Spoils of War
in Europe

Prelude to the Cold War, 1945-1948

A.) The Treatment of Germany and Austria

At YALTA (Feb. 45) and Potsdam (July 45) the allies had agreed on principles for the treatment of occupied Germany. Germany and Austria were to be partitioned into 4 zones of administration (the French were given a part in it, too). The capital cities of Berlin and Vienna were to be jointly administrated, themselves subdivided in 4 districts of administration. Both were surrounded by the Soviet zone.
Germany's economic heartland, the RUHRGEBIET was to be placed under the control of an international commission, in which the Soviet Union was to be given a seat.
In Germany, a policy of DENAZIFICATION was to be pursued. Germany's future was to be decided later on, but the concept of dismembering the German state and the creation of region-states was contemplated at Potsdam.

In order to compensate Poland for the provinces annexed by the USSR in September 1939, the Soviet Union permitted Poland to occupy Germany's provinces east of the Oder river (SILESIA, FURTHER POMMERANIA, the NEUMARK, the southern half of EAST PRUSSIA). The USSR annexed the Northern half of East Prussia, incorporating it into the Russian republic, an isolated part of which it still is. The German civilian population living East of the Oder river was either deported to work as FORCED LABOUR in the USSR (retaliation for Germany's treatment of Russia's civilian population during the war) or forced to emigrate into what was left of Germany. The city of KOENIGSBERG was rechristened KALININGRAD.
The Soviet Union dismantled entire German factories, transported the parts into Russia and reassembled them (DEMONTAGE). The object was to economically compensate Russia for the tremendous losses it had suffered during the war.
The first two winters after World War II were harsh, there was a severe shortage of both coal and food and people died from it. The British and US administration had to invest considerably to prevent higher casualties. The western powers altered their goals in regard to the administration of Germany. The country should be set in a state to economically support itself. Economically, the British and American zones were unified as the BIZONE, later joined by the French (TRIZONE). In breach of arrangements with the Soviet Union, the western powers permitted Germany to introduce a new currency, the D-MARK, in 1948, which destroyed the black market, ended hyperinflation and was the starting signal of economic recovery.

Stalin felt deprived of his seat in the Ruhr commission (which never materialized) strongly objected to not been consulted about such a issue and ordered Berlin's western sectors to be cut off from communication with western Germany - the BERLIN BLOCKADE. The western allies organized the BERLIN AIRLIFT, supplying the city of over 2 million with food, coal, the basic necessities from the air, for a period of 11 months. The Berlin Blockade was a non-violent confrontation, the stage was set for the COLD WAR to unfold.

B.) The Treatment of Poland, Czechoslovakia etc.

When Churchill suggested Europe to be divided in spheres of interest, he was thinking practically; Russian troops would have to liberate eastern central Europe anyway. However, a Soviet military presence would translate into the establishment of socialist states similar to the Soviet Union. However, Britain felt obliged to Poland's, Czechoslovakia's etc. democrats, who had formed EXILE GOVERNMENTS in Britain and contributed to the allied war effort (it was exile Poles who took the MONTE CASSINO from the Germans). So, at the POTSDAM CONFERENCE, Churchill insisted that in the Post-war administration of Poland, the exile government politicians were to be integrated.
Stalin complied, and multiparty coalition governments were formed in Poland and Czechoslovakia. They functioned for a while. However, in 1948 the communists solely took over government and adopted socialist constitutions, a move which was observed with concern in London. The western border of the Soviet block was fenced off to prevent further emigration, and Winston Churchill, in a speech said "an IRON CURTAIN has fallen down on Europe ...".


This page is part of World History at KMLA
First posted in 2000, last revised on November 8th 2004

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