Occupation of Germany.
The United States, Great Britain, and the Soviet Union announced in 1943 their demand for the Third Reich's unconditional surrender. The European Advisory Commission, established by the Allies to work out the terms to be imposed on Germany, agreed in 1944 that each of the three Allies would occupy a third of Germany, with the Soviets in the east, the British in the northwest, and the Americans in the southwest. Berlin, located within the territory of the planned Soviet zone, would be jointly administered by the Allies, with each having a separate sector of the city. Although each power would have its own occupation zone, the Allies planned to administer Germany jointly through an Allied Control Council.
During the war, none of the Allies developed detailed plans for the occupation. The Soviets wanted reparations to redress wartime devastation. Franklin Delano Roosevelt anticipated drastic reforms to eliminate the German threat, but while the fighting continued he declined to specify detailed guidelines for the occupation policy. In 1944 the U.S. secretary of the treasury Henry Morgenthau Jr. proposed removing war-making industry from postwar Germany. Roosevelt and the British prime minister Winston Churchill endorsed the so-called Morgenthau Plan at a September 1944 meeting in Quebec, but afterward they backed away from it.
At the Yalta Conference in February 1945 the Allies agreed that the Soviets should receive reparations of approximately $10 billion, and the Soviet leader Joseph Stalin accepted French participation in the occupation. The leaders of the United States, Britain, and the Soviet Union next met at Potsdam, Germany, in July 1945. They deferred drafting a peace settlement for Germany to a council of foreign ministers and announced that they sought the demilitarization, denazification, and democratization of Germany. Germany was not to be dismembered but was to be “treated as a single economic unit,” with central administrative departments.
Germans emerged from the war mostly resigned to their position as a conquered people but more impressed with their own sufferings than with the victors' calls for reform. Food and shelter were scarce, with the German diet reduced by roughly half from prewar levels and with nearly one-fifth of the housing stock destroyed. In the absence of a reliable currency, Germans resorted to scrounging or black market transactions in which cigarettes represented the main medium of exchange.
Effective four-power administration in Germany never began because the French, who had not been a party to the Potsdam Conference, vetoed the establishment of the central agencies called for at Potsdam. The four powers applied policies in their own zones according to their vision of a reformed Germany. Denazification was imperfectly implemented throughout Germany; many Nazis escaped punishment and were able to retain important positions in society. The Soviets extracted reparations in excess of $10 billion from their zone, and together with German Communists they implemented reform policies along Soviet lines.
U.S. officials immediately focused on getting the Germans in their zone back on their feet. Likewise the British, who faced an enormous burden in supplying food for the population of their zone, quickly granted priority to restarting the German economy above implementing ambitious reforms. By the end of 1946 the Americans and the British had concluded that if western Europe was to recover from the war, western Germany, with its vital coal supplies, would need to recover as well.
The U.S. Marshall Plan announced in June 1947 accordingly included the three western zones of Germany in its aid program, as the United States, in cooperation with the British and the French, as well as with influential Germans, moved to establish a liberal capitalist West German state. The Soviet Union attempted to obstruct this initiative in June 1948 by blockading land access to Berlin. The Americans responded with the Berlin airlift, and the Soviets gave up the effort in May 1949. The establishment of the Federal Republic of Germany in May 1949 brought the end of the military occupation in the West, although the Allies retained rights under an occupation statute. The Soviets established a competing German Democratic Republic in October 1949.
The fate of occupied Germany turned on the move from cooperation between the United States and the Soviet Union to confrontation. The fault line of the Cold War ran along the border between two German states and a divided Berlin. For as long as the Cold War lasted, Germany remained divided. The occupation witnessed mistakes, injustices, and the breakdown of the wartime alliance, but it also laid the foundations for a reformed Germany, which since 1945 has become a stable, peaceful, democratic state that has made a vital contribution to a comparatively prosperous and peaceful Europe.
Clay, Lucius D. Decision in Germany. Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday, 1950. An account by the U.S. military governor.
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Eisenberg, Carolyn Woods. Drawing the Line: The American Decision to Divide Germany, 1944–1949. Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge University Press, 1996.
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Naimark, Norman M. The Russians in Germany: A History of the Soviet Zone of Occupation, 1945–1949. Cambridge, Mass.: Belknap Press, 1995.
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