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. A product of the Potsdam Conference, 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, the prosecution of war criminals and the mass expulsion of ethnic Germans from various parts of Europe.
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 It was superseded by the Treaty on the Final Settlement with Respect to Germany signed on 12 September 1990.
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 assumed supreme authority over Germany by the Berlin Declaration of June 5, 1945.
At the Potsdam Conference the Western Allies were presented with Stalin's fait accompli awarding Soviet-occupied Poland the river Oder as its western border, placing the entire Soviet Occupation Zone east of it (with the exception of the Kaliningrad enclave), including Pomerania, most of East Prussia, and Danzig, under Polish administration. The German population who had not fled were expelled and their properties acquisitioned by the state. President Truman and the British delegations protested at these actions.
The Three Power Conference took place from 17 July to 2 August 1945, in which they adopted the Protocol of the Proceedings, August 1, 1945, signed at Cecilienhof Palace 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 the 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.
James F. Byrnes wrote "we specifically refrained from promising to support at the German Peace Conference any particular line as the western frontier of Poland." The Berlin Protocol declared: "The three heads of government reaffirm their opinion that the final delimitation of the western frontier of Poland should await the [final] peace settlement." Byrnes continues: "In the light of this history, it is difficult to credit with good faith any person who asserts that Poland's western boundary was fixed by the conferences, or that there was a promise that it would be established at some particular place."
|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, US) agreed on the following matters:
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.
Main article: Four Ds
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|
Main article: Flight and expulsion of Germans (1944–50)
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 (34% of the population of the territory of what is now Czech Republic), 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 referred only 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 were expelled from northern East Prussia (Oblast Kaliningrad) but also from the adjacent Lithuanian Klaipeda Region and other lands settled by Baltic Germans.