Potsdam Conference of 1945

Potsdam Conference of 1945

 

(Berlin Conference), a conference of the heads of the governments of the USSR, the USA, and Great Britain: J. V. Stalin, chairman of the Council of People’s Commissars of the USSR; H. S. Truman, president of the USA: and W. S. Churchill, prime minister of Great Britain, who was replaced on July 28, 1945, by the new prime minister, C. Attlee. Also participating were the foreign ministers of these countries, as well as military advisers and experts. The conference took place from July 17 through August 2 at the Cecilienhof Palace in Potsdam, near Berlin. The decisions of the Potsdam Conference represent the development of decisions adopted at the Yalta Conference of 1945 (the Crimean Conference).

The central issues at the Potsdam Conference were the demilitarization, de-Nazification, and democratization of Germany. In addition, many other very important aspects of the German problem were considered.

The participants in the Potsdam Conference reached agreement on the basic features of a common policy toward Germany, which was viewed as an economic and political unit. In accordance with the decisions adopted at the Yalta Conference, the Potsdam agreements provided for the complete disarmament of Germany, the dismantling of its armed forces, the breakup of the German monopolies, the elimination of all German industries that might be used for military production, the abolition of the National Socialist Party and all of the organizations and institutions under its control, and the prevention of any Nazi and militarist activity or propaganda in the country. The participants in the conference signed a special agreement on reparations, affirming the right of peoples who had suffered from German aggression to receive compensation and defining the sources for reparations payments. Agreement was reached concerning the establishment of central German administrative departments to handle finances, transportation, communications, and so forth.

At the Potsdam Conference an agreement was finally reached on a system for the four-power occupation of Germany, which was supposed to ensure the demilitarization and democratization of the country. Under this agreement, supreme authority in Germany during the occupation would be vested in the commanders in chief of the armed forces of the USSR, the USA, Great Britain, and France, each of whom would be responsible for his own zone of occupation. Questions affecting Germany as a whole would be handled by the supreme commanders of the four zones of occupation, acting jointly as members of the Allied Control Council.

The Potsdam agreements established a new Polish-German boundary along the line formed by the Oder and the Western Neisse. This decision was reinforced by the decision to resettle the German population still residing in Poland, Czechoslovakia, and Hungary. The Potsdam Conference confirmed the transfer to the Soviet Union of Königsberg (since 1946, Kaliningrad) and the surrounding territory. It established the Council of Foreign Ministers, which was assigned the task of preparing for the peace-time regulation of relations with Germany and its allies.

At the suggestion of the Soviet delegation, the question of the future of the German fleet was discussed. It was decided that the entire German fleet of surface vessels, both warships and merchant ships, would be divided evenly among the USSR, the USA, and Great Britain. At the suggestion of Great Britain, the conference decided to sink most of the German submarine fleet and distribute the remainder equally among the three powers.

The Soviet government proposed that the jurisdiction of the Austrian provisional government be extended to all of Austria, including regions that had been occupied by the armies of the Western powers. As a result of the negotiations, it was decided that this question would be studied after American and British troops entered Vienna.

At the Potsdam Conference the governments of the three powers affirmed their intention to turn the principal war criminals over to trial by an international military tribunal. The participants in the conference also expressed their opinions on several other international questions: the Black Sea straits, the situation in the Eastern European countries, and the attitude of the UN toward the Franco regime in Spain.

During the Potsdam Conference certain difficulties were caused by American and British advocates of a “hard line.” Nevertheless, decisions adopted by the conference represented a victory for democratic principles in the regulation of postwar problems.

The Soviet government steadfastly and consistently carried out the decisions reached at the Potsdam Conference of 1945. The decisions of the conference were fully implemented in East Germany (on the territory of the German Democratic Republic). Soon after the conference, the Western powers embarked on a policy of revising and directly repudiating the decisions reached at Potsdam.

PUBLICATIONS

Tegeran-Ialta-Potsdam: Sb. dok-tov, 3rd ed. Moscow, 1971.
Vneshniaia politika Sovetskogo Soiuzaνperiod Otechestvennoi voiny, vol. 3. [Moscow] 1947. Pages 336–58.
Perepiska Predsedatelia Soveta Ministrov SSSR s prezidentami SShA i prem’er-ministrami Velikobritanii vo vremia Velikoi Otechestvennoi voiny, 1941–45, vols. 1–2. Moscow, 1957.
The Conference of Berlin, vols. 1–2. Washington, D. C. 1960.

REFERENCES

Istoriia Velikoi Otechestvennoi voiny, vol 5. Moscow, 1963.
Israelian, V. L. Antigitlerovskaia koalitsiia. Moscow, 1964.
Boratyński, S. Diplomatiia perioda vtoroi mirovoi voiny. Moscow, 1959. (Translated from Polish.)

V. L. ISRAELIAN

References in periodicals archive ?
The Potsdam Conference of 1945 occupies an ambiguous spot in the history of the Cold War; for some historians it was the Cold War's starting point, though for others it was only a way station on the path to superpower conflict.