World War II Aftermath: Soviet Occupation of Germany (1945-54)


Figure 1.--Here we see a scene from occupied Berlin. Notice the DDRv flag on the Branderburg Gate (Brandenburger Tor). I'm not sure when this photograph was taken, but the flag suggests that it was after 1949 in the 1950s. The children are Communist Young Pioneers. A German reader writes, "Looking through the pillars you see the Western side of the Brandenburger Tor, the trees of the “Tiergarten”. Hence, the picture certainly was taken before the Berliner Mauer (Berlin Wall) was erected in 1961. Entry into the area where the people are standing was absolutely not allowed after the Mauer went up in 1961. The Mauer was behind the Branderburg Gaste on the Western side. Note the barriers. Driving through the Tor was restricted very early as all cars and persons were strictly controlled. I have no knowledge about a more exact date when the picture may be taken. As the Tor is already in a clean state I assume that ithe photograph was tken in the early 1950s."

Allied leaders at the Potsdam Conference (1945) divided Germany into four occupation zones—French in the southwest, British in the northwest, U.S. in the south, and Soviet in the east. Berlin which had been taken by the Red Army and surounded by the Soviet zone, was also divided into four sectors. 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. [Naimark] 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. An early priority of the Soviet occupation, as it was of the Western occupation, was to comb Germany for NAZI military technology and experts. 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] Trading arrangements and bater deals during the occupation were heavily waited in the Soviets favor durig the occupation era. After Stalin died (1953) and the Soviets began the de-Stalinization process with the 20th Party Congress, East German Communisyts began to complain to the Soviets that there policies were adversely affecting the DDR state and were in part responsible for people fleeing to the West. From 1945-1954, the Soviet forces based in Germany were titled the Group of Soviet Occupation Troops. From 1954-1989, they were designated the Group of Soviet Forces in Germany and from 1989-1994 they were known as the Western Group of Troops. The Soviets set up the German Deutsche Demokratische Republik (DDR), often referred to as East Germany (1949). The DDR was controlled by the Communist Party and governed until the fall of the Berlin Wallb(1989) brought about the collapse of the Communist state (1990). The GDR was proclaimed in the Soviet sector of Berlin (October 7, 1949). The Soviets announced they granted full sovereigty (1954), although Soviet troops remained in strength. The DDR joined the Warsaw Pact.

Soviet Conquest of Berlin

Berlin which had been taken by the Red Army and surounded by the Soviet zone, was also divided into four sectors. 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. [Naimark] Large numbers of pregnacies must have occurred. I am not sure if the women involved sought abortions or how they viewed the resulting children. This occurred in Berlin and other areas of the Reich conquered by the Soviets. I'm not sure to what extent this continued after the NAZI capitulation and VE Day (May 8, 1945).

Potsdam Conference (1945)

Allied leaders at the Yalta and Potsdam Conference (1945) agreed on the division of Germany. The basic division was made at Yalta and further defined at Postdam. There woild be four occupation zones-—French in the southwest, British in the northwest, U.S. in the south, and Soviet in the east. The NAZIs leared that the Soviet Zone would obviously be in the east and the Elbe River would separate the Soviet and Western zones, at the time still three individual zones. Thus the Wehrmacht and many civilians during the last days of the War attempted to reach the Western Zone. The Germans had attempted to surrender to the Western allies, but Eisenhowe made it clear that only an unconditional surrender to all fout powers would be accepted.

Allied Control Council

The victorious allies adopted a plan to administer occupied Germany through a four-power Allied Control Council (ACC) composed of the United States, United Kingdom, France, and the Soviet Union. The plan was to adopt common policies for all four occupation zones. Apparently Roosevelt though this possible. It is unclear if Truman did also, but he had little time before Posdam to think it through or diplmatic experiences with the Soviet. Churchill is aifferent mtter. He has a better grasp on Stalin's character, but the realities of Soviet power meant that the effort had to be made. Stalin is a fifferent matter. He not doubt understood clearly that the joint policies could never be reached. We believe his assessment that the americans would leave shortly as they had sone after world war I and the reality of soviet power would mean a Soviet dominanted Europe. This is just our assessment. As far as we know, he did not reveal his calculations tgo anyone. At least there is no record of such discussions.

Soviet Zone Established

After the first days of occupation and rapant rape of German Union and looting, the Red Army brought their soldiers under control. Looting continued for some time. Soviet soldiers were well known for demanding “uru, uru” from all German people around; “uru” is a misspelling and mispronounsation of the German word “Uhr”, which means wrist-watch or pocket-watch. The Soviet Zone included the Länder (states) of Mecklenburg, Brandenburg, Saxony, Saxony-Anhalt, Thuringia, as well as the eastern part of Berlin.

Search for NAZI Military Technology

An early priority of the Soviet occupation, as it was of the Western occupation, was to comb Germany for NAZI military technology and experts. The Allies were even able to do this in the Soviet Zone because Western armies had reached areas in the east there were to be part of the Soviet Zone. The Americans thus got many of the top German scientists, many of which were smart enough to know their future was more promising with the Americans. Many scientists decided to maintain ties with family and friends and thus retuned hime. Their furure would thus depend on where home was located. The NAZI arms industry and scietific establishmentwas so massive, that both the Americans and Soviets got many highly competent scientists. The British fewer.

Reparations

After the NAZI surreder (May 1945), the different occupation powers quickly assumed authority in their respective zones (by June 1945). The initial plan was fir Allied and Soviet powers to adopt and pursue a common occupation policy, focused. Some policy goals were shared by Allies ans Soviets, such as denazification and demilitarization. The Allies and Soviets had, however, very different objectives. Allied policy as it developed was to prepare Germany to eventual joining Europe as a responsible, independent and democratic nation. Nothing could have been more different than Soviet (meaning stalin's) objectives. The allies were not in complete areement on occupation policies, but all three of the Allies were differed fundamentally with Soviert objectives. It did not take long for the idea of a unified occupation policy to collapse. The Soviets and Allies developed theor own policies. Besides the political differences, one of the major differences was the issue of reparations. The Soviet Government persued a policy of reparations which included shipping whole factories to the Soviet Union. The NAZIs had devestated the western Soviet Union, Along with apauling attrocities, the NAZIs implemented a scorched earth policy, destroying factories, schools, hospitals, public buildings, as wekll as homes as they retreated west. The Soviets sought to use German factory equipment to help rebuild the Soviet economy. TThis is not to say there were no reparations in the Western zones, but the Soviet used reparations to a far greater extent than the Allies. They began disassembling the German industry that had survived the Allied bombing and shipping it back to the soviet Union. They focused on arms industries and industries owned by the NAZI state. Also targeted were factories owned by NAZI party members and by war criminals were confiscated. One estimate suggesta that the industries seized by the soviets consisted of approximately 60 percent of the total industrial capacity in the Soviet occupation zone. The remaining heavy industry (some 20 percent of total production) was claimed by the Soviet authorities. The new Sowjetische Aktiengesellschaften -- SAG (Soviet joint stock companies) were created for many industries not shipped to the Soviet Union. The remaining industries not confiscated were was nationalized, some 40 percent of total industrial production was left in private hands. It is unclear how beneficial the disassembled factories were to the Soviets. A German reader tells us, "It is said that then in Russia the machines got rusty as the Russians were not able to resettle them anymore." Soviet occupation forces were not supplied like the Western forces and there was much more living off the land. [Dulles] Trading arrangements and bater deals during the occupation were heavily waited in the Soviets favor durig the occupation era. The Soviet Zone (the future DDR) would have had seriously problems competing with the Western Zone (future DFR). The Sovit Zine was a largely agricultural area and the Soviet reparations further reduced the industrial sector. The East Germans during the Cold War would blame their economic performance on the Soviet reparations. This was certainly part of the problem, but it does not seemed to have dawned on dedicated Communiusts that Communism itself was at the heart of their pronlems.

Soviet Withdrawl from the ACC (1948)

The Soviets began introducing a range of democratic and free market institutions in the Western (US, UK, and French) Zone. These reforms were unacceptable to the Soviets and German Communist leaders they were installing in their sector. As a result, the Soviets withdrew from the ACC (1948).

Berlin Air Lift (1948)

The status of West Berlin set deep in the Soviet sector became an especially contentious issue. Soviet and German Comminists objected to the obvious display of West German prosperity and political democracy. This led to many East Germans to flee to the West through Berlin. The Soviets deciced to force the West out by blockading West Berlin. Denied food and fuel, the Soviets assumed the West would have to abandon Berlin. President Truman's response was the Berlin Air Lift.

DDR Established (1949)

The Soviets set up the German Deutsche Demokratische Republik (DDR), often referred to as East Germany (1949). The DDR became a a socialist republic and was accepted into the Warsaw Pact. The first DDR leader was Walter Ulbricht. The East German Constitution defined the country as "a Republic of Workers and Peasants." The term socialist republic is misleading as socialism is an economic theory. he DDR was essentially a police state maintained by a very effective secret police the Stazi. There were sham elections, but power was in the hands of the Communist Party which appointed governing officials. The governing party was the “Sozialistische Einheitspartei in Deutschland” (SED). Germant today still has the successor-- “Partei des demokratischen Sozialismus” (PDS). They have in 2005 three parliament members in the Federal Parliament – Bundestag - in Berlin and even with some ministers in the government of Eastern states. The Einheitspartei” (United Party) was formed about 1950 when the Soviets and the East-German communists forced the eastern Social Democratic Party to unite with the Communists. Not only could DDR citizens not elect government officials, but basic civil rights were resticted, especially freedom of speech. Free trade unions were not allowed. The judicial system was also controlled by the Communist Party meaning there was no rule of law. The DDR did, however provide a range of social services, including education and healt care and a guaranteed job. Access to education was affected by a person's social-class background. Many in Eastern Germany today have found it difficult to adjust to a free market and the more narrow range of social services. The DDR governed East Germany until the fall of the Berlin Wall (1989) brought about the collapse of the Communist state (1990). The GDR was proclaimed in the Soviet sector of Berlin (October 7, 1949). he Western Occupation Zones were united to form the Federal Republic of Germany (FRG), commonly referred to as West Germany. West Germany became a liberal parliamentary democracy and was accepted into NATO.

East Berlin Uprising (June 17, 1953)

The working class in Germany before the NAZIs had been heavily politicied by left-wing politicians. Thus many workers in the Soviet occupation zone were willing to give socialism a chance. There were many true believers. Many would have acceoted Communist political control if they delivered on material benefits. Communists throughout Eastern Europe believed that they would be able to unleased the productive engine of socialism. By the early-1950s, it was clear, however. that this was not happening. And it is notable that the first real opposition to the Communists camed from workers in whose named the Communisrs y claimec to represent. The DDR raised the production quotas 10 percent for workers building the Stalinallee in East Berlin. It was to be a new showcase boulevard. The workers began demonstrating in protest. These demonstrations also occured in other cities. Soviet troops and tanks immediately intervened to stop the demonstrations. I am not sure if there has ever been a reliable account of the casualties. One reports suggests that the Soviets killed 125 demonstrators.

De-Stalinization (1956)

Many Soviet citizens hoped that the relaxation of political repression that occurred during the Great Patriotic war would continue and expand after the war. This did not occur. Instead Stalin aided by by fellow Georgian NKVD Chief Lavrentiy Beria began to retigten his grip. Bolstered by victory over Hitler and the NAZIs, that grip was unasiable. And the NKVD was an instrument of repression unparalleled in history, more formidable even than Hitler's SS. The Doctor's Plot was to usher in a sweeping repression of Soviet Jews and preceived opponents as well as a more agressive confrontation with the America and the West. Unfortunately for Stalin and fortunately for the world, one of the Jewish dictors arrested was Stalin;s own personal dictor. And while he was being beaten in the Lubyanka prison, Stalin suffered cebreal hemmorage that led to his death. Only then was a reform process possible, although not guaranteed. The struggle for power that followed was not over policy, but who would replace Stalin. Khruschev's sucess made deStalinzation possible. This began with the Soviet 20th Party Congress (1956). East German and other Eastern European delegates were at the Congres. They were as shocked as the soviet delegates. Assessments varied. Some were optimisytiv about a more humane form of Communism. Others were uneasy, understanding that only Soviet military force kept their regims in power. East German Communists began to complain to the Soviets that there policies were adversely affecting the DDR state and were in part responsible for people fleeing to the West.

Soviet Status

The Soviet forces based in Germany were titled the Group of Soviet Occupation Troops (1945-54). The Soviets in 1954 after granting what they called "full soverignity" to the DDR, redesignated their forces the Group of Soviet Forces in Germany (1954-89). The Soviet troops remained in strength. The DDR joined the Warsaw Pact. The Soviets redesignated their forces again after the fall of the Wall to the Western Group of Troops.

Sources

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

Naimark, Norman M. The Russians in Germany: A History of the Soviet Zone of Occupation, 1945-1949.







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Created: 6:55 AM 3/12/2005
Last updated: 3:03 PM 12/6/2015