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The Potsdam Agreement (German : Potsdamer Abkommen) was the August 1945 agreement between three of the Allies of World War II, the United Kingdom, the United States, and the Soviet Union. It concerned the military occupation and reconstruction of Germany, its borders, and the entire European Theatre of War territory. It also addressed Germany's demilitarisation, reparations and the prosecution of war criminals.
German is a West Germanic language that is mainly spoken in Central Europe. It is the most widely spoken and official or co-official language in Germany, Austria, Switzerland, South Tyrol (Italy), the German-speaking Community of Belgium, and Liechtenstein. It is also one of the three official languages of Luxembourg and a co-official language in the Opole Voivodeship in Poland. The languages which are most similar to German are the other members of the West Germanic language branch: Afrikaans, Dutch, English, the Frisian languages, Low German/Low Saxon, Luxembourgish, and Yiddish. There are also strong similarities in vocabulary with Danish, Norwegian and Swedish, although those belong to the North Germanic group. German is the second most widely spoken Germanic language, after English.
The Allies of World War II, called the "United Nations" from the 1 January 1942 declaration, were the countries that together opposed the Axis powers during the Second World War (1939–1945). The Allies promoted the alliance as a means to control German, Japanese and Italian aggression.
The United Kingdom (UK), officially the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, and sometimes referred to as Britain, is a sovereign country located off the north-western coast of the European mainland. The United Kingdom includes the island of Great Britain, the north-eastern part of the island of Ireland, and many smaller islands. Northern Ireland is the only part of the United Kingdom that shares a land border with another sovereign state, the Republic of Ireland. Apart from this land border, the United Kingdom is surrounded by the Atlantic Ocean, with the North Sea to the east, the English Channel to the south and the Celtic Sea to the south-west, giving it the 12th-longest coastline in the world. The Irish Sea lies between Great Britain and Ireland. With an area of 242,500 square kilometres (93,600 sq mi), the United Kingdom is the 78th-largest sovereign state in the world. It is also the 22nd-most populous country, with an estimated 66.0 million inhabitants in 2017.
Executed as a communiqué, the agreement was not a peace treaty according to international law, although it created accomplished facts. It was superseded by the Treaty on the Final Settlement with Respect to Germany signed on 12 September 1990.
A peace treaty is an agreement between two or more hostile parties, usually countries or governments, which formally ends a state of war between the parties. It is different from an armistice, which is an agreement to stop hostilities, or a surrender, in which an army agrees to give up arms, or a ceasefire or truce in which the parties may agree to temporarily or permanently stop fighting.
International law, also known as public international law or law of nations, is the set of rules, norms, and standards generally regarded and accepted in relations between nations. It establishes normative guidelines and a common conceptual framework for states to follow across a broad range of domains, including war, diplomacy, human rights, commerce, and environmental preservation. International law thus provides a mean for states to practice more stable, consistent, and organized international relations.
The Treaty on the Final Settlement with Respect to Germany, or the Two Plus Four Agreement, was negotiated in 1990 between the Federal Republic of Germany and the German Democratic Republic, and the Four Powers which occupied Germany at the end of World War II in Europe: France, the Soviet Union, the United Kingdom, and the United States. In the treaty the Four Powers renounced all rights they held in Germany, allowing a united Germany to become fully sovereign the following year.
As De Gaulle had not been invited to the Conference, the French resisted implementing the Potsdam Agreements within their occupation zone. In particular, the French refused to resettle any expelled Germans from the east. Moreover, the French did not accept any obligation to abide by the Potsdam Agreement in the proceedings of the Allied Control Council; in particular resisting all proposals to establish common policies and institutions across Germany as a whole, and anything that they feared might lead to the emergence of an eventual unified German government.
After the end of World War II in Europe (1939–45), and the decisions of the earlier Tehran, Casablanca and Yalta Conferences, the Allies by the Berlin Declaration of June 5, 1945, had assumed supreme authority over Germany. In the Three Power Conference of Berlin (formal title of the Potsdam Conference) from 17 July to 2 August 1945, they agreed to and adopted the Protocol of the Proceedings, August 1, 1945, signed at Cecilienhof Castle in Potsdam. The signatories were General Secretary Joseph Stalin, President Harry S. Truman, and Prime Minister Clement Attlee, who, as a result of the British general election of 1945, had replaced Winston Churchill as the UK's representative. The three powers also agreed to invite France and China to participate as members of Council of Foreign Ministers established to oversee the agreement. The Provisional Government of the French Republic accepted the invitation on August 7, with the key reservation that it would not accept a priori any commitment to the eventual reconstitution of a central government in Germany.
The final battles of the European Theatre of World War II as well as the German surrender to the Allies took place in late April and early May 1945.
The Tehran Conference was a strategy meeting of Joseph Stalin, Franklin D. Roosevelt, and Winston Churchill from 28 November to 1 December 1943, after the Anglo-Soviet Invasion of Iran. It was held in the Soviet Union's embassy in Tehran, Iran. It was the first of the World War II conferences of the "Big Three" Allied leaders. It closely followed the Cairo Conference which had taken place on 22–26 November 1943, and preceded the 1945 Yalta and Potsdam conferences. Although the three leaders arrived with differing objectives, the main outcome of the Tehran Conference was the Western Allies' commitment to open a second front against Nazi Germany. The conference also addressed the 'Big Three' Allies' relations with Turkey and Iran, operations in Yugoslavia and against Japan, and the envisaged post-war settlement. A separate protocol signed at the conference pledged the Big Three to recognize Iran's independence.
The Casablanca Conference was held at the Anfa Hotel in Casablanca, French Morocco, from January 14 to 24, 1943, to plan the Allied European strategy for the next phase of World War II. In attendance were United States President Franklin D. Roosevelt and British prime minister Winston Churchill. Also attending and representing the Free French forces were Generals Charles de Gaulle and Henri Giraud, though they played minor roles and were not part of the military planning. Premier Joseph Stalin had declined to attend, citing the ongoing Battle of Stalingrad as requiring his presence in the Soviet Union.
| Territorial evolution of Germany |
in the 20th century
| Territorial evolution of Poland |
in the 20th century
In the Potsdam Agreement (Berlin Conference) the Allies (UK, USSR, USA) agree:
The Three Governments have taken note of the discussions which have been proceeding in recent weeks in London between British, United States, Soviet and French representatives with a view to reaching agreement on the methods of trial of those major war criminals whose crimes under the Moscow Declaration of October 1943 have no particular geographical localization. The Three Governments reaffirm their intention to bring these criminals to swift and sure justice. They hope that the negotiations in London will result in speedy agreement being reached for this purpose, and they regard it as a matter of great importance that the trial of these major criminals should begin at the earliest possible date. The first list of defendants will be published before 1st September.
[t]he three Governments have also charged the Council of Foreign Ministers with the task of preparing peace treaties for Bulgaria, Finland, Hungary and Romania. The conclusion of Peace Treaties with recognized democratic governments in these States will also enable the three Governments to support applications from them for membership of the United Nations. The three Governments agree to examine each separately in the near future in the light of the conditions then prevailing, the establishment of diplomatic relations with Finland, Romania, Bulgaria, and Hungary to the extent possible prior to the conclusion of peace treaties with those countries.
The Three Governments, having considered the question in all its aspects, recognize that the transfer to Germany of German populations, or elements thereof, remaining in Poland, Czechoslovakia and Hungary, will have to be undertaken. They agree that any transfers that take place should be effected in an orderly and humane manner.
Moreover, towards concluding the Pacific Theatre of War, the Potsdam Conference issued the Potsdam Declaration, the Proclamation Defining Terms for Japanese Surrender (26 July 1945) wherein the Western Allies (UK, US, USSR) and the Nationalist China of General Chiang Kai-shek asked Japan to surrender or be destroyed.
Already during the Potsdam Conference, on 30 July 1945, the Allied Control Council was constituted in Berlin to execute the Allied resolutions (the "Four Ds"):
The northern half of the German province of East Prussia, occupied by the Red Army during its East Prussian Offensive followed by its evacuation in winter 1945, had already been incorporated into Soviet territory as the Kaliningrad Oblast. The Western Allies promised to support the annexation of the territory north of the Braunsberg–Goldap line when a Final German Peace Treaty was held.
The Allies had acknowledged the legitimacy of the Polish Provisional Government of National Unity, which was about to form a Soviet satellite state. Urged by Stalin, the UK and the US gave in to put the German territories east of the Oder–Neisse line from the Baltic coast west of Świnoujście up to the Czechoslovak border "under Polish administration"; allegedly confusing the Lusatian Neisse and the Glatzer Neisse rivers. The proposal of an Oder-Bober-Queis line was rejected by the Soviet delegation. The cession included the former Free City of Danzig and the seaport of Stettin on the mouth of the Oder River (Szczecin Lagoon), vital for the Upper Silesian Industrial Region.
Post-war, 'Germany as a whole' would consist solely of aggregate territories of the respective zones of occupation. As all former German territories east of the Oder-Neisse line were excluded from the Soviet Occupation Zone, they were consequently excluded from 'Germany as a whole'.
| Flight and expulsion of Germans during|
and after World War II
|Wartime flight and evacuation|
|Post-war flight and expulsion|
In the course of the proceedings, Polish communists had begun to suppress the German population west of the Bóbr river to underline their demand for a border on the Lusatian Neisse. The Allied resolution on the "orderly transfer" of German population became the legitimation of the expulsion of Germans from the nebulous parts of Central Europe, if they had not already fled from the advancing Red Army.
The expulsion of ethnic Germans by the Poles concerned, in addition to Germans within areas behind the 1937 Polish border in the West (such as in most of the old Prussian province of West Prussia), the territories placed "under Polish administration" pending a Final German Peace Treaty, i.e. southern East Prussia (Masuria), Farther Pomerania, the New March region of the former Province of Brandenburg, the districts of the Grenzmark Posen-West Prussia, Lower Silesia and those parts of Upper Silesia that had remained with Germany after the 1921 Upper Silesia plebiscite. It further affected the German minority living within the territory of the former Second Polish Republic in Greater Poland, eastern Upper Silesia, Chełmno Land and the Polish Corridor with Danzig.
The Germans in Czechoslovakia, known as Sudeten Germans but also Carpathian Germans, were expelled from the Sudetenland region where they formed a majority, from linguistic enclaves in central Bohemia and Moravia, as well as from the city of Prague.
Though the Potsdam Agreement only refers to Poland, Czechoslovakia and Hungary, expulsions also occurred in Romania, where the Transylvanian Saxons were deported and their property disseized, and in Yugoslavia. In the Soviet territories, Germans not only were expelled from northern East Prussia (Oblast Kaliningrad) but also from the adjacent Lithuanian Klaipeda Region and other lands settled by Baltic Germans.
The Potsdam Conference was held at Cecilienhof, the home of Crown Prince Wilhelm in Potsdam, occupied Germany, from 17 July to 2 August 1945. The participants were the Soviet Union, the United Kingdom, and the United States, represented respectively by Communist Party General Secretary Joseph Stalin, Prime Ministers Winston Churchill and Clement Attlee, and President Harry S. Truman.
The Yalta Conference, also known as the Crimea Conference and code-named the Argonaut Conference, held from 4 to 11 February 1945, was the World War II meeting of the heads of government of the United States, the United Kingdom and the Soviet Union for the purpose of discussing Germany and Europe's postwar reorganization. The three states were represented by President Franklin D. Roosevelt, Prime Minister Winston Churchill and Premier Joseph Stalin, respectively. The conference convened near Yalta in Crimea, Soviet Union, within the Livadia, Yusupov, and Vorontsov Palaces.
The Paris Peace Treaties were signed on 10 February 1947, as the outcome of the Paris Peace Conference, held from 29 July to 15 October 1946. The victorious wartime Allied powers negotiated the details of peace treaties with Italy, the minor Axis powers, and Finland, following the end of World War II in 1945.
The Treaty of San Francisco, Peace Treaty with Japan or commonly known as the Treaty of Peace with Japan, Peace Treaty of San Francisco, or San Francisco Peace Treaty), mostly between Japan and the Allied Powers, was officially signed by 49 nations on September 8, 1951, in San Francisco, California. It came into force on April 28, 1952 and officially ended the American-led Allied Occupation of Japan. According to Article 11 of the Treaty, Japan accepts the judgments of the International Military Tribunal for the Far East and of other Allied War Crimes Courts imposed on Japan both within and outside Japan.
The former eastern territories of Germany are those provinces or regions east of the current eastern border of Germany which were lost by Germany after World War I and then World War II.
The territorial changes of Poland immediately after World War II were very extensive, the Oder–Neisse line became Poland's western border and the Curzon Line its eastern border. In 1945, after the defeat of Nazi Germany, Poland's borders were redrawn in accordance with the decisions made first by the Allies at the Tehran Conference of 1943 where the Soviet Union demanded the recognition of the military outcome of the top secret Nazi–Soviet Pact of 1939 of which the West was unaware.
Following the termination of hostilities in World War II, the Allies were in control of the defeated Axis countries. Anticipating the defeat of Germany and Japan, they had already set up the European Advisory Commission and a proposed Far Eastern Advisory Commission to make recommendations for the post war period. Accordingly, they managed their control of the defeated countries through Allied Commissions, often referred to as Allied Control Commissions (ACC), consisting of representatives of the major Allies.
The Treaty of Warsaw was a treaty between West Germany and the People's Republic of Poland. It was signed by Chancellor Willy Brandt and Prime Minister Józef Cyrankiewicz at the Presidential Palace on 7 December 1970, and it was ratified by the German Bundestag on 17 May 1972.
Upon defeat of Nazi Germany in World War II, the victorious Allies asserted joint authority and sovereignty over 'Germany as a whole', defined as all territories of the former German Reich west of the Oder–Neisse line, having declared the destruction of Nazi Germany at the death of Adolf Hitler. The four powers divided 'Germany as a whole' into four occupation zones for administrative purposes, under the United States, United Kingdom, France and the Soviet Union respectively; creating what became collectively known as Allied-occupied Germany. This division was ratified at the Potsdam Conference. The four zones were as agreed in February 1945 by the United States, United Kingdom and Soviet Union meeting at the Yalta Conference; setting aside an earlier division into three zones proposed by the London Protocol.
The formation of the European Advisory Commission (EAC) was agreed on at the Moscow Conference on 30 October 1943 between the foreign ministers of the United Kingdom, Anthony Eden, the United States, Cordell Hull, and the Soviet Union, Vyacheslav Molotov, and confirmed at the Tehran Conference in November. In anticipation of the defeat of Nazi Germany and its allies this commission was to study the postwar political problems in Europe and make recommendation to the three governments, including the surrender of the European enemy states and the machinery of its fulfillment. After the EAC completed its task it was dissolved at the Potsdam Conference in August 1945.
Council of Foreign Ministers was an organisation agreed upon at the Potsdam Conference in 1945 and announced in the Potsdam Agreement.
"Restatement of Policy on Germany" is a speech by James F. Byrnes, the United States Secretary of State, held in Stuttgart on September 6, 1946.
The territorial changes of Germany include all changes in the borders and territory of Germany from its formation in 1871 to the present. Modern Germany was formed in 1871 when Otto von Bismarck unified most of the German states, with the notable exception of Austria, into the German Empire. After the First World War, Germany lost about 10% of its territory to its neighbours and the Weimar Republic was formed. This republic included territories to the east of today's German borders.
By the Berlin Declaration of 5 June 1945, the four governments of the United States, Soviet Union, United Kingdom and France, acting on behalf of the Allies of World War II, jointly assumed "supreme authority" over German territory and asserted the legitimacy of their joint determination of issues regarding its administration and boundaries, prior to the forthcoming Potsdam Conference.
The German–Polish Border Treaty of 1990 finally settled the issue of the Polish–German border, which in terms of international law had been pending since 1945. It was signed by the foreign ministers of Poland and Germany, Krzysztof Skubiszewski and Hans-Dietrich Genscher, on 14 November 1990 in Warsaw, ratified by the Polish Sejm on 26 November 1991 and the German Bundestag on 16 December 1991, and entered into force with the exchange of the instruments of ratification on 16 January 1992.
The Allied Control Council or Allied Control Authority, known in the German language as the Alliierter Kontrollrat and also referred to as the Four Powers, was the governing body of the Allied Occupation Zones in Germany and Austria after the end of World War II in Europe. The members were the Soviet Union, the United States, the United Kingdom, and France. The organization was based in Berlin-Schöneberg. The council was convened to determine several plans for postwar Europe, including how to change borders and transfer populations in Eastern Europe and Germany. As the four Allied Powers had joined themselves into a condominium asserting 'supreme' power in Germany, the Allied Control Council was constituted the sole legal sovereign authority for Germany as a whole, replacing the extinct civil government of Nazi Germany.
The Oder–Neisse line is the basis of the international border between Germany and Poland. It runs mainly along the Oder and Lusatian Neisse rivers and meets the Baltic Sea in the north, just west of the ports of Szczecin and Świnoujście.
After World War II, both West Germany and East Germany were obliged to pay war reparations to the Allied governments, according to the Potsdam Conference. Other Axis nations were obliged to pay war reparations according to the Paris Peace Treaties, 1947.
The formal abolition of Prussia occurred on 25 February 1947, by decree of the Allied Control Council.