75 years ago, the world-famous Potsdam Conference was held near Berlin. The nine meetings that took place from July 17 to July 25, 1945, resulted in agreements between the countries of the Anti-Hitler Coalition. The country leaders gathered to decide on Germany’s administrative structure, war reparations that Germany would be obliged to pay, the war against Japan, and other issues.
The delegations taking part in the conference were headed by Joseph Stalin and Harry Truman, the USSR and the US leaders. The UK was first represented by Winston Churchill, but after his resignation as Prime Minister he was replaced by Clement Attley.
Unlike other conferences, this one was held after the USSR's victory over Nazi Germany. As historians call it, it became a “unique” phenomenon. It was during this conference that many ambiguous issues were resolved by the members of the anti-Hitler coalition.
Recently, Yuri Nikiforov, the head of the scientific department at the Russian Military Historical Society, gave an interview to RIA Novosti. He praised the importance of this final conference, saying that it “drew the bottom line under Germany’s defeat” during World War II. According to Nikiforov, the fact that the military cooperation between the allies “didn’t grow over into confrontation, including the military one” was the main outcome of the conference. Nikiforov believes that there was no common goal after the defeat of Germany. This, in turn, led to contradictions that became more and more obvious. Soviet diplomats coped with the task, directing their efforts to smear these differences.
Germany Must be no Threat to its Neighboring Countries
The main task was to make the decisions that would prevent Germany from posing threat to neighboring countries in the future, but at the same time not infringe on the interests of the German people. The plan proposed by the US was taken as a basis. According to it, Germany was to be completely disarmed. Besides, it was decided to eliminate the National Socialist German Workers' Party, all its branches and organizations controlled by it, as well as to cancel all the laws adopted by Nazi Germany.
At the Potsdam Conference, a historic decision was made to bring Nazi criminals who had killed millions of people across Europe to justice.
The issue of reparations was one more contradiction to be eliminated.
Even during the Yalta Conference it was agreed that Germany would have to compensate for the damage it had inflicted on European countries. However, in Nikiforov's opinion, the question on the methods and extent of recovering the damage remained open until then. The USSR and the US were able to agree middle-ground solutions. The total compensation amounted to $20 mln, half of which was due for payment to the Soviet Union. However, according to many Russian historians, the USSR was entitled to an unfairly small amount of compensation.
As it is well-known, Eastern Prussia was the most militant part of Germany. Therefore, the Allies decided to liquidate it, and to give the freed lands to Poland and the USSR. A mass relocation of the Germans, who had lived in these territories and in the lands transferred to Hungary and Czechoslovakia. So, the parties took a decision on orderly resettlement of the ethnic German.
Who to Fight Against Japan?
Until the end of the conference, it was unclear which country, apart from the US, would participate in the war against Japan. The US already had nuclear weapons by that time, so Harry Truman believed that they could well cope with its own forces. However, the US generals managed to persuade Truman to give up this option. They substantiated their opinion by saying it would bring about heavy losses among the military and the Americans would never understand it. Eventually, the allies decided that the USSR would participate in the war. As a result of agreements, on August 9, 1945, the Soviet Army started military operations against Japan.
Historians generally agree that the Potsdam Conference was successful, although more benefits could have been achieved. Thanks to the decisions made at the conference, the post-World War II order was established. It stayed for almost half a century until the collapse of the Soviet Union.
No Russian Exhibits at Potsdam Exhibition
On 23 June, the exhibition dedicated to the 75th anniversary of the Potsdam Conference took place in Potsdam. However, as the Russian media reported recently, there were no exhibits from Russia, although the main role in the victory over Nazi Germany in World War II undoubtedly belongs to the USSR.
Commenting on this attitude of the exhibition’s organizers to the role of the Soviet Union in the defeat of Nazi Germany, Vladimir Medinsky, the Aide to the Russian President, said that the disagreements arose on the texts that were offered by the Germans to the artifacts, which Russia planned to loan for the exhibition. According to Medinsky, after careful analysis, the Russian scientists eventually concluded that the texts contained “an obvious manipulation of historical facts.” That is why it was decided not to send anything to this exhibition. However, Russia doesn't refuse to participate in other international projects that are related to World War II.