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Activity 2: Behind the smiles: Evaluating film of Potsdam 1945

Introduction

Read the sources and then watch the film clip of the Potsdam Conference of July-August 1945. Compare what you can see and hear in the film commentary with the sources. What does this evidence show about relations between the allies? Use the recording sheet (PDF, 16KB) for your comments. What conclusions would you draw about the nature of film as evidence from this activity?

Map to show political alignment 1949-1955

Map of Europe to show the political alignment by 1949-1955

Activity

Read the following documents and then watch the film clip of the Potsdam Conference of July-August 1945. Compare what you can see and hear in the film commentary with what the written sources have said.

Write a short report about what the newsreel does not show about relations between the three leaders at the Yalta and Potsdam Conferences in 1945? What conclusions would you draw about the nature of film as evidence?

Extract from a telegram from Prime Minister Winston Churchill to US President Truman, May 12th 1945. It comments on relations between the Allies in the months between the Yalta and Potsdam Conferences.

Catalogue ref: CAB 120/186

Churchill telegram; CAB 120/186

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Part of a report from British military leaders to the Prime Minister, Winston Churchill, regarding a plan called 'Operation Unthinkable'
- a surprise attack on the USSR, 1945.

Catalogue ref: CAB 120/691

'Operation Unthinkable'; CAB 120/691

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Clip: Newsreel of Potsdam Conference July-August 1945.

IWM S15 79, by courtesy of the Imperial War Museum

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Information about the clip

The clip is part of a broadcast about the Potsdam Conference. Potsdam was a district of Berlin. This conference was the third between the Big Three. The first took place in Tehran (in modern Iran) in 1943, between Stalin (USSR), Roosevelt (USA) and Churchill (Britain). The second conference was held at Yalta.

By the time of Potsdam, Roosevelt had died and the new President was Harry Truman. There was also an election in Britain during the Potsdam Conference. This meant that when Potsdam started Churchill was Prime Minister. However, he lost the election in July 1945. Therefore, Clement Atlee replaced Churchill in the middle of the conference. The commentary in the clip mentions this, but later in the clip it shows Churchill shaking hands with Stalin and Truman.