War and Social Upheaval: World War II Aftermath in Germany--Occupation

Figure 1.-- American GIs were famous for their kindness to boys and girls who were sometimes almost "adopted" as surrogate sons and daughters of lonely young soldiers who missed their own families, especially younger brothers and sisters, in the United States. This GI and German friend were photographed near Darmstadt in 1948.

The Allied occupation of Germany proceeded differently in the Soviet and Western occupation zones. In the Soviet or Eastern Zone there were numerous rapes of German women in the first days of occupation. This was rape on a massive scale and included children and elderly women. Large numbers of pregnacies must have occurred. I am not sure if the women involved sought abortions or how they viewed the resulting children. After the first days of occupation Red Army brought their soldiers under control. Looting continued for some time. The Government persued a policy of reparations which included shipping whole factories to Russia. Soviet occupation forces were not supplied like the Western forces and there was much more living off the land. [Dulles] The Western Allies initially has separate occupation zones. Initially there was to be a British and an American zone, but plans were changes to accomodate a French zone. There were some differences in the three Western zones, but faced with Soviet pressure the Western Allies eventually combined their zones. The most immediate problem was food. About 60 the population of Germany were in the French, British, and American zones. Before the War, only about 40 percent of the food was produced in the west and the War damage had significantly impaired food production.

Unconditional Surrender

It was President Roosevelt who insisted on Unconditional Surrnder. He unexpectedly made the announcement at Casablanca (January 1943). Prime-minister Churchill was surprised and even though he had reservations, acceeded to the Presiden't wishes. Marshall Stalin had some difficulty with the concept, thinking it might cuse the Germns to fight harder. President Rooevelt felt it had been a serious mistake not to occupy Germany after World War I and was determined not to make that mistake again. Critics charge that the insistence on unconditional surrender prolonged the War. Goebbels propaganda certainly made use of the unconditional demand in his propaganda, but it is unclear that it really prolonged the War. Hitler was not about to surrender, what ever the conditions offered. And the Allies were not prepared to treat with him. And in any case, it is the Soviets pressing ypon the Reich from the east that the German people most fered. In fact the Whrmmacht's principal effort in the last weeks of the war was to get as many men as far west as possible so they would not fall into Soviet hands. After Hitler committed suiside in Berlin (April 30, 1945), his successor Admiral Doenitz, a faithful NAZI, had but one task, arranging for Germny's surrender. Keitel and Jodhl surrendered to the Allies (May 7, 1945). Some important decessions had been made at Tehran and Yalta by the Allies, including the occupation zomes. None of the allies, however, had made firm decessions about the furure of German at the time of the NAZI surrender.

Resistance (1944-46)

As the War went irrevocably against Germany with D-Day in the West and Bagration in the East (June-August 1944), it became obvious that Germany was defeated. None other than SS Reich Führer Heinrich Himmler conceived of Unternehmen Werwolf (Operation Werwolf). He ordered SS Obergruppenführer Hans-Adolf Prützmann to begin organising an unit of elite volunteers forces to operate secretly behind enemy lines in areas of the Reich occupied. The initial plan was for Werwolf units to be legitimate uniformed military formations trained to conduct clandestine operations behind enemy lines rather like Allied Special Forces (Commandos). [Klemperer and Watt, p. 305.] Himmler named Prützmann Generalinspekteur für Spezialabwehr (General Inspector of Special Defence). He set up resistance force's headquarters in Berlin and began organising and instructing the officers recruited. Prützmann ws an expert on the guerrilla tactics used by Soviet partisans as aesult of his activities in the NAZI occupied Ukraine. The initial was to use these same tactics for Operation Werwolf. [Biddiscombe] The rapid dusengration of the Wehrmacht made such efforts useless. Soviet partisans were effective, only because the Wehrmacht failed to destroy the Red Army in 1941. In addition, Hitler refused to even consider the idea of defeat, making planning for defeat impossible and even dangerous as it could be considered defeatist. This is why the Alpine Redoubt came to nothing, making any effective resistance impossible. The planning was further undermined by Propaganda Minister Goebbels who claimed that "The enemy will be taken in the rear by the fanatical population, which will ceaselessly worry him, tie down strong forces and allow him no rest or exploitation of any possible success." Note Goebbels concept was popular resistance by civilians, not elite military units. Near the end of the war, Goebbels gave his Werwolf speech (March 23, 1945). He urged every German to fight to the death. The Wesern Allies gave considerable weight to the possibility of German resistance, both Operation Werwolf and the Alpine Redoubt. It affected Eisenhower' decesions on troop movements. (Unlike Soviets commanders, Eisenhower had cinsidrable auth=tomy as to troop movements.) Stalin appears less concerned. From an early point in the War his objective was Berlin. Both Werwolf and the Alpine redoubt were largly fictions. There apper to hve been some assainations in Achen, the first German city occupied by the Wesrn Allies. Once the Western Allies crised the Rhine abd especially after Hitler shot himself, resistance crumbled. Diehrd NAZIs claimed responsibility for a variety of incidents, but few were actual organized Werwolf attacks. Tgere were attacks were what might be described as solo attacks fanatical Nazis or small groups of SS. Tgere were also incidents Hitler Youth boys sniping or engaged in other actions, as far as we know insigated locally by SS members or other die-hard NAZIs. The rapid disappearance of irganized resistance in a nation that so fantically supported the NAZIs is a matter of some interest.

Four Power Occupation

The original Allied plan to govern occupied Germany was developed at Yalta and ratified at Potsdam Gemany would be administered as a single unit by an Allied Control Council (ACA). The zones were governed by the Allied Control Council (ACC), The Acc consisted of the four military supreme commanders of the Allied Forces. The ACC's decisions had to be unanimous. When agreement could not be reached, the commanders would forego unified actions, and each would enforce their oversigght in their own zone, where they had supreme authority. The ACC had no executive authority. It had to rely on the each military governor to implement ACA decisions in his individual occupation zone. President Roosevelt appears to have believed it could work and that he could bring Stalin along. It is unclear if Churchill though it was reasonable, but by the time of Yalta, he was not prepared to dispute it with Roosevelt. It is unclear how mich thouht he had given to the idea. From the befinning there were enormous problems in setting up a provisional administration. Unanimity ptoved difficult to obtain. As a result occupation policies began to vary in the four zones. The individual Allies had not yet agreed on the future of Germany, let alone reach any joint agreement. They did agree that they would divide Germany into sections as part of the occupation, with each of the Allied powers assuming responsibility for one zone. Despite the dour zones, they plnned to oversee Germany as a single economic unit in preparation for eventual reunification. Four power occupation was of course an unworkable concept. The Allies and Soviets managed to agree on occupation zones. The Americans withrew from eastern Germany and Soviets Allowed the Western Allies into Berlin. It did not take long for the effort to break down (1946–47). There were at first tensions between the Western Allies. Britain and America cooperated closely and merged their occupation zones (1946). France was less willing and at first insisted on disrupting collaboration, attempting to partition Germany into a number of small states. It was the Soviets who began taking unilateral actions. The Soviets began appling the socialist economic program (expropriating land and buinesses). NkVD and Red army units began shipping factories that survived the nombing east as a form of reparations. The Soviets also imposed restrictions on the press and other civil liberties that the Western Allies did not with the exception of the Denazification effort. And the western allies did not carry out summary and unpublicized executions. A major dispute with France was the post-War German refugees from the east. At Potsdam, Britin, the Soviet Union, and the United States agreed to accept some 6 million German refugees expelled from Polnd, Germany, and other countries. France was not represented at Potsdam and refused to accept the rfugees. lthough they eventually accpted Jews and poliltical disenters deported by the NAZIs (basiclly concentration camp inmates). Finally France began to cooperate more with America and Britain and the major differences were between the Western Allies and the Soviets. American military authorities grew increasingly concerned about the economic costs of a Germany completely dependent on the United States. The United States began investing in German industries. The United States began a massive aid program which became known as the Marshall Plan, pumping dollars and goods into Europe to aid in recovery. The Soviet Union prevented the puppet Governments it imposed in the East, including East Germany from taking part in effort. Instead,the soviets offered its own postwar economic aid program. All decesions of the Allied Control Commission had to be unanimous. Thus the Soviets could veto any proposal. Soviet vetoes became more common as the occupation continued. This reached a crisis when the Wstern Allies set out to address the economic problems and the failure of the German economy to recover. The breaking point came over the issue of currency reform. The Americans first suggested a currency reform (1946). The Soviets at first considered it, but than adamently refused it. A final break with the Soviets came after 2 years of fritless debate. Finally the wesern allies administered the currency reform in their zones (1948). This led to a break with the Soviets and the separation of Soviet occupied eastern Germany and a Soviet blockade of West Berlin.

The Occupation Zones

The Allied/Soviet occupation zones were set at Yalta before the Western Allies crossed the Rhine (January 1945). Roosevelt and Churchill wanted an occupation zone for France which since D-Day has rejoined the war against NAZI Germany. Stalin at first opposed this maintaining that they had no played an impprtant role in the war. Eventually he gave in as long as the French zome came out of the area in the southwest allocated to America and Britain. The Soviet Zone was largely agricultural areas in the east, including areas which they transferred to Poland. The Western Allies go most of the heavily industrialized areas, especially the heavilg damaged Ruhr. Roosevelt had wanted northern Germany, but largely because of the way the armies were arranged on D-Day, America got the south and Britain the north. The campaign after Yalta developed differently than anticipated. The Rhine proved to be unlike the West Wall aless than firmidable barrier and German forcesone the Rhine was wasenetrated no longer stiffly resisted. In cotrast the German forces in the East continued a dogged fight against ovewealming odds. [Goebbels] Eventually the Western Allies combined their zone. France at first resisted, but eventually joined the Americans and British. At first the borders were porous and refugees could move between the zones. The Soviets insisted that most of the ethnic Germans poring into Germany from the East were accomodated in the Western zones. The plan as for the food producing Soviet easter zone to help feed the industrialized Allied western zones. With the breakdown of Four-Power Occupation and the onset of the Cold war, this never occurred.

Occupation Scenes

We have collected a variety of photographs taken in Germany during the Allied World War II occupation. Some of them are interesing to do not fit neatly to any of the categories here. Some of them we do not fully understand. Hopefully our German readers will provide some insights here to help us better understand what was going on in Germany.

End of Occupation


Biddiscombe, Perry. Werwolf!: The History of the National Socialist Guerrilla Movement, 1944–1946. (University of Toronto Press: 1998).

Dulles, Allen W. "That was then: Allen W. Dulles on the occupation of Germany" Foreign Affairs (November/December 2003).

Goebbels, Joseph. High Trevor-Roper, ed and intro. Final Entries 1945: The Diaries of Joseph Goebbels (Avon: New York, 1978), 453p. Goebbels who deciced to remain in Berlin with Hitler was scandalized and goes on an on about this in his final daiary pages. He and Hitler assumed the Rhine would be a formidable brrier, but once crossed, organized resistance in the est essentially collpsed. Not only did many of not most of the the Wehrmacht soldiers not want to fight, but the lack of fuel and Allied airporer meant that Mdel's Army Group B and other formations were essentially inmobile. And civilians wanted the soldiers to surrender so that their towns and cities would not be leveled. Goebbels vowed that when the Reich revoved, the 'trators' would pay.

Klemperer, Victor and Roderick H. Watt. An Annotated Edition of Victor Klemperer's LTI. Notizbuch eines Philologen (E. Mellen Press: 1997).

Willoughby, John. Remaking the Conquering Heroes: The Postwar American Occupation of Germany (Palgrave Macmillan/Palgrave, 2003).


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Created: January 16, 2004
Last updated: 6:10 PM 9/1/2016