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- Occupation of post-war Germany
- Collapse of four-zone cooperation
- Formation of Bizonia
Key Facts And Information
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- At the end of the Second World War, Germany was divided according to the agreements made between the major Allied powers at the Yalta and Potsdam conferences. The agreements enacted the demilitarisation, denazification, democratisation, decentralisation and deindustrialisation of Germany. To overcome the economic difficulties encountered in the British and American occupation zones, a combination of the two sectors, known as Bizonia, came into force on 1 January 1947.
- Opposing the economic reforms enacted in the Western zones, the Soviet Union set up the Berlin Blockade. In 1949, the French zone merged into Bizonia – a unification that eventually became the Federal Republic of Germany.
Occupation of post-war Germany
- A problem that the Allied powers faced after the Second World War was how to manage post-war Germany. Their opinions on this subject differed until agreements were reached at the Yalta and Potsdam conferences.
- The Allied leaders, known as the Big Three, US President Franklin D. Roosevelt, British Prime Minister Winston Churchill, and Soviet Premier Joseph Stalin, met at the Yalta Conference in February 1945.
- Although France’s leader, Charles de Gaulle, was not invited to the conference, it had been agreed to include France in the post-war governing of Germany.
- The following agreements were made:
- Germany would be divided into four post-war occupation zones, controlled by the US, British, French and Soviet military forces.
- The city of Berlin would also be divided into similar occupation zones.
- The occupation zone assigned to France would be taken from the US and British zones.
- Germany would be demilitarised and had to assume some responsibility for post-war reparations, but not sole responsibility.
- The Soviet Union would allow political freedom in its territories in Poland and in all territories in Eastern Europe liberated from Nazi occupation.
- The Soviet Union would participate in the United Nations.
- The agreements made at Yalta were promising but short-lived.
- Stalin had no intention of keeping his end of the bargain concerning the political freedom in Poland and squashed any opposition to the provisional government based in Lublin, Poland in March 1945.
- This effectively cemented Poland as one of the first Soviet satellite states in Eastern Europe.
- To continue the discussions about post-war settlement, the Potsdam Conference was held from 17 July to 2 August 1945.
- It was attended by the newly elected US President Harry S. Truman, Stalin and Churchill, who was quickly replaced by his successor Clement Attlee.
- At the time, Truman was far more suspicious of Stalin following the Soviets' aggression in Poland.
- The following were stipulated in the Potsdam Agreement signed on 1 August:
- Germany would be demilitarised and disarmed under the control of the US, Great Britain, France and the Soviet Union.
- German society, including the educational and judicial systems, would be denazified, and the Nazi war criminals would be prosecuted.
- A Council of Foreign Ministers, which would draft peace treaties with former German allies, would be created.
- The expulsion of German populations from Poland, Czechoslovakia and Hungary should be done 'in an orderly and humane manner’.
- Reparations from their own occupation zones would be seized by the Allied Powers. However, 15% of industrial equipment dismantled in the Western zones would be transferred to the Soviets in return for agricultural and natural products.
- The redrawing of Poland’s border with Germany was not finalised at Potsdam. The protocols, however, suggested continued cooperation among the Allies.
Collapse of four zone cooperation
- The conflicting aims of the Allied powers soon disrupted the promising peace and cooperation following the conclusion of the Second World War. The Potsdam Conference was to be the last Allied summit conference.
- Formed in August 1945, the Allied Control Council replaced the German government and oversaw the transformation of post-war Germany, issuing directives on a range of matters.
- However, it had broken down due to differences of opinion and internal tensions among its members.
- In early 1946, Western allies led by Britain and the US were wary that the Soviets were planning to expand their territories and must be brought under control.
- The annexation of parts of Poland by the Soviet Union and its anti-democratic actions in other European countries that it had seized persuaded Western leaders that the Soviet Union was planning to bring Europe under total communist control.
- In March 1946, Churchill used the term 'Iron Curtain' in his famous speech to describe how the Soviet Union captured territories and then separated them from the outside world.
- This illustrated a fundamental change in the attitude of leaders from the West toward Soviet intentions.
- The relations between the Western allies and the Soviet Union further worsened when the Soviets failed to deliver the agricultural and natural products promised at Potsdam.
- Consequently, the American military administrator stopped the Western deliveries to the Soviet zone that had started since the beginning of the year.
- In response, the Soviet Union commenced a public relations campaign against American policy and the obstruction of the administrative work of all four zones.
- These shifts in attitudes among the Allied powers contributed to the Cold War animosities. By late 1946, the Allied powers were governing their occupied zones fairly autonomously.
Formation of Bizonia
- Proposals for the creation of a German Länderrat, or council of states, were discussed at the conference of minister-presidents of the Länder in the British and American zones in October 1946. In December, the Foreign Secretaries of the US and Great Britain met in New York to discuss possible solutions for the economic recovery in the occupation zones.
- The idea of economic unity stemmed in part from the economic difficulties of the British zone with a large industrial population that needed to be part of a growing US commitment to revitalising the German economy, and in part from the British and American opposition to the Soviet insistence on reparations. This unification, known as Bizonia, came into force on 1 January 1947.
- Reasons for the creation of Bizonia:
- To advance the development of a growing economy
- To reduce the burden of the administration of the occupation zones.
- In May 1947, an Economic Council or Wirtschaftsrat for Bizonia was created in Frankfurt am Main.
- It was a decisive platform for the political debate and factual implementation of any emerging economic concept, but the resolutions and acts remained subject to the authorisation by the Bipartite Board.
- Nevertheless, it was regarded as key to Germany’s political and economic reconstruction.
- The Social Democrats and the Christian Democrats quickly established themselves as the major political parties in the politics of Bizonia.
- Amidst their differences, they joined with the laissez-faire Free Democrats in appointing Ludwig Erhard as Bizonia's economic minister in March 1948.
- Concerned about the deteriorating economic conditions throughout occupied Germany, the Western powers carried out a currency reform in their zones to enhance the effectiveness of the economic aid instituted under the Marshall Plan.
- This reform replaced Germany’s badly inflated currency, the Reichsmark, and introduced the Deutsche Mark (DM).
- This quickly improved Western Germany’s economy.
- The Western powers took the Soviets by surprise with their economic reforms.
- To avoid being left behind, the Soviets too quickly implemented their own monetary reform to be used in their territories including Berlin.
- However, by this time, the Western powers had already successfully distributed the DM in their territories within the city.
- The Soviets took this action as a culmination of a Western policy aimed at undermining their efforts of building a socialist system in its zone.
- The Soviet Union reacted suddenly by setting up a blockade of Berlin in June 1948.
- The Soviets organised a blockade on all road and rails that joined other areas to West Berlin.
- This affected shipping activities on the rivers Havel and Spree.
- Electricity, which was being supplied by factories in the Soviet zone, was switched off.
- To counter the actions of the Soviets, the Western allies kicked off airlifts in order to provide the 2.5 million people living in West Berlin with everything they needed to survive.
- As a result, 150 British planes and 230 US planes were deployed.
- Thousands of tonnes of supplies were airlifted to West Berlin. These included coal and other heating fuels that the people needed for the winter.
- The Soviet Union underestimated the Western allies in keeping the inhabitants in their zones alive.
- The Western allies had managed to resist the Soviets without creating an armed conflict.
- Although the Soviets’ blockade had come to an end in May 1949, the effects it had on Berlin were lasting.
- The Berlin blockade accelerated the political integration of the Western zones.
- The Trizonia was created when the French zone merged into Bizonia in April 1949.
- This unification of Western allies then became the Federal Republic of Germany, better known as West Germany, on 23 May 1949.