Nazi Germany was finally defeated in May 1945 and the major victory powers, United States, Soviet Union and Britain, met in July 1945 to discuss post-war Germany and Europe. Large parts of Berlin were destroyed and therefore it was decided that the conference would take place in the relatively undamaged Potsdam southwest of Berlin. The conference ran from 16 July to 2 August 1945. The conference took place in the Schloss Cecilienhof, Germany’s last crown prince (Wilhelm, son of Wilhelm II) home. From the previous meeting between these three in Yalta, February 1945, U. S. President Roosevelt had died in April the same year. He was replaced by Harry S. Truman. Britain was first represented by Winston Churchill, but his Conservative party lost the election in Britain in late July to the Labour party. Churchill returned to Britain and was replaced by the new Prime minister, Clement Attlee. The three ”big” had met twice before (Tehran in 1943 and Yalta in February 1945) and just as before the meeting was marked by discussions how post-war Europe should be designed. Much of what was discussed had already been discussed at the Yalta conference in February of the same year.

The Potsdam conference was mainly about the occupation and construction of Germany and the shape of Europe’s borders. The participants were keen to learn from the Versailles peace after the First World War. That peace had rather pushed Germany in one direction (revanchism) towards a new war and this of course the participants wanted to avoid. Other issues discussed were Soviet participation in the war against Japan (Soviet Union declared Japan war in august 1945). Another interesting detail was whether the Americans would tell Stalin about the atomic bomb. The Americans tested the first atomic bomb in New Mexico, just before the conference. The Americans refrained because it was assessed that the bomb was a trump card against the Soviet Union. Stalin  probably already knew about the bomb and was in the process of making his own.

Current status: Preserved with museum (2008).

Address: Im Neuen Garten, 14469 Potsdam.

Get there: Car.

My comment:

Potsdam was located in the Soviet-occupied part of Germany, and when the delegates of the United States and Britain arrived at Cecilienhof, they were met in the courtyard by a large flower arrangement shaped like a red star. This arrangement has been preserved to these days as a historical legacy. When I visited Cecilienhof in 2008, it was strictly forbidden to photograph indoors and zealous guards made sure that this was followed. This has since been eased and is now allowed for a small amount of money to take pictures.

Follow up in books: Feis; Herbert: Between war and peace: The Potsdam conference (1960).