - more degraded by being far from the coast and to the east (Köppen: Cfb), [7] but using the 1961-1990 normal and the 0 °C isotherm the city has a humid continental climate (Dfb), which also shows a slight influence of the continent different from the climates predominantly influenced by the Atlantic Ocean. Low averages below freezing for almost all winter causing snows that are frequent and winters are cold, but not as stringent as inland locations or with greater influence from the same. Summer is also relatively warm with temperatures between 23 and 24 °C, the heat waves being influenced by the UHI of Potsdam. [8]

    The average winter high temperature is 3.5 °C (38.3 °F), with a low of −1.7 °C (28.9 °F). Snow is common in the winter. Spring and autumn are short. Summers are mild, with a high of 23.6 °C (74.5 °F) and a low of 12.7 °C (54.9 °F). [ citation needed ]

    Climate data for Potsdam (Teltower Vorstadt), elevation: 100 m, 1961-1990 normals and extremes
    Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
    Record high °C (°F) 13.6
    Average high °C (°F) 1.7
    Daily mean °C (°F) −0.9
    Average low °C (°F) −3.4
    Record low °C (°F) −20.9
    Average precipitation mm (inches) 44
    Average precipitation days (≥ 1.0 mm) 11 8 9 9 10 10 9 9 8 7 10 12 112
    Mean monthly sunshine hours 47.1 73.7 124.2 168.3 226.9 231.1 231.9 220.1 161.3 114.4 54.0 39.3 1,692.2
    Source: NOAA [8]

    The name "Potsdam" originally seems to have been Poztupimi. A common theory is that it derives from an old West Slavonic term meaning "beneath the oaks", [9] i.e., the corrupted pod dubmi/dubimi (pod "beneath", dub "oak"). However some question this explanation. [10]

    Pre- and early history Edit

    The area around Potsdam shows signs of occupancy since the Bronze Age and was part of Magna Germania as described by Tacitus. After the great migrations of the Germanic peoples, Slavs moved in and Potsdam was probably founded after the 7th century as a settlement of the Hevelli tribe centred on a castle. It was first mentioned in a document in 993 as Poztupimi, when Emperor Otto III gifted the territory to the Quedlinburg Abbey, then led by his aunt Matilda. [10] By 1317, it was mentioned as a small town. It gained its town charter in 1345. In 1573, it was still a small market town of 2,000 inhabitants.

    Early modern era Edit

    Potsdam lost nearly half of its population due to the Thirty Years' War (1618–1648).

    A continuous Hohenzollern possession since 1415, Potsdam became prominent, when it was chosen in 1660 as the hunting residence of Frederick William I, Elector of Brandenburg, the core of the powerful state that later became the Kingdom of Prussia. It also housed Prussian barracks.

    After the Edict of Potsdam in 1685, Potsdam became a centre of European immigration. Its religious freedom attracted people from France (Huguenots), Russia, the Netherlands and Bohemia. The edict accelerated population growth and economic recovery.

    Later, the city became a full residence of the Prussian royal family. The buildings of the royal residences were built mainly during the reign of Frederick the Great. One of these is the Sanssouci Palace (French: "without cares", by Georg Wenzeslaus von Knobelsdorff, 1744), famed for its formal gardens and Rococo interiors. Other royal residences include the New Palace and the Orangery.

    In 1815, at the formation of the Province of Brandenburg, Potsdam became the provincial capital until 1918, except for a period between 1827 and 1843 when Berlin was the provincial capital (as it became once again after 1918). The province comprised two governorates named after their capitals Potsdam and Frankfurt (Oder).

    Governorate of Potsdam Edit

    Between 1815 and 1945, the city of Potsdam served as capital of the governorate of Potsdam (German: Regierungsbezirk Potsdam). The Regierungsbezirk encompassed the former districts of Uckermark, the Mark of Priegnitz, and the greater part of the Middle March. It was situated between Mecklenburg and the Province of Pomerania on the north, and the Province of Saxony on the south and west (Berlin, with a small surrounding district, was an urban governorate and enclave within the governorate of Potsdam between 1815 and 1822, then it merged as urban district into the governorate only to be disentangled again from Potsdam governorate in 1875, becoming a distinct province-like entity on 1 April 1881). Towards the north west the governorate was bounded by the rivers Elbe and the Havel, and on the north east by the Oder. The south eastern boundary was to the neighbouring governorate of Frankfurt (Oder). About 500,000 inhabitants lived in the Potsdam governorate, which covered an area of about 20,700 square kilometres (7,992 sq mi), divided into thirteen rural districts, partially named after their capitals: [11]

    Angermünde Beeskow-Storkow (as of 1836) East Havelland East Prignitz
    Jüterbog-Luckenwalde Lower Barnim Prenzlau Ruppin
    Teltow (as of 1836) Teltow-Storkow (until 1835) Templin Upper Barnim
    West Havelland West Prignitz Zauch-Belzig

    The traditional towns in the governorate were small, however, in the course of the industrial labour migration some reached the rank of urban districts. The principal towns were Brandenburg upon Havel, Köpenick, Potsdam, Prenzlau, Spandau and Ruppin. [11] Until 1875 Berlin also was a town within the governorate. After its disentanglement a number of its suburbs outside Berlin's municipal borders grew to towns, many forming urban Bezirke within the governorate of Potsdam such as Charlottenburg, Lichtenberg, Rixdorf (after 1912 Neukölln), and Schöneberg (all of which, as well as Köpenick and Spandau, incorporated into Greater Berlin in 1920). The urban Bezirke were (years indicating the elevation to rank of urban Bezirkor affiliation with Potsdam governorate, respectively):

    Berlin (1822–1875) Brandenburg/Havel (as of 1881) Charlottenburg (1877–1920) Eberswalde (as of 1911)
    Lichtenberg (1908–1920) Schöneberg (1899–1920) Deutsch-Wilmersdorf (1907–1920) Rixdorf (Neukölln) (1899–1920)
    Potsdam Rathenow (as of 1925) Spandau (1886–1920) Wittenberge (as of 1922)

    20th century Edit

    Berlin was the capital of Prussia and later of the German Empire, but the court remained in Potsdam, where many government officials settled. In 1914, Emperor Wilhelm II signed the Declaration of War in the Neues Palais (New Palace). The city lost its status as a "second capital" in 1918, when Wilhelm II abdicated and Germany became a Republic at the end of World War I.

    At the start of the Third Reich in 1933 there was a ceremonial handshake between President Paul von Hindenburg and the new Chancellor Adolf Hitler on 21 March 1933 in Potsdam's Garrison Church in what became known as the "Day of Potsdam". This symbolised a coalition of the military (Reichswehr) and Nazism. Potsdam was severely damaged by Allied bombing raids during World War II.

    The Cecilienhof Palace was the scene of the Potsdam Conference from 17 July to 2 August 1945, at which the victorious Allied leaders Harry S. Truman, Winston Churchill and Joseph Stalin met to decide the future of Germany and postwar Europe in general. The conference ended with the Potsdam Agreement and the Potsdam Declaration.

    The government of East Germany (formally known as the German Democratic Republic (German: Deutsche Demokratische Republik, DDR)) tried to remove symbols of "Prussian militarism". Many historic buildings, some of them badly damaged in the war, were demolished.

    When in 1946 the remainder of the Province of Brandenburg west of the Oder-Neiße line was constituted as the state of Brandenburg, Potsdam became its capital. In 1952 the GDR disestablished its states and replaced them by smaller new East German administrative districts known as Bezirke. Potsdam became the capital of the new Bezirk Potsdam until 1990.

    Potsdam, south-west of Berlin, lay just outside West Berlin after the construction of the Berlin Wall. The walling off of West Berlin not only isolated Potsdam from West Berlin, but also doubled commuting times to East Berlin. The Glienicke Bridge across the Havel connected the city to West Berlin and was the scene of some Cold War exchanges of spies.

    After German reunification, Potsdam became the capital of the newly re-established state of Brandenburg. Since then there have been many ideas and efforts to reconstruct the original appearance of the city, including the Potsdam City Palace and the Garrison Church.

    Since 2000 Potsdam has been one of the fastest growing cities in Germany. [12]

    Development of Population since 1875 within the Current Boundaries (Blue Line: Population Dotted Line: Comparison to Population Development of Brandenburg state Grey Background: Time of Nazi rule Red Background: Time of Communist rule)

    Recent Population Development and Projections (Population Development before Census 2011 (blue line) Recent Population Development according to the Census in Germany in 2011 (blue bordered line) Official projections for 2005–2030 (yellow line) for 2014–2030 (red line) for 2017–2030 (scarlet line)

    International residents Edit

    Largest groups of foreign residents:

    Rank Nationality Population (31.12.2019)
    1 Syria 2,415
    2 Russia 1,425
    3 Poland 1,115
    4 Ukraine 920
    5 Romania 795

    City government Edit

    Potsdam has had a mayor (Bürgermeister) and city council since the 15th century. From 1809 the city council was elected, with a mayor (Oberbürgermeister) at its head. During the Third Reich the mayor was selected by the NSDAP and the city council was dissolved it was reconstituted in token form after 1945, but free elections did not take place until after reunification.

    Today, the city council is the city's central administrative authority. Local elections took place on 26 October 2003 and again in 2008. Between 1990 and 1999, the Chairman of the City Council was known as the "Town President" but today the post is the "Chairman of the City Council". The mayor is elected directly by the population.

    Brandenburg state government Edit

    The Landtag Brandenburg, the parliament of the state of Brandenburg is in Potsdam. It has been housed in the Potsdam City Palace since 2014. [14]

    • Opole, Poland (1973)
    • Bobigny, France (1974)
    • Jyväskylä, Finland (1985)
    • Bonn, Germany (1988)
    • Perugia, Italy (1990)
    • Sioux Falls, United States (1990)
    • Lucerne, Switzerland (2002)
    • Versailles, France (2016)
    • Zanzibar City, Tanzania (2017)

    Transport Edit

    Rail transport Edit

    Potsdam, included in the fare zone "C" (Tarifbereich C) [16] of Berlin's public transport area and fare zones A and B of its own public transport area, is served by the S7 S-Bahn line. The stations served are Griebnitzsee, Babelsberg and the Central Station (Hauptbahnhof), the main and long-distance station of the city. Other DB stations in Potsdam are Charlottenhof, Park Sanssouci (including the monumental Kaiserbahnhof), Medienstadt Babelsberg, Rehbrücke, Pirschheide and Marquardt. The city also possesses a 27 km-long tramway network.

    Road transport Edit

    Potsdam is served by several motorways: the A 10, a beltway better known as Berliner Ring, the A 115 (using part of the AVUS) and is closely linked to the A 2 and A 9. The B 1 and B 2 federal roads cross the city. Potsdam features a network of urban and suburban buses.

    Potsdam is a university town. The University of Potsdam was founded in 1991 as a university of the State of Brandenburg. Its predecessor was the Akademie für Staats- und Rechtswissenschaften der DDR "Walter Ulbricht", a college of education founded in 1948 which was one of the GDR's most important colleges. There are about 20,000 students enrolled at the university.

    In 1991 the Fachhochschule Potsdam was founded as the second college. It had 3,518 students as of 2017. [17]

    Konrad Wolf Film University of Babelsberg (HFF), founded in 1954 in Babelsberg, is the foremost [ citation needed ] centre of the German film industry since its birth, with over 600 students.

    There are also several research foundations, including Fraunhofer Institutes for Applied Polymer Research and Biomedical Engineering, Max Planck Institute for Gravitational Physics (Albert Einstein Institute), Max Planck Institute of Colloids and Interfaces, and Max Planck Institute for Molecular Plant Physiology, the GFZ – German Research Centre for Geosciences, the Potsdam Astrophysical Institute, the Institute for Advanced Sustainability Studies, The Leibniz Institute for Agricultural Engineering and Bioeconomy and the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research, which employs 340 people in researching climate change. [18]

    As well as universities, Potsdam is home to reputable secondary schools. Montessori Gesamtschule Potsdam, in western Potsdam, attracts 400 students from the Brandenburg and Berlin region.

    Potsdam was historically a centre of European immigration. Its religious tolerance attracted people from France, Russia, the Netherlands and Bohemia. This is still visible in the culture and architecture of the city.

    The most popular attraction in Potsdam is Sanssouci Park, 2 km (1 mi) west of the city centre. In 1744 King Frederick the Great ordered the construction of a residence here, where he could live sans souci ("without worries", in the French spoken at the court). The park hosts a botanical garden (Botanical Garden, Potsdam) and many buildings:

    • The Sanssouci Palace (Schloss Sanssouci), a relatively modest palace of the Prussian royal (and later German imperial) family
    • The Orangery Palace (Orangerieschloss), former palace for foreign royal guests
    • The New Palace (Neues Palais), built between 1763 and 1769 to celebrate the end of the Seven Years' War, in which Prussia held off the combined attacks of Austria and Russia. It is a much larger and grander palace than Sanssouci, having over 200 rooms and 400 statues as decoration. It served as a guest house for numerous royal visitors. Today, it houses parts of University of Potsdam.
    • The Charlottenhof Palace (Schloss Charlottenhof), a Neoclassical palace by Karl Friedrich Schinkel built in 1826
    • The Roman Baths (Römische Bäder), built by Karl Friedrich Schinkel and Friedrich Ludwig Persius in 1829–1840. It is a complex of buildings including a tea pavilion, a Renaissance-style villa, and a Roman bathhouse (from which the whole complex takes its name).
    • The Chinese Tea House (Chinesisches Teehaus), an 18th-century pavilion built in a Chinese style, the fashion of the time.

    Three gates from the original city wall remain today. The oldest is the Hunters' Gate (Jägertor), built in 1733. The Nauener Tor was built in 1755 and close to the historic Dutch Quarter. The ornate Brandenburg Gate (built in 1770, not to be confused with the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin) is situated on the Luisenplatz at the western entrance to the old town.

    The Old Market Square (Alter Markt) is Potsdam's historical city centre. For three centuries this was the site of the City Palace (Stadtschloß), a royal palace built in 1662. Under Frederick the Great, the palace became the winter residence of the Prussian kings. The palace was severely damaged by Allied bombing in 1945 and demolished in 1961 by the Communist authorities. In 2002 the Fortuna Gate (Fortunaportal) was rebuilt in its original historic position which was followed by a complete reconstruction of the palace as the Brandenburg Landtag building inaugurated in 2014. Nearby the square in the Humboldtstraße block, which also was demolished after getting damaged in 1945, reconstructions of several representative residential palaces including Palazzo Pompei and Palazzo Barberini housing an arts museum were completed in 2016–2017 alongside buildings with modernized facades to restore the historical proportions of the block.

    The Old Market Square is dominated today by the dome of St. Nicholas' Church, built in 1837 in the Neoclassical style. It was the last work of Karl Friedrich Schinkel, who designed the building but did not live to see its completion. It was finished by his disciples Friedrich August Stüler and Ludwig Persius. The eastern side of the Market Square is dominated by the Old City Hall, built in 1755 by the Dutch architect Jan Bouman (1706–1776). It has a characteristic circular tower, crowned with a gilded Atlas bearing the world on his shoulders.

    North of the Old Market Square is the oval French Church (Französische Kirche), erected in the 1750s by Boumann for the Huguenot community. To the south lies the Museum Barberini, a copy of the previous building, the Barberini Palace. The museum was funded by the German billionaire Hasso Plattner. The former Baroque building was built by Carl von Gontard in 1771–1772, inspired by the Renaissance palace Palazzo Barberini in Rome. The newly built museum was scheduled to open in spring 2017.

    Another landmark of Potsdam is the two-street Dutch Quarter (Holländisches Viertel), an ensemble of buildings that is unique in Europe, with about 150 houses built of red bricks in the Dutch style. It was built between 1734 and 1742 under the direction of Jan Bouman to be used by Dutch artisans and craftsmen who had been invited to settle here by King Frederick Wilhelm I. Today, this area is one of Potsdam's most visited quarters.

    North of the city centre is the Russian colony of Alexandrowka, a small enclave of Russian architecture (including an Orthodox chapel) built in 1825 for a group of Russian immigrants. Since 1999, the colony has been part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site Palaces and Parks of Potsdam and Berlin.

    East of the Alexandrowka colony is a large park, the New Garden (Neuer Garten), which was laid out from 1786 in the English style. The site contains two palaces one of them, the Cecilienhof, was where the Potsdam Conference was held in July and August 1945. The Marmorpalais (Marble Palace) was built in 1789 in Neoclassical style. Nearby is the Biosphäre Potsdam, a tropical botanical garden.

    Babelsberg, a quarter south-east of the centre, houses the UFA film studios (Babelsberg Studios), and an extensive park with some historical buildings, including the Babelsberg Palace (Schloß Babelsberg, a Gothic revival palace designed by Schinkel).

    The Einstein Tower is located within the Albert Einstein Science Park, which is on the top of the Telegraphenberg within an astronomy compound.

    Potsdam also features a memorial centre in the former KGB prison in Leistikowstraße. In the Volkspark to the north, there is one of the last monuments dedicated to Lenin in Germany.

    Potsdam joined UNESCO's Network of Creative Cities as a Design City on October 31, 2019 on the occasion of World Cities’ Day. [19]

    There are many parks in Potsdam, most of them UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Among their attractions are:

    Why Did Tension Between Soviet And The West Increased After The Potsdam Conference

    Why Did Tension Between Soviet And The West Increased After The Potsdam Conference ?

    The Potsdam Conference attended by Britain, the US, France and Soviet Union was called to decide how to divide the territory of Germany, who had been defeated. The Germans had laid down the arm on 7th and 8th May 1945 and conference was held in July. It was during this conference that major differences between the Soviet and other western nations emerged. There was already no love lost between the Soviet and the other Allies and the Potsdam Conference brought this to a peak.

    Earlier, all the other conferences held between these nations were attended by President Roosevelt. However, with Roosevelt's demise, the office was taken over by Harry S. Truman. Unfortunately, the new US president did not know the agreement that President Roosevelt had agreed with the Soviet Union. So, Truman went ahead with matters as advised by his advisors.

    Truman and his group adhered to a hard line when it came to dealing with the Soviet Union. Any official that wanted to suggest cooperation with the Russians or increase trade with the Russians was marginalized. It was also during the Potsdam Conference that the Americans mentioned something about an atomic bomb, but had not told the Russians that they had a working atomic bomb. Hence, the Russians were taken unawares when the US dropped two atomic bombs on Japan. This further deepened the distrust that the Soviet Union had for the US. Furthermore, immediately after the Germans surrendered, the US ended the Lend Lease pact that she had with Russia. This proved to the Russians that the US was supporting them just to meet their own objectives and not because they wanted genuine friendship between the 2 nations. This further deteriorated the relationship between the two nations.

    Hence, it can be said that the foundation for the cold war that began after the Second World War was laid during the Potsdam Conference. The tension between the Soviet and western countries came to a head after the conference.

    Wikipedia: Origins Of The Cold War

    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. More..

    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

    Watch the video: When Berliners go to POTSDAM