July 17, 1945 - Potsdam Conference

By Grace Derderian – Ms. Sotiropoulos

The Potsdam Conference took place after the Second World War from July 17th to August 2nd, 1945. This meeting was between the powers known as “The Big Three” – President Harry Truman of the United States, British Prime Minister Winston Churchill, and Soviet Premier Joseph Stalin. The leaders gathered in Potsdam, Germany, with the purpose of discussing postwar terms following World War II and the reign of the Nazis.

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While there were many issues following the war, dealing with Germany was one of the more pressing ones, as it had grown drastically out of proportion during the rise of Hitler. Stalin was unmistakably eager for Germany to pay war reparations, as they had done so much damage to the Soviet Union. This did not end up happening because the last thing the world needed was Germany to be in the economic distress they were in after the Treaty of Versailles in 1919. This could have been part of the rise of the Nazis. To make up for this, Truman insisted that Germany be managed, and reparations be payed by zone rather than has a whole. Instead of reparations for Germany, the country was demilitarized, and all war criminals were put on trial for their actions during the war. All institutions that took part in the rise of the Nazis were obviously shut down and discontinued. The country was essentially “purged of Nazi influence.” In regard to the allies, A Council of Foreign Ministers was put together to set up peace treaties between them after the conference.

Poland was another looming topic of the Potsdam Conference, but it was not completely sorted out during the time they had. They agreed that the country would get territory to the west in areas of Germany to make up for the territory they had lost to the Soviet Union. They created this border along the Oder river. The solution for a “democratic Poland” was never agreed upon by the Big Three, so it was handed to the Council of Foreign ministers instead.

One of the most crucial discussions during the Potsdam Conference was the war in the Pacific. President Truman subtly brought up that the United States had just successfully set off their first atomic bomb. He did not end up specifying that it was an atomic bomb to Russia’s Stalin, but ended up getting aid from the Soviet Union if needed. The bomb gave the US power. In the end, the Potsdam Declaration threatened the Japanese with total destruction from said atomic bomb if they did not surrender immediately. There was no intention of enslaving the Japanese whatsoever, but the United States knew that this threat would stop them, despite destroying them in the end at Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

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The Potsdam Conference was crucial to post war Europe and the United States because the Big Three did not punish Germany to the extent they did during the Treaty of Versailles in 1919. If they had, there might have been potential for another operation such as the Nazis to rise to power… Additionally, with the threat to the Pacific, the United States gained power. They had an atomic bomb and declared they would use it if the Japanese did not surrender in the Pacific. Going into the Cold War, this displayed the United States power as well as their desire to be the better country by having this advanced technology.

 

https://www.history.com/topics/world-war-ii/potsdam-conference

https://www.iwm.org.uk/history/how-the-potsdam-conference-shaped-the-future-of-post-war-europe