8 Handshakes That Changed History

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Harry Truman - Joseph Stalin - Winston Churchill

July 17, 1945

The Soviet Union's Communist Party General Secretary Joseph Stalin, British Prime Minister Winston Churchill, and U.S. President Harry Truman met at the Potsdam Conference in Potsdam, Germany from July 16 to August 2, 1945. The purpose of the meeting, and the public show of alliance by handshake as seen above, was to decide how to proceed in the wake of Nazi Germany's collapse. The Nazis had agreed to unconditional surrender on May 8 (V-E Day).

At the time, the Soviet Union controlled most of Central and Eastern Europe. Truman was a relative newcomer as President of the United States as President Roosevelt had died just months before in April. Truman was also seen as more strongly anti-Communist than his predecessor. The three leaders' handshake in Germany was a display to the world that, for the time being, all three countries were united in restructuring a post-Nazi Europe.


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