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) divided Germany. The basic division was made at Yalta and further defined at Postdam. The NAZIs leared that the Soviet Zone would in the north be at the Elbe River and thus the Wehrmacht and many civilians during the last days of the War attempted to reach the Western Zone. The four occupation zones—French in the southwest, British in the northwest, U.S. in the south, and Soviet in the east.

Allied Control Council

The victorious allies adopted a plan to administer occupied Germany throughj a four-power Allied Control Council (ACC) composed of the United States, United Kingdom, France, and the Soviet Union.

Soviet Zone Established

After the first days of occupation 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.

Reparations

The Soviet Government persued a policy of reparations which included shipping whole factories to Russia. The NAZIs had devestated the western Soviet Union, Along with apauling attrocities, the NAZIs implemented a scoarched earh policy, destroying factories, schools, hospitals, public buildings, as wekll as homes as they retreated west. The S9viets souught to use German factory equipment to help rebuild the Soviet economy. It is unclear how beneficial this was 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.

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 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.

Se-Stalinization (1956)

After Stalin died (1953) and the Soviets began the de-Stalinization process with the 20th Party Congress (1956), 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

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: 11:38 PM 4/7/2005