This Day in the Law
July 17

Potsdam Conference Held at Cecilienhof at End of World War II (1945)

On July 17, 1945, Allied leaders met at the castle of Cecilienhof in the city of Potsdam, Germany, a suburb of Berlin. In particular, U.S. President Harry Truman, British Prime Minister Winston Churchill (Clement Attlee became the new Prime Minister during the Conference), and Soviet Premier Joseph Stalin, collectively known as "The Big Three," met to discuss the process for peace settlements in Germany and other parts of Europe after W.W. II.

The Big Three met to discuss such issues as how to handle defeated Germany, the borders of Poland, the role of the Soviet Union in eastern Europe, reparations for the war, and the current war going on against Japan. Each leader was suspicious of the other’s self-interest. Further, the lack of a common enemy in Europe led to difficulties between the Big Three in reaching a consensus on how to deal with postwar reconstruction of Europe.

At the Conference, Truman mentioned to Stalin that the U.S. had developed a "powerful new weapon," and the U.S. gave Japan an ultimatum to surrender or meet "prompt and utter destruction." However, Truman never told Stalin or Japan that the new weapon was the atomic bomb. Japan ignored Truman’s ultimatum and Truman later made the decision to drop atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Japan on August 6 and August 9, 1945, respectively which finally ended W.W. II.

The Big Three, who had remained allies throughout the war, never met again collectively to discuss cooperation in postwar reconstruction.