The Potsdam Agreement

In May of 1945, Germany surrendered to the allies, and the war in Europe ended.

In July of 1945, the third wartime conference took place between the allies in Potsdam, Germany.

However, there had been a number of changes since the conference five months ago in Yalta and the relationship between the allied leaders was greatly affected.

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What had changed?

1. The USA had a new President; Harry Truman

On the 12th of April 1945, President Roosevelt passed away and was replaced by Vice-President Harry Truman. While Roosevelt had been determined to maintain friendly relations with the USSR, Truman was much more anti-communist and suspicious of Stalin, believing that he was preparing to take over the whole of Europe.

As a result, he wanted to 'get tough with the soviets'.

2. The Red Army was occupying the majority of Eastern Europe

After liberating Eastern Europe from Nazi control, Stalin kept his army stationed in the countries. By July, soviet forces controlled the Baltic states, Finland, Poland, Czechoslovakia, Hungary, Bulgaria and Romania.

Stalin ignored the wishes of the Polish people and the Declaration on Liberated Europe agreed at Yalta, using rigged elections to set up a communist government in Poland, insitisting it was a defensive measure to secure the Soviet Union against any future attacks. (creating a buffer zone)

3. The USA had tested an atomic bomb successfully

On the 16th July 1945, the Americans had successfully tested an atomic bomb in the Nevada desert, believing it could put the USA is a stronger position to negotiate with Stalin, Truman was prepared to use it as a 'bargaining chip' to make Stalin give in to American demands.

There were also changes that took place during the Potsdam Conference.

Churchill lost the British elections and was replaced by Clement Attlee half way through the Potsdam conference.

Without Churchill's presence, the conference was dominated by rivalry and Truman and Stalin's suspicion of each other.

Some agreements were made:

  1. Germany and its capital Berlin, were to be divided into zones of occupation as agreed at Yalta.

  2. German war reparations were agreed and each country was to take reparations from it's own area of occupation.

  3. The Nazi Party was to be banned and Nazi war-criminals put on trial at the Nuremberg Trials.

  4. The United Kingdom and the US both recognised the new Polish government despite the restricted and rigged elections carried out by the USSR. Also, Polish exiles in London were not allowed to join the government.

  5. Poland was to be divided at the Oder-Neisse Line and Eastern territory was taken from Poland by the USSR. As a result, Poland was to be given Western German territory as agreed at Yalta.

However, some disagreements arose during the conference.

  1. In addition to the reparations, Stalin wanted to take 10% of industrial machinery from the Western Zones of Germany. Truman objected as he did not want the German economy to follow the same fate as that of the Weimar Republic after the Treaty of Versailles.

  2. The Soviet Union wanted to share the occupation of Japan when they surrendered and Truman refused as he knew that the atomic bomb was likely to end the war quickly.