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The Potsdam Agreement was the agreement between three of the Allies of World War II, United Kingdom, United States, Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, for the military occupation and reconstruction of Germany—referring to the German Reich with its pre-war 1937 borders including the former eastern territories—and the entire European Theatre of War territory. It also included Germany's demilitarisation, reparations and the prosecution of war criminals.
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 It was superseded by the Treaty on the Final Settlement with Respect to Germany signed on 12 September 1990.
After the Second World War (1939–45), and the 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 Provisional Government of the French Republic agreed with reservations on August 4.
|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 "5D's"):
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 the Soviet territory by amendment of the country's constitution. The Western Allies promised to support the annexation of the territory north of the Braunsberg—Goldap line.
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 Nysa Kłodzka (Glatzer Neisse) rivers. The proposal of a (more historic) Oder-Bóbr-Kwisa 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.
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 certain parts of Central Europe, if they had not already fled from the advancing Red Army.
The expulsion concerned the territories "under Polish administration", 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 according to the Beneš decrees—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, or 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.