The Cold War: 1945 – 1969. World War Two: The Destruction of the Old World Order American Visions of the World Post War Soviet Russian Visions of the World Post War Your Task: Cold War Committees . Punishment for Germany: The Yalta and Potsdam Conferences, 1945.
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Yalta Conference: February 1945
Towards the end of World War Two, in February 1945, the three most powerful leaders in the world met at Yalta.
The three leaders agreed to Germany’s unconditional surrender, a joint occupation of Germany and a crimes trial for leading Nazis.
Potsdam Conference: May 1945
Hitler’s suicide in his bunker in Berlin allowed other Nazi leaders to sign an unconditional surrender.
Following this, newly elected U.S. President Harry Truman, Stalin and Churchill decided to divide Germany into four zones – one for each of the main Allied nations.
Franklin D. Roosevelt
referred to the Yalta Conference as a
meeting of the “Big 3” who ‘doomed’ Nazism.
What effect might this have had on an
American audience in 1945?
As a result of World War Two, approximately 60 million people lost their lives.
The war’s losers were the Fascist states: Germany, Japan and Italy. These countries each suffered around 3 million deaths.
Their ‘conquerors’, the Allies, suffered at least 35 million deaths. As a result of the German surrender, each of the four key Allied nations occupied an area in Germany (opposite image).
The German capital, Berlin, was divided between the two most powerful nations of the Allies: the United States and Soviet Russia.
As seen in the image opposite, the East of Berlin was known as the Soviet Bloc, and the Western division was controlled by the U.S.
Historian, Robert J. McMahon, argues that “the roots of the Cold War lay in the conflicting recipes for international order that Washington and Moscow sought to impose on a pliable and war-shattered world”. (McMahon, Robert J., The Cold War, Oxford University Press, 2003, p.12.)
The ‘Iron Curtain’: an Ideological and Geographical Divide Between Communism and Capitalism in Europe.
Within a year after the Second World War, five countries in Europe had converted to Communism and were loyal to Stalin. These countries were: Poland, Hungary, Romania, Bulgaria and Albania.
Winston Churchill described this as the “Iron Curtain” of Communism descending on Europe.
“From Stettin in the Baltic to Trieste in the Adriatic, an iron curtain has descended across the continent.
Behind the line lie all the capitals of the ancient states of Central and Eastern Europe …
The Communist Parties, which were very small in all of these Eastern states, are seeking everywhere to obtain totalitarian control.”
The United States emerged from the wreckage of World War Two with relatively moderate losses. In fact, the munitions demands of the war meant that the U.S. encountered a period of economic prosperity and abundance, while the Soviet Union suffered the greatest human and economic losses of the war.
With power, comes fear – a fear of losing prosperity and international strength. The U.S. had become the most powerful presence on the world stage, yet were desperately afraid of the new world order established in Europe under Joseph Stalin and Soviet Russia. This ushered in what was widely known as the policy of “containment”, which aimed at preventing the spread of communism in the Western world.
“Following the war, U.S. strategic planners were operating from an extraordinarily expansive concept of national security”.
(Robert J. McMahon, “The Cold War”, p.9.)
How do you think American civilians would have responded to political campaigns of this nature?
Would you classify this as anti-Communist propaganda?
What does the symbolism in this poster suggest to you about U.S. perceptions of Communism?
Despite its political strength following World War Two, Soviet Russia held deep fears of security threats to its key borders.
The geographical expanse of the Soviet Union, a nation that covered one-sixth of the earth’s land mass, made the challenge of security a national priority.
Also, Stalin and his top associates assumed that conflict between the Communist and Capitalist world was inevitable and necessary for the progression of a world-wide revolution.