In 1939, Germany invaded Poland, which pushed Great Britain to declare war, beginning World War 2. Throughout the first few years, Germany was in total control, using their blitzkrieg tactics to surprise and overwhelm their foes.
By the end of 1943 though, Germany looked as if it may have bitten off more than it could chew; the Soviet Union wasn't falling as planned, and things were not going smoothly in Africa.
The major Allied powers at the time met in Teheran. They decided to open a second front in France in June of 1944. They came to a conclusion that they would most likely win against Germany, so they began thinking of how to deal with a defeated Germany, and how to restructure Europe.
One of the first issues that came up was what to do with Poland. Stalin wanted to re-instate the 1939 border that the Soviet Union shared with Poland. The others agreed, and decided to compensate Poland by taking land from Germany and giving it to Poland. The other point on Poland was how it would be governed. The democratic Allies wanted Poland to be an independant nation, that would be governed by the Polish government in-exile residing in England. Stalin accepted the exiled government, until the government asked for the Red Cross to investigate the deaths of 1700 Polish offocers in the Katyn forests (for the Soviet Union was responsible, but wanted no one to find out). That was the point when Stalin no longer recignozed the exiled Polish government as the proper one, and instead supported a pro-Soviet group that had implemented themselves in Lublin (in Poland).
June 6 1944, D-Day, was when the Allies began winning back Europe. As the Western powers moved to the through France and Italy, the Soviet army raced through the Eastern European nations, getting closer to Germany. Winston Churchill, concerned about what would happen at the point where the Allied armies would collide, flew to Moscow to meet with Stalin. Roosevelt copuld not make the meeting, as he was in elections, but he agreed to the decision of the other two. They agreed on establishing post-war spheres of influence in Europe, the East going to the Soviet Union, the West going to the Western powers.
by February of 1945, the war was almost over, and the Allied vice was closing in on Germany. Knowing they would win, the Big 3 met in Yalta to discuss the fate of Germany. Since Germany was going to lose, it needed to have its power broken up; also, Germany was in the middle of Europe, so it would be country where the two post-war spheres would touch. The Soviet Union and the Western powers saw that their armies would probably meet along the Elbe River, so that was the point decided upon to divide Germany along. Stalin was happy that he had captured Berlin, it was a huge symbolic victory, but the Western powers wanted some part of the German capital as well, even though it was completely inside the Soviet "half" of Germany. The Western powers divied their half of Germany and Berlin amongst themselves, but couldn't decide on reparations. That they left until later.
On April 30, Hitler commited suicide, and Germany surrendered on May 7. In July, the victorious Allied powers met in Potsdam to finalize their decisions. Franklin Roosevelt had died by this time, and was succeeded by Harry Truman, but unfotrunately, Truman did not get along with Stalin; they disagreed on most every issue, and were especially non-amicable on the points of Poland and Germany. Since they could not agree, Germany was actually divided; the West turining capitalist/democratic, and the East turining communist. Berlin was split the same way as well.
The rest of Europe suffered this fate as well. The natons that had been liberated by the Western powers were given democratic governments, whilst those liberated by the Soviet Union were enforced into communism, with the exceptions of Greece, Turkey and Austria. These newly communist nations would become the satellite nations of the Soviet Union, under Stalin's control. The only country-turned communist that didn't submit to Stalin was Yugoslavia.
The American and Soviet military commanders then took control over their respective halves and zones. When the issue of reparations came up again, the Western powers decided to not worry about them, as a split Germany would have tremendous difficulty paying war debts. Stalin, decided, however, that to rebuild the Soviet Union, he was going to strip East Germany, along with all of the other nations now in his sphere, of their resources to make up for ones lost during the war.
Since half of Berlin belonged to the West, three highways and air-corridors were approved into West Berlin. Stalin, of course, did not enjoy having Western capitalists inside "his" Berlin, so he attempted to dislodge them through different ways, such as the Berlin Blockade and the Building of the Berlin Wall, none of which improved relations between the East and West.
This event increased the tension between the United States and the Soviet Union.
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