Double Victory: Minorities and Women During World War II
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Germany, Occupation of, after the War

Admiral Karl Dönitz, who succeeded Adolf Hitler as head of the German state after Hitler's suicide on 30 April 1945, surrendered unconditionally to the Allies on 7 May 1945. The task of governing Germany fell to the occupying armies of the Soviet Union, United States, and Great Britain, which were soon joined by France's army. The Allies retained the Dönitz government until 23 May to facilitate the transfer of power and to fulfill a pledge that the Germans be forced to dissolve the Nazi regime themselves.

The Allied powers assumed extraordinary authority in Germany. The Hague Convention of 1907 limited occupiers to the maintenance of law and order, but the Allies went far beyond that, attempting a complete reorientation of German thinking—what would come to be called "nation building." The Allied Powers' European Advisory Commission (EAC) had recommended that Germany's postwar government should be an Allied Control Council in Berlin composed of commanders of the occupying forces of the various powers. At the February 1945 Yalta Conference, British Prime Minister Winston L. S. Churchill, U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt, and Soviet leader Josef Stalin accepted that recommendation. Occupation zones were also set; at the suggestion of Churchill and Roosevelt, France was allowed a zone, although Stalin insisted it be carved from that area already assigned to Britain and the United States. The three leaders also agreed on steps to demilitarize Germany, dissolve the National Socialist Party, and punish war criminals. In May 1945, however, the military establishments of the occupying powers were in charge, and each occupying nation had a very different notion of how occupation policies should be implemented.

Germany appeared to be devastated. Its cities were piles of rubble, bridges had been blown up, and rolling stock had been destroyed. Inland shipping was blocked, and the merchant marine was down to only 100,000 tons from a prewar total of 4 million tons. In 1946, industrial production was only one-third the volume of a decade earlier. Large numbers of Germans were homeless and out of work. The population was also swollen by Allied prisoners of war, foreign laborers forced to work in the Reich, and a great influx of refugees from the east, many having little more than the clothes on their backs. Although the Allies agreed there was to be equitable distribution of German refugees coming from Czechoslovakia, Poland, Hungary, and other states, this did not occur; the British and French zones absorbed the majority of refugees. Simply feeding the population was a tremendous problem; shortages of fertilizers exacerbated the loss of key food-producing areas taken by Poland.

The problems for several years centered on food, housing, and employment. As it turned out, damage was not as extensive as had initially been thought. Much factory machinery was still operational once the rubble was removed, and modern techniques and systems were employed in rebuilding the cities that had been subjected to Allied bombing. Full public disclosure of the Holocaust lessened compassion for the German civilian population and led Allied occupation authorities to proceed rapidly with denazification. The first Allied directives forbade fraternization between soldiers and civilians, set living standards quite low, and provided for full disarmament.

According to Allied agreements reached during the war, Germany lost some 40,000 square miles of territory in which, before the war, 9.5 million people lived; most of this area became part of Poland. The 138,000 square miles of territory of Germany that remained were divided for occupation purposes as follows: the Soviet Union's section had some 20 million people in 43,000 square miles, including all or part of Pomerania, Mecklenburg, Saxony, and Thuringia; Great Britain had 42,000 square miles and 12 million people in Schleswig-Holstein, Lower Saxony, Hamburg, the Ruhr, and the lower Rhineland; the United States had 36,000 square miles and 17 million people consisting of Bavaria, Hesse, and parts of Württemberg-Baden; and France, 17,000 square miles and 6 million people in the Palatinate and Upper Rhine Valley. As U.S. Lieutenant General Lucius Clay put it, the Soviets received the agriculture, the British the industry, and the Americans the scenery. The German capital of Berlin was also divided into four Allied zones. In 1946, the U.S. Army formed four constabulary divisions specifically for occupation duties. To a considerable degree, a civil affairs function for the U.S. military began in connection with the occupation of Germany after World War II.

Although the Allied Control Council met regularly, there were sharp disagreements on policy. The Soviet Union and France, for example, sought to keep German industrial production low, whereas Britain wanted it set high so the occupation would not burden already straitened British taxpayers. In the spring of 1946, the Allies agreed on a level of industrial production of 50–55 percent of the 1938 level, save for the building industry, which was critical to recovery.

Efforts at central planning for the economy ran afoul of Soviet exactions, however. Soviet authorities, stymied in their effort to secure agreement on a precise reparations figure, had ordered that industrial plants and virtually everything else movable be removed from its zone and shipped back to the Soviet Union. The refusal of the Soviet Union to treat Germany as an economic unit ultimately led the western Allies to decide to move toward a unified administration for their zones. The French also sought to detach the Ruhr and integrate the Saar into France. Work did proceed on denazification; its centerpiece was the International War Crimes Tribunal (the Nuremberg Tribunal). At the conclusion of the tribunal's proceedings, the United States had been the most rigorous in prosecuting minor war criminals.

American occupation policy in Germany was governed by Joint Chiefs of Staff Directive 1067. It prohibited any fraternization between U.S. military personnel and civilians and denied food distribution to the civilian population except in extraordinary circumstances. The directive remained in effect until 1947. It took Soviet policies and the harsh winter of 1946–1947 to change this policy. British occupation policies were less doctrinaire and considerably easier on the civilian population. The British took the lead, for example, in organizing their zone into l?nder (states), although they were slower than the Americans in granting self-government. The French had great problems of their own and so did not devote too much attention to Germany. The chief French interest, which remained in force for a decade, was the economic integration of the Saar into the French economy. The French government also worked to try to prevent German reunification. The Soviet Union was determined to extract reparations from its zone, and it also sought to carry out land reform and to try to communize its zone. The latter effort, however, was more than countered by the brutal behavior of the Red Army toward the German civilian population.

Signs of frustration by the western Allies over the control machinery and the failure of the Soviet Union to treat Germany as an economic unit were obvious by 1946. That September, the British and Americans merged their zones economically to form Bizonia. The same month, U.S. Secretary of State James Byrnes announced at Stuttgart the U.S. intention to restore self-government in its zone of Germany.

Acute German suffering during the harsh winter of 1946–1947, the obvious need for currency reform (the western powers were merely subsidizing the Soviet financial system in eastern Germany), the formation of Trizonia (France joined the economic zone in the summer of 1947), efforts of the western powers to move toward German self-government, and finally the announcement by the western Allies that they intended to introduce a new currency in their zones all led to the Soviet blockade of Berlin. This, in turn, sped up the creation of a West German government in May 1949. Under the terms of an Occupation Statute, Allied military forces remained in the new Federal Republic of Germany, and Soviet troops remained in the new German Democratic Republic.

J. G. D. Babb and Spencer C. Tucker


Further Reading
Botting, Douglas. From the Ruins of the Reich: Germany, 1945–1949. New York: Crown Publishers, 1985.; Browder, Dewey. Americans in Post–World War II Germany: Teachers, Tinkers, Neighbors and Nuisances. Lewiston, NY: E. Mellen Press, 1998.; Davis, Franklin M., Jr. Come as a Conqueror: The United States Army's Occupation of Germany, 1945–1949. New York: Macmillan, 1967.; Diefendorf, Jeffrey M., Axel Frohn, and Hermann-Joseph Rupieper, eds. American Policy and the Reconstruction of West Germany, 1945–1955. Washington, DC: German Historical Institute,1993.; Ermath, Michael, ed. America and the Shaping of German Society, 1945–1955. Providence, RI: Berg, 1993.; Wolfe, Robert, ed. Americans as Proconsuls: United States Military Government in Germany and Japan, 1944–1952. Carbondale and Edwardsville: Southern Illinois University Press, 1984.; Ziemke, Earl F. The U.S. Army in the Occupation of Germany, 1944–1946. Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1975.
 

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