The conferences held before, during and after World War II helped shape the course of the conflict. While the war was under way, conference outcomes dictated military strategy for both the Allied and Axis powers and, after the war, played an important role in shaping post-war Europe.

Pre-War Conferences

The Munich Conference, held over two days in September 1938, saw Britain, Germany, France and Italy meet to discuss the issue of German claims to the Sudetenland area of Czechoslovakia. The conference agreed to let Germany annex the Sudetenland, and British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain returned home to declare that “peace for our time” had been secured. Events would prove him wrong, and within a year World War II had broken out. (See references 1, 2 and 3)

Axis Wartime Conferences

The Axis powers -- Germany, Italy and Japan -- had already established a working relationship via a series of agreements in the late 1930s, but they formally sealed their alliance at a conference in Berlin in September 1940. With an eye on dissuading the United States from joining the war, the resultant Tripartite Pact compelled the signatories to come to one another’s aid if any of the three was attacked by a neutral country. (See references 4 and 5)

Allied Wartime Conferences

The first conference between President Franklin D. Roosevelt and British Prime Minister Winston Churchill held after the U.S. declaration of war took place in December 1941 and was codenamed “Arcadia.” The two agreed to co-ordinate their efforts to defeat Germany. The following year, Churchill met Joseph Stalin in Moscow, while Roosevelt and Churchill met again in North Africa in 1943, agreeing to invade Sicily and starting plans for the invasion of Normandy. Two further conferences between Churchill and Roosevelt in 1943 advanced these plans. Finally, the three main Allied leaders -- Churchill, Roosevelt and Stalin -- met jointly in December 1943 in Tehran. They firmed up a strategy for the year ahead, began to think about a post-war Europe and declared that “we are sure that our concord will win an enduring Peace.” (See references 6 and 7)

Post-War Conferences

The Postdam Conference was the first major post-war event, and involved several new participants. Although Joseph Stalin continued to act behalf of the USSR, Harry S Truman represented the United States following the death of Franklin D. Roosevelt, while the newly-elected Clement Attlee replaced Winston Churchill part-way through the conference. The Potsdam Conference dealt with important issues relating to post-war Europe, such as Poland’s international boundaries and the first war crimes trial. The conference also discussed terms for the surrender of Japan, although the dropping of the first atom bomb on Hiroshima on August 6, four days after the end of the conference, resolved that issue. (See references 6 and 8)