The Potsdam Conference was held near the end of World War II in Germany to discuss post-war issues. Joseph Stalin attended for the Soviet Union, Prime Minister Winston Churchill was there for Great Britain but was replaced by Clement Attlee after Churchill lost reelection, and President Truman (who had succeeded Roosevelt after his death in April) represented the United States. They met from July 17 to August 2, 1945.
Truman’s biggest concern was how Stalin might react to America’s development of an atomic bomb. Stalin showed no special interest. All he said was he was glad to hear it and hoped the Americans would make "good use of it against the Japanese." One explanation is that Stalin already knew about the bomb, due to his network of spies. In fact, on returning to his quarters after this meeting Stalin, in the presence of Marshal Georgii Zhukov, told Molotov about his conversation with Truman. The latter reacted almost immediately and said, "Let them. We'll have to talk it over with Kurchatov and get him to speed things up." Zhukov realized that they were discussing Soviet research on the atomic bomb.
At the Potsdam conference, it was agreed that the German economy should not be permitted to recover higher than the standard of living of 1932, at the bottom of the depression, the level, in fact, which had brought Hitler to power in 1933.
Remarking on the Potsdam conference William Henry Chamberlain wrote,
|“||Were the terms of the Potsdam agreement to be carried over any long term of years, they would lead to one of the greatest crimes or greatest follies in human history. Should they be rigorously enforced without giving Germany relief, a gigantic Buchanwald or Belsen would be created in the heart of Europe. Millions, perhaps tens of millions, of Germans would perish of malnutrition and associated diseases. It would literally be more human to select a quarter or a third of the German population and extinguish their lives quickly by means of firing squads or gas chamber." ||”|
- Harry S. Truman, Year of Decisions (Garden City, NY: Doubleday and Company, 1955) p. 416.
- Georgii Konstantinovich Zhukov, The Memoirs of Marshal Zhukov (New York: Delacorte Press, 1971) pp. 674-675.
- Tragedy and Hope: A History of the World in Our Time, Carroll Quigley, Collier-Macmillan, 1966, pg. 901. ISBN 0-945001-10-X
- The European Cockpit, William Henry Chamberlain, Macmillan (1947), p. 144.