TOP IMAGE When President Truman met Stalin and Churchill for the final “Big Three” wartime conference in Potsdam, a suburb  of Berlin, Berlin lay in ruins after incessant Allied aerial bombardment and the final battle over the German capital. Such destruction was the price the Germans paid for their support of Hitler and the Nazis.

TOP IMAGE When President Truman met Stalin and Churchill for the final “Big Three” wartime conference in Potsdam, a suburb  of Berlin, Berlin lay in ruins after incessant Allied aerial bombardment and the final battle over the German capital. Such destruction was the price the Germans paid for their support of Hitler and the Nazis.

From the Yalta Declaration of Liberated Europe:

[…] The establishment of order in Europe and the rebuilding of national economic life must be achieved by processes which will enable the liberated peoples to destroy the last vestiges of nazism and fascism and to create democratic institutions of their own choice. This is a principle of the Atlantic Charter – the right of all people to choose the form of government under which they will live – the restoration of sovereign rights and self-government to those peoples who have been forcibly deprived to them by the aggressor nations.«

In early February 1945, during the final weeks of World War II raging  in Europe, the “Big Three” U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt, British Prime Minister Winston Churchill and Soviet leader Joseph Stalin met  at the Black Sea seaside resort Yalta to talk about the future of the postwar world.

They deliberated crucial issues of postwar European and Asian territorial and political settlement. Roosevelt tried to get the promise  of free elections in liberated Eastern European nations such as Poland. But Stalin was only willing to grant an ambiguous “Declaration of Liberated Europe.”

This did not deter Stalin from imposing Communist regimes in Poland and other Central and Eastern European nations. These disagreements over Germany and Eastern Europe increased tensions between the Soviet Union and the Western allies and later contributed to the outbreak of the Cold War by 1947. After the war, Germany and Austria were divided into four zones of occupation.  

Critics of the Yalta Agreements in the U.S. Congress later blamed Roosevelt for having “sold out” Eastern Europe to the Communists. Stalin and Churchill met again in the Berlin suburb of Potsdam In July 1945, this time with President Harry S. Truman, who had become President after Roosevelt’s death in April.

The future of Germany and the end of the war against Japan were the main topics. Less than a year  later – what Winston Churchill called the “iron curtain” – was descending on Europe, dividing the continent into a zone controlled by the Soviet communists and a free zone, increasingly under American protection.

 On March 5, 1946, Winston Churchill received an honorary degree from Westminster College in Missouri and delivered his famous “iron curtain” speech, announcing that an “iron curtain” was now dividing Europe between communist controlled and free countries. President Truman  (on right) traveled with Churchill to the ceremony.

On March 5, 1946, Winston Churchill received an honorary degree from Westminster College in Missouri and delivered his famous “iron curtain” speech, announcing that an “iron curtain” was now dividing Europe between communist controlled and free countries. President Truman  (on right) traveled with Churchill to the ceremony.

PHOTO CREDITS: CLOCKWISE FROM TOP Copyright Unknown, Courtesy of Harry S. Truman Library; Terry Savage, Courtesy of Harry S. Truman Library; Copyright Unknown, Courtesy of Harry S. Truman Library.