Updated: 28-Aug-2001 1945

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February 1945. After six years of fighting and destruction, the Second World War is coming to an end. The future of Europe will be determined by the outcome of the Yalta Conference, which brings together US President Franklin Roosevelt, British Prime Minister Winston Churchill and Soviet leader Joseph Stalin. Agreements are reached on such major issues as the creation of a United Nations Organisation, the post-war administration of Germany, new frontiers for Poland, and a commitment to the establishment of democratic governments in all liberated countries.

But there are already signs that cooperation forged in time of war between the Western democracies and the Soviet Union is coming under strain. Negotiations designed to broaden the provisional Polish Government quickly become stalled and so Poland is not represented when the UN Charter is signed in June 1945.

Following Germany's surrender, the Potsdam Conference, from mid-July to 2 August, sees the kaleidoscope turn, presenting a different picture. Following the death of Franklin Roosevelt, the United States is now represented by President Truman and, after defeat in parliamentary elections, Churchill hands over to Clement Attlee during the course of the conference.

The leaders make a number of decisions for the governing of Germany, which is to be divided into American, British, French and Russian zones of occupation, and Berlin, situated within the Soviet sector, is to be similarly divided. They also issue an ultimatum to Japan, demanding that it surrender unconditionally. But the wording of the agreements is imprecise and will prove difficult to enforce.

August 6 and 9 1945. President Truman, determined to save thousands of American lives which he fears will be lost if the war against Japan is allowed to drag on, orders that the newly developed atomic bomb be dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Stalin decides that the security of the USSR can only be assured if it, too, possesses nuclear weapons and so the nuclear arms race will soon begin.

March 1946. Winston Churchill warns in Fulton, Missouri, that "From Stettin in the Baltic to Trieste in the Adriatic, an Iron Curtain has descended across the Continent." A year later, attempts by the American, British and Soviet Foreign Ministers, meeting in Moscow, to draw up peace treaties for Germany and Austria end in failure. To all intents and purposes, the war-time cooperation has collapsed.


26 Jun

The United Nations Charter is signed at San Francisco.

Additional information:
6 Aug
Explosion of Hiroshima atomic bomb.