conference of Potsdam

from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
The "Big Three": (from left to right) British Prime Minister Clement Attlee , US President Harry S. Truman , Soviet dictator and generalissimo Josef Stalin ; standing behind it: US Admiral William Daniel Leahy , British Foreign Secretary Ernest Bevin , US Secretary of State James F. Byrnes and Soviet Foreign Minister Vyacheslav Molotov

The Potsdam Conference from July 17 to August 2, 1945 in the Cecilienhof Palace near Potsdam , officially known as the Three- Power Conference of Berlin , was a meeting of the three main allies of the Second World War after the end of the fighting in Europe to deliberate at the highest level on the future Action.

As far as Germany was concerned, the results were recorded in the Potsdam Agreement . With regard to Japan , the heads of government of the United States of America , national China and the United Kingdom issued the Potsdam Declaration .


There are different names for the Potsdam Conference. The title of the meeting is in the header of the original document of the 1945 agreement "Berlin Conference of the Three Heads of Government of the USSR, USA, and UK" . In the translation of the “Communication on the Tripartite Conference of Berlin” the conference is referred to as the Tripartite Conference of Berlin .

In English usage , in addition to the name The Berlin Conference, there is also The Berlin (Potsdam) Conference .


Beginning with the Tehran Conference in 1943, the main allies of the anti-Hitler coalition of the Second World War had already met several times at different levels in order to reach agreement on how to proceed after the victory over the National Socialist German Reich . Before that, the call for unconditional surrender was made at the Casablanca Conference, also in 1943 . At the Yalta Conference of February 1945, a division into zones of occupation and coordinated administration and control by a Central Control Commission was decided.

After the military collapse of the Greater German Reich , accompanied by the unconditional surrender of the German armed forces on May 8, 1945 and the arrest of the executive government under Karl Dönitz and Lutz von Krosigk on May 23, the victorious powers had with the Berlin Declaration and the establishment of the occupation zones as well as the establishment of an Allied Control Council officially took over government power in Germany . A conference in June, as proposed by Winston Churchill , was delayed by Joseph Stalin . This was part of Soviet efforts, the Western powers in relation to the German eastern border fait accompli ( accomplished fact ) to make.

Original plans saw Berlin before as the venue, but because of local heavy war damage, the meetings were in the intact Potsdam Schloss Cecilienhof laid.


Cecilienhof Palace - the venue for the Potsdam Conference
At the beginning of the Potsdam Conference: Winston Churchill , Harry S. Truman and Josef Stalin
Sitting at the conference table and a. Clement Attlee , Ernest Bevin , Vyacheslav Molotov , Josef Stalin, William Daniel Leahy , James F. Byrnes and Harry S. Truman.

At the conference, the demarcation of borders in Europe and the reparations payments , the administration of occupied Germany and the ongoing Pacific War should be discussed.

The participants were:

Churchill and Truman met on Monday, July 16, in his quarters in Babelsberg . Stalin visited Truman on July 17, 1945 at noon. The first session of the Big Three began at 5:00 p.m. in Cecilienhof Palace. The last meeting took place on Wednesday, August 1, 1945; it ended at 00:30 on August 2.

The delegations also included the respective general staff as well as other advisors who took their temporary accommodations not far from the conference location in some Neubabelsberg villas on Lake Griebnitzsee . The US delegation was accommodated in the " Erlenkamp House ".

France was not involved in the Potsdam Conference, but agreed to the principles and ideas set out in the 'Communication' with certain reservations, formulated in six Notes of August 7, 1945.


First phase from July 17 to 25, 1945

Nine meetings were held between July 17 and 25. The conference was then suspended for two days during which the UK election results were announced.


When the "Big Three" settled down at the table at 5:00 pm on July 17, 1945, Stalin made his first clever tactical move: He proposed Truman as chairman of the conference, thereby placing him in the position of mediator between the Soviet Union and Great Britain. He then presented the most important American points :

Stalin added further discussion points:

  • The division of the stocks of the German war and merchant navy ,
  • the German reparations payments,
  • the fate of the German industrial regions and a Soviet participation in their administration,
  • the resumption of diplomatic relations with Germany's former satellite states .

Churchill made no specific suggestions.

Reorganization of Germany

The establishment of the Council of Foreign Ministers was unanimously accepted. The basic principles that the victorious powers were guided by at the Potsdam Conference were the “4 big D ” - sometimes the “5 D” is also used (see Political Principles ).

The main concern of the principles was the division of Germany into zones of occupation. Each of the four powers ( USA , USSR , Great Britain and France ) should be given freedom of political action in their zone. In connection with the principle of unanimous decision-making in the Allied Control Council, this formulation meant that the individual occupying powers in their respective zones were able to pursue a completely independent policy without the Control Council being able to prevent them.


On July 21, 1945, the question of the withdrawal of troops from Iran was discussed. During the course of the Anglo-Soviet invasion of Iran , British and Soviet troops marched into neutral Iran in August 1941 to set up a supply corridor , the so-called Persian Corridor , to support the Soviet troops. The Allies and the Iranian government agreed at the Tehran Conference in November 1943 that all foreign troops should leave Iran six months after the end of the fighting. Eden suggested that British and Soviet troops should withdraw first from Tehran and later from all of Iran. Stalin agreed to withdraw troops from the capital, Tehran, but insisted that the troops remain stationed in Iran for six months until the end of the war with Japan .

It should later become clear why Stalin wanted to keep the Soviet troops in northern Iran: The Soviet troops supported the separatist movements there, which had proclaimed the communist- oriented Azerbaijani People's Government and the Kurdish Republic of Mahabad in August 1945 . Churchill had no objection to Stalin's proposal, since he wanted to control the oil fields in southern Iran with the British troops. The question of troop withdrawal from Iran was finally resolved at the meeting of the Council of Foreign Ministers in London in September 1945.


US Department of State, January 10, 1945: Germany - Poland Proposed Territorial Changes - Secret , map with proposals made by the American State Department about the future course of the border line.

Churchill and Truman rejected the transfer of the areas east of the Oder and Lusatian Neisse , which Stalin and Poland demanded . At the fifth session on July 21, 1945, Truman pointed out the German character of the areas east of Oder and Neisse and the nine million Germans who made their home there. Churchill also stated clearly that it was not good for Poland to "take over so much German territory". As in Yalta, in the sixth session on July 22nd, Churchill stressed Britain's moral concerns about large-scale population relocations. One can only imagine the expulsion of as many Germans as Poles moved east of the Curzon Line , that is, two to three million; but the expulsion of eight or nine million Germans, as would the Polish demands, would be too much and completely wrong. Stalin claimed that the German population "left" the eastern parts of the German Empire . In order to make this claim appear credible, however, in June he had all Germans expelled in a strip 100 to 200 km east of the Oder and Neisse .

The foreign ministers of the three great powers: Vyacheslav Molotov, James F. Byrnes and Anthony Eden during a break in the conference, July 1945
Attlee, Truman and Stalin; behind be Bevin, Byrnes and Molotov

On July 24th, the Polish delegation appeared with the chairman of the National Council , the Stalinist Bolesław Bierut , Prime Minister Edward Osóbka-Morawski , who was also trained in Moscow , Foreign Minister Wincenty Rzymowski and Agriculture Minister Stanisław Mikołajczyk , who had been Prime Minister of the Polish government- in- exile in London until 1944 . In their statements, the Poles minimized the number of Germans in the disputed areas to a maximum of one and a half million. The Polish delegation stubbornly defended its claim to East Germany as far as the Oder and Görlitzer Neisse ; the remaining Germans were expected to go “voluntarily”. In fact, at the time of the Potsdam Conference, around five million Germans were still living east of the Oder and Neisse rivers, while hundreds of thousands more were prevented from returning to their hometowns by Polish border troops and Soviet units.

The Potsdam Conference had to be interrupted here because the House of Commons elections were coming up in Great Britain . Churchill lost the election. His successor in the office of Prime Minister was Clement Attlee.

Allied Indochina Policy

Since 1858 Indochina was under French colonial rule . During the Second World War, from July 1940, it was subject to the French Vichy regime, which was tolerated by the Nazi regime . This allowed the Japanese Empire , allied with Nazi Germany, to occupy Indochina with Japanese troops. After Japan ousted the French colonial troops in Indochina, which were subordinate to the Vichy regime, on March 9, 1945, the European allies urged US President Franklin D. Roosevelt to support France in the fight against Japan. Roosevelt died in April 1945. His successor Truman dropped the decolonization of Indochina and in May 1945 recognized France's sovereignty over Indochina. In July 1945 he agreed at the Potsdam Conference with the other allies to partition Vietnam and expand the South East Asia Command (SEAC) to the 16th parallel. The Potsdam Conference thus created the prerequisites for the subsequent conflict of worldview systems , namely the conflict between the liberal, western-style understanding of democracy and Asian-style communism. An escalation of this conflict many years later was the Vietnam War .

Second phase from July 28 to August 2, 1945

On July 28, Attlee returned to the conference in the capacity of UK Prime Minister, accompanied by the new Secretary of State, Ernest Bevin. Four more meetings were held. During the conference there were regular meetings between the heads of the three governments, accompanied by the foreign ministers, and regular consultations between the foreign ministers.

With the new Prime Minister Attlee on July 28, a new chapter began in the Potsdam Conference. Churchill's election weakened the British position.

Final stage of the conference

A problem arose with regard to Poland's western border: "How could it be regulated if part of the German territory has already been allocated before we have agreed what should count as reparations?" Truman asked.

The Polish western border was discussed until the end of the conference. Despite initial resistance, Article XIII of the Potsdam Protocol on the “orderly and humane transfer” of Germans who “stayed in Poland, Czechoslovakia and Hungary” was finally adopted.

The beginning of the Cold War , with which facts that had already been created were further cemented, prevented the planned peace conference. a. the open question of Poland's western border should be resolved.

Result and consequences

The results of the “Potsdam Conference” in relation to Europe were recorded in a protocol that was later often referred to as the Potsdam Agreement or the Potsdam Communiqué .

The most important resolutions include the legitimation of the “orderly and humane transfer” of German “ parts of the population” of Poland, Czechoslovakia and Hungary, as well as Poland's administrative sovereignty over the German areas east of the Oder-Neisse line . In August 1945 Churchill had publicly protested in the House of Commons against the extent of the expansion of the territory that Poland was aiming for and against the practice of mass expulsion.

The border between Poland and Germany should be reserved for a peace treaty settlement with Germany (→  two-plus-four treaty , German-Polish border treaty ). On October 10, 1945, the British Foreign Secretary Bevin stated that Great Britain was in no way obliged to support Poland's claims to the Oder-Neisse border. The US Secretary of State Byrnes made the same statement in a speech in Stuttgart on September 6, 1946 .

The Potsdam Conference marks the end of World War II in Europe and, in some ways, the beginning of the Cold War. The failure of a common policy of occupation ultimately led to the division of Germany , which lasted over 40 years .

See also


  • Wolfgang Benz : Potsdam 1945. Occupation and rebuilding in four-zone Germany . dtv, Munich 3rd edition 1994, ISBN 3-423-04522-1 .
  • Charles L. Mee : The Division of the Booty . The Potsdam Conference 1945. Fritz Molden, Vienna 1975, ISBN 3-453-48060-0 (English: Meeting at Potsdam . Translated by Renata Mettenheimer).
  • Niels von Redecker: The Polish expulsion decrees and the open property issues between Germany and Poland (studies by the Institute for Eastern Law 44) , 2nd edition, Lang, Frankfurt am Main 2004, ISBN 3-631-52869-8 .
  • James L. Gormly: From Potsdam to the Cold War: Big Three Diplomacy, 1945-1947. Scholarly Resources, 1990.
  • JR Thackrah: Aspects of American and British Policy Towards Poland from the Yalta to the Potsdam Conferences, 1945. Polish Review 1976 21 (4): 3-34, ISSN  0032-2970 (Eng.).
  • Foreign Relations of the United States: Diplomatic Papers. The Conference of Berlin (Potsdam Conference, 1945) , 2 vols., United States Government Printing Office , Washington DC 1960 (Engl.).
  • Federal Ministry for Expellees, Refugees and War Victims (Ed.): The expulsion of the German population from Czechoslovakia. 2 vol., Weltbild-Verlag, Augsburg 1994, ISBN 3-89350-560-1 .
  • Milan Churaň: Potsdam and Czechoslovakia: Myth and Reality. Edited by the working group Sudetendeutscher Lehrer und Erzieher eV, educational working group for Central and Eastern Europe in cooperation with Heimatkreis Mies-Pilsen eV, Munich / Dinkelsbühl 2007, ISBN 978-3-9810491-7-6 .

Web links

Commons : Potsdam Conference  - collection of images, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. China's President Chiang Kai-shek gave his approval by radio telephone.
  2. ^ Potsdam Agreement of August 2, 1945 , in: (Ed.)
  3. ^ Publications of the Harry S. Truman Library and Museum , at:
  4. Yale Law School publications as part of the Avalon Project . Lillian Goldman Law Library, New Haven 2008.
  5. Charles L. Mee : The Division of the Booty . The Potsdam Conference 1945. Fritz Molden, Vienna / Munich / Zurich / Innsbruck 1975, ISBN 3-217-00706-9 , p. 74 ff., 277, 311 (English: Meeting at Potsdam . Translated by Renata Mettenheimer).
  6. a b Communication on the Tripartite Conference in Berlin ("Potsdam Agreement") of August 2, 1945
  7. ^ Kristen Blake, The US-Soviet confrontation in Iran, 1945–1962. University Press of America, 2009, p. 22.
  8. Foreign relations of the United States: diplomatic papers: the Conference of Berlin (the Potsdam Conference) , 1945 1 , 2
  9. Alexander Fischer (ed.), Teheran, Jalta, Potsdam. The Soviet Minutes of the “Big Three” War Conferences. 2nd edition, Cologne 1973, p. 265.
  10. Thomas Urban , The Loss. The expulsion of Germans and Poles in the 20th century. Munich 2004, p. 119.
  11. Foreign Policy of the Federal Republic of Germany - Documents from 1945–1989 (Foreign Office, ed.), Verlag Bonn Aktuell, Munich 1990, ISBN 3-87959-438-4 , p. 128.