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The Potsdam Conference was held in Potsdam, Germany (near Berlin), from July 17 to August 2, 1945. The participants were the victorious allies of World War II, who had gathered to decide how to administer Germany, which had unconditionally surrendered nine weeks earlier, on May 8. Also the conference goals included establishment of post-war order, peace treaties issues, and countering the effects of war.
- He arrived at the conference a day later, citing "official business" that required his attention, but in fact may have suffered a minor heart attack, or perhaps he may have been merely trying to appear important.
- The results of the British election became known during the conference. As a result of the Labour Party victory over the Conservative Party the Prime Ministership changed hands.
- Joseph Stalin suggested that Truman preside over the conference as the only head of state attending, a recommendation accepted by Churchill.
Primary results of conference
- Reversion of all German annexations in Europe after 1937 and separation of Austria from Germany.
- Statement of aims of the occupation of Germany by the Allies : demilitarisation, denazification, democratization and decartelization.
- The Potsdam Agreement, which called for the division of Germany and Austria into four occupation zones (agreed on earlier at the Yalta Conference), and the similar division of Berlin and Vienna into four zones.
- Agreement on prosecution of Nazi war criminals.
- The establishment of the Oder-Neisse line as the provisional border between Germany and Poland.
- The expulsion of the German populations remaining outside the borders of Germany.
- Agreement on war reparations. The Allies estimated their losses and damages at 200 billion dollars. On insistence of the West, Germany was obliged to pay off only 20 billion in German property, current industry products, and work force. The Cold War prevented the full pay off however.
- On Stalin's proposal, Poland was to be excluded from division of German compensation to be later granted 15% of compensation given to Soviet Union (this has never happened).
- In addition, the Allies issued the Potsdam Declaration which outlined the terms of surrender for Japan.
- All other issues were to be answered by the final peace conference to be called as soon as possible.
While the border between Poland and Germany was practically determined and made irreversible by forced population transfers agreed in Potsdam, the West wanted the final peace conference to confirm the Oder-Neisse line as a permanent arrangement. Since WWII has never been settled by a peace conference, the Polish-German border was gradually recognized by mutual agreements: 1950 by East Germany, 1970 by West Germany and 1990 by united Germany. This state of uncertainty lead to greater influence of the Soviet Union over Poland and Germany.
The western allies, and especially Churchill, were suspicious of the motives of Stalin, who had already installed communist governments in the central European countries under his influence; the Potsdam conference turned out to be the last conference among the allies.
During the conference, Truman told Stalin about an unspecified "powerful new weapon"; Stalin, of course, already knew about the atomic bomb through his spies in the Manhattan project, and he urged Truman to use it. Towards the end of the conference, Japan was given an ultimatum (threatening "prompt and utter destruction", without mentioning the new bomb), and after Japan had rejected it, atomic bombs were dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki on August 6 and August 9, respectively. Truman made the decision to use atomic weapons to end the war while at the conference.
The Potsdam Conference was preceded by
- the Casablanca Conference, January 14 to 24, 1943
- the Yalta Conference, February 4 to 11, 1945
- the Teheran Conference, November 28 to December 1, 1943
- the Cairo Conference, November 22 to 26, 1943
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