The council was designed to function as the supreme governing, controlling, coordinating, and administrative body cochaired by the four occupation powers on German territory. Headed first by the four supreme Allied military commanders, the council was supported by some 170 separate and subordinate administrative and advisory bodies.
Each of the council's four members held veto powers, and all major decisions had to be reached unanimously. Due mainly to French and Soviet obstructionism, significant decisions became virtually impossible to reach, and the council's administrative efficiency was hopelessly compromised. To make matters worse, the commanders of the four occupation zones exercised absolute and autonomous power on behalf of their governments in their respective designated areas of Germany. By the summer of 1946, the competing and often contradictory interests of the United States and the Soviet Union over war reparations had rendered the council largely dysfunctional.
By 1949, the Allied Control Council of Germany virtually ceased to function due to insurmountable differences among the four powers, diplomatic games, and a stalemate over currency reform in the western zones of occupation. Although the United States introduced a proposal for an all-zonal reform in January 1948 and linked its approval to a sixty-day ultimatum, Washington in fact hoped that the Soviets would reject it. Indeed it was Soviet Marshal Vasily Sokolovsky who first abandoned the Allied Control Council on 20 March 1948, saving American General Lucius D. Clay the embarrassment of having to take this first step. Instead of objecting to currency reform and other occupation issues via the council, the Soviets decided, beginning in April 1948, to initiate a blockade of West Berlin by cordoning off the three western sectors by both land and water routes.
Technically, the Allied Control Council continued to exist for decades, because none of the four nations ever officially canceled its membership. Attempts to revive the institution in the 1950s proved to be short-lived. Finally, the so-called 2 + 4 Treaties of 1990 between the four Allied powers and the two German states officially terminated the Allied Control Council.
Clay, Lucius D. Decision in Germany. Garden City, NY: Doubleday, 1950.; Mai, Gunther. Der Alliierte Kontrollrat in Deutschland 1945–48. Alliierte Einheit—deutsche Teilung? [The Allied Control Council in Germany, 1945–1948. Allied Unity—German Division?]. Munich: Oldenbourg, 1995.; Turner, Henry A., Jr. Germany from Partition to Reunification. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1992.