The End of World War II and the Remaking of Europe

Book - 2015
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After Germany's defeat in World War II, Europe lay in tatters. Millions of refugees were dispersed across the continent. Food and fuel were scarce. Britain was bankrupt, while Germany had been reduced to rubble. In July of 1945, Harry Truman, Winston Churchill, and Joseph Stalin gathered in a quiet suburb of Berlin to negotiate a lasting peace: a peace that would finally put an end to the conflagration that had started in 1914, a peace under which Europe could be rebuilt.The award-winning historian Michael Neiberg brings the turbulent Potsdam conference to life, vividly capturing the delegates' personalities: Truman, trying to escape from the shadow of Franklin Roosevelt, who had died only months before Churchill, bombastic and seemingly out of touch Stalin, cunning and meticulous. For the first week, negotiations progressed relatively smoothly. But when the delegates took a recess for the British elections, Churchill was replaced,both as prime minster and as Britain's representative at the conference,in an unforeseen upset by Clement Attlee, a man Churchill disparagingly described as a sheep in sheep's clothing." When the conference reconvened, the power dynamic had shifted dramatically, and the delegates struggled to find a new balance. Stalin took advantage of his strong position to demand control of Eastern Europe as recompense for the suffering experienced by the Soviet people and armies. The final resolutions of the Potsdam Conference, notably the division of Germany and the Soviet annexation of Poland, reflected the uneasy geopolitical equilibrium between East and West that would come to dominate the twentieth century.As Neiberg expertly shows, the delegates arrived at Potsdam determined to learn from the mistakes their predecessors made in the Treaty of Versailles. But, riven by tensions and dramatic debates over how to end the most recent war, they only dimly understood that their discussions of peace were giving birth to a new global conflict.
Publisher: New York : Basic Books, a member of the Perseus Books Group, [2015]
ISBN: 9780465075256
Characteristics: xxiv, 310 pages : illustrations ; 25 cm


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Jul 19, 2016

I found this to be a remarkably in depth description of the events that transpired at Potsdam. More importantly, I was impressed with how the author tied the Potsdam events back to almost identical problems at the Peace Conference at the end of WWI. He also made a remarkable conclusion that Potsdam finally brought to an end events that had started in Sarajevo in 1914. Very insightful.

Jul 30, 2015

We take it for granted now that in North America and Britain Victory in Europe Day is celebrated on May 8, while in Russia it is on May 9. However as a passage in this fascinating book makes clear, the Soviets were not at all happy that the German surrender didn’t take place everywhere on the same day: “Three days before he [Truman] wrote this diary entry, the State Department had neglected to pass along a message from Stalin disapproving of Germany’s surrender on May 8. The timing of the entry suggests that Truman had now found out. Because the Germans had surrendered to the Americans and the British at the time of the announcement, Stalin thought the American celebrations were premature, and he viewed this as a much more serious breach than the State Department apparently did. The Soviet Union, Stalin tried to remind the president, remained technically at war with Germany, and the three powers had agreed in 1943 that they all had to consent to the terms of any German surrender.”


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