Potsdam Conference concludes

Potsdam Conference concludes

The last wartime conference of the “Big Three”—the Soviet Union, the United States and Great Britain—concludes after two weeks of intense and sometimes acrimonious debate. The conference failed to settle most of the important issues at hand and thus helped set the stage for the Cold War that would begin shortly after World War II came to an end.

READ MORE: FDR, Churchill and Stalin: Inside Their Uneasy WWII Alliance

The meeting at Potsdam was the third conference between the leaders of the Big Three nations. The Soviet Union was represented by Joseph Stalin, Britain by Winston Churchill, and the United States by President Harry S. Truman. This was Truman’s first Big Three meeting. President Franklin D. Roosevelt, who died in April 1945, attended the first two conferences—in Tehran in 1943 and Yalta in February 1945.

At the Potsdam meeting, the most pressing issue was the postwar fate of Germany. The Soviets wanted a unified Germany, but they also insisted that Germany be completely disarmed. Truman, along with a growing number of U.S. officials, had deep suspicions about Soviet intentions in Europe. The massive Soviet army already occupied much of Eastern Europe. A strong Germany might be the only obstacle in the way of Soviet domination of all of Europe. In the end, the Big Three agreed to divide Germany into three zones of occupation (one for each nation), and to defer discussions of German reunification until a later date. The other notable issue at Potsdam was one that was virtually unspoken. Just as he arrived for the conference, Truman was informed that the United States had successfully tested the first atomic bomb. Hoping to use the weapon as leverage with the Soviets in the postwar world, Truman casually mentioned to Stalin that America was now in possession of a weapon of monstrously destructive force. The president was disappointed when the Soviet leader merely responded that he hoped the United States would use it to bring the war with Japan to a speedy end.

The Potsdam Conference ended on a somber note. By the time it was over, Truman had become even more convinced that he had to adopt a tough policy toward the Soviets. Stalin had come to believe more strongly that the United States and Great Britain were conspiring against the Soviet Union. As for Churchill, he was not present for the closing ceremonies. His party lost in the elections in England, and he was replaced midway through the conference by the new prime minister, Clement Attlee. Potsdam was the last postwar conference of the Big Three.

READ MORE: How the 'Big Three' Teed Up the Cold War at the 1945 Yalta Conference

The Potsdam Conference, 1945

The Big Three—Soviet leader Joseph Stalin , British Prime Minister Winston Churchill (replaced on July 26 by Prime Minister Clement Attlee ), and U.S. President Harry Truman —met in Potsdam, Germany , from July 17 to August 2, 1945, to negotiate terms for the end of World War II. After the Yalta Conference of February 1945, Stalin, Churchill, and U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt had agreed to meet following the surrender of Germany to determine the postwar borders in Europe. Germany surrendered on May 8, 1945, and the Allied leaders agreed to meet over the summer at Potsdam to continue the discussions that had begun at Yalta. Although the Allies remained committed to fighting a joint war in the Pacific, the lack of a common enemy in Europe led to difficulties reaching consensus concerning postwar reconstruction on the European continent.

The major issue at Potsdam was the question of how to handle Germany. At Yalta, the Soviets had pressed for heavy postwar reparations from Germany, half of which would go to the Soviet Union. While Roosevelt had acceded to such demands, Truman and his Secretary of State, James Byrnes , were determined to mitigate the treatment of Germany by allowing the occupying nations to exact reparations only from their own zone of occupation. Truman and Byrnes encouraged this position because they wanted to avoid a repetition of the situation created by the Treaty of Versailles, which had exacted high reparations payments from Germany following World War One. Many experts agreed that the harsh reparations imposed by the Versailles Treaty had handicapped the German economy and fueled the rise of the Nazis.

Despite numerous disagreements, the Allied leaders did manage to conclude some agreements at Potsdam. For example, the negotiators confirmed the status of a demilitarized and disarmed Germany under four zones of Allied occupation. According to the Protocol of the Conference, there was to be “a complete disarmament and demilitarization of Germany” all aspects of German industry that could be utilized for military purposes were to be dismantled all German military and paramilitary forces were to be eliminated and the production of all military hardware in Germany was forbidden. Furthermore, German society was to be remade along democratic lines by repeal of all discriminatory laws from the Nazi era and by the arrest and trial of those Germans deemed to be “war criminals.” The German educational and judicial systems were to be purged of any authoritarian influences, and democratic political parties would be encouraged to participate in the administration of Germany at the local and state level. The reconstitution of a national German Government was, however, postponed indefinitely, and the Allied Control Commission (which was comprised of four occupying powers, the United States, Britain, France, and the Soviet Union) would run the country during the interregnum.

One of the most controversial matters addressed at the Potsdam Conference dealt with the revision of the German-Soviet-Polish borders and the expulsion of several million Germans from the disputed territories. In exchange for the territory it lost to the Soviet Union following the readjustment of the Soviet-Polish border, Poland received a large swath of German territory and began to deport the German residents of the territories in question, as did other nations that were host to large German minority populations. The negotiators at Potsdam were well-aware of the situation, and even though the British and Americans feared that a mass exodus of Germans into the western occupation zones would destabilize them, they took no action other than to declare that “any transfers that take place should be effected in an orderly and humane manner” and to request that the Poles, Czechoslovaks and Hungarians temporarily suspend additional deportations.

In addition to settling matters related to Germany and Poland, the Potsdam negotiators approved the formation of a Council of Foreign Ministers that would act on behalf of the United States, Great Britain, the Soviet Union, and China to draft peace treaties with Germany’s former allies. Conference participants also agreed to revise the 1936 Montreux Convention, which gave Turkey sole control over the Turkish Straits. Furthermore, the United States, Great Britain, and China released the “Potsdam Declaration,” which threatened Japan with “prompt and utter destruction” if it did not immediately surrender (the Soviet Union did not sign the declaration because it had yet to declare war on Japan).

Reshaping post-war Germany

The 'Big Three' with their staffs around the conference table at the Potsdam Conference, 17 July 1945.

Despite many disagreements, the British delegation, Stalin and Truman did manage to conclude some agreements at Potsdam. It was decided that Germany would be occupied by the Americans, British, French and Soviets. It would also be demilitarised and disarmed. German industry capable of being used for military purposes was to be dismantled and the defeated country’s educational and judicial systems to be purged of Nazi influence. Nazi racial laws and other legislation were to be repealed and war criminals tried and punished. German society was to be reshaped on democratic lines but the reconstitution of the country as a sovereign state was postponed indefinitely. In the meantime Germany was to be run by an Allied Control Commission made up of the four occupying powers.

Stalin was most determined to obtain enormous economic reparations from Germany as compensation for the destruction wrought in the Soviet Union as a result of Hitler’s invasion. He had raised the question of these reparations with Churchill and Roosevelt at Yalta. Roosevelt, with the aim of getting Stalin both to participate in the war against Japan and in the United Nations Organisation, had agreed to the Soviet dictator’s demands.

But at Potsdam, Truman and Byrnes were anxious to lessen the Soviet demands, insisting that reparations should be exacted by the occupying powers only from their own occupation zone. This was because the Americans wanted to avoid a repetition of what happened after the 1919 Treaty of Versailles. Then, it was claimed, the harsh reparations imposed by the Treaty on a vanquished Germany had caused economic crises which in turn had led to the rise of Hitler.

There was also agreement regarding the desirability of ending the ‘present anomalous position’ of Germany’s wartime allies - Italy, Bulgaria, Hungary and Romania - and its co-belligerent Finland. A Council of Foreign Ministers would be set up to determine peace treaties with them that would be concluded following a conference involving the Big Three and ‘other interested Allied governments’. This duly took place the following year in Paris and the treaties signed on 10 February 1947.

There was also a good deal of wrangling over the Allied division of the German Navy's remaining ships and trusteeships of Italy’s former colonies in Africa. In both cases Stalin put forward demands which Churchill especially thought unreasonable.

Poland's fate

But the biggest stumbling blocks at Potsdam were the post-war fate of Poland, the revision of its frontiers and those of Germany, and the expulsion of many millions of ethnic Germans from Eastern Europe. The question of Poland had loomed large at both the Teheran and Yalta conferences. In exchange for its territory lost to the Soviet Union, Poland was to be compensated in the west by large areas of Germany up to the Oder-Neisse Line - the border along the Rivers Oder and Neisse.

The Poles, and also the Czechs and Hungarians, had begun to expel their German minorities and both the Americans and British were extremely worried that a mass influx of Germans into their respective zones would destabilise them. A request was made to Poland, Czechoslovakia and Hungary that the expulsions be temporarily suspended and when resumed should be ‘effected in an orderly and humane manner’.

On the vexed question of what constituted a ‘democratic Poland’, the Russians and the Western Allies were never going to agree. But, as with a number of other issues raised at Potsdam, it was turned over to the Council of Foreign Ministers to try and resolve.

Ending the war against Japan

A week into the conference, Truman told Stalin that the United States now possessed ‘a new weapon of special destructive force’ – he did not specify that it was the atomic bomb. Stalin, the President recalled, showed ‘no unusual interest’. This was undoubtedly because the Soviet dictator already knew of its existence through his spies in the West, but he told Truman that ‘he was glad to hear it and hoped that we would make "good use of it against the Japanese"'.

Before it was dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Britain, the United States and China issued the Potsdam Declaration. This threatened the Japanese with ‘prompt and utter destruction’ if they did not immediately unconditionally surrender, but at the same time promised ‘it was not intended to enslave Japan’. The Soviet Union was not involved in this declaration as it was still neutral in the war against Japan.

The 'Big Three' at Potsdam

Potsdam was Harry Truman’s first major appearance on the world stage. Succeeding America’s greatest ever president a daunting prospect, but Truman impressed almost everyone at Potsdam with a brisk, business-like attitude and mastery of his brief.

Churchill himself was not at his best at Potsdam. He was depressed, out of sorts and inwardly worried about the result of election back home. He missed the adrenalin rush that guiding the nation’s war effort had given him. He told his doctor ‘I don’t want to do anything. I have no energy. I wonder if it will come back’. He refused to look at briefing documents prepared for him by Foreign Office experts and instead indulged in lengthy and irrelevant discourse across the conference table.

Just as he had done at Teheran and Yalta, it was Stalin who impressed Western observers the most. One of Churchill’s ministers wrote of how the Soviet dictator ‘spoke quietly and shortly, in little staccato sentences…in the discussions Stalin was often humorous, never offensive direct and uncompromising…’. And one of Truman’s advisers noted how ‘Stalin’s mind had a strong retentive power. In taking up the opposing argument and states the points made. Then…he takes them one by one and answers them with counter-facts’.

The three leaders all had a great sense and knowledge of history, but at Potsdam, which was just outside of Berlin, it was Stalin who had the last word on the subject. When asked if he felt great satisfaction at being in Berlin, Stalin replied ‘Tsar Alexander got to Paris’.


After the end of World War II in Europe (1939–45), and the decisions of the earlier Tehran, Casablanca and Yalta Conferences, the Allies assumed supreme authority over Germany by the Berlin Declaration of June 5, 1945. In the Three Power Conference of Berlin (formal title of the Potsdam Conference) from 17 July to 2 August 1945, they agreed to and adopted the Protocol of the Proceedings, August 1, 1945, signed at Cecilienhof Palace in Potsdam. The signatories were General Secretary Joseph Stalin, President Harry S. Truman, and Prime Minister Clement Attlee, who, as a result of the British general election of 1945, had replaced Winston Churchill as the UK's representative. The three powers also agreed to invite France and China to participate as members of the Council of Foreign Ministers established to oversee the agreement. The Provisional Government of the French Republic accepted the invitation on August 7, with the key reservation that it would not accept a priori any commitment to the eventual reconstitution of a central government in Germany.

In the Potsdam Agreement (Berlin Conference) the Allies (UK, USSR, US) agreed on the following matters: [2]

  1. Establishment of a Council of Foreign Ministers, also including France and China tasked the preparation of a peace settlement for Germany, to be accepted by the Government of Germany once a government adequate for the purpose had been established. See the London Conference of Foreign Ministers and the Moscow Conference which took place later in 1945.
  2. The principles to govern the treatment of Germany in the initial control period. See European Advisory Commission and Allied Control Council
    • A. Political principles.
    Post-war Germany to be divided into four Occupation Zones under the control of Britain, the Soviet Union, the United States and France with the Commanders-in-chief of each country's forces exercising sovereign authority over matters within their own zones, while exercising authority jointly through the Allied Control Council for 'Germany as a whole'. Democratization. Treatment of Germany as a single unit. Disarmament and Demilitarization. Elimination of all Nazi influence.
    • B. Economic principles.
    Reduction or destruction of all civilian heavy-industry with war-potential, such as shipbuilding, machine production and chemical factories. Restructuring of German economy towards agriculture and light-industry. . This section covered reparation claims of the USSR from the Soviet occupation zone in Germany. The section also agreed that 10% of the industrial capacity of the western zones unnecessary for the German peace economy should be transferred to the Soviet Union within two years. The Soviet Union withdrew its previous objections to French membership of the Allied Reparations Commission, which had been established in Moscow following the Yalta conference.
  3. Disposal of the German Navy and merchant marine. All but thirty submarines to be sunk and the rest of the German Navy was to be divided equally between the three powers. The German merchant marine was to be divided equally between the three powers, and they would distribute some of those ships to the other Allies. But until the end of the war with the Empire of Japan all the ships would remain under the authority of the Combined Shipping Adjustment Board and the United Maritime Authority.
  4. City of Königsberg and the adjacent area (then East Prussia, now Kaliningrad Oblast). The United States and Britain declared that they would support the transfer of Königsberg and the adjacent area to the Soviet Union at the peace conference.
  5. War criminals This was a short paragraph and covered the creation of the London Charter and the subsequent Nuremberg Trials:

The Three Governments have taken note of the discussions which have been proceeding in recent weeks in London between British, United States, Soviet and French representatives with a view to reaching agreement on the methods of trial of those major war criminals whose crimes under the Moscow Declaration of October 1943 have no particular geographical localization. The Three Governments reaffirm their intention to bring these criminals to swift and sure justice. They hope that the negotiations in London will result in speedy agreement being reached for this purpose, and they regard it as a matter of great importance that the trial of these major criminals should begin at the earliest possible date. The first list of defendants will be published before 1st September.

[t]he three Governments have also charged the Council of Foreign Ministers with the task of preparing peace treaties for Bulgaria, Finland, Hungary and Romania. The conclusion of Peace Treaties with recognized democratic governments in these States will also enable the three Governments to support applications from them for membership of the United Nations. The three Governments agree to examine each separately in the near future in the light of the conditions then prevailing, the establishment of diplomatic relations with Finland, Romania, Bulgaria, and Hungary to the extent possible prior to the conclusion of peace treaties with those countries.

The Three Governments, having considered the question in all its aspects, recognize that the transfer to Germany of German populations, or elements thereof, remaining in Poland, Czechoslovakia and Hungary, will have to be undertaken. They agree that any transfers that take place should be effected in an orderly and humane manner.

Moreover, towards concluding the Pacific Theatre of War, the Potsdam Conference issued the Potsdam Declaration, the Proclamation Defining Terms for Japanese Surrender (26 July 1945) wherein the Western Allies (UK, US, USSR) and the Nationalist China of General Chiang Kai-shek asked Japan to surrender or be destroyed.

Already during the Potsdam Conference, on 30 July 1945, the Allied Control Council was constituted in Berlin to execute the Allied resolutions (the "Four Ds"): [3] [4]

    of the German society to eradicate Nazi influence of the former Wehrmacht forces and the German arms industry however, the circumstances of the Cold War soon led to Germany's Wiederbewaffnung including the re-establishment of both the Bundeswehr and the National People's Army , including the formation of political parties and trade unions, freedom of speech, of the press and religion resulting in German federalism, along with disassemblement as part of the industrial plans for Germany. Dismantling was stopped in West Germany in 1951 according to the Truman Doctrine, whereafter East Germany had to cope with the impact alone.

Territorial changes Edit

The northern half of the German province of East Prussia, occupied by the Red Army during its East Prussian Offensive followed by its evacuation in winter 1945, had already been incorporated into Soviet territory as the Kaliningrad Oblast. The Western Allies promised to support the annexation of the territory north of the Braunsberg–Goldap line when a Final German Peace Treaty was held.

The Allies had acknowledged the legitimacy of the Polish Provisional Government of National Unity, which was about to form a Soviet satellite state. Urged by Stalin, the UK and the US gave in to put the German territories east of the Oder–Neisse line from the Baltic coast west of Świnoujście up to the Czechoslovak border "under Polish administration" allegedly confusing the Lusatian Neisse and the Glatzer Neisse rivers. The proposal of an Oder-Bober-Queis line was rejected by the Soviet delegation. The cession included the former Free City of Danzig and the seaport of Stettin on the mouth of the Oder River (Szczecin Lagoon), vital for the Upper Silesian Industrial Region.

Post-war, 'Germany as a whole' would consist solely of aggregate territories of the respective zones of occupation. As all former German territories east of the Oder-Neisse line were excluded from the Soviet Occupation Zone, they were consequently excluded from 'Germany as a whole'.

Expulsions Edit

In the course of the proceedings, Polish communists had begun to suppress the German population west of the Bóbr river to underline their demand for a border on the Lusatian Neisse. The Allied resolution on the "orderly transfer" of German population became the legitimation of the expulsion of Germans from the nebulous parts of Central Europe, if they had not already fled from the advancing Red Army.

The expulsion of ethnic Germans by the Poles concerned, in addition to Germans within areas behind the 1937 Polish border in the West (such as in most of the old Prussian province of West Prussia), the territories placed "under Polish administration" pending a Final German Peace Treaty, i.e. southern East Prussia (Masuria), Farther Pomerania, the New March region of the former Province of Brandenburg, the districts of the Grenzmark Posen-West Prussia, Lower Silesia and those parts of Upper Silesia that had remained with Germany after the 1921 Upper Silesia plebiscite. It further affected the German minority living within the territory of the former Second Polish Republic in Greater Poland, eastern Upper Silesia, Chełmno Land and the Polish Corridor with Danzig.

The Germans in Czechoslovakia (34% of the population of the territory of what is now Czech Republic), known as Sudeten Germans but also Carpathian Germans, were expelled from the Sudetenland region where they formed a majority, from linguistic enclaves in central Bohemia and Moravia, as well as from the city of Prague.

Though the Potsdam Agreement referred only to Poland, Czechoslovakia and Hungary, expulsions also occurred in Romania, where the Transylvanian Saxons were deported and their property disseized, and in Yugoslavia. In the Soviet territories, Germans were expelled from northern East Prussia (Oblast Kaliningrad) but also from the adjacent Lithuanian Klaipeda Region and other lands settled by Baltic Germans.

History Of Potsdam Conference

The Potsdam Conference held between 17th July and 2nd August 1945 was attended by the heads of state of the UK, the US, France and the USSR. The main aim of the conference was to implement the agreement reached during the Yalta Conference. Another outcome of this conference was that the growing tension between the US, the UK and the USSR increased. Also, the US and the Russians grew suspicious of one another.

During the conference, the countries also wanted to discuss what to do with the war being pursued by the Japanese. However, the US and the UK were suspicious about the intentions of the Russians, as the Russian army had spread its wings across major part of Eastern Europe. During the course of the conference, the western allies found that Joseph Stalin had no intentions of decreasing Russian army presence in any of the occupied countries.

The Russians were keen on disarming Germany, while the other allies wanted their share of the vanquished nation. However, the US were worried that communism would spread across Germany and rest of Western Europe if a tough stance was not taken against Russia. So, after a lot of negotiation, it was decided that Germany would be divided into 4 zones, with each of the Allied nation administering one zone. The Russians were given the eastern zone of Germany and the rest of the country was divided between the US, France and the UK. Furthermore, the US also restricted the amount that the Russians would get as reparation from the Germans. However, they could do much about the occupation of Poland by Russia.

Sadly, when the Potsdam Conference came to end, no much headway was made. Things were still the same as they were before the conference. This was the last conference held during war time. And, 4 days after the conference ended, the US dropped 2 atomic bombs on Japan. Finally, the Second World War came to an official end on 14th August 1945. Potsdam Conference

The Potsdam Conference held in 1945 between the Allied nations had an effect on Germany. The conference was convened to decide how the territories that were occupied by Nazi Germany were to be divided between the UK, the US, France and the Soviet Union. This conference managed to reduce the size of Germany and also divided the country into two. More..

Your guide to the Yalta and Potsdam conferences, 1945

What was the Yalta conference and why was it held? What did each of the 'big three' – Roosevelt, Churchill and Stalin – want from the meeting? And what was finally decided at the Potsdam conference? Here's your guide to these key meetings of World War Two, which took place in 1945.

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Published: July 16, 2020 at 11:25 am

What was the Yalta conference and why was it held?

Between 4 and 11 February 1945, US President Franklin D Roosevelt, British Prime Minister Winston Churchill and Soviet Premier Joseph Stalin met at Yalta – a resort city on the south coast of the Crimean Peninsula, on the Black Sea – for a major conference. Their aim was to thrash out how to bring World War Two to an end and plan the post-war reorganisation of Europe – in particular Germany.

The so-called ‘big three’ convened at Livadia Palace, the former summer residence of Tsar Nicholas II, for eight days. Roosevelt, who was in poor health, had suggested a meeting place somewhere in the Mediterranean, but Stalin, who was famously afraid of flying, had refused to go farther than the Black Sea and suggested the Soviet resort of Yalta.

What was happening elsewhere in February 1945?

The Yalta Conference took place at a critical time in World War Two. By the start of 1945 it was clear that, despite continuing resistance, Germany had lost the war. The Battle of the Bulge – the last German offensive on the Western Front, fought in the Ardennes region of Belgium – had shattered what remained of the German army, as well as destroying essential weapons, tanks and supplies. Elsewhere, Stalin’s Red Army had captured East Prussia and was less than 50 miles from Berlin. The once mighty Luftwaffe was drastically depleted, while Allied bombs continued to fall on German towns and cities on a daily basis. Adolf Hitler was fighting a losing battle.

Did you know?

At the Tehran Conference of 1943, Soviet agents alleged that the Germans were planning Operation Long Jump – a plot to assassinate the Big Three at the same time, only for it to be called off at the last minute. Aspersions have since been cast on whether the plot ever existed.

What did each of the ‘big three’ want from the meeting?

The three leaders had met 15 months earlier in the Iranian capital Tehran, where they had discussed ways to defeat Nazi Germany, agreed on an invasion of Normandy and had conversations around the Soviets’ entry into the Pacific War. The tentative beginnings of what a future peace settlement might look like had been made in Tehran, but it was at Yalta where the real discussions began.

Each leader sat down at Yalta with specific goals in mind. For Roosevelt, ending the ongoing war with Japan was of paramount importance, but to achieve this, he needed Stalin’s military help. The US president also wanted the Soviets to join the UN – a new global peacekeeping body – which it did, remaining a member until the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991.

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Stalin’s priority at Yalta was to get his country back on its feet and increase its standing on the European political stage. The Soviet Union, whilst crushing German forces on the eastern front, had been devastated by the war, with an estimated 27 million Soviet citizens (around one in seven) killed during the conflict, and vast swathes of industry, farming, cities and homes obliterated. Stalin needed money to rebuild his battered country, and pressed for huge reparations from Germany, as well as spheres of influence in Eastern Europe to prevent further invasions, and ensure that Germany could never threaten world peace again.

Churchill, too, was keen to see an end to any future German threat, but he was also concerned about extending the power of the USSR and wanted to see fair and free government across Eastern Europe, especially in Poland,
in whose defence Britain had declared war with Germany in 1939. Both he and Truman were worried that inflicting huge reparations on Germany, as had been done after World War I, could, in the future, create a similar economic situation in the country that had led to the rise and acceptance of the Nazi Party. With differing priorities and world views, it was clearly going to be difficult for the Big Three to reach an agreement.

Why wasn’t French leader Charles de Gaulle present at the conference?

De Gaulle, by unanimous consent from all three leaders, was not invited to Yalta, nor to the Potsdam Conference a few months later it was a diplomatic slight that created deep and lasting resentment. Stalin in particular felt that decisions about the future of Europe should be made by those powers who had sacrificed the most in the war. If France was allowed to participate at Yalta, other nations, too, would arguably have had an equal right to attend.

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What was eventually agreed at Yalta?

The decisions made at Yalta demonstrate the extent to which power had shifted between the Allies over the course of the war. Once Germany’s unconditional surrender had been received, it was proposed that the country, and its capital, be split into four occupied zones – the fourth occupation zone was granted to France but, at Stalin’s insistence, would
be formed out of the American and British zones.

The fate of Poland was a key sticking point in negotiations. For centuries, the country had been used as a historical corridor for armies intent on invading Russia, and Stalin was determined to retain the regions of Poland that he had annexed in 1939 after the Soviet invasion. But he conceded to Churchill’s demand that free elections be held in all Nazi- liberated territories in Eastern Europe, including Czechoslovakia, Hungary, Romania, Bulgaria, and Poland.

Other key decisions included the demilitarisation of Germany the payment of reparations by Germany, partly in the form of forced labour the representation of two of the 16 Soviet Socialist Republics (Ukraine and Byelorussia) at the UN, and Soviet participation in the war against Japan, following Germany’s surrender. Another concession made by the US and Britain was to allow all former Soviet prisoners of war, including those who had changed sides and fought for Germany, to be forcibly repatriated back to the USSR.

What happened next?

None of the Big Three left Yalta with everything they had set out to achieve, but a public show of unity and cooperation was widely reported as they went their separate ways. At the conclusion of the conference, an agreement was made that they would meet once more after Germany had surrendered, so that they could make firm decisions on any outstanding matters, including the borders of post-war Europe. This final meeting took place at Potsdam, near Berlin, between 17 July and 2 August 1945.

What had happened between the ending of the Yalta conference and the meeting at Potsdam?

Aside from Germany’s surrender in May 1945, the political landscape had changed considerably in the five months that had passed since Yalta. Roosevelt, who had been seriously ill at Yalta, had died of a massive brain haemorrhage in April 1945, so it was the new US President Harry Truman who travelled to Berlin, accompanied by his newly appointed Secretary of State James Byrnes.

Promises made at Yalta had also been rescinded. Despite pledging free Polish elections, Stalin was already making moves to install a communist government in that country and many Poles, both in Britain and elsewhere, felt they had been sold out by Truman and Churchill. And despite the Pacific War that was still raging in the East, Stalin had not yet declared war on Japan or provided military support to the US.

What was different about the Potsdam conference?

The political atmosphere at Potsdam was decidedly more strained than at Tehran and Yalta. President Truman was far more suspicious of Stalin and his motives than Roosevelt, who had been widely criticised in the US for giving into Stalin’s demands over Poland and Eastern Europe. Truman was also open in his dislike of communism and Stalin personally, stating that he was “tired of babying the Soviets”.

Further upheaval was to come, though, with the results of the British general election, which had taken place on 5 July. The announcement, made three weeks later on 26 July (to allow the votes of those serving overseas to be counted) saw a decisive victory for the Labour Party and meant that Churchill and his Foreign Secretary Anthony Eden were replaced at the conference – from 28 July – by Britain’s new Prime Minister Clement Attlee and his Foreign Secretary Ernest Bevin. And although war against Japan was still ongoing, the lack of a common European enemy saw the Big Three find it harder to reach a mutually acceptable compromise on what the post-war political reconstruction of Europe would look like.

Another important development had also occurred since Yalta – one that would have a profound global impact. A week into the conference, after gaining Stalin’s agreement that the Soviets would join the Pacific War, Truman casually informed Stalin that the US was in possession of “a new weapon of unusual destructive force”: the atomic bomb, which had been tested for the first time on 16 July.

What was finally decided at Potsdam?

Once again, the fate of post-war Poland proved to be one of the biggest stumbling blocks of the conference, and it was finally agreed that Stalin would retain the land he had annexed in 1939. By way of compensation for land lost to the USSR, Poland was to be granted large areas of Germany, up to the Oder-Neisse Line – the border along the Rivers Oder and Neisse. But there was still no firm agreement that Stalin would adhere to his Yalta promise and ensure free elections in Eastern Europe.

As had been discussed at Yalta, Germany and Berlin were to be divided into four zones, with each Allied power receiving reparation from its own occupation zone – the Soviet Union was also permitted to 10- 15 per cent of the industrial equipment in the western zones of Germany in exchange for agricultural and other natural products from its own zone.

With regards to Germany itself, it was confirmed that administration of that country was to be dictated by the ‘five Ds’: demilitarisation, denazification, democratisation, decentralisation and deindustrialisation, and Germans living in Poland, Hungary and Czechoslovakia at the end of the World War II were to be forcibly expelled to Germany. Thousands of Germans died as a result of the expulsion order official West German accounts state that at least 610,000 Germans were killed in the course of the expulsions. By 1950, the total number of Germans who had left eastern Europe (either voluntarily or by force) had reached 11.5 million.

Did Potsdam succeed in its aims with regard to Europe?

Although some agreements and compromises emerged at Potsdam, there were still important issues that had not been resolved. Before long, the Soviet Union had reconstituted the German Communist Party in the Eastern Sector of Germany and had begun to lay the groundwork for a separate, East German nation state, modelled on that of the USSR.

What was the Potsdam declaration?

Though Germany was the focus at Potsdam, on 26 July the US, Britain and China issued the Potsdam Declaration: an ultimatum calling for the unconditional surrender of Japan. Stalin, not being at war with Japan, was not party to it. The Japanese did not surrender, and just days after the conference ended, the US dropped atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki – which ultimately did what the Potsdam Declaration could not. Within weeks, Stalin had accelerated his own nuclear weapons programme, detonating its first atomic bomb – First Lightning – at a remote test site in Kazakhstan on 29 August 1949. The stage for the Cold War had been set.

Charlotte Hodgman is the editor of BBC History Revealed magazine

Potsdam Conference concludes - HISTORY

(Potsdam, Germany, July 1945)
Events > Dawn of the Atomic Era, 1945

  • The War Enters Its Final Phase, 1945
  • Debate Over How to Use the Bomb, Late Spring 1945
  • The Trinity Test, July 16, 1945
  • Safety and the Trinity Test, July 1945
  • Evaluations of Trinity, July 1945
  • Potsdam and the Final Decision to Bomb, July 1945
  • The Atomic Bombing of Hiroshima, August 6, 1945
  • The Atomic Bombing of Nagasaki, August 9, 1945
  • Japan Surrenders, August 10-15, 1945
  • The Manhattan Project and the Second World War, 1939-1945

After President Harry S. Truman received word of the success of the Trinity test, his need for the help of the Soviet Union in the war against Japan was greatly diminished. The Soviet leader, Joseph Stalin, had promised to join the war against Japan by August 15th. Truman and his advisors now were not sure they wanted this help. If use of the atomic bomb made victory possible without an invasion, then accepting Soviet help would only invite them into the discussions regarding the postwar fate of Japan. During the second week of Allied deliberations at Potsdam, on the evening of July 24, 1945, Truman approached Stalin without an interpreter and, as casually as he could, told him that the United States had a "new weapon of unusual destructive force." Stalin showed little interest, replying only that he hoped the United States would make "good use of it against the Japanese." The reason for Stalin's composure became clear later: Soviet intelligence had been receiving information about the atomic bomb program since fall 1941.

The final decision to drop the atomic bomb, when it was made the following day, July 25, was decidedly anticlimactic. How and when it should be used had been the subject of high-level debate for months. A directive (right), written by Leslie Groves, approved by President Truman, and issued by Secretary of War Henry Stimson and General of the Army George Marshall, ordered the Army Air Force's 509th Composite Group to attack Hiroshima, Kokura, Niigata, or Nagasaki (in that order of preference) as soon after August 3 as weather permitted. No further authorization was needed for subsequent atomic attacks. Additional bombs were to be delivered as soon as they became available, against whatever Japanese cities remained on the target list. Stalin was not told. Targeting now simply depended on which city was not obscured by clouds on the day of attack.

Colonel Paul Tibbets's 509th was ready. They had already begun dropping their dummy "pumpkin" bombs on Japanese targets, both for practice, and to accustom the Japanese to overflights of small numbers of B-29s. The uranium "Little Boy" bomb, minus its nuclear components, arrived at the island of Tinian aboard the U.S.S Indianapolis on July 26, followed shortly by the final nuclear components of the bomb, delivered by five C-54 cargo planes. On July 26, word arrived at Potsdam that Winston Churchill had been defeated in his bid for reelection. Within hours, Truman, Stalin, and Clement Attlee (the new British prime minister, below) issued their warning to Japan: surrender or suffer "prompt and utter destruction." As had been the case with Stalin, no specific mention of the atomic bomb was made. This "Potsdam Declaration" left the emperor's status unclear by making no reference to the royal house in the section that promised the Japanese that they could design their new government as long as it was peaceful and more democratic. Anti-war sentiment was growing among Japanese civilian leaders, but no peace could be made without the consent of the military leaders. They still retained hope for a negotiated peace where they would be able to keep at least some of their conquests or at least avoid American occupation of the homeland. On July 29, 1945, the Japanese rejected the Potsdam Declaration.

There is probably no more controversial issue in 20th-century American history than President Harry S. Truman's decision to drop the atomic bomb on Japan. Many historians argue that it was necessary to end the war and that in fact it saved lives, both Japanese and American, by avoiding a land invasion of Japan that might have cost hundreds of thousands of lives. Other historians argue that Japan would have surrendered even without the use of the atomic bomb and that in fact Truman and his advisors used the bomb only in an effort to intimidate the Soviet Union. The United States did know from intercepted messages between Tokyo and Moscow that the Japanese were seeking a conditional surrender. American policy-makers, however, were not inclined to accept a Japanese "surrender" that left its military dictatorship intact and even possibly allowed it to retain some of its wartime conquests. Further, American leaders were anxious to end the war as soon as possible. It is important to remember that July-August 1945 was no bloodless period of negotiation. In fact, there were still no overt negotiations at all. The United States continued to suffer casualties in late July and early August 1945, especially from Japanese submarines and suicidal "kamikaze" attacks using aircraft and midget submarines. (One example of this is the loss of the Indianapolis, which was sunk by a Japanese submarine on July 29, just days after delivering "Little Boy" to Tinian. Of its crew of 1,199, only 316 sailors survived.) The people of Japan, however, were suffering far more by this time. Air raids and naval bombardment of Japan were a daily occurrence, and the first signs of starvation were already beginning to show.

Alternatives to dropping the atomic bomb on a Japanese city were many, but few military or political planners thought they would bring about the desired outcome, at least not quickly. They believed the shock of a rapid series of bombings had the best chance of working. A demonstration of the power of the atomic bomb on an isolated location was an option supported by many of the Manhattan Project's scientists, but providing the Japanese warning of a demonstration would allow them to attempt to try to intercept the incoming bomber or even move American prisoners of war to the designated target. Also, the uranium gun-type bomb (right) had never been tested. What would the reaction be if the United States warned of a horrible new weapon, only to have it prove a dud, with the wreckage of the weapon itself now in Japanese hands? Another option was to wait for the expected coming Soviet declaration of war in the hopes that this might convince Japan to surrender unconditionally, but the Soviet declaration was not expected until mid-August, and Truman hoped to avoid having to "share" the administration of Japan with the Soviet Union. A blockade combined with continued conventional bombing might also eventually lead to surrender without an invasion, but there was no telling how long this would take, if it worked at all.

The only alternative to the atomic bomb that Truman and his advisors felt was certain to lead to a Japanese surrender was an invasion of the Japanese home islands. Plans were already well-advanced for this, with the initial landings set for the fall and winter of 1945-1946. No one knew how many lives would be lost in an invasion, American, Allied, and Japanese, but the recent seizure of the island of Okinawa provided a ghastly clue. The campaign to take the small island had taken over ten weeks, and the fighting had resulted in the deaths of over 12,000 Americans, 100,000 Japanese, and perhaps another 100,000 native Okinawans.

As with many people, Truman was shocked by the enormous losses suffered at Okinawa. American intelligence reports indicated (correctly) that, although Japan could no longer meaningfully project its power overseas, it retained an army of two million soldiers and about 10,000 aircraft -- half of them kamikazes -- for the final defense of the homeland. (During postwar studies the United States learned that the Japanese had correctly anticipated where in Kyushu the initial landings would have taken place.) Although Truman hoped that the atomic bomb might give the United States an edge in postwar diplomacy, the prospect of avoiding another year of bloody warfare in the end may well have figured most importantly in his decision to drop the atomic bomb on Japan.

  • The War Enters Its Final Phase, 1945
  • Debate Over How to Use the Bomb, Late Spring 1945
  • The Trinity Test, July 16, 1945
  • Safety and the Trinity Test, July 1945
  • Evaluations of Trinity, July 1945
  • Potsdam and the Final Decision to Bomb, July 1945
  • The Atomic Bombing of Hiroshima, August 6, 1945
  • The Atomic Bombing of Nagasaki, August 9, 1945
  • Japan Surrenders, August 10-15, 1945
  • The Manhattan Project and the Second World War, 1939-1945

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17/07/1945: Khai mạc Hội nghị Potsdam

Nguồn: “Potsdam Conference convenes,” (truy cập ngày 16/7/2015).

Biên dịch & Hiệu đính: Nguyễn Huy Hoàng

Vào ngày này năm 1945, hội nghị của các nước chiến thắng thuộc phe Đồng Minh đã được triệu tập ở Potsdam, ngoại ô thành phố Berlin, với sự tham dự của Tổng thống Mỹ Harry S. Truman, Thủ tướng Anh Winston Churchill, và lãnh tụ Xô-viết Joseph Stalin.

Các vấn đề trước mắt mà ba nước Tam Hùng cùng đội ngũ nhân viên của họ phải giải quyết là chính quyền của một nước Đức thất trận biên giới hậu chiến của Ba Lan sự chiếm đóng quân sự ở Áo “vị trí” của Liên Xô ở Đông Âu các khoản bồi thường chiến tranh và cuộc chiến đang tiếp diễn ở Thái Bình Dương. Continue reading 󈬁/07/1945: Khai mạc Hội nghị Potsdam”

Looking Back on 16 Days That Shaped History

An exhibition at the palace that hosted the Potsdam Conference at the end of World War II examines the event’s far-reaching impact.

POTSDAM, Germany — Winston Churchill’s walking cane, Panama hat and cigar tube are on their way here, but they’ve been delayed.

The items are traveling from the wartime prime minister’s former home in England to this city, about 20 miles from Berlin, for an exhibition to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the Potsdam Conference, the 16-day summit meeting at the end of World War II during which the victorious powers established a new world order that endured until the fall of the Berlin Wall. Because of the coronavirus lockdown in Britain, an export license for the items took longer than expected to procure — but they should arrive any day now, after making the same journey their owner took in 1945.

The cane, hat and cigar holder will go on display in Cecilienhof Palace, the ivy-clad country house set in tranquil parkland where the conference took place. After Germany’s surrender at the end of the war, Churchill, President Harry S. Truman and the Soviet leader Joseph Stalin met at Cecilienhof to negotiate the future of the defeated country and to redraw borders in Eastern Europe.

The show, “Potsdam Conference 1945: Shaping the World,” running through Dec. 31, presents historical documents, films, photographs and mementos of the era to bring the event to life and to examine how it sculpted world history. The conference’s official conclusions, set out in the Potsdam Agreement, had immediate repercussions for Germany and for the rest of Europe, but the exhibition also shows how the behind-the-scenes discussions had far-reaching implications for Asia and the Middle East.

From July 17 to Aug. 2, 1945, the “Big Three” met at a round table (on display in the exhibition) in front of a large bay window that overlooks a lake. After preparatory discussions among delegates, and then among foreign ministers, the leaders convened for a total of 13 sessions starting at 5 p.m. and lasting for one to two hours. In the evening, there was entertainment.

“The U.S. thought the relationship with Stalin was going to be a difficult one, but they thought it would be manageable,” said Michael Neiberg, a historian and author of “Potsdam: The End of World War II and the Remaking of Europe,” in a phone interview. “The participants were not yet talking about a Cold War. Potsdam was an exclamation point at the end of Germany being the big problem in Europe. The mood was jubilant they sang songs together they ate at banquets together.”

After the Red Army conquered Berlin in May 1945, the city was under Soviet control for two months, and Stalin proposed hosting a postwar conference for the victors there. In the end, the Allied powers settled on holding it in nearby Potsdam, because it was less damaged than Berlin, whose downtown was a wasteland still reeking of corpses, sewers and smoke.

Cecilienhof, built for the eldest son of Germany’s last emperor and his wife, Cecile, was almost unscathed by World War II, aside from a few cracked windows. The palace’s genteel, carpeted 1945 décor has been meticulously recreated for the exhibition — down to the finely painted Venetian glassware in cabinets in the breakfast room — with the help of archive footage and photographs from the Russian State Film and Photo Archive and the Harry S. Truman Presidential Library and Museum.

On display for the first time in the exhibition is the diary of Joy Milward, then a 19-year-old secretary with the British delegation, which records her impressions of the conference and the broken country in which it took place. Recalling the journey from the airport to Potsdam, she wrote: “The road was lined with old men and women, children and young women all carrying packs on their back or pushing carts loaded with family belongings.”

With their homes and livelihoods destroyed, people were on the move all over Germany. The conference also had to decide what to do with millions of ethnic Germans living in what was then Poland, Czechoslovakia and Hungary, some of whom arrived as settlers after those countries were annexed by the Third Reich. The Potsdam Agreement called for an “orderly and humane” transfer, but the expulsions that followed were anything but: As many as 14 million people were displaced, and hundreds of thousands starved to death or were killed as an anti-German backlash swept the liberated nations.

Using the stories of individual refugees and their mementos of lost homelands — items such as a gilded samovar and a set of sheep shears — the exhibition shows how the decisions of the three leaders threw the lives of millions into tumult.

While the great powers focused their attention on Europe, the war in Asia was still raging. On the evening before the conference began, Truman learned that the United States had carried out the first successful test of an atomic bomb. On July 26, the United States, Britain and China issued an ultimatum to Japan, known as the Potsdam Declaration, calling for unconditional surrender, or “prompt and utter destruction.”

Four days after the conference ended, the United States dropped an atomic bomb on Hiroshima, killing tens of thousands of people. Three days later, Nagasaki was annihilated. One touching exhibit on loan to Cecilienhof from the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum is the blackened metal lunchbox of a 12-year-old schoolboy, Koji Kano, whose body was never found.

The last section of the show addresses the Soviet invasion of Japanese-occupied Manchuria that occurred a week after the meeting ended, and how the ultimatum to Japan eventually led to independence for Korea. Displays also touch on the withdrawal of British and Soviet troops from Iran and the failure of the three powers to settle compensation for Holocaust survivors or to decide what should happen next in Palestine.

Developments in Britain also overshadowed the conference, which was interrupted for two days while Churchill traveled back to London to find out the results of the general election. He lost in an unexpected landslide for Clement Attlee’s Labour party: For the final five days, Attlee replaced him at the negotiating table.

Truman suggested at the end of the negotiations that the Big Three should meet again in Washington, a gathering Attlee said he hoped would represent “a milestone on the road to peace between our countries and in the world.” But that event never took place and the uneasy wartime alliance between the United States and the Soviet Union unraveled as the Cold War began.

So can the Potsdam Conference nonetheless be considered a success?

“Their mind-set was not to repeat the mistakes of the Treaty of Versailles by failing to set the right conditions for peace,” Mr. Neiberg said. “They were moderately successful in this. They solved the fundamental problem of Germany. They also set the initial terms that prevented the Cold War from becoming a hot war. The people who paid the price were the Eastern Europeans who ended up living under the Soviet yoke.”


Four military occupied zones Edit

At the Potsdam Conference (17 July to 2 August 1945), after Germany's unconditional surrender on 8 May 1945, [8] the Allies officially divided Germany into the four military occupation zones — France in the Southwest, the United Kingdom in the Northwest, the United States in the South, and the Soviet Union in the East, bounded Eastwards by the Oder-Neisse line. At Potsdam, these four zones in total were denoted as 'Germany as a whole', and the four Allied Powers exercised the sovereign authority they now claimed within Germany in agreeing 'in principle' the future transfer of lands of the former German Reich east of 'Germany as a whole' to Poland and the Soviet Union. [9] These eastern areas were notionally placed under Polish and Soviet administration pending a final peace treaty (which was not formalized until 1990, 45 years later) but in actuality were promptly reorganized as organic parts of their respective sovereign states. [ citation needed ]

In addition, under the Allies' Berlin Declaration (1945), the territory of the extinguished German Reich was to be treated as the land area within its borders as of 31 December 1937. All land expansion from 1938 to 1945 was hence treated as automatically invalid. Such expansion included the League of Nations administered City-State of Danzig (occupied by Germany immediately following Germany's 1 September 1939 invasion of Poland), Austria, the occupied territory of Czechoslovakia, Suwalki, Alsace-Lorraine, Luxembourg, post 27 September 1939 "West Prussia", post 27 September 1939 "Posen Province", northern Slovenia, Eupen, Malmedy, the part of Southern Silesia ultimately detached from 1918 Germany by action of the Versailles Treaty, likewise, the Hultschiner Laendchen.

Flight and expulsion of ethnic Germans Edit

The northern half of East Prussia in the region of Königsberg was administratively assigned by the Potsdam Agreement to the Soviet Union, pending a final Peace Conference (with the commitment of Britain and the United States to support its incorporation into Russia) and was then annexed by the Soviet Union. The Free City of Danzig and the southern half of East Prussia were incorporated into and annexed by Poland the Allies having assured the Polish government-in-exile of their support for this after the Tehran Conference in 1943. It was also agreed at Potsdam that Poland would receive all German lands East of the Oder-Neisse line, although the exact delimitation of the boundary was left to be resolved at an eventual Peace Conference. Under the wartime alliances of the United Kingdom with the Czechoslovak and Polish governments-in-exile, the British had agreed in July 1942 to support ". the General Principle of the transfer to Germany of German minorities in Central and South Eastern Europe after the war in cases where this seems necessary and desirable". In 1944 roughly 12.4 million ethnic Germans were living in territory that became part of post-war Poland and Soviet Union. Approximately 6 million fled or were evacuated before the Red Army occupied the area. Of the remainder, around 2 million died during the war or in its aftermath (1.4 million as military casualties 600,000 as civilian deaths), [10] 3.6 million were expelled by the Poles, one million declared themselves to be Poles, and 300,000 remained in Poland as Germans. The Sudetenland territories, surrendered to Germany by the Munich Agreement, were returned to Czechoslovakia these territories containing a further 3 million ethnic Germans. 'Wild' expulsions from Czechoslovakia began immediately after the German surrender.

The Potsdam Conference subsequently sanctioned the "orderly and humane" transfer to Germany of individuals regarded as "ethnic Germans" by authorities in Czechoslovakia, Poland, and Hungary. The Potsdam Agreement recognized that these expulsions were already underway and were putting a burden on authorities in the German Occupation Zones, including the re-defined Soviet Occupation Zone. Most of the Germans who were being expelled were from Czechoslovakia and Poland, which included most of the territory to the east of the Oder-Neisse Line. The Potsdam Declaration stated:

Since the influx of a large number of Germans into Germany would increase the burden already resting on the occupying authorities, they consider that the Allied Control Council in Germany should in the first instance examine the problem with special regard to the question of the equitable distribution of these Germans among the several zones of occupation. They are accordingly instructing their respective representatives on the control council to report to their Governments as soon as possible the extent to which such persons have already entered Germany from Poland, Czechoslovakia, and Hungary, and to submit an estimate of the time and rate at which further transfers could be carried out, having regard to the present situation in Germany. The Czechoslovak Government, the Polish Provisional Government and the control council in Hungary are at the same time being informed of the above and are being requested meanwhile to suspend further expulsions pending the examination by the Governments concerned of the report from their representatives on the control council.

Many of the ethnic Germans, who were primarily women and children, and especially those under the control of Polish and Czechoslovakian authorities, were severely mistreated before they were ultimately deported to Germany. Thousands died in forced labor camps such as Lambinowice, Zgoda labour camp, Central Labour Camp Potulice, Central Labour Camp Jaworzno, Glaz, Milecin, Gronowo, and Sikawa. [11] Others starved, died of disease, or froze to death while being expelled in slow and ill-equipped trains or in transit camps.

Altogether, around 8 million ethnic German refugees and expellees from across Europe eventually settled in West Germany, with a further 3 million in East Germany. In West Germany these represented a major voting block maintaining a strong culture of grievance and victimhood against Soviet Power, pressing for a continued commitment to full German reunification, claiming compensation, pursuing the right of return to lost property in the East, and opposing any recognition of the postwar extension of Poland and the Soviet Union into former German lands. [12] Owing to the Cold War rhetoric and successful political machinations of Konrad Adenauer, this block eventually became substantially aligned with the Christian Democratic Union of Germany although in practice 'westward-looking' CDU policies favouring the Atlantic Alliance and the European Union worked against the possibility of achieving the objectives of the expellee population from the east through negotiation with the Soviet Union. But for Adenauer, fostering and encouraging unrealistic demands and uncompromising expectations amongst the expellees would serve his "Policy of Strength" by which West Germany contrived to inhibit consideration of unification or a final Peace Treaty until the West was strong enough to face the Soviets on equal terms. Consequently, the Federal Republic in the 1950s adopted much of the symbolism of expellee groups especially in appropriating and subverting the terminology and imagery of the Holocaust applying this to post-war German experience instead. [13] Eventually in 1990, following the Treaty on the Final Settlement With Respect to Germany, the unified Germany indeed confirmed in treaties with Poland and the Soviet Union that the transfer of sovereignty over the former German eastern territories in 1945 had been permanent and irreversible Germany now undertaking never again to make territorial claims in respect of these lands.

The intended governing body of Germany was called the Allied Control Council, consisting of the commanders-in-chief in Germany of the United States, the United Kingdom, France and the Soviet Union who exercised supreme authority in their respective zones, while supposedly acting in concert on questions affecting the whole country. In actuality however, the French consistently blocked any progress towards re-establishing all-German governing institutions substantially in pursuit of French aspirations for a dismembered Germany, but also as a response to the exclusion of France from the Yalta and Potsdam conferences. Berlin, which lay in the Soviet (eastern) sector, was also divided into four sectors with the Western sectors later becoming West Berlin and the Soviet sector becoming East Berlin, capital of East Germany.

Denazification Edit

A key item in the occupiers' agenda was denazification. The swastika and other outward symbols of the Nazi regime were banned, and a Provisional Civil Ensign was established as a temporary German flag. It remained the official flag of the country (necessary for reasons of international law) until East Germany and West Germany (see below) were independently established in 1949.

The United States, the United Kingdom, and the Soviet Union had agreed at Potsdam to a broad program of decentralization, treating Germany as a single economic unit with some central administrative departments. These plans never materialised, initially because France blocked any establishment of central administrative or political structures for Germany and also as both the Soviet Union and France were intent on extracting as much material benefit as possible from their occupation zones in order to make good in part the enormous destruction caused by the German Wehrmacht and the policy broke down completely in 1948 when the Russians blockaded West Berlin and the period known as the Cold War began. It was agreed at Potsdam that the leading members of the Nazi regime who had been captured should be put on trial accused of crimes against humanity, and this was one of the few points on which the four powers were able to agree. In order to secure the presence of the western allies in Berlin, the United States agreed to withdraw from Thuringia and Saxony in exchange for the division of Berlin into four sectors.

Future President and General Dwight D. Eisenhower and the US War Department initially implemented a strict non-fraternization policy between the US troops and German citizens. The State Department and individual US congressmen pressured to have this policy lifted. In June 1945 the prohibition against speaking with German children was loosened. In July troops were permitted to speak to German adults in certain circumstances. In September 1945 the entire policy was dropped. Only the ban on marriage between Americans and German or Austrian civilians remained in place until 11 December 1946 and 2 January 1946 respectively. [14]

Industrial disarmament in western Germany Edit

The initial proposal for the post-surrender policy of the Western powers, the so-called Morgenthau Plan proposed by Henry Morgenthau, Jr., was one of "pastoralization". [15] The Morgenthau Plan, though subsequently ostensibly shelved due to public opposition, influenced occupation policy most notably through the U.S. punitive occupation directive JCS 1067 [16] [17] and The industrial plans for Germany [18]

The "Level of Industry plans for Germany" were the plans to lower German industrial potential after World War II. At the Potsdam conference, with the U.S. operating under influence of the Morgenthau plan, [18] the victorious Allies decided to abolish the German armed forces as well as all munitions factories and civilian industries that could support them. This included the destruction of all ship and aircraft manufacturing capability. Further, it was decided that civilian industries which might have a military potential, which in the modern era of "total war" included virtually all, were to be severely restricted. The restriction of the latter was set to Germany's "approved peacetime needs", which were defined to be set on the average European standard. In order to achieve this, each type of industry was subsequently reviewed to see how many factories Germany required under these minimum level of industry requirements.

The first plan, from 29 March 1946, stated that German heavy industry was to be lowered to 50% of its 1938 levels by the destruction of 1,500 listed manufacturing plants. [19] In January 1946 the Allied Control Council set the foundation of the future German economy by putting a cap on German steel production—the maximum allowed was set at about 5,800,000 tons of steel a year, equivalent to 25% of the prewar production level. [20] The UK, in whose occupation zone most of the steel production was located, had argued for a more limited capacity reduction by placing the production ceiling at 12 million tons of steel per year, but had to submit to the will of the U.S., France and the Soviet Union (which had argued for a 3 million ton limit). Germany was to be reduced to the standard of life it had known at the height of the Great Depression (1932). [21] Car production was set to 10% of pre-war levels, etc. [22]

By 1950, after the virtual completion of the by then much watered-down plans, equipment had been removed from 706 factories in the west and steel production capacity had been reduced by 6,700,000 tons. [18]

Timber exports from the U.S. occupation zone were particularly heavy. Sources in the U.S. government stated that the purpose of this was the "ultimate destruction of the war potential of German forests." [23]

With the beginning of the Cold War, the Western policies changed as it became evident that a return to operation of the West German industry was needed not only for the restoration of the whole European economy but also for the rearmament of West Germany as an ally against the Soviet Union. On 6 September 1946 United States Secretary of State, James F. Byrnes made the famous speech Restatement of Policy on Germany, also known as the Stuttgart speech, where he amongst other things repudiated the Morgenthau plan-influenced policies and gave the West Germans hope for the future. Reports such as The President's Economic Mission to Germany and Austria helped to show the U.S. public how bad the situation in Germany really was.

The next improvement came in July 1947, when after lobbying by the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and Generals Clay and Marshall, the Truman administration decided that economic recovery in Europe could not go forward without the reconstruction of the German industrial base on which it had previously been dependent. [24] In July 1947, President Harry S. Truman rescinded on "national security grounds" [24] the punitive occupation directive JCS 1067, which had directed the U.S. forces in Germany to "take no steps looking toward the economic rehabilitation of Germany." It was replaced by JCS 1779, which instead stressed that "[a]n orderly, prosperous Europe requires the economic contributions of a stable and productive Germany." [25]

The dismantling did however continue, and in 1949 West German Chancellor Konrad Adenauer wrote to the Allies requesting that it end, citing the inherent contradiction between encouraging industrial growth and removing factories and also the unpopularity of the policy. [26] : 259 Support for dismantling was by this time coming predominantly from the French, and the Petersberg Agreement of November 1949 reduced the levels vastly, though dismantling of minor factories continued until 1951. The final limitations on German industrial levels were lifted after the establishment of the European Coal and Steel Community in 1951, though arms manufacture remained prohibited. [26] : 260, 270–71

French designs Edit

Under the Monnet Plan, France—intent on ensuring that Germany would never again have the strength to threaten it—began in 1945 to attempt to gain economic control of the remaining German industrial areas with large coal and mineral deposits the Rhineland, the Ruhr and the Saar (Germany's second largest center of mining and industry, Upper Silesia, had been handed over by the Allies to Poland at the Potsdam conference and the German population was being forcibly expelled). [27] The Ruhr Agreement had been imposed on the Germans as a condition for permitting them to establish the Federal Republic of Germany. [28] (see also the International Authority for the Ruhr (IAR)). French attempts to gain political control of or permanently internationalize the Ruhr were abandoned in 1951 with the West German agreement to pool its coal and steel resources in return for full political control over the Ruhr (see European Coal and Steel Community). With French economic security guaranteed through access to Ruhr coal now permanently ensured France was satisfied. The French attempt to gain economic control over the Saar was temporarily even more successful.

In the speech Restatement of Policy on Germany, held in Stuttgart on 6 September 1946, the United States Secretary of State James F. Byrnes stated the U.S. motive in detaching the Saar from Germany as "The United States does not feel that it can deny to France, which has been invaded three times by Germany in 70 years, its claim to the Saar territory". The Saar came under French administration in 1947 as the Saar Protectorate, but did return to Germany in January 1957 (following a referendum), with economic reintegration with Germany occurring a few years later.

Although not a party to the Potsdam conference where the policy of industrial disarmament had been set, as a member of the Allied Control Council France came to champion this policy since it ensured a weak Germany.

In August 1954 the French parliament voted down the treaty that would have established the European Defense Community, a treaty they themselves had proposed in 1950 as a means to contain German revival. France instead focused on another treaty also under development. In May 1950 France had proposed the European Coal and Steel Community with the purpose of ensuring French economic security by perpetuating access to German Ruhr coal, but also to show to the U.S. and the UK that France could come up with constructive solutions, as well as to pacify Germany by making it part of an international project.

Germany was eventually allowed to rearm, but under the auspices of the Western European Union, and later NATO.

Dismantling in East Germany Edit

The Soviet Union engaged in a massive industrial dismantling campaign in its occupation zone, much more intensive than that carried out by the Western powers. While the Soviet powers soon realized that their actions alienated the German workforce from the Communist cause, they decided that the desperate economic situation within the Soviet Union took priority over alliance building. The allied leaders had agreed on paper to economic and political cooperation but the issue of reparations dealt an early blow to the prospect of a united Germany in 1945. The figure of $20 Billion had been floated by Stalin as an adequate recompense but as the United States refused to consider this a basis for negotiation The Soviet Union was left only with the opportunity of extracting its own reparations, at a heavy cost to the East Germans. This was the beginning of the formal split of Germany. [ citation needed ]

Marshall plan and currency reform Edit

With the Western Allies eventually becoming concerned about the deteriorating economic situation in their "Trizone", the American Marshall Plan of economic aid was extended to Western Germany in 1948 and a currency reform, which had been prohibited under the previous occupation directive JCS 1067, introduced the Deutsche Mark and halted rampant inflation. Though the Marshall Plan is regarded as playing a key psychological role in the West German recovery, other factors were also significant. [29]

The Soviets had not agreed to the currency reform in March 1948 they withdrew from the four-power governing bodies, and in June 1948 they initiated the Berlin blockade, blocking all ground transport routes between Western Germany and West Berlin. The Western Allies replied with a continuous airlift of supplies to the western half of the city. The Soviets ended the blockade after 11 months.

Reparations to the U.S. Edit

The Allies confiscated intellectual property of great value, all German patents, both in Germany and abroad, and used them to strengthen their own industrial competitiveness by licensing them to Allied companies. [30] Beginning immediately after the German surrender and continuing for the next two years, the U.S. pursued a vigorous program to harvest all technological and scientific know-how as well as all patents in Germany. John Gimbel comes to the conclusion, in his book "Science Technology and Reparations: Exploitation and Plunder in Postwar Germany", that the "intellectual reparations" taken by the U.S. and the UK amounted to close to $10 billion. [31] [32] During the more than two years that this policy was in place, no industrial research in Germany could take place, as any results would have been automatically available to overseas competitors who were encouraged by the occupation authorities to access all records and facilities. Meanwhile, thousands of the best German scientists were being put to work in the U.S. (see also Operation Paperclip)

Nutritional levels and deliberate famine Edit

During the war, Germans seized food supplies from occupied countries and forced millions of foreigners to work on German farms, in addition to food shipped from farms in eastern Germany. When this ended in 1945, the German rationing system (which stayed in place) had much lower supplies of food. [33] : 342–54 The U.S. Army sent in large shipments of food to feed some 7.7 million prisoners of war—far more than they had expected [33] : 200 —as well as the general population. [34] For several years following the surrender, German nutritional levels were low. The Germans were not high on the priority list for international aid, which went to the victims of the Nazis. [35] : 281 It was directed that all relief went to non-German displaced persons, liberated Allied POWs, and concentration camp inmates. [35] : 281–82 During 1945 it was estimated that the average German civilian in the U.S. and UK occupation zones received 1200 kilocalories a day in official rations, not counting food they grew themselves or purchased on the large-scale black market. [35] : 280 In early October 1945 the UK government privately acknowledged in a cabinet meeting that German civilian adult death rates had risen to 4 times the pre-war levels and death rates amongst the German children had risen by 10 times the pre-war levels. [35] : 280 The German Red Cross was dissolved, and the International Red Cross and the few other allowed international relief agencies were kept from helping Germans through strict controls on supplies and on travel. [35] : 281–82 The few agencies permitted to help Germans, such as the indigenous Caritasverband, were not allowed to use imported supplies. When the Vatican attempted to transmit food supplies from Chile to German infants, the U.S. State Department forbade it. [35] : 281 The German food situation became worse during the very cold winter of 1946–1947 when German calorie intake ranged from 1,000–1,500 kilocalories per day, a situation made worse by severe lack of fuel for heating. [35] : 244

Forced labour reparations Edit

As agreed by the Allies at the Yalta conference Germans were used as forced labor as part of the reparations to be extracted. German prisoners were for example forced to clear minefields in France and the Low Countries. By December 1945 it was estimated by French authorities that 2,000 German prisoners were being killed or injured each month in accidents. [36] In Norway the last available casualty record, from 29 August 1945, shows that by that time a total of 275 German soldiers died while clearing mines, while 392 had been injured. [37]

Mass rape Edit

Norman Naimark writes in The Russians in Germany: A History of the Soviet Zone of Occupation, 1945–1949 that although the exact number of women and girls who were raped by members of the Red Army in the months preceding and years following the capitulation will never be known, their numbers are likely in the hundreds of thousands, quite possibly as high as the 2,000,000 victims estimate made by Barbara Johr, in "Befreier und Befreite". Many of these victims were raped repeatedly. Naimark states that not only had each victim to carry the trauma with her for the rest of her days, it inflicted a massive collective trauma on the East German nation (the German Democratic Republic). Naimark concludes "The social psychology of women and men in the Soviet zone of occupation was marked by the crime of rape from the first days of occupation, through the founding of the GDR in the fall of 1949, until—one could argue—the present." [38] Some of the victims had been raped as many as 60 to 70 times [ dubious – discuss ] . [39] According to German historian Miriam Gebhardt, as many as 190,000 women were raped by U.S. soldiers in Germany. [40]

German states Edit

On 16 February 1946, the Saar Protectorate had been established under French control, in the area corresponding to the current German state of Saarland. It was not allowed to join its fellow German neighbors until a plebiscite in 1955 rejected the proposed autonomy. This paved the way for the accession of the Saarland to the Federal Republic of Germany as its 12th state, which went into effect on 1 January 1957.

On 23 May 1949, the Federal Republic of Germany (FRG, Bundesrepublik Deutschland) was established on the territory of the Western occupied zones, with Bonn as its "provisional" capital. It comprised the area of 11 newly formed states (replacing the pre-war states), with present-day Baden-Württemberg being split into three states until 1952). The Federal Republic was declared to have "the full authority of a sovereign state" on 5 May 1955. On 7 October 1949 the German Democratic Republic (GDR, Deutsche Demokratische Republik (DDR)), with East Berlin as its capital, was established in the Soviet Zone.

The 1952 Stalin Note proposed German reunification and superpower disengagement from Central Europe but Britain, France, and the United States rejected the offer as insincere. Also, West German Chancellor Konrad Adenauer preferred "Westintegration", rejecting "experiments".

In English, the two larger states were known informally as "West Germany" and "East Germany" respectively. In both cases, the former occupying troops remained permanently stationed there. The former German capital, Berlin, was a special case, being divided into East Berlin and West Berlin, with West Berlin completely surrounded by East German territory. Though the German inhabitants of West Berlin were citizens of the Federal Republic of Germany, West Berlin was not legally incorporated into West Germany it remained under the formal occupation of the western allies until 1990, although most day-to-day administration was conducted by an elected West Berlin government.

West Germany was allied with the United States, the United Kingdom, and France. A western democratic country with a "social market economy", the country would from the 1950s onwards come to enjoy prolonged economic growth (Wirtschaftswunder) following the Marshall Plan help from the Allies, the currency reform of June 1948 and helped by the fact that the Korean War (1950–53) led to a worldwide increased demand for goods, where the resulting shortage helped overcome lingering resistance to the purchase of German products.

East Germany was at first occupied by and later (May 1955) allied with the Soviet Union.

East Germany
German Democratic Republic ( Deutsche Demokratische Republik )
West Germany
Federal Republic of Germany ( Bundesrepublik Deutschland )
Flag & Coat of arms
Population in 1990 16,111,000 63,254,000
Area 108,333 km 2 (41,828 sq mi) 248,577 km 2 (95,976 sq mi)
Government Unitary Marxist-Leninist one-party totalitarian socialist republic Federal parliamentary constitutional republic
Capital East Berlin – 1,279,212 Bonn – 276,653

The Western Allies turned over increasing authority to West German officials and moved to establish a nucleus for a future German government by creating a central Economic Council for their zones. The program later provided for a West German constituent assembly, an occupation statute governing relations between the Allies and the German authorities, and the political and economic merger of the French with the British and American zones. On 23 May 1949, the Grundgesetz (Basic Law), the constitution of the Federal Republic of Germany, was promulgated. Following elections in August, the first federal government was formed on 20 September 1949, by Konrad Adenauer (CDU). Adenauer's government was a coalition of the CDU, the CSU and the Free Democrats. The next day, the occupation statute came into force, granting powers of self-government with certain exceptions.

In 1949 the new provisional capital of the Federal Republic of Germany was established in Bonn, after Chancellor Konrad Adenauer intervened emphatically for Bonn (which was only fifteen kilometers away from his hometown). Most of the members of the German constitutional assembly (as well as the U.S. Supreme Command) had favored Frankfurt am Main where the Hessian administration had already started the construction of an assembly hall. The Parlamentarischer Rat (interim parliament) proposed a new location for the capital, as Berlin was then a special administrative region controlled directly by the allies and surrounded by the Soviet zone of occupation. The former Reichstag building in Berlin was occasionally used as a venue for sittings of the Bundestag and its committees and the Bundesversammlung, the body which elects the German Federal President. However, the Soviets disrupted the use of the Reichstag building by flying very noisy supersonic jets near the building. A number of cities were proposed to host the federal government, and Kassel (among others) was eliminated in the first round. Other politicians opposed the choice of Frankfurt out of concern that, as one of the largest German cities and a former centre of the Holy Roman Empire, it would be accepted as a "permanent" capital of Germany, thereby weakening the West German population's support for reunification and the eventual return of the Government to Berlin.

After the Petersberg agreement West Germany quickly progressed toward fuller sovereignty and association with its European neighbors and the Atlantic community. The London and Paris agreements of 1954 restored most of the state's sovereignty (with some exceptions) in May 1955 and opened the way for German membership in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). In April 1951, West Germany joined with France, Italy and the Benelux countries in the European Coal and Steel Community (forerunner of the European Union). [41]

The outbreak of the Korean War (June 1950) led to Washington calling for the rearmament of West Germany in order to defend western Europe from the Soviet threat. But the memory of German aggression led other European states to seek tight control over the West German military. Germany's partners in the Coal and Steel Community decided to establish a European Defence Community (EDC), with an integrated army, navy and air force, composed of the armed forces of its member states. The West German military would be subject to complete EDC control, but the other EDC member states (Belgium, France, Italy, Luxembourg and the Netherlands) would cooperate in the EDC while maintaining independent control of their own armed forces.

Though the EDC treaty was signed (May 1952), it never entered into force. France's Gaullists rejected it on the grounds that it threatened national sovereignty, and when the French National Assembly refused to ratify it (August 1954), the treaty died. The French had killed their own proposal. Other means had to be found to allow West German rearmament. In response, the Brussels Treaty was modified to include West Germany, and to form the Western European Union (WEU). West Germany was to be permitted to rearm, and have full sovereign control of its military the WEU would, however, regulate the size of the armed forces permitted to each of its member states. Fears of a return to Nazism, however, soon receded, and as a consequence, these provisions of the WEU treaty have little effect today.

Between 1949 and 1960, the West German economy grew at an unparalleled rate. [42] Low rates of inflation, modest wage increases and a quickly rising export quota made it possible to restore the economy and brought a modest prosperity. According to the official statistics the German gross national product grew in average by about 7% annually between 1950 and 1960.

GNP growth 1950–1960
1951 1952 1953 1954 1955 1956 1957 1958 1959 1960
+ 10.5 + 8.3 + 7.5 + 7.4 +11.5 + 6.9 + 5.4 +3.3 + 6.7 +8.8

The initial demand for housing, the growing demand for machine tools, chemicals, and automobiles and a rapidly increasing agricultural production were the initial triggers to this 'Wirtschaftswunder' (economic miracle) as it was known, although there was nothing miraculous about it. The era became closely linked with the name of Ludwig Erhard, who led the Ministry of Economics during the decade. Unemployment at the start of the decade stood at 10.3%, but by 1960 it had dropped to 1.2%, practically speaking full employment. In fact, there was a growing demand for labor in many industries as the workforce grew by 3% per annum, the reserves of labor were virtually used up. [43] : 36 The millions of displaced persons and the refugees from the eastern provinces had all been integrated into the workforce. At the end of the decade, thousands of younger East Germans were packing their bags and migrating westwards, posing an ever-growing problem for the GDR nomenclature. With the construction of the Berlin wall in August 1961 they hoped to end the loss of labor and in doing so they posed the West German government with a new problem—how to satisfy the apparently insatiable demand for labor. The answer was to recruit unskilled workers from Southern European countries the era of the Gastarbeiter (foreign laborers) began.

In October 1961 an initial agreement was signed with the Turkish government and the first Gastarbeiter began to arrive. By 1966, some 1,300,000 foreign workers had been recruited mainly from Italy, Turkey, Spain, and Greece. By 1971, the number had reached 2.6 million workers. The initial plan was that single workers would come to Germany, would work for a limited number of years and then return home. The significant differences between wages in their home countries and in Germany led many workers to bring their families and to settle—at least until retirement—in Germany. That the German authorities took little notice of the radical changes that these shifts of population structure meant was the cause of considerable debate in later years. [ citation needed ]

In the 1950s Federal Republic, restitution laws for compensation for those who had suffered under the Nazis was limited to only those who had suffered from "racial, religious or political reasons", which were defined in such a way as to sharply limit the number of people entitled to collect compensation. [44] : 564 According to the 1953 law on compensation for suffering during the National Socialist era, only those with a territorial connection with Germany could receive compensation for their suffering, which had the effect of excluding the millions of people, mostly from Central and Eastern Europe, who had been taken to Germany to work as slave labor during World War II. [44] : 565 In the same vein, to be eligible for compensation they would have to prove that they were part of the "realm of German language and culture", a requirement that excluded most of the surviving slave laborers who did not know German or at least enough German to be considered part of the "realm of German language and culture". [44] : 567 Likewise, the law excluded homosexuals, Gypsies, Communists, Asoziale ("Asocials" - people considered by the National Socialist state to be anti-social, a broad category comprising anyone from petty criminals to people who were merely eccentric and non-conformist), and homeless people for their suffering in the concentration camps under the grounds that all these people were "criminals" whom the state was protecting German society from by sending them to concentration camps, and in essence these victims of the National Socialist state got what they deserved, making them unworthy of compensation. [44] : 564, 565 In this regard it is significant [ according to whom? ] that the 1935 version of Paragraph 175 was not repealed until 1969. [45] As a result, German homosexuals - in many cases survivors of the concentration camps - between 1949 and 1969 continued to be convicted under the same law that had been used to convict them between 1935 and 1945, though in the period 1949–69 they were sent to prison rather than to a concentration camp. [45]

A study done in 1953 showed that of the 42,000 people who had survived the Buchenwald concentration camp, only 700 were entitled to compensation under the 1953 law. [44] : 564 The German historian Alf Lüdtke wrote that the decision to deny that the Roma and the Sinti had been victims of National Socialist racism and to exclude the Roma and Sinti from compensation under the grounds that they were all "criminals" reflected the same anti-Gypsy racism that made them the target of persecution and genocide during the National Socialist era. [44] : 565, 568–69 The cause of the Roma and Sinti excited so little public interest that it was not until 1979 that a group was founded to lobby for compensation for the Roma and the Sinti survivors. [44] : 568–569 Communist concentration camp survivors were excluded from compensation under the grounds that in 1933 the KPD had been seeking "violent domination" by working for a Communist revolution, and thus the banning of the KPD and the subsequent repression of the Communists were justified. [44] : 564 In 1956, the law was amended to allow Communist concentration camp survivors to collect compensation provided that they had not been associated with Communist causes after 1945, but as almost all the surviving Communists belonged to the Union of Persecutees of the Nazi Regime, which had been banned in 1951 by the Hamburg government as a Communist front organisation, the new law did not help many of the KPD survivors. [44] : 565–566 Compensation started to be paid to most Communist survivors regardless if they had belonged to the VVN or not following a 1967 court ruling, through the same court ruling had excluded those Communists who had "actively" fought the constitutional order after the banning of the KPD again in 1956. [44] : 565–566 Only in the 1980s were demands made mostly from members of the SPD, FDP and above all the Green parties that the Federal Republic pay compensation to the Roma, Sinti, gay, homeless and Asoziale survivors of the concentration camps. [44] : 568

In regards to the memory of the Nazi period in the 1950s Federal Republic, there was a marked tendency to argue that everyone regardless of what side they had been on in World War II were all equally victims of the war. [44] : 561 In the same way, the Nazi regime tended to be portrayed in the 1950s as a small clique of criminals entirely unrepresentative of German society who were sharply demarcated from the rest of German society or as the German historian Alf Ludtke argued in popular memory that it was a case of "us" (i.e ordinary people) ruled over by "them" (i.e. the Nazis). [44] : 561–62 Though the Nazi regime itself was rarely glorified in popular memory, in the 1950s World War II and the Wehrmacht were intensely gloried and celebrated by the public. [46] : 235 In countless memoirs, novels, histories, newspaper articles, films, magazines, and Landserheft (a type of comic book in Germany glorifying war), the Wehrmacht was celebrated as an awesome, heroic fighting force that had fought a "clean war" unlike the SS and which would have won the war as the Wehrmacht was always portrayed as superior to the Allied forces had not been for mistakes on the part of Hitler or workings of "fate". [46] : 235 The Second World War was usually portrayed in heavily romantic aura in various works that celebrated the comradeship and heroism of ordinary soldiers under danger with the war itself being shown as ". a great adventure for idealists and daredevils. " who for the most part had a thoroughly fun time. [46] : 235 The tendency in the 1950s to glorify war by depicting World War II as a fun-filled, grand adventure for the men who served in Hitler's war machine meant the horrors and hardship of the war were often downplayed. In his 2004 essay "Celluloid Soldiers" about post-war German films, the Israeli historian Omer Bartov wrote that German films of the 1950s always showed the average German soldier as a heroic victim: noble, tough, brave, honourable and patriotic, while fighting hard in a senseless war for a regime that he did not care for. [47] Commendations of the victims of the Nazis tended to center around honoring those involved in the July 20 putsch attempt of 1944, which meant annual ceremonies attended by all the leading politicians at the Bendlerblock and Plötzensee Prison to honor those executed for their involvement in the 20 July putsch. [44] : 554–555 By contrast, almost no ceremonies were held in the 1950s at the ruins of the concentration camps like Bergen-Belsen or Dachau, which were ignored and neglected by the Länder governments in charge of their care. [44] : 555 Not until 1966 did the Land of Lower Saxony opened Bergen-Belsen to the public by founding a small "house of documentation", and even then it was in response to criticism that the Lower Saxon government was intentionally neglecting the ruins of Bergen-Belsen. [44] : 555 Though it was usually claimed at the time that everybody in the Second World War was a victim, Ludtke commented that the disparity between the millions of Deutsche Marks spent in the 1950s in turning the Benderblock and Plötzensee prison into sites of remembrance honoring those conservatives executed after the 20 July putsch versus the neglect of the former concentration camps suggested that in both official and popular memory that some victims of the Nazis were considered more worthy of remembrance than others. [44] : 554–555 It was against this context where popular memory was focused on glorifying the heroic deeds of the Wehrmacht while treating the genocide by the National Socialist regime as almost a footnote that in the autumn of 1959 that the philosopher Theodor W. Adorno gave a much-publicized speech on TV that called for Vergangenheitsbewältigung ("coming to terms with the past"). [44] : 550 Adorno stated that most people were engaged in a process of "willful forgetting" about the Nazi period and used euphemistic language to avoid confronting the period such as the use of the term Kristallnacht (Crystal Night) for the pogrom of November 1938. [44] : 550 Adorno called for promoting a critical "consciousness" that would allow people to "come to terms with the past". [44] : 551

West German authorities made great efforts to end the denazification process that had been started by the occupying powers and to liberate war criminals from prison, including those that had been convicted at the Nuremberg trials, while demarcating the sphere of legitimate political activity against blatant attempts at a political rehabilitation of the Nazi regime. [48]

Until the end of occupation in 1990, the three Western Allies retained occupation powers in Berlin and certain responsibilities for Germany as a whole. Under the new arrangements, the Allies stationed troops within West Germany for NATO defense, pursuant to stationing and status-of-forces agreements. With the exception of 45,000 French troops, Allied forces were under NATO's joint defense command. (France withdrew from the collective military command structure of NATO in 1966.)

Political life in West Germany was remarkably stable and orderly. The Adenauer era (1949–63) was followed by a brief period under Ludwig Erhard (1963–66) who, in turn, was replaced by Kurt Georg Kiesinger (1966–69). All governments between 1949 and 1966 were formed by coalitions of the Christian Democratic Union (CDU) and Christian Social Union (CSU), either alone or in coalition with the smaller Free Democratic Party (FDP).

The Sixties: a time for reform Edit

The grand old man of German postwar politics had to be dragged—almost literally—out of office in 1963. In 1959, it was time to elect a new President and Adenauer decided that he would place Erhard in this office. Erhard was not enthusiastic, and to everybody's surprise, Adenauer decided at the age of 83 that he would take on the position. His aim was apparently to remain in control of German politics for another ten years despite the growing mood for change, but when his advisers informed him just how limited the powers of the president were he quickly lost interest. [43] : 3 An alternative candidate was needed and eventually the Minister of Agriculture, Heinrich Lübke took on the task and was duly elected.

In October 1962, the weekly news magazine Der Spiegel published an analysis of the West German military defense. The conclusion was that there were several weaknesses in the system. Ten days after publication, the offices of Der Spiegel in Hamburg were raided by the police and quantities of documents were seized under the orders of the CSU Defense Minister Franz Josef Strauss. Chancellor Adenauer proclaimed in the Bundestag that the article was tantamount to high treason and that the authors would be prosecuted. The editor/owner of the magazine, Rudolf Augstein spent some time in jail before the public outcry over the breaking of laws on freedom of the press became too loud to be ignored. The FDP members of Adenauer's cabinet resigned from the government, demanding the resignation of Franz Josef Strauss, Defence Minister, who had decidedly overstepped his competence during the crisis by his heavy-handed attempt to silence Der Spiegel for essentially running a story that was unflattering to him (which incidentally was true). [49] The British historian Frederick Taylor argued that the Federal Republic under Adenauer retained many of the characteristics of the authoritarian "deep state" that existed under the Weimar Republic, and that the Der Spiegel affair marked an important turning point in German values as ordinary people rejected the old authoritarian values in favor of the more democratic values that are today seen as the bedrock of the Federal Republic. [49] Adenauer's own reputation was impaired by Spiegel affair and he announced that he would step down in the autumn of 1963. His successor was to be the Economics Minister Ludwig Erhard, who was the man widely credited as the father of the "economic miracle" of the 1950s and of whom great things were expected. [43] : 5

The proceedings of the War Crimes Tribunal at Nuremberg had been widely publicised in Germany but, a new generation of teachers, educated with the findings of historical studies, could begin to reveal the truth about the war and the crimes committed in the name of the German people. In 1963, a German court ruled that a KGB assassin named Bohdan Stashynsky who had committed several murders in the Federal Republic in the late 1950s was not legally guilty of murder, but was only an accomplice to murder as the responsibility for Stashynsky's murders rested only with his superiors in Moscow who had given him his orders. [46] : 245 The legal implications of the Stashynsky case, namely that in a totalitarian system only executive decision-makers can be held legally responsible for any murders committed and that anyone else who follows orders and commits murders were just accomplices to murder was to greatly hinder the prosecution of Nazi war criminals in the coming decades, and ensured that even when convicted, that Nazi criminals received the far lighter sentences reserved for accomplices to murders than the harsher sentences given to murderers. [46] : 245 The term executive decision-maker who could be found guilty of murder was reserved by the courts only for those at the highest levels of the Reich leadership during the Nazi period. [46] : 245 The only way that a Nazi criminal could be convicted of murder was to show that they were not following orders at the time and had acted on their initiative when killing someone. [50] One courageous attorney, Fritz Bauer patiently gathered evidence on the guards of the Auschwitz death camp and about twenty were put trial in Frankfurt between 1963-1965 in what came to be known as the Frankfurt Auschwitz Trials. The men on trial in Frankfurt were tried only for murders and other crimes that they committed on their own initiative at Auschwitz and were not tried for anything that they did at Auschwitz when following orders, which was considered by the courts to be the lesser crime of accomplice to murder. [50] Because of this, Bauer could only indict for murder those who killed when not following orders, and those who had killed when following orders were indicted as accomplices to murder. Moreover because of the legal distinction between murderers and accomplices to murder, an SS man who killed thousands while operating the gas chambers at Auschwitz could only be found guilty of being accomplice to murder because he had been following orders, while an SS man who had beaten one inmate to death on his initiative could be convicted of murder because he had not been following orders. [50] Daily newspaper reports and visits by school classes to the proceedings revealed to the German public the nature of the concentration camp system and it became evident that the Shoah was of vastly greater dimensions than the German population had believed. (The term 'Holocaust' for the systematic mass-murder of Jews first came into use in 1943 in a New York Times piece that references "the hundreds and thousands of European Jews still surviving the Nazi holocaust". The term came into widespread use to describe the event following the TV film Holocaust in 1978) The processes set in motion by the Auschwitz trial reverberated decades later.

In the early sixties, the rate of economic growth slowed down significantly. In 1962, the growth rate was 4.7% and the following year, 2.0%. After a brief recovery, the growth rate petered into a recession, with no growth in 1967. The economic showdown forced Erhard's resignation in 1966 and he was replaced with Kurt Georg Kiesinger of the CDU. Kiesinger was to attract much controversy because in 1933 he had joined the National Socialist Legal Guild and NSDAP (membership in the former was necessary in order to practice law, but membership in the latter was entirely voluntary).

In order to deal with the problem of the economic slowdown, a new coalition was formed. Kiesinger's 1966–69 grand coalition was between West Germany's two largest parties, the CDU/CSU and the Social Democratic Party (SPD). This was important for the introduction of new emergency acts—the grand coalition gave the ruling parties the two-thirds majority of votes required for their ratification. These controversial acts allowed basic constitutional rights such as freedom of movement to be limited in case of a state of emergency.

During the time leading up to the passing of the laws, there was fierce opposition to them, above all by the Free Democratic Party, the rising German student movement, a group calling itself Notstand der Demokratie (Democracy in Crisis), the Außerparlamentarische Opposition and members of the Campaign against Nuclear Armament. The late 1960s saw the rise of the student movement and university campuses in a constant state of uproar. A key event in the development of open democratic debate occurred in 1967 when the Shah of Iran visited West Berlin. Several thousand demonstrators gathered outside the Opera House where he was to attend a special performance. Supporters of the Shah (later known as 'Jubelperser'), armed with staves and bricks, attacked the protesters while the police stood by and watched. A demonstration in the center was being forcibly dispersed when a bystander named Benno Ohnesorg was shot in the head and killed by a plain-clothed policeman Karl-Heinz Kurras. (It has now been established that the policeman, Kurras, was a paid spy of the East German Stasi security forces.) [ citation needed ] Protest demonstrations continued, and calls for more active opposition by some groups of students were made, which was declared by the press, especially the tabloid Bild-Zeitung newspaper, to be acts of terrorism. The conservative Bild-Zeitung waged a massive campaign against the protesters who were declared to be just hooligans and thugs in the pay of East Germany. The press baron Axel Springer emerged as one of the principal hate figures for the student protesters because of Bild-Zeitung's often violent attacks on them. Protests against the US intervention in Vietnam, mingled with anger over the vigor with which demonstrations were repressed, led to mounting militancy among the students at the universities of Berlin. One of the most prominent campaigners was a young man from East Germany called Rudi Dutschke who also criticised the forms of capitalism that were to be seen in West Berlin. Just before Easter 1968, a young man tried to kill Dutschke as he bicycled to the student union, seriously injuring him. All over West Germany, thousands demonstrated against the Springer newspapers which were seen as the prime cause of the violence against students. Trucks carrying newspapers were set on fire and windows in office buildings broken. [51] In the wake of these demonstrations, in which the question of America's role in Vietnam began to play a bigger role, came a desire among the students to find out more about the role of their parents' generation in the Nazi era.

In 1968, the Bundestag passed a Misdemeanors Bill dealing with traffic misdemeanors, into which a high-ranking civil servant named Dr. Eduard Dreher who had been drafting the bill inserted a prefatory section to the bill under a very misleading heading that declared that henceforth there was a statute of limitations of 15 years from the time of the offense for the crime of being an accomplices to murder which was to apply retroactively, which made it impossible to prosecute war criminals even for being accomplices to murder since the statute of limitations as now defined for the last of the suspects had expired by 1960. [46] : 249 The Bundestag passed the Misdemeanors Bill without bothering to read the bill in its entirety so its members missed Dreher's amendment. [46] : 249 It was estimated in 1969 that thanks to Dreher's amendment to the Misdemeanors Bill that 90% of all Nazi war criminals now enjoyed total immunity from prosecution. [46] : 249–50 The prosecutor Adalbert Rückerl who headed the Central Bureau for the Prosecution of National Socialist Crimes told an interviewer in 1969 that this amendment had done immense harm to the ability of the Bureau to prosecute those suspected of war crimes and crimes against humanity. [46] : 249

The calling in question of the actions and policies of the government led to a new climate of debate by the late 1960s. The issues of emancipation, colonialism, environmentalism and grass roots democracy were discussed at all levels of society. In 1979, the environmental party, the Greens, reached the 5% limit required to obtain parliamentary seats in the Free Hanseatic City of Bremen provincial election. Also of great significance was the steady growth of a feminist movement in which women demonstrated for equal rights. Until 1979, a married woman had to have the permission of her husband if she wanted to take on a job or open a bank account. Parallel to this, a gay movement began to grow in the larger cities, especially in West Berlin, where homosexuality had been widely accepted during the twenties in the Weimar Republic. In 1969, the Bundestag repealed the 1935 Nazi amendment to Paragraph 175, which not only made homosexual acts a felony, but had also made any expressions of homosexuality illegal (before 1935 only gay sex had been illegal). However, Paragraph 175 which made homosexual acts illegal remained on the statute books and was not repealed until 1994, although it had been softened in 1973 by making gay sex illegal only with those under the age of 18.

Anger over the treatment of demonstrators following the death of Benno Ohnesorg and the attack on Rudi Dutschke, coupled with growing frustration over the lack of success in achieving their aims, led to growing militancy among students and their supporters. In May 1968, three young people set fire to two department stores in Frankfurt they were brought to trial and made very clear to the court that they regarded their action as a legitimate act in what they described as the 'struggle against imperialism'. [51] The student movement began to split into different factions, ranging from the unattached liberals to the Maoists and supporters of direct action in every form—the anarchists. Several groups set as their objective the aim of radicalizing the industrial workers and, taking an example from activities in Italy of the Brigade Rosse, many students went to work in the factories, but with little or no success. The most notorious of the underground groups was the 'Baader-Meinhof Group', later known as the Red Army Faction, which began by making bank raids to finance their activities and eventually went underground having killed a number of policemen, several bystanders and eventually two prominent West Germans, whom they had taken captive in order to force the release of prisoners sympathetic to their ideas. The "Baader-Meinhof gang" was committed to the overthrow of the Federal Republic via terrorism in order to achieve the establishment of a Communist state. In the 1990s attacks were still being committed under the name "RAF". The last action took place in 1993 and the group announced it was giving up its activities in 1998. Evidence that the groups had been infiltrated by German Intelligence undercover agents has since emerged, partly through the insistence of the son of one of their prominent victims, the State Counsel Buback. [52]

Political developments 1969–1990 Edit

In the 1969 election, the SPD—headed by Willy Brandt—gained enough votes to form a coalition government with the FDP. Although Chancellor for only just over four years, Brandt was one of the most popular politicians in the whole period. Brandt was a gifted speaker and the growth of the Social Democrats from there on was in no small part due to his personality. [ citation needed ] Brandt began a policy of rapprochement with West Germany's eastern neighbors known as Ostpolitik, a policy opposed by the CDU. The issue of improving relations with Poland, Czechoslovakia, and East Germany made for an increasingly aggressive tone in public debates but it was a huge step forward when Willy Brandt and the Foreign Minister, Walther Scheel (FDP) negotiated agreements with all three countries (Moscow Agreement, August 1970, Warsaw Agreement, December 1970, Four-Power Agreement over the status of West Berlin in 1971 and an agreement on relations between West and East Germany, signed in December 1972). [43] : 32 These agreements were the basis for a rapid improvement in the relations between east and west and led, in the long term, to the dismantlement of the Warsaw Treaty and the Soviet Union's control over East-Central Europe. During a visit to Warsaw on 7 December 1970, Brandt made the Warschauer Kniefall by kneeling before a monument to those killed in the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising, a gesture of humility and penance that no German Chancellor had made until that time. Chancellor Brandt was forced to resign in May 1974, after Günter Guillaume, a senior member of his staff, was uncovered as a spy for the East German intelligence service, the Stasi. Brandt's contributions to world peace led to his winning the Nobel Peace Prize for 1971.

Finance Minister Helmut Schmidt (SPD) formed a coalition and he served as Chancellor from 1974 to 1982. Hans-Dietrich Genscher, a leading FDP official, became Vice Chancellor and Foreign Minister. Schmidt, a strong supporter of the European Community (EC) and the Atlantic alliance, emphasized his commitment to "the political unification of Europe in partnership with the USA". [53] Throughout the 1970s, the Red Army Faction had continued its terrorist campaign, assassinating or kidnapping politicians, judges, businessmen, and policemen. The highpoint of the RAF violence came with the German Autumn in autumn 1977. The industrialist Hanns-Martin Schleyer was kidnapped on 5 September 1977 in order to force the government to free the imprisoned leaders of the Baader-Meinhof Gang. A group from the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine hijacked Lufthansa Flight 181 to seize further hostages to free the RAF leaders. On 18 October 1977, the Lufthansa jet was stormed in Mogadishu by the GSG 9 commando unit, who were able to free the hostages. The same day, the leaders of the Baader-Meinhof gang, who had been waging a hunger strike, were found dead in their prison cells with gunshot wounds, which led to Schleyer being executed by his captors. The deaths were controversially ruled suicides. [54] The Red Army Faction was to continue its terrorist campaign into the 1990s, but the German Autumn of 1977 was the highpoint of its campaign. That the Federal Republic had faced a crisis caused by a terrorist campaign from the radical left without succumbing to dictatorship as many feared that it would, was seen as vindication of the strength of German democracy. [ citation needed ]

In January 1979, the American mini-series Holocaust aired in West Germany. [44] : 543 The series, which was watched by 20 million people or 50% of West Germans, first brought the matter of the genocide in World War II to widespread public attention in a way that it had never been before. [44] : 545–6 After each part of Holocaust was aired, there was a companion show where a panel of historians could answer questions from people phoning in. [44] : 544–6 The historians' panels were literally overwhelmed with thousands of phone calls from shocked and outraged Germans, a great many of whom stated that they were born after 1945 and that was the first time that they learned that their country had practiced genocide in World War II. [44] : 545–6 By the late 1970s, an initially small number of young people had started to demand that the Länder governments stop neglecting the sites of the concentration camps, and start turning them into proper museums and sites of remembrance, turning them into "locations of learning" meant to jar visitors into thinking critically about the Nazi period. [44] : 556–7

In 1980, the CDU/CSU ran Strauss as their joint candidate in the elections, and he was crushingly [ clarification needed ] defeated by Schmidt. In October 1982, the SPD-FDP coalition fell apart when the FDP joined forces with the CDU/CSU to elect CDU chairman Helmut Kohl as Chancellor in a Constructive Vote of No Confidence. Genscher continued as Foreign Minister in the new Kohl government. Following national elections in March 1983, Kohl emerged in firm control of both the government and the CDU. The CDU/CSU fell just short of an absolute majority, due to the entry into the Bundestag of the Greens, who received 5.6% of the vote. In 1983, despite major protests from peace groups, the Kohl government allowed Pershing II missiles to be stationed in the Federal Republic to counter the deployment of the SS-20 cruise missiles by the Soviet Union in East Germany. In 1985, Kohl, who had something of a tin ear when it came to dealing with the Nazi past, [ clarification needed ] caused much controversy when he invited President Ronald Reagan of the United States to visit the war cemetery at Bitburg to mark the 40th anniversary of the end of World War II. The Bitburg cemetery was soon revealed to contain the graves of SS men, which Kohl stated that he did not see as a problem and that to refuse to honor all of the dead of Bitburg including the SS men buried there was an insult to all Germans. Kohl stated that Reagan could come to the Federal Republic to hold a ceremony to honor the dead of Bitburg or not come at all, and that to change the venue of the service to another war cemetery that did not have SS men buried in it was not acceptable to him. Even more controversy was caused by Reagan's statement that all of the SS men killed fighting for Hitler in World War II were "just kids" who were just as much the victims of Hitler as those who been murdered by the SS in the Holocaust. [55] Despite the huge controversy caused by honoring the SS men buried at Bitburg, the visit to Bitburg went ahead, and Kohl and Reagan honored the dead of Bitburg. What was intended to promote German-American reconciliation turned out to be a public relations disaster that had the opposite effect. Public opinion polls showed that 72% of West Germans supported the service at Bitburg while American public opinion overwhelming disapproved of Reagan honoring the memory of the SS men who gave their lives for Hitler. [ citation needed ]

Despite or perhaps because of the Bitburg controversy, in 1985 a campaign had been started to build a memorial to the victims of the Holocaust in Berlin. [44] : 557 It was felt by at least some Germans that there was something wrong about the Chancellor and the President of the United States honoring the memory of the SS men buried at Bitburg while there was no memorial to any of the people killed in the Holocaust. The campaign to build a Holocaust memorial, which Germany until then lacked, was given a major boost in November 1989 by the call by television journalist Lea Rosh to build the memorial at the site for the former Gestapo headquarters. [44] : 557 In April 1992, the City of Berlin finally decided that a Holocaust memorial could be built. [44] : 557 Along the same lines, in August 1987, protests put a stop to plans by the City of Frankfurt to raze the last remains of the Frankfurt Jewish Ghetto in order to redevelop the land, arguing that the remnants of the Frankfurt ghetto needed to be preserved. [44] : 557

In January 1987, the Kohl-Genscher government was returned to office, but the FDP and the Greens gained at the expense of the larger parties. Kohl's CDU and its Bavarian sister party, the CSU, slipped from 48.8% of the vote in 1983 to 44.3%. The SPD fell to 37% long-time SPD chairman Brandt subsequently resigned in April 1987 and was succeeded by Hans-Jochen Vogel. The FDP's share rose from 7% to 9.1%, its best showing since 1980. The Greens' share rose to 8.3% from their 1983 share of 5.6%. Later in 1987, Kohl had a summit with the East German leader Erich Honecker. Unknown to Kohl, the meeting room had been bugged by the Stasi, and the Stasi tapes of the summit had Kohl saying to Honecker that he did not see any realistic chance of reunification in the foreseeable future.

In the Soviet occupation zone, the Social Democratic Party was forced to merge with the Communist Party in April 1946 to form a new party, the Socialist Unity Party (Sozialistische Einheitspartei Deutschlands or SED). The October 1946 elections resulted in coalition governments in the five Land (state) parliaments with the SED as the undisputed leader.

A series of people's congresses were called in 1948 and early 1949 by the SED. Under Soviet direction, a constitution was drafted on 30 May 1949, and adopted on 7 October, the day when East Germany was formally proclaimed. The People's Chamber (Volkskammer)—the lower house of the East German parliament—and an upper house—the States Chamber (Länderkammer)—were created. (The Länderkammer was abolished again in 1958.) On 11 October 1949, the two houses elected Wilhelm Pieck as President, and an SED government was set up. The Soviet Union and its East European allies immediately recognized East Germany, although it remained largely unrecognized by noncommunist countries until 1972–73. East Germany established the structures of a single-party, centralized, totalitarian communist state. On 23 July 1952, the traditional Länder were abolished and, in their place, 14 Bezirke (districts) were established. Even though other parties formally existed, effectively, all government control was in the hands of the SED, and almost all important government positions were held by SED members.

The National Front was an umbrella organization nominally consisting of the SED, four other political parties controlled and directed by the SED, and the four principal mass organizations—youth, trade unions, women, and culture. However, control was clearly and solely in the hands of the SED. Balloting in East German elections was not secret. As in other Soviet bloc countries, electoral participation was consistently high, as the following results indicate. In October 1950, a year after the formation of the GDR, 98.53% of the electorate voted. 99.72% of the votes were valid and 99.72% were cast in favor of the 'National Front'—the title of the 'coalition' of the Unity Party plus their associates in other conformist groups. In election after election, the votes cast for the Socialist Unity Party were always over 99%, and in 1963, two years after the Berlin Wall was constructed, the support for the S.E.D. was 99.95%. Only 0.05% of the electorate opposed the party according to these results, the veracity of which is disputable. [56]

Industry and agriculture in East Germany Edit

With the formation of a separate East German communist state in October 1949, the Socialist Unity Party faced a huge range of problems. Not only were the cities in ruins, much of the productive machinery and equipment had been seized by the Soviet occupation force and transported to The Soviet Union in order to make some kind of reconstruction possible. While West Germany received loans and other financial assistance from the United States, the GDR was in the role of an exporter of goods to the USSR—a role that its people could ill afford but which they could not avoid.

The S.E.D.'s intention was to transform the GDR into a socialist and later into a communist state. These processes would occur step by step according to the laws of scientific 'Marxism-Leninism' and economic planning was the key to this process. In July 1952, at a conference of the S.E.D., Walter Ulbricht announced that "the democratic (sic) and economic development, and the consciousness (Bewusstsein) of the working class and the majority of the employed classes must be developed so that the construction of Socialism becomes their most important objective." [57] : 453 This meant that the administration, the armed forces, the planning of industry and agriculture would be under the sole authority of the S.E.D. and its planning committee. Industries would be nationalized and collectivization introduced in the farm industry. When the first Five-Year Plan was announced, the flow of refugees out of East Germany began to grow. As a consequence, production fell, food became short and protests occurred in a number of factories. On 14 May 1952, the S.E.D. ordered that the production quotas (the output per man per shift) were to be increased by 10%, but wages to be kept at the former level. This decision was not popular with the new leaders in the Kremlin. Stalin had died in March 1953 and the new leadership was still evolving. The imposition of new production quotas contradicted the new direction of Soviet policies for their satellites. [57] : 454

On 5 June 1953, the S.E.D. announced a 'new course' in which farmers, craftsmen, and factory owners would benefit from a relaxation of controls. The new production quotas remained the East German workers protested and up to sixty strikes occurred the following day. One of the window-dressing projects in the ruins of East Berlin was the construction of Stalin Allee, on which the most 'class-conscious' workers (in S.E.D. propaganda terms) were involved. At a meeting, strikers declared "You give the capitalists (the factory owners) presents, and we are exploited!" [57] : 455 A delegation of building workers marched to the headquarters of the S.E.D. demanding that the production quotas be rescinded. The crowd grew, demands were made for the removal of Ulbricht from office and a general strike called for the following day.

On 17 June 1953 strikes and demonstrations occurred in 250 towns and cities in the GDR. Between 300,000 and 400,000 workers took part in the strikes, which were specifically directed towards the rescinding of the production quotas and were not an attempt to overthrow the government. The strikers were for the most part convinced that the transformation of the GDR into a socialist state was the proper course to take but that the S.E.D. had taken a wrong turn. [57] : 457 The S.E.D. responded with all of the force at its command and also with the help of the Soviet Occupation force. Thousands were arrested, sentenced to jail and many hundreds were forced to leave for West Germany. The S.E.D. later moderated its course but the damage had been done. The real face of the East German regime was revealed. The S.E.D. claimed that the strikes had been instigated by West German agents, but there is no evidence for this. Over 250 strikers were killed, around 100 policemen and some 18 Soviet soldiers died in the uprising [57] : 459 17 June was declared a national day of remembrance in West Germany.

Shortly after World War II, Berlin became the seat of the Allied Control Council, which was to have governed Germany as a whole until the conclusion of a peace settlement. In 1948, however, the Soviet Union refused to participate any longer in the quadripartite administration of Germany. They also refused to continue the joint administration of Berlin and drove the government elected by the people of Berlin out of its seat in the Soviet sector and installed a communist regime in East Berlin. From then until unification, the Western Allies continued to exercise supreme authority—effective only in their sectors—through the Allied Kommandatura. To the degree compatible with the city's special status, however, they turned over control and management of city affairs to the West Berlin Senate and the House of Representatives, governing bodies established by constitutional process and chosen by free elections. The Allies and German authorities in West Germany and West Berlin never recognized the communist city regime in East Berlin or East German authority there.

During the years of West Berlin's isolation—176 kilometers (110 mi.) inside East Germany—the Western Allies encouraged a close relationship between the Government of West Berlin and that of West Germany. Representatives of the city participated as non-voting members in the West German Parliament appropriate West German agencies, such as the supreme administrative court, had their permanent seats in the city and the governing mayor of West Berlin took his turn as President of the Bundesrat. In addition, the Allies carefully consulted with the West German and West Berlin Governments on foreign policy questions involving unification and the status of Berlin.

Between 1948 and 1990, major events such as fairs and festivals were sponsored in West Berlin, and investment in commerce and industry was encouraged by special concessionary tax legislation. The results of such efforts, combined with effective city administration and the West Berliners' energy and spirit, were encouraging. West Berlin's morale was sustained, and its industrial production considerably surpassed the pre-war level.

The Final Settlement Treaty ended Berlin's special status as a separate area under Four Power control. Under the terms of the treaty between West and East Germany, Berlin became the capital of a unified Germany. The Bundestag voted in June 1991 to make Berlin the seat of government. The Government of Germany asked the Allies to maintain a military presence in Berlin until the complete withdrawal of the Western Group of Forces (ex-Soviet) from the territory of the former East Germany. The Russian withdrawal was completed 31 August 1994. Ceremonies were held on 8 September 1994, to mark the final departure of Western Allied troops from Berlin.

Government offices have been moving progressively to Berlin, and it became the formal seat of the federal government in 1999. Berlin also is one of the Federal Republic's 16 Länder.

Under Chancellor Adenauer, West Germany declared its right to speak for the entire German nation with an exclusive mandate. The Hallstein Doctrine involved non-recognition of East Germany and restricted (or often ceased) diplomatic relations with countries that gave East Germany the status of a sovereign state.

The constant stream of East Germans fleeing across the Inner German border to West Germany placed great strains on East German-West German relations in the 1950s. East Germany sealed the borders to West Germany in 1952, but people continued to flee from East Berlin to West Berlin. On 13 August 1961, East Germany began building the Berlin Wall around West Berlin to slow the flood of refugees to a trickle, effectively cutting the city in half and making West Berlin an enclave of the Western world in communist territory. The Wall became the symbol of the Cold War and the division of Europe. Shortly afterward, the main border between the two German states was fortified.

The Letter of Reconciliation of the Polish Bishops to the German Bishops of 1965 was controversial at the time, but is now seen as an important step toward improving relations between the German states and Poland.

In 1969, Chancellor Willy Brandt announced that West Germany would remain firmly rooted in the Atlantic alliance but would intensify efforts to improve relations with the Eastern Bloc, especially East Germany. West Germany commenced this Ostpolitik, initially under fierce opposition from the conservatives, by negotiating nonaggression treaties with the Soviet Union, Poland, Czechoslovakia, Bulgaria, and Hungary.

West Germany's relations with East Germany posed particularly difficult questions. Though anxious to relieve serious hardships for divided families and to reduce friction, West Germany under Brandt's Ostpolitik was intent on holding to its concept of "two German states in one German nation." Relations gradually improved. In the early 1970s, the Ostpolitik led to a form of mutual recognition between East and West Germany. The Treaty of Moscow (August 1970), the Treaty of Warsaw (December 1970), the Four Power Agreement on Berlin (September 1971), the Transit Agreement (May 1972), and the Basic Treaty (December 1972) helped to normalise relations between East and West Germany and led to both states joining the United Nations in September 1973. The two German states exchanged permanent representatives in 1974, and, in 1987, East German head of state Erich Honecker paid an official visit to West Germany.

Background Edit

International plans for the unification of Germany were made during the early years following the establishment of the two states, but to no avail. In March 1952, the Soviet government proposed the Stalin Note to hold elections for a united German assembly while making the proposed united Germany a neutral state, i.e. a neutral state approved by the people, similar to the Austrians' approval of a neutral Austria. The Western Allied governments refused this initiative, while continuing West Germany's integration into the Western alliance system. The issue was raised again during the Foreign Ministers' Conference in Berlin in January–February 1954, but the western powers refused to make Germany neutral. Following Bonn's adherence to NATO on 9 May 1955, such initiatives were abandoned by both sides.

During the summer of 1989, rapid changes took place in East Germany, which ultimately led to German reunification. Widespread discontent boiled over, following accusations of large scale vote-rigging during the local elections of May 1989. The beginning of the end of Eastern Germany was the Pan-European Picnic in August 1989. The event, which goes back to an idea by Otto von Habsburg, caused the mass exodus of GDR citizens, the media-informed East German population felt the loss of power of their rulers, and the Iron Curtain started to break down completely. Erich Honecker explained to the Daily Mirror regarding the Paneuropean picnic and thus showed his people his own inaction: "Habsburg distributed leaflets far into Poland, on which the East German holidaymakers were invited to a picnic. When they came to the picnic, they were given gifts, food and Deutsche Mark, and then they were persuaded to come to the West." [58] [59] [60] Growing numbers of East Germans emigrated to West Germany via Hungary after the Hungarians decided not to use force to stop them. Thousands of East Germans also tried to reach the West by staging sit-ins at West German diplomatic facilities in other East European capitals. The exodus generated demands within East Germany for political change, and mass demonstrations (Monday demonstrations) with eventually hundreds of thousands of people in several cities—particularly in Leipzig—continued to grow. On 7 October, the Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev visited Berlin to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the establishment of East Germany and urged the East German leadership to pursue reform, without success. The movement of civil resistance against the East German regime—both the emigration and the demonstrations—continued unabated. [61]

On 18 October, Erich Honecker was forced to resign as head of the SED and as head of state and was replaced by Egon Krenz. But the exodus continued unabated, and pressure for political reform mounted. On 4 November, a demonstration in East Berlin drew as many as 1 million East Germans. Finally, on 9 November 1989, the Berlin Wall was opened, and East Germans were allowed to travel freely. Thousands poured through the wall into the western sectors of Berlin, and on 12 November, East Germany began dismantling it.

On 28 November, West German Chancellor Helmut Kohl outlined the 10-Point Plan for the peaceful unification of the two German states, based on free elections in East Germany and a unification of their two economies. In December, the East German Volkskammer eliminated the SED monopoly on power, and the entire Politbüro and Central Committee—including Krenz—resigned. The SED changed its name to the Party of Democratic Socialism (PDS) and the formation and growth of numerous political groups and parties marked the end of the communist system. Prime Minister Hans Modrow headed a caretaker government which shared power with the new, democratically oriented parties. On 7 December 1989, an agreement was reached to hold free elections in May 1990 and rewrite the East German constitution. On 28 January, all the parties agreed to advance the elections to 18 March, primarily because of an erosion of state authority and because the East German exodus was continuing apace more than 117,000 left in January and February 1990.

In early February 1990, the Modrow government's proposal for a unified, neutral German state was rejected by Chancellor Kohl, who affirmed that a unified Germany must be a member of NATO. Finally, on 18 March, the first free elections were held in East Germany, and a government led by Lothar de Maizière (CDU) was formed under a policy of expeditious unification with West Germany. The freely elected representatives of the Volkskammer held their first session on 5 April, and East Germany peacefully evolved from a communist to a democratically elected government. Free and secret communal (local) elections were held in the GDR on 6 May, and the CDU again won most of the available seats. On 1 July, the two German states entered into an economic and monetary union.

Treaty negotiations Edit

During 1990, in parallel with internal German developments, the Four Powers—the Allies of World War II, being the United States, United Kingdom, France, and the Soviet Union—together with the two German states negotiated to end Four Power reserved rights for Berlin and Germany as a whole. These "Two-plus-Four" negotiations were mandated at the Ottawa Open Skies conference on 13 February 1990. The six foreign ministers met four times in the ensuing months in Bonn (5 May), Berlin (22 June), Paris (17 July), and Moscow (12 September). The Polish Foreign Minister participated in the part of the Paris meeting that dealt with the Polish-German borders.

Overcoming Soviet objections to a united Germany's membership in NATO was of key importance. This was accomplished in July when the alliance, led by President George H.W. Bush, issued the London Declaration on a transformed NATO. On 16 July, President Gorbachev and Chancellor Kohl announced the agreement in principle on a united Germany in NATO. This cleared the way for the signing in Moscow, on 12 September, of the Treaty on the Final Settlement With Respect to Germany—in effect the peace treaty that was anticipated at the end of World War II. In addition to terminating Four Power rights, the treaty mandated the withdrawal of all Soviet forces from Germany by the end of 1994, made clear that the current borders (especially the Oder-Neisse line) were viewed as final and definitive, and specified the right of a united Germany to belong to NATO. It also provided for the continued presence of British, French, and American troops in Berlin during the interim period of the Soviet withdrawal. In the treaty, the Germans renounced nuclear, biological, and chemical weapons and stated their intention to reduce the (combined) German armed forces to 370,000 within 3 to 4 years after the Treaty on Conventional Armed Forces in Europe, signed in Paris on 19 November 1990, entered into force.

The conclusion of the final settlement cleared the way for the unification of East and West Germany. Formal political union occurred on 3 October 1990, preceded by the GDR declaring its accession to the Federal Republic through Article 23 of West Germany's Basic Law (meaning that constitutionally, East Germany was subsumed into West Germany) but affected in strict legality through the subsequent Unification Treaty of 30 August 1990, which was voted into their constitutions by both the West German Bundestag and the East German Volkskammer on 20 September 1990. [62] These votes simultaneously extinguished the GDR and affected fundamental amendments to the West German Basic Law (including the repeal of the very Article 23 under which the GDR had recently declared its post-dated accession). On 2 December 1990, all-German elections were held for the first time since 1933. The "new" country stayed the same as the West German legal system and institutions were extended to the east. The unified nation kept the name Bundesrepublik Deutschland (though the simple 'Deutschland' would become increasingly common) and retained the West German "Deutsche Mark" for currency as well. Berlin would formally become the capital of the united Germany, but the political institutions remained at Bonn for the time being. Only after a heated 1991 debate did the Bundestag conclude on moving itself and most of the government to Berlin as well, a process that took until 1999 to complete, when the Bundestag held its first session at the reconstructed Reichstag building. Many government departments still maintain sizable presences in Bonn as of 2008.

Aftermath Edit

To this day, there remain vast differences between the former East Germany and West Germany (for example, in lifestyle, wealth, political beliefs, and other matters) and thus it is still common to speak of eastern and western Germany distinctly. The eastern German economy has struggled since unification, and large subsidies are still transferred from west to east.