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Potsdam Conference

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The Potsdam Conference (German:

Potsdamer Konferenz) was held at
Cecilienhof, the home of Crown Prince
Wilhelm in Potsdam, occupied Germany,
from 17 July to 2 August 1945. (In some
older documents, it is also referred to as
the Berlin Conference of the Three Heads
of Government of the USSR, USA, and
UK.[2][3]) The participants were the Soviet
Union, the United Kingdom, and the United
States, represented respectively by
Communist Party General Secretary
Joseph Stalin, Prime Ministers Winston
Churchill[4] and Clement Attlee,[5] and
President Harry S. Truman.
Potsdam Conference

The "Big Three" at the Potsdam Conference,

Winston Churchill, Harry S. Truman and Joseph

Host country  Germany

Date 17 July – 2 August


Venue(s) Cecilienhof

Cities Potsdam, Germany

Participants Joseph Stalin

Winston Churchill
Harry S. Truman

Follows Yalta Conference

A conference session including Clement Attlee, Ernest
Bevin, Vyacheslav Molotov, Joseph Stalin, William D.
Leahy, Joseph E. Davies, James F. Byrnes, and Harry S.

Joseph Stalin and Harry Truman meeting at the

Potsdam Conference on 18 July 1945. From left to
right, first row: Premier Joseph Stalin; President Harry
S. Truman, Soviet Ambassador to the United States
Andrei Gromyko, Secretary of State James F. Byrnes,
and Soviet Foreign Minister Vyacheslav Molotov.
Second row: Brigadier General Harry H. Vaughan,
Truman's confidant and military aide, Russian
interpreter Charles Bohlen, Truman naval aide James
K. Vardaman, Jr., and (partially obscured) Charles
Griffith Ross.[1]

Sitting (from left): Clement Attlee, Harry S. Truman,

Joseph Stalin, and behind: Fleet Admiral William Daniel
Leahy, Foreign Secretary Ernest Bevin, Secretary of
State James F. Byrnes, and Foreign Minister
Vyacheslav Molotov
Cecilienhof, site of the Potsdam Conference, pictured
in 2014

Stalin, Churchill, and Truman gathered to

decide how to administer Germany, which
had agreed to unconditional surrender
nine weeks earlier on 8 May (Victory in
Europe Day).[6] The goals of the
conference also included the
establishment of postwar order, peace
treaty issues, and countering the effects of
the war.
Relationships among the
A number of changes had taken place in
the five months since the Yalta Conference
which greatly affected the relationships
among the leaders. The Soviet Union was
occupying Central and Eastern Europe; the
Red Army effectively controlled the Baltic
states, Poland, Czechoslovakia, Hungary,
Bulgaria, and Romania, and refugees were
fleeing from these countries. Stalin had
set up a puppet Communist government in
Poland, and he insisted that his control of
Eastern Europe was a defensive measure
against possible future attacks, claiming
that it was a legitimate sphere of Soviet

Second, Britain had a new Prime Minister.

Conservative Party leader Winston
Churchill had served as Prime Minister in a
coalition government; his Soviet policy
since the early 1940s had differed
considerably from President Roosevelt's,
as Churchill believed Stalin to be a "devil"-
like tyrant leading a vile system.[8] A
general election had been held in the UK
on 5 July; but with results delayed to allow
the votes of armed forces personnel to be
counted in their home constituencies. The
outcome became known during the
conference when Labour leader Clement
Attlee became the new Prime Minister.

Third, President Roosevelt had died on 12

April 1945, and Vice President Harry
Truman assumed the presidency; his
succession saw VE Day (Victory in Europe)
within a month and VJ Day (Victory in
Japan) on the horizon. During the war and
in the name of Allied unity, Roosevelt had
brushed off warnings of a potential
domination by Stalin in part of Europe. He
explained, "I just have a hunch that Stalin
is not that kind of a man." "I think that if I
give him everything I possibly can and ask
for nothing from him in return, 'noblesse
oblige', he won't try to annex anything and
will work with me for a world of
democracy and peace."[9]

Truman had closely followed the Allied

progress of the war. George Lenczowski
notes that, "despite the contrast between
his relatively modest background and the
international glamour of his aristocratic
predecessor, [Truman] had the courage
and resolution to reverse the policy that
appeared to him naive and dangerous",
which was "in contrast to the immediate,
often ad hoc moves and solutions dictated
by the demands of the war".[10] With the
end of the war, the priority of allied unity
was replaced with the challenge of the
relationship between the two emerging
superpowers.[10] The two leading powers
continued to sustain a cordial relationship
to the public, but suspicions and distrust
lingered between them.[11]

Truman was much more suspicious of the

Communists than Roosevelt had been, and
he became increasingly suspicious of
Soviet intentions under Stalin.[10] He and
his advisers saw Soviet actions in Eastern
Europe as aggressive expansionism which
was incompatible with the agreements
that Stalin had committed to at Yalta the
previous February. In addition, Truman
became aware of possible complications
elsewhere when Stalin objected to
Churchill's proposal for an early Allied
withdrawal from Iran, ahead of the
schedule agreed at the Tehran
Conference. The Potsdam Conference was
the only time that Truman met Stalin in

At the Yalta Conference France had been

granted an occupation zone within
Germany, France had been a participant in
the Berlin Declaration, and France was to
be an equal member of the Allied Control
Council. Nevertheless, at the insistence of
the Americans, General de Gaulle was not
invited to Potsdam, as he had too been
denied representation at Yalta; a
diplomatic slight which was a cause of
deep and lasting resentment.[14] Reasons
for the omissions included the
longstanding personal mutual antagonism
between Roosevelt and De Gaulle, ongoing
disputes over the French and American
occupation zones and anticipated
conflicts of interest over French Indochina;
[15] but also reflected the judgement of
both the British and Americans that French
aims in respect of many items on the
Conference agenda were likely to be at
variance with Anglo/American agreed
Agreements made between
the leaders at Potsdam
Potsdam Agreements

Demographics map used for the border discussions at

the conference
The Oder–Neisse line (click to enlarge)

At the end of the conference, the three

Heads of Government agreed on the
following actions. All other issues were to
be answered by the final peace conference
to be called as soon as possible.


The Allies issued a statement of aims of

their occupation of Germany:
demilitarization, denazification,
democratization, decentralization,
dismantling and decartelization.
Germany and Austria were each to be
divided into four occupation zones
(earlier agreed in principle at Yalta), and
similarly each capital, Berlin and Vienna,
was to be divided into four zones.
It was agreed that Nazi war criminals
would be put on trial.
All German annexations in Europe were
to be reversed, 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
were to be carried out; from Poland,
Czechoslovakia and Hungary, but not
War reparations to the Soviet Union
from their zone of occupation in
Germany were agreed. It was also
agreed that 10% of the industrial
capacity of the western zones
unnecessary for the German peace
economy should be transferred to the
Soviet Union within 2 years. Stalin
proposed and it was accepted that
Poland was to be excluded from division
of German compensation, to be later
granted 15% of compensation given to
Soviet Union.[18]
It was to be ensured that German
standards of living did not exceed the
European average. The types and
amounts of industry to dismantle to
achieve this was to be determined later
(see Allied plans for German industry
after World War II).
German industrial war-potential was to
be destroyed, through the destruction or
control of all industry with military
potential. To this end, all civilian
shipyards and aircraft factories were to
be dismantled or otherwise destroyed.
All production capacity associated with
war potential, such as metals, chemical,
machinery etc., were to be reduced to a
minimum level which was later
determined by the Allied Control
Commission. Manufacturing capacity
thus made "surplus" was to be
dismantled as reparations or otherwise
destroyed. All research and international
trade was to be controlled. The
economy was to be decentralized
(decartelization). The economy was
also to be reorganized with primary
emphasis on agriculture and peaceful
domestic industries. In early 1946
agreement was reached on the details
of the latter: Germany was to be
converted into an agricultural and light
industry economy. German exports were
to be coal, beer, toys, textiles, etc. – to
take the place of the heavy industrial
products which formed most of
Germany's pre-war exports.[19]

France, having been excluded from the

Conference, resisted implementing the
Potsdam agreements within its
occupation zone. In particular, the French
refused to resettle any expelled Germans
from the east. Moreover the French did not
accept any obligation to abide by Potsdam
agreements in the proceedings of the
Allied Control Council; in particular
resisting all proposals to establish
common policies and institutions across
Germany as a whole, and anything that
they feared might lead to the emergence
of an eventual unified German


Poland's old and new borders, 1945. Territory

previously part of Germany is identified in pink

A Provisional Government of National

Unity recognized by all three powers
should be created (known as the Lublin
Poles). When the Big Three recognized
the Soviet controlled government, it
meant, in effect, the end of recognition
for the existing Polish government-in-
exile (known as the London Poles).
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 should
be the Oder–Neisse line, defined by the
Oder and Neisse rivers. Silesia,
Pomerania, the southern part of East
Prussia and the former Free City of
Danzig should be under Polish
administration. However the final
delimitation of the western frontier of
Poland should await the peace
settlement (which would take place 45
years later at the Treaty on the Final
Settlement with Respect to Germany in
The Soviet Union declared it would
settle the reparation claims of Poland
from its own share of the overall
reparation payments.

Potsdam Declaration

William D. Leahy's role

One person who was at the Potsdam
Conference, but is not mentioned often is
William D. Leahy. Leahy was Fleet Admiral
in the U.S. Navy and stood as advisor to
President Roosevelt during the Yalta
Conference and to President Truman
during the Potsdam Conference. Leahy
had lengthy military background as he
served as the senior-most United States
military officer on active duty during WWII.
He said in his book, I Was There: The
Personal Story of the Chief of Staff to
Presidents Roosevelt and Truman Based on
His Notes and Diaries Made at the Time,
that the Potsdam Conference was one of
the most frustrating out of all the
conferences, due to hostile relations
between the Soviet Union and the United
Kingdom and the United States.
Throughout his work, he refers to the
conference as its code name, Terminal.
Later in his book he discusses a tour of
Berlin that he takes with President Truman,
and describes this experience as "I never
saw such destruction. I don't know
whether they learned anything from it or
The Foreign Ministers: Vyacheslav Molotov, James F.
Byrnes, and Anthony Eden, July 1945

In addition to the Potsdam Agreement, on

26 July, Churchill, Truman, and Chiang Kai-
shek, Chairman of the Nationalist
Government of China (the Soviet Union
was not at war with Japan) issued the
Potsdam Declaration which outlined the
terms of surrender for Japan during World
War II in Asia.

Truman had mentioned an unspecified
"powerful new weapon" to Stalin during the
conference. Towards the end of the
conference, the United States gave Japan
an ultimatum to surrender or meet "prompt
and utter destruction", which did not
mention the new bomb[21] but promised
that "it was not intended to enslave
Japan". The Soviet Union was not involved
in this declaration, as it was still neutral in
the war against Japan. Prime minister
Kantarō Suzuki did not respond,[22] which
was interpreted as a declaration that the
Empire of Japan should ignore the
ultimatum. Then the United States
dropped atomic bombs on Hiroshima on 6
August and Nagasaki on 9 August 1945.
The justification was that both cities were
legitimate military targets, to end the war
swiftly, and to preserve American lives.

When Truman informed Stalin of the

atomic bomb, he said that the United
States "had a new weapon of unusual
destructive force",[23] but Stalin had full
knowledge of the atomic bomb's
development due to Soviet spy networks
inside the Manhattan Project,[24] and he
told Truman at the conference to "make
good use of this new addition to the Allied

The Soviet Union converted the other

countries of eastern Europe into satellite
states within the Eastern Bloc, such as the
People's Republic of Poland, the People's
Republic of Bulgaria, the People's Republic
of Hungary,[26] the Czechoslovak Socialist
Republic,[27] the People's Republic of
Romania,[28] and the People's Republic of

Previous major conferences

Yalta Conference, 4 to 11 February 1945
Second Quebec Conference, 12 to 16
September 1944
Tehran Conference, 28 November to 1
December 1943
Cairo Conference, 22 to 26 November
Casablanca Conference, 14 to 24
January 1943

See also
Diplomatic history of World War II
List of Soviet Union–United States

1. Description of photograph , Truman
2. "Avalon Project – A Decade of
American Foreign Policy 1941–1949 –
Potsdam Conference" .
Avalon.law.yale.edu. Retrieved
20 March 2013.
3. Russia (USSR) / Poland Treaty (with
annexed maps) concerning the
Demarcation of the Existing Soviet-
Polish State Frontier in the Sector
Adjoining the Baltic Sea 5 March
1957 (retrieved from the UN
Delimitation Treaties Infobase,
accessed on 18 March 2002)
4. "Potsdam Conference" . Encyclopædia
Britannica. Encyclopædia Britannica,
Inc. 10 July 2018. Retrieved
4 September 2018.
5. "BBC Fact File: Potsdam Conference" .
Bbc.co.uk. 2 August 1945. Archived
from the original on 29 June 2012.
Retrieved 20 March 2013.
6. Attlee participated alongside Churchill
while awaiting the outcome of the
1945 general election, and then
replaced him as Prime Minister after
the Labour Party's defeat of the
7. Leffler, Melvyn P., "For the South of
Mankind: The United States, the Soviet
Union and the Cold War, First Edition,
(New York, 2007) pg 31
8. Miscamble 2007, p. 51
9. Miscamble 2007, p. 52
10. George Lenczowski, American
Presidents and the Middle East,
(1990), pp. 7–13
11. Hunt, Michael (2013). The World
Transformed. Oxford University Press.
p. 35. ISBN 9780199371020.
12. Harry S. Truman, Memoirs, Vol. 1: Year
of Decisions (1955), p.380, cited in
Lenczowski, American Presidents,
13. Nash, Gary B. "The Troublesome
Polish Question." The American
People: Creating a Nation and a
Society. New York: Pearson Longman,
2008. Print.
14. Reinisch, Jessica (2013). The Perils of
Peace. Oxford University Press. p. 53.
15. Thomas, Martin (1998). The French
Empire at War 1940-45. Manchester
University Press. p. 215.
16. Feis, Hebert (1960). Between War and
Peace; the Potsdam Conference.
Princeton University Press. p. 138.
17. Alfred de Zayas Nemesis at Potsdam,
Routledge, London 1977. See also
conference on "Potsdamer Konferenz
60 Jahre danach" hosted by the
Institut für Zeitgeschichte in Berlin on
19. August 2005 PDF Archived 20
July 2011 at the Wayback Machine
Seite 37 et seq.
18. "Potsdam Conference | World War II" .
Encyclopedia Britannica. Retrieved
20 September 2018.
19. James Stewart Martin. All Honorable
Men (1950) p. 191.
20. Ziemke, Earl Frederick (1990). The US
Army and the Occupation of Germany
1944–1946. Center of Military History,
United States Army. p. 345.
21. "How The Potsdam Conference
Shaped The Future Of Post-War
Europe" . Imperial War Museums.
Retrieved 12 February 2018.
22. "Mokusatsu: One Word, Two Lessons"
(PDF). Archived from the original
(PDF) on 6 June 2013. Retrieved
20 March 2013.
23. Putz, Catherine (18 May 2016). "What
If the United States Had Told the
Soviet Union About the Bomb?" . The
Diplomat. Retrieved 8 July 2016.
24. Groves, Leslie (1962). Now it Can be
Told: The Story of the Manhattan
Project. New York: Harper & Row.
pp. 142–145. ISBN 0-306-70738-1.
OCLC 537684 .
25. Nichols, Tom (12 April 2016). "Simply
No Other Choice: Why America
Dropped the Atomic Bomb on Japan" .
National Interest.org. Retrieved
21 April 2016.
26. Granville, Johanna, The First Domino:
International Decision Making during
the Hungarian Crisis of 1956, Texas
A&M University Press, 2004. ISBN 1-
27. Grenville 2005, pp. 370–71
28. The American Heritage New Dictionary
of Cultural Literacy, Third Edition.
Houghton Mifflin Company, 2005.
29. Cook 2001, p. 17

Cook, Bernard A. (2001), Europe Since 1945:
An Encyclopedia, Taylor & Francis, ISBN 0-
Crampton, R. J. (1997), Eastern Europe in the
twentieth century and after, Routledge,
ISBN 0-415-16422-2
Miscamble, Wilson D. (2007), From Roosevelt
to Truman: Potsdam, Hiroshima, and the Cold
War, Cambridge University Press, ISBN 0-521-
Roberts, Geoffrey (Fall 2002). "Stalin, the
Pact with Nazi Germany, and the Origins of
Postwar Soviet Diplomatic Historiography".
Journal of Cold War Studies. 4 (4): 93–103.
Wettig, Gerhard (2008), Stalin and the Cold
War in Europe, Rowman & Littlefield, ISBN 0-

1. D., Leahy, William (1979). I was there :

the personal story of the Chief of Staff
to Presidents Roosevelt and Truman
based on his notes and diaries made
at the time. Arno. OCLC 314294296.

Further reading
Michael Beschloss. The Conquerors:
Roosevelt, Truman, and the destruction of
Hitler's Germany, 1941–1945 (Simon &
Schuster, 2002) ISBN 0684810271
Ehrman, John (1956). Grand Strategy Volume
VI, October 1944-August 1945. London:
HMSO (British official history). pp. 299–309.
Farquharson, J. E. "Anglo-American Policy on
German Reparations from Yalta to Potsdam."
English Historical Review 1997 112(448):
904–926. in JSTOR
Feis, Herbert. Between War and Peace: The
Potsdam Conference (Princeton University
Press, 1960) OCLC 259319 Pulitzer Prize;
Gimbel, John. "On the Implementation of the
Potsdam Agreement: an Essay on U.S.
Postwar German Policy." Political Science
Quarterly 1972 87(2): 242–269. in JSTOR
Gormly, James L. From Potsdam to the Cold
War: Big Three Diplomacy, 1945–1947.
(Scholarly Resources, 1990)
Mee, Charles L., Jr. Meeting at Potsdam. M.
Evans & Company, 1975. ISBN 0871311674
Naimark, Norman. Fires of Hatred. Ethnic
Cleansing in Twentieth-Century Europe
(Harvard University Press, 2001)
ISBN 0674003136
Neiberg, Michael. Potsdam: the End of World
War II and the Remaking of Europe (Basic
Books, 2015) ISBN 9780465075256
Thackrah, J. R. "Aspects of American and
British Policy Towards Poland from the Yalta
to the Potsdam Conferences, 1945." Polish
Review 1976 21(4): 3–34. in JSTOR
Zayas, Alfred M. de. Nemesis at Potsdam:
The Anglo-Americans and the Expulsion of the
Germans, Background, Execution,
Consequences. Routledge, 1977.
ISBN 0710004583

Primary sources

Foreign Relations of the United States:

Diplomatic Papers. The Conference of Berlin
(Potsdam Conference, 1945) 2 vols.
Washington, D.C.: U.S. Government Printing
Office, 1960

External links

Wikimedia Commons has media

related to Potsdam Conference.

Agreements of the Berlin (Potsdam)

Truman and the Potsdam Conference
Annotated bibliography for the Potsdam
Conference from the Alsos Digital
The Potsdam Conference, July – August
1945 on navy.mil
United States Department of State
Foreign relations of the United States :
diplomatic papers : the Conference of
Berlin (the Potsdam Conference) 1945
Volume I Washington, D.C.: U.S.
Government Printing Office, 1945
United States Department of State
Foreign relations of the United States :
diplomatic papers : the Conference of
Berlin (the Potsdam Conference) 1945
Volume II Washington, D.C.: U.S.
Government Printing Office, 1945
European Advisory Commission, Austria,
Germany Foreign relations of the United
States : diplomatic papers, 1945.
Harry Truman Revisionist Analysis of
Potsdam Conference Shapell
Manuscript Foundation
Cornerstone of Steel , Time magazine,
21 January 1946
Cost of Defeat , Time magazine, 8 April
Pas de Pagaille! Time magazine, 28
July 1947
Interview with James W. Riddleberger
Chief, Division of Central European
Affairs, U.S. Dept. of State, 1944–47
"The Myth of Potsdam," in B. Heuser et
al., eds., Myths in History (Providence,
Rhode Island and Oxford: Berghahn,
"The United States, France, and the
Question of German Power, 1945–
1960," in Stephen Schuker, ed.,
Deutschland und Frankreich vom
Konflikt zur Aussöhnung: Die Gestaltung
der westeuropäischen Sicherheit 1914–
1963, Schriften des Historischen
Kollegs, Kolloquien 46 (Munich:
Oldenbourg, 2000).
U.S. Economic Policy Towards defeated
countries April 1946.
EDSITEment's lesson Sources of
Discord, 1945–1946

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