A2 History (Unit 3) IR 1945-2004 (1) Yalta and Potsdam; the collapse of the Grand Alliance

source: BBC History

The Yalta and Potsdam conferences were called to help the Allies decide what would happen to Europe, and in particular Germany, at the end of the Second World War. This Revision Bite will help you understand the decisions made at these two important conferences and the differences that emerged between the allied leaders.

Excellent Cold War series for A Level/IB on Youtube

Yalta and Potsdam – the basics

Yalta – February 1945: Germany was not yet defeated, so, although there were tensions about Poland, the big three – Stalin, Roosevelt and Churchill – managed to agree to split Germany into four zones of occupation, and to allow free elections in Eastern European countries. Russia was invited to join the United Nations, and Russia promised to join the war against Japan when Germany was defeated.

Potsdam – July 1945: Germany had been defeated, Roosevelt had died and Churchill had lost the 1945 election – so there were open disagreements. Truman came away angry about the size of reparations and the fact that a communist government was being set up in Poland. Truman did not tell Stalin that he had the atomic bomb.

Differences between Yalta and Potsdam

It will help if you are able to describe the huge differences between Yalta and Potsdam – the issues were the same, but the goodwill to overcome them was gone, because the countries no longer needed to stick together. Note how not all the broken promises were by Stalin:

Comparison of Yalta and Potsdam

Yalta Potsdam

Churchill, Roosevelt and Stalin sitting at the Yalta Conference

Churchill, Roosevelt and Stalin

Attlee, Truman and Stalin sitting at the Potsdam Conference

Attlee, Truman and Stalin

Germany to be split into four zones. Arguments about the details of the boundaries between the zones.
Germany will pay reparations. Disagreements about the amount of reparations Russia wanted to take. It was agreed that Russia could take whatever it wanted from the Soviet zone, and 10 per cent of the industrial equipment of the western zones, but Britain and the US thought this was too much.
A government of ‘national unity’ to be set up in Poland, comprising both communists and non-communists. Truman was angry because Stalin had arrested the non-communist leaders of Poland.
Free elections in the countries of eastern Europe. This part of the agreement was called theDeclaration of Liberated Europe. America and Britain were alarmed becausecommunists were coming to power in the countries of Eastern Europe.
Russia would help against Japan when Germany was defeated. Truman dropped the atomic bomb so that Japan would surrender before Russian troops could go into Japan. America had the bomb in July 1945, but Truman did not tell Stalin about it. When he saw how he had been tricked, Stalin was furious.

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