from 1945 to the present - part 1
Reorientation after 1945. Following the unconditional surrender of the German
forces on 8/9 May 1945, the last government of the German Reich, headed by Admiral
Karl Donitz, remained in power for another 23 days. Its members were then arrested
and, together with other nazi leaders, tried by the Nuremberg Tribunal for crimes
against peace and humanity.
On 5 June the victorious, powers the United States, the
United Kingdom, the Soviet Union and France assumed supreme authority in the territory
of the Reich. Their basic objective, according to the London Protocol (12 September
1944) and follow-up agreements, was to exercise total control over Germany. They
divided the country into three occupation zones, and Berlin, the capital, into
three sectors. There was an Allied Control Council composed of the three commanders-in-chief.
Once and for all Germany was to be prevented from again aspiring to world domination
as she had done in 1914 and 1939. The allies wanted to curb her appetite for conquest,
to destroy Prussia as a stronghold of militarism, to punish the Germans for genocide
and war crimes, and to reeducate them in the democratic spirit.
At the conference of Yalta (Crimea) held in February 1945,
France was coopted as the fourth controlling power and allocated its own occupation
zone. In Yalta the only allied intention which remained valid was that of terminating
Germany's existence as an independent state but keeping the country intact. Stalin
especially was keen to preserve Germany's economic unity. He demanded such huge
reparations for the Soviet Union's terrible sacrifices as a result of Germany's
invasion that they could not possibly have been made by one occupation zone alone.
Moscow wanted 20 billion dollars and control over 80 per cent of all of Germany's
In contrast to the original plans, the British and Americans,
too, wanted to preserve a viable rump Germany, not out of greed for reparations
but because, as from about the autumn of 1944, US President Roosevelt was aiming
to establish a stable Central Europe as part of a system of global balances. Germany's
economic stability was indispensable to this plan. He had therefore quickly discarded
the notorious Morgenthau Plan (September 1944), which would have reduced Germany
to an agricultural country.
Soon the only common aim remaining to the victorious powers
was that of disarming and demilitarizing Germany. The original idea of partitioning
the country quickly became no more than 'lip-service to a dying idea' (Charles
Bohlen) when the western powers watched with dismay as Stalin, immediately upon
liberating, that is to say conquering, Poland and south-eastern Europe, launched
a massive operation to sovietize those regions.
On 12 May 1945 Churchill cabled President Truman that an
'iron curtain' had come down in front of the Soviet troops and that no one knew
what was going on behind it. But the western powers carefully weighed up the possible
consequences of letting Stalin have a say in reparations on the Rhine and the
Ruhr. The result was that at the Potsdam Conference (17 July to 2 August 1945),
the original aim of which was to create a new European order, agreements were
reached which consolidated rather than eased the tensions. The four powers agreed
on the matter of denazification, demilitarization, economic decentralization and
the reeducation of the Germans along democratic lines. The western powers also
agreed to the expulsion of Germans from Poland, Hungary and Czechoslovakia. The
west had insisted that the transfer be carried out in a 'humane' fashion, but
in the following years some 6.75 million Germans were brutally deported. They
were made to suffer for Germany's war crimes, but also for the shift in Poland's
western boundary as a result of the Soviet Union's occupation of Konigsberg and
eastern Poland. Practically the only point on which East and West agreed was that
the four occupation zones should be preserved as economic and political units.
At first, each power was to draw its reparations from its own zone. As was to
be seen later, however, this set a precedent in that not only the reparations
arrangement but also the attachment of the four zones to different political and
economic systems made Germany the country where the Cold War manifested itself
most of all. This came about in stages.
Meanwhile the task of establishing German political parties
and administrative authorities had begun in the occupation zones. This happened
very quickly in the Soviet zone under rigid control, with the result that even
before the end of 1945 parties and several central administrative bodies had been
In the three western zones the development of a political
system was a bottom-to-top process, that is to say, political parties were permitted
only at local level at first, then at state level after the Lander had been created.
Only later were they allowed to form associations at zonal level. Zonal administrative
structures were materializing very slowly, and as the destroyed country's material
want could only be overcome by means of generous planning across state and zonal
borders, and as quadripartite administration was not functioning, the United States
and the United Kingdom decided in 1947 to merge their zones economically into
what was known as the bizone.
The conflicting systems of government in East and West and
the different approach to reparations in the occupation zones were an obstacle
to the introduction of uniform financial, taxation, raw materials and production
policy throughout Germany, and led to considerable regional disparities. France
was not interested in a common economic administration (bizone/trizone) at first.
Stalin wanted to have a say in the management of the Ruhr but at the same time
sealed his own zone off to the others.
He would not have any western interference with the appointment
of pro-communist officials in the Soviet-occupied zone. The western powers were
powerless to prevent such arbitrary measures as the compulsory merger of the KPD
(East German Communist Party) and the SPD (Social Democratic Party) to form the
SED (Socialist Unity Party) in April 1946.
In view of this development the British and Americans, too,
began safeguarding their own interests in their respective zones. The military
commanders, most of whom were from the conservative mould, detested socialism.
Consequently, the old social structure and system of property ownership were retained
in the western zones. Moreover, the state of the economy made it necessary for
the authorities, rather than continue the denazification process, to engage efficient,
hard-working German specialists to help rebuild the western zones so that they
could be protected from Soviet encroachments. Thus attitudes on both sides hardened
into a cold war. Each accused the other side of being responsible for Germany's
division, but these mutual charges hardly concealed the fact that both blocs had
gone over to defending their bastions.
An enemy becomes a partner
With his famous speech in Stuttgart on 6 September 1949, US Secretary of State
Byrnes had indicated the changed approach. Stalin's occupation of Poland and the
redrawing of that country's borders were described as merely temporary measures.
As Byrnes saw it, the military role of the western allies in West Germany changed
from one of occupation and control to that of protecting powers. And he said that
a 'soft' reparations policy was intended to deter the Germans from any nationalist
thoughts of revenge and encourage their cooperation.
Finally, on the initiative of the United Kingdom and the
United States, a trizone was established as a unified western economic area, after
initial French resistance. The threat of another Soviet advance westwards following
the coup in Prague on 25 February 1948 induced the French to fall into line. Byrnes'
views were reflected first in the Brussels Pact of 17 March 1948 and ultimately
in the North Atlantic Treaty of 4 April 1949.
For such an organization to work West Germany had to have
a coherent political and economic system. Thus at the Six-Power Conference in
London (23 February to 3 March and 20 April to 1 June 1948), which was attended
for the first time by the Benelux countries, France, Britain and the United States
agreed that the western occupation zones should have a common political structure.
At the 82nd meeting of the Control Council on 20 March 1948,
the Soviet epresentative, Marshall Sokolovski, asked for information on the London
Conference. When his western colleagues answered evasively Sokolovski walked out,
never to return.
While the western powers were still finalizing their recommendations
for a constituent assembly to be convened by West Germany's minister presidents
(regional premiers), Stalin used the introduction of the deutschmark in the West
(currency reform of 20 June 1948) as a pretext for imposing a blockade on West
Berlin with the aim of annexing it to the Soviet-occupied zone. During the night
of 23 June 1948 all land routes between the western zones and West Berlin were
closed. Supplies of energy and food from the eastern sector of Berlin and the
Soviet zone stopped.
On 3 August 1948 Stalin demanded that Berlin be recognized
as the capital of the GDR (German Democratic Republic), which on 7 October 1949
was given a government of its own. But US President Harry Truman refused to budge,
having declared on 20 July that the western allies could not forgo West Berlin
nor the creation of a west German state (no Munich of 1948). Until 12 May 1949
West Berlin was kept supplied by an allied airlift. This visible solidarity with
Berlin as a western outpost, together with America's demonstration of strength,
evoked a spirit of cooperation in West Germany, with the result that former enemies
To Germany after 1945, part 2