World War II ended 75 years ago under the decisive leadership of President Truman. Now follow the most important events of the final months of the war with the Truman Library Institute`s „Marching to Victory: WWII Highlights from the Truman Library Archives and Collections“ series. The 25-part blog series opens the vaults of Truman`s Presidential Library to share eyewitness accounts and historical artifacts related to major conflicts and monumental victories – from the Battle of the Bulge to the liberation of Dachau to Japan`s unconditional surrender. Poland was the first item on the Soviet agenda. Stalin said that „for the Soviet government, the question of Poland was a matter of honor“ and security, because Poland had served as a historic corridor for forces trying to invade Russia.  In addition, Stalin stated, in reference to history, that „because the Russians had sinned strongly against Poland,“ „the Soviet government tried to atone for these sins.“  Stalin concluded that „Poland must be strong“ and that „the Soviet Union is interested in creating a powerful, free and independent Poland.“ As a result, Stalin stipulated that the demands of the Polish government-in-exile were non-negotiable: the Soviet Union would retain the territory of eastern Poland that it had already annexed in 1939, and Poland would be compensated for this by expanding its western borders at the expense of Germany. Contrary to his previously stated position, Stalin promised free elections in Poland, despite the fact that there was a provisional government sponsored by the Soviet Union, which had recently been installed by him in the Polish territories occupied by the Red Army. From February 13 to February 15. In February 1945, in the final months of World War II (1939-45), Allied forces bombed the historic city of Dresden in East Germany. The bombing was controversial because Dresden was neither important for German war production nor important. The Big Three also pledge to preserve peace once it is achieved by maintaining strict control over post-war Germany, establishing an „international organization to maintain peace and security“ (the United Nations), and working for the „restoration of sovereign rights and self-government for peoples forcibly deprived by aggressor nations.“ In particular, they promise to facilitate democracy in war-torn Poland and Yugoslavia. Overall, Roosevelt, Churchill, and Stalin emphasized Allied unity, imminent victory, and commitment to human rights. The first reaction to the Yalta agreements was solemn.
Roosevelt and many other Americans saw this as proof that the spirit of U.S.-Soviet war cooperation would pass into the post-war period. However, this feeling was short-lived. With the death of Franklin D. Roosevelt on April 12, 1945, Harry S. Truman became the thirty-third President of the United States. At the end of April, the new government clashed with the Soviets over its influence in Eastern Europe and the United Nations. Alarmed by the perceived lack of cooperation on the part of the Soviets, many Americans began to criticize Roosevelt`s handling of the Yalta negotiations. To this day, many of Roosevelt`s most vocal critics accuse him of „handing over“ Eastern Europe and Northeast Asia to the Soviet Union at Yalta, even though the Soviets made many important concessions.
Yalta was the second of three major war conferences among the three great ones. It was preceded by the Tehran Conference in November 1943, followed by the Potsdam Conference in July 1945. This was preceded by a conference in Moscow in October 1944, in which President Roosevelt did not participate, in which Churchill and Stalin had spoken about the European Western and Soviet spheres of influence.  President Roosevelt said, „If we try to avoid the fact that we have put a little more emphasis on the Poles in Lublin than on the other two groups from which the new government is supposed to come, I think we will expose ourselves to accusations that we are trying to reverse the Crimean decision.“ Roosevelt acknowledged that, in the words of Admiral William D. Leahy, Yalta`s language was so vague that the Soviets would be able to „extend it from Yalta to Washington without ever technically breaking it.“  By the time of the Yalta Conference, Western Allied forces had liberated all of France and Belgium and were fighting on Germany`s western border. To the east, Soviet forces were 65 km (40 miles) from Berlin, having already pushed the Germans back from Poland, Romania and Bulgaria. There was no longer any question about the German defeat. This was the new form of post-war Europe.
   But as his troops occupied much of Germany and Eastern Europe, Stalin was able to effectively ratify the concessions he had won at Yalta and remove his advantage over Truman and Churchill (who was replaced by Prime Minister Clement Atlee in the middle of the conference). In March 1946, barely a year after the Yalta Conference, Churchill gave his famous speech declaring that an „Iron Curtain“ had fallen on Eastern Europe, signaling the definitive end of cooperation between the Soviet Union and its Western allies and the beginning of the Cold War. After Yalta in the USSR, when Soviet Foreign Minister Vyacheslav Molotov expressed his fear that the wording of the Yalta Agreement might hinder Stalin`s plans, Stalin replied: „It doesn`t matter. The Soviets also wanted recognition of Soviet interests in the Manchu and Port Arthur railways (but did not ask the Chinese to rent). These conditions were agreed without China`s participation. By March 1945, it had become clear that Stalin had no intention of keeping his promises regarding political freedom in Poland. Instead, Soviet troops helped suppress any opposition to the provisional government based in Lublin, Poland. When elections were finally held in 1947, they consolidated Poland as one of the first Soviet satellite states in Eastern Europe, as planned. The three Heads of State and Government tried to establish a programme for the government of post-war Europe and the maintenance of peace between the post-war countries.
On the Eastern Front, the front line remained in the Soviet Union in late December 1943, but by August 1944 Soviet forces were in Poland and Romania as part of their westward advance. At the time of the conference, Red Army Marshal Georgi Zhukov`s troops were 40 miles from Berlin. Stalin felt that his position at the conference was so strong that he could dictate the conditions. According to James F., a member of the U.S. delegation and future secretary of state. Byrnes „it wasn`t about what we would let the Russians do, but what we could get the Russians to do.“ In addition, Roosevelt hoped for a commitment from Stalin to participate in the United Nations. The aim of the conference was to shape a post-war peace that represents not only an order of collective security, but a plan to give self-determination to the liberated peoples of post-National Socialism Europe. Above all, the meeting aimed to discuss the restoration of the nations of war-torn Europe. However, within a few years, as the Cold War divided the continent, Yalta became the subject of much controversy.
Four days later, on 27 March, the Soviet Commissariat for the Interior (NKVD) arrested 16 polish opposition political leaders who had been invited to participate in the provisional government`s negotiations.  The arrests were part of an NKVD ruse that transported the leaders to Moscow for a subsequent show trial, followed by a gulag sentence.   Churchill then argued to Roosevelt that it was „as clear as a pike stick“ that Moscow`s tactic was to extend the time needed to hold free elections „while the Lublin Committee consolidated its power.“  The Polish elections of January 16, 1947 led to the official transformation of Poland into a communist state in 1949. But the press release and statement are also notable for what they don`t address. For example, there is no mention of Allied plans in the Pacific theatre of war. At Yalta, Roosevelt and Churchill agreed to let Stalin annex parts of Japanese-occupied Manchuria in exchange for his troops going to war against Japan. Moreover, the Western allies joined Soviet rule in Eastern Europe, undermining their stated goal of installing free governments in Poland and elsewhere in the region. Tragically, the Allies` zeal to end World War II set the stage for a much longer Cold War. „There is no doubt that the flow of Anglo-Soviet-American friendship had reached a new peak,“ James Byrnes, who accompanied Roosevelt to Yalta, wrote in his memoirs. .