Allied Military Government of Germany

Military occupation
Flag of Germany (1935-45) 1945–1955 Flag of the Saar Protectorate
Flag of the Bourbon Restoration
Flag of Germany
Flag of East Germany
Occupied Germany
Occupied Berlin (1990) Flag of Germany
Status Military occupation
Military Governor
- 1945Dwight D. Eisenhower
- 1945George S. Patton, Jr.
- 1945-1947Joseph T. McNarney
- 1947-1949Lucius Clay
- 1949Clarence R. Huebner
High Commissioner
- 1949-1952John J. McCloy
- 1952Walter J. Donnelly
- 1952-1953Samuel Reber
- 1953-1955James B. Conant
May 8, 1945 Surrender of Germany
June 5, 1945Allied occupation
January 1, 1947Bizone formed
September 7, 1949West Germany formed
October 7, 1949East Germany formed
May 5, 1955Occupation of West Germany ends
September 21, 1955Occupation of East Germany ends
March 15, 1991Allied control ends
Flag of Germany (1935-45) Third Reich Saar Flag of the Saar Protectorate
Ruhr Flag of the Bourbon Restoration
West Germany Flag of Germany
East Germany Flag of East Germany

The Allied Military Government of Germany (1945-1955) was a period when Germany was put under military occupation by the Allied powers of World War II. On May 5, 1955 the occupation of West Germany ended and on September 21 the same year the occupation of East Germany ended. However, the occupation continued in the city of Berlin until 1991, following German reunification.

Background Edit

On May 8, 1945, the unconditional surrender of the German armed forces (Wehrmacht) was signed by Field Marshal Wilhelm Keitel in Berlin, ending World War II for Germany. The German people were suddenly confronted by a situation never before experienced in their history: the entire German territory was occupied by foreign armies, cities and infrastructure were largely reduced to rubble, the country was flooded with millions of refugees from the east, and large portions of the population were suffering from hunger and the loss of their homes. The nation-state founded by Otto von Bismarck in 1871 lay in ruins.[1]

Occupation Zones Edit

The total breakdown of civil administration throughout the country required immediate measures to ensure the rebuilding of civil authority. After deposing Admiral Karl Dönitz, Hitler's successor as head of state, and his government, the Allies issued a unilateral declaration on June 5, 1945, that proclaimed their supreme authority over German territory, short of annexation. The Allies would govern Germany through four occupation zones, one for each of the Four Powers--the United States, Britain, France, and the Soviet Union.

The establishment of zones of occupation had been decided at a series of conferences. At the conference in Casablanca, held in January 1943, British prime minister Winston Churchill's proposal to invade the Balkans and East-Central Europe via Greece was rejected. This decision opened the road for Soviet occupation of eastern Germany. At the Tehran Conference in late 1943, the western border of postwar Poland and the division of Germany were among the topics discussed. As a result of the conference, a commission began to work out detailed plans for the occupation and administration of Germany after the war. At the Yalta Conference in February 1945, participants decided that in addition to United States, British, and Soviet occupation zones in Germany, the French were also to have an occupation zone, carved out of the United States and British zones.

The relative harmony that had prevailed among the United States, Britain, and the Soviet Union began to show strains at the Potsdam Conference, held from July 17 to August 2, 1945. In most instances, Soviet leader Joseph Stalin was successful in getting the settlements he desired. One of his most far-reaching victories was securing the conference's approval of his decision to compensate Poland for the loss of territory in the east to the Soviet Union by awarding it administrative control over parts of Germany. Pending the negotiation of a peace treaty with Germany, Poland was to administer the German provinces of Pomerania, Silesia, and the southern portion of East Prussia. The forcible "transfer" to the west of Germans living in these provinces was likewise approved.

The movement westward of Germans living east of a line formed by the Oder and western Neisse rivers resulted in the death or disappearance of approximately 2 million Germans, while an estimated 12 million Germans lost their homes. The presence of these millions of refugees in what remained German territory in the west was a severe hardship for the local populations and the occupation authorities.

The conferees at Potsdam also decided that each occupying power was to receive reparations in the form of goods and industrial equipment in compensation for its losses during the war. Because most German industry lay outside its zone, it was agreed that the Soviet Union was to take industrial plants from the other zones and in exchange supply them with agricultural products. The Allies, remembering the political costs of financial reparations after World War I, had decided that reparations consisting of payments in kind were less likely to imperil the peace after World War II.

The final document of the Potsdam Conference, the Potsdam Accord, also included provisions for demilitarizing and denazifying Germany and for restructuring German political life on democratic principles. German economic unity was to be preserved.

The boundaries of the four occupation zones established at Yalta generally followed the borders of the former German federal states (Länder ; sing., Land ). Only Prussia constituted an exception: it was dissolved altogether, and its territory was absorbed by the remaining German Länder in northern and northwestern Germany. Prussia's former capital, Berlin, differed from the rest of Germany in that it was occupied by all four Allies--and thus had so-called Four Power status. The occupation zone of the United States consisted of the Land of Hesse, the northern half of the present-day Land of Baden-Württemberg, Bavaria, and the southern part of Greater Berlin. The British zone consisted of the Länder of Schleswig-Holstein, Lower Saxony, North Rhine-Westphalia, and the western sector of Greater Berlin. The French were apportioned the Länder of Rhineland-Palatinate, the Saarland--which later received a special status--the southern half of Baden-Württemberg, and the northern sector of Greater Berlin. The Soviet Union controlled the Länder of Mecklenburg, Brandenburg, Saxony, Saxony-Anhalt, Thuringia, and the eastern sector of Greater Berlin, which constituted almost half the total area of the city.

The zones were governed by the Allied Control Council (ACC), consisting of the four supreme commanders of the Allied Forces. The ACC's decisions were to be unanimous. If agreement could not be reached, the commanders would forego unified actions, and each would confine his attention to his own zone, where he had supreme authority. Indeed, the ACC had no executive authority of its own, but rather had to rely on the cooperation of each military governor to implement its decisions in his occupation zone. Given the immense problems involved in establishing a provisional administration, unanimity was often lacking, and occupation policies soon varied.

The French, for instance, vetoed the establishment of a central German administration, a decision that furthered the country's eventual division. Because they had not participated in the Potsdam Conference, the French did not feel bound to the conference's decision that the country would remain an economic unit. Instead, the French sought to extract as much as they could from Germany and even annexed the Saar area for a time.

The Soviet occupiers likewise sought to recover as much as possible from Germany as compensation for the losses their country had sustained during the war. Unlike the French, however, they sought to influence Germany as a whole and hoped to hold an expanded area of influence. In their own zone, the Soviet authorities quickly moved toward establishing a socialist society like their own.

The United States had the greatest interest in denazification and in the establishment of a liberal democratic system. Early plans, such as the Morgenthau Plan to keep Germans poor by basing their economy on agriculture, were dropped as the Soviet Union came to be seen as a threat and Germany as a potential ally.

Britain had the least ambitious plans for its zone. However, British authorities soon realized that unless Germany became economically self-sufficient, British taxpayers would bear the expense of feeding its population. To facilitate German economic self-sufficiency, United States and British occupation policies soon merged, and by the beginning of 1947 their zones had been joined into one economic area--the Bizone.[2]

Bizone Edit

By early 1946, the Western Allies--the United States and Britain in particular--had become convinced that Soviet expansionism had to be contained. The Soviet Union's seizure of Polish territory and the drawing of the Oder-Neisse border (which gave formerly German territory to Poland), its antidemocratic actions in other countries occupied by Soviet forces, and its policies toward areas such as Greece and Turkey persuaded Western leaders that the Soviet Union was aiming for communist domination of Europe. Churchill's use of the expression "Iron Curtain" to describe the Soviet cordoning off of a sphere of influence in Europe illustrated a basic change in attitude toward Soviet intentions on the part of Western leaders. As a result of this change, Germany came to be seen more as a potential ally than as a defeated enemy.

The change in attitude led United States officials to take a more active role in Germany. A notable early example of this policy change was a speech given in Stuttgart in September 1946 by the United States secretary of state, James F. Byrnes, proposing the transfer of administrative functions from the existing military governments to a single civilian German administration. Byrnes stated that the United States had not defeated the Nazi dictatorship to keep Germans suppressed but instead wanted them to become a free, self-governing, and prosperous people. The speech was the first significant indication that Germany was not to remain an outcast but was, according to Byrnes, to have "an honorable place among the free and peace-loving nations of the world."

Neither the Soviet Union nor France desired a revitalized Germany, but after intensive negotiations, a unified economic zone, the Bizone, consisting of the United States and British zones, was proclaimed on January 1, 1947. After a difficult beginning, the Bizone proved itself a success, and its population of 40 million began to benefit from an improving economy. Only in the spring of 1949, after a period of sustained economic growth, did the French occupation zone join the Bizone, creating the Trizone.

In mid-1947 the European Recovery Program, or Marshall Plan as it is more widely known, was announced. The plan's aim was to stimulate the economies on the continent through the infusion of large-scale credits for the promotion of trade between Europe and the United States. The United States stipulated only that Europe's economy was to be united and that Europeans were to participate actively in the administration of the program. The Soviet Union suspected that the proposal was a means to prevent it from harvesting the fruits of the victory over fascism. Deeming the proposal a direct affront to its communist ideology by "American economic imperialism," the Soviet Union promptly rejected participation in the program, as did the East European states, obviously acting on Soviet orders.

To fulfill the precondition of economic cooperation in Europe, sixteen Western countries joined the Organisation for European Economic Co-operation (OEEC--see Glossary) in early 1948. In April 1948, the United States Congress approved the Foreign Assistance Act, which arranged the provision of aid. Shortly thereafter, industrial products, consumer goods, credits, and outright monetary gifts started to flow into the impoverished economies of Western Europe. Cities, industries, and infrastructure destroyed during the war were rapidly rebuilt, and the economies of the war-torn countries began to recover. In the Western zones, aid from the Marshall Plan laid the foundations for the West German "economic miracle" of the 1950s.

A functioning currency system was also needed for a growing economy. The war economy of the National Socialist government had created an oversupply of currency not matched by a supply of goods. To combat the resulting black-market economy, especially noticeable in large cities, and to aid economic recovery in western Germany, a central bank was founded and a currency reform was proclaimed on June 19, 1948. The reform introduced the deutsche mark. In exchange for sixty reichsmarks, each citizen received DM40 (for value of the deutsche mark--see Glossary). Additionally, controls over prices and basic supplies were lifted by authorities, thus abruptly wiping out the black market.

The swift action of the Western powers took the Soviet authorities by surprise, and they quickly implemented a separate currency reform for their zone and all of Berlin. The Western powers, however, had already ordered the distribution of deutsche marks in their sectors of the city. This measure, which for the Soviet Union represented the culmination of the Western policy to undermine Soviet efforts to build a socialist society in its zone, produced a sudden dramatic reaction, the Soviet blockade of Berlin.

On June 24, 1948, Soviet troops blocked all road and rail connections to West Berlin. Within a few days, shipping on the Spree and Havel rivers was halted; electric power, which had been supplied to West Berlin by plants in the Soviet zone, was cut off; and supplies of fresh food from the surrounding countryside were suddenly unavailable. The Four Power status of Berlin, agreed upon by the Allied victors, had not included any provisions regarding traffic by land to and from Berlin through the Soviet zone. It had, however, established three air corridors from the Western zones to the city.

The three Western powers acted swiftly: an airlift of unprecedented dimensions was organized to supply the 2.5 million inhabitants of the Western sectors of Berlin with what they needed to survive. The United States military governor in Germany, General Lucius D. Clay, successfully coordinated the airlift, which deployed 230 United States and 150 British airplanes. Up to 10,000 tons of supplies were flown in daily, including coal and other heating fuels for the winter. Altogether, about 275,000 flights succeeded in keeping West Berliners alive for nearly a year.

The Soviet Union had not expected such Western resolve. Failing in its attempt to starve the Western Allies out of Berlin, it lifted the blockade on May 12, 1949. The Western Allies, led by the United States, had stood their ground without provoking armed conflict. Although the blockade had ended, its effects on Berlin were lasting. By June 16, 1948, realizing that it would not achieve its goal of a socialist Germany, the Soviet Union withdrew from the ACC, prompting the Western Allies to create a separate administration for their sectors. At the end of 1948, two municipal administrations existed, and Berlin had become a divided city. A more significant effect was perhaps that, in Western eyes, Berlin was no longer seen as the capital of Hitler's Germany but rather as a symbol of freedom and the struggle to preserve Western civic values.[3]

Federal Republic of Germany Edit

Participants at the Potsdam Conference had agreed that the foreign ministers of the four victorious powers should meet to implement and monitor the conference's decisions about postwar Europe. During their fifth meeting, held in London in late 1947, prospects for concluding a peace treaty with Germany were examined. Following lengthy discussions on the question of reparations, the conference ended without any concrete decisions.

The tense atmosphere during the talks and the uncooperative attitude of the Soviet participants convinced the Western Allies of the necessity of a common political order for the three Western zones. At the request of France, the Western Allies were joined by Belgium, the Netherlands, and Luxembourg at the subsequent Six Power Conference in London, which met in two sessions in the spring of 1948.

The recommendations of this conference were contained in the so-called Frankfurt Documents, which the military governors of the Western zones issued to German political leaders, the minister presidents of the Western Länder on July 1, 1948. The documents called for convening a national convention to draft a constitution for a German state formed from the Western occupation zones. The documents also contained the announcement of an Occupation Statute, which was to define the position of the occupation powers vis-à-vis the new state.

The minister presidents initially objected to the creation of a separate political entity in the west because they feared such an entity would cement the division of Germany. Gradually, however, it became apparent that the division of the country was already a fact. To emphasize the provisional nature of the document they were to draft, the minister presidents rejected the designation "constitution" and agreed on the term "Basic Law" (Grundgesetz). Final approval of the Basic Law, whose articles were to be worked out by a parliamentary council, was to be given by a vote of the Land diets, and not by referendum, as suggested in the Frankfurt Documents. Once the Allies had accepted these and other modifications, a constitutional convention was called to draft the Basic Law.

The convention met in August 1948 in Bavaria at Herrenchiemsee. After completing its work, the Parliamentary Council, consisting of sixty-five delegates from the respective Land diets and chaired by leading CDU politician Konrad Adenauer, met in Bonn in the fall of 1948 to work out the final details of the document. After months of debate, the final text of the Basic Law was approved by a vote of fifty-three to twelve on May 8, 1949. The new law was ratified by all Land diets, with the exception of the Bavarian parliament, which objected to the emphasis on a strong central authority for the new state. After approval by the Western military governors, the Basic Law was promulgated on May 23, 1949. A new state, the Federal Republic of Germany (FRG, or West Germany), had come into existence (see fig. 6).

The members of the Parliamentary Council that fashioned the articles of the Basic Law were fully aware of the constitutional deficiencies that had brought down the Weimar Republic. They sought, therefore, to approve a law that would make it impossible to circumvent democratic procedures, as had occurred in the past. The powers of the lower house, the Bundestag, and the federal chancellor were enhanced considerably at the expense of the federal president, who was reduced to a figurehead (see Government Institutions, ch. 7). Prime consideration was given to the basic rights and the dignity of the individual. The significance of the Länder was enhanced by their direct influence on legislation through representation in the upper house, the Bundesrat. The Basic Law also safeguarded parliamentary government by protecting the federal chancellor from being forced from power through a simple vote of no-confidence. Instead, a constructive vote of no-confidence was required, that is, the vote's sponsors were required to name a replacement able to win the necessary parliamentary support. The Basic Law also supported the principle of a free market, as well as a strong social security system. In summary, the new Basic Law showed striking similarities to the constitution of the United States. To underscore its provisional character, Article 146 of the Basic Law stated that the document was to be replaced as soon as all German people were free to determine their own future.

According to the Basic Law, the Federal Constitutional Court could ban a political party that aimed at obstructing or abolishing the system of democracy. The activities of a number of openly antidemocratic parties during the Weimar Republic had inspired the authors of the Basic Law to include this strong provision. In 1952 the Socialist Reich Party (Sozialistische Reichspartei--SRP), a successor to the NSDAP, became the first party to be banned. The SRP had maintained that the Third Reich still existed legally, and it had denied the legitimacy of the FRG as a state. A few years later, the KPD was also suspended. Although the KPD was at first represented in all Land parliaments, it gradually lost support. After 1951 the leadership of the KPD began to pursue an openly revolutionary course and advocated the overthrow of the government. After five years of deliberations, the Federal Constitutional Court declared the KPD unconstitutional.[4]

German Democratic Republic Edit

As with the birth of the FRG, the formation of a separate nation-state in the Soviet zone also took only a few years. In late 1947, the SED convened the "German People's Congress for Unity and a Just Peace" in Berlin. To demonstrate the SED's claim of responsibility for the political future of all Germans, representatives from the Western zones were invited. The congress demanded the negotiation of a peace treaty for the whole of Germany and the establishment of a German central government. An SED-controlled organization was founded to win support for the realization of these demands in all occupation zones.

The Second People's Congress, held in March 1948, proposed a referendum on German unity, rejected the Marshall Plan, and recognized the Oder-Neisse border, which separated the Soviet zone from territory that was administered by Poland but that had once been part of Germany. Thereafter, few Western politicians had any doubts about the goals of the SED-sponsored congress. The congress elected a People's Council and created a constitutional committee to draft a constitution for a "German Democratic Republic," which was to apply to all of postwar Germany. The constitutional committee submitted the new constitution to the People's Council, and it was approved on March 19, 1949.

The Third People's Congress, its membership chosen by the SED, met in May 1949, just after the ending of the Berlin blockade. Apparently reacting to current events in the Western zones, where the Basic Law establishing the West German government in Bonn had just been approved, the congress approved the draft constitution of the German Democratic Republic (GDR, or East Germany).

A new People's Council, elected during the Third People's Congress, was convened for the first time on October 7, 1949, and the constitution of the GDR went into effect the same day. The Soviet military administration was dissolved, and its administrative functions were transferred to East German authorities. The People's Council was renamed and began its work as the Volkskammer (People's Chamber), the parliament of the GDR. A second parliamentary chamber, the Länderkammer (Provincial Chamber), consisting of thirty-four deputies, was constituted by the five Land diets on October 11, 1949. Wilhelm Pieck became the first president of the GDR on the same day, and the newly formed cabinet, under the leadership of Otto Grotewohl, was installed on October 12, 1949.

According to the first constitution of the GDR, its citizens enjoyed certain basic rights, even the right to strike. In reality, however, there was little freedom. According to the constitution, both the Council of State (Staatsrat) and the Council of Ministers (Ministerrat) were elected by and responsible to the Volkskammer. All parties and mass organizations represented in this body were united in the National Front, under the ideological leadership of the SED. The Volkskammer was a mere forum for speeches and mock debates. In reality, all policy matters were decided by the Politburo of the SED, on which most important functionaries of the Council of State and the Council of Ministers had a seat.

The party structure of the SED had been reorganized in the image of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union even before the foundation of the GDR, and the system of nomenklatura (see Glossary), with its strict system of ideological education and selection of candidates for all functions in party and state, was introduced. Within a few months, East Germany became a model for all other satellites of the Soviet Union.[5]

Leaders Edit

Military Governors of Germany Edit

Military Governor of the American Zone

  • Dwight D. Eisenhower (May 8, 1945 - Nov 10, 1945)
  • George S. Patton, Jr., acting (Nov 10, 1945 - Nov 25, 1945)
  • Joseph T. McNarney (Nov 25, 1945 - Jan 5, 1947)
  • Lucius Clay (Jan 5, 1947 - May 14, 1949)
  • Clarence R. Huebner, acting (May 14, 1949 - Sep 1, 1949)

Military Governor of the British Zone

  • Sir Bernard Law Montgomery (May 22, 1945 - Apr 30, 1946)
  • Sir William Sholto Douglas (Apr 30, 1946 - Oct 31, 1947)
  • Sir Brian Hubert Robertson (Oct 31, 1947 - Sep 21, 1949)

Military Governor of the French Zone

  • Marie-Pierre Koenig (Jul 1, 1945 - Sep 21, 1949)

Military Governor of the Soviet Zone

  • Georgy Zhukov (Jun 9, 1945 - Apr 10, 1946)
  • Vasily Sokolovsky (Apr 10, 1946 - Mar 29, 1949)
  • Vasily Chuikov (Mar 29, 1949 - Oct 10, 1949)

Administrators in West Germany Edit

High Commissioner of the American Zone

  • John J. McCloy (Sep 2, 1949 - Aug 1, 1952)
  • Walter J. Donnelly (Aug 1, 1952 - Dec 11, 1952)
  • Samuel Reber, acting (Dec 11, 1952 - Feb 10, 1953)
  • James B. Conant (Feb 10, 1953 - May 5, 1955)

High Commissioner of the British Zone

  • Sir Brian Hubert Robertson (Sep 21, 1949 - Jun 24, 1950)
  • Sir Ivone Kirkpatrick (Jun 24, 1950 - Sep 29, 1953)
  • Sir Frederick Hoyer Millar (Sep 29, 1953 - May 5, 1955)

High Commissioner of the French Zone

  • André François-Poncet (Sep 21, 1949 - May 5, 1955)

President of the Federal Republic of Germany

  • Theodor Heuss (May 23, 1949 - May 5, 1955)

Administrators in East Germany Edit

Chairman of the Soviet Control Commission

  • Vasily Ivanoivich Chuikov (Oct 10, 1949 - May 28, 1953)

High Commissioner of the Soviet Zone

  • Vladimir Semyonovich Semyonov (May 28, 1953 - Jul 16, 1954)
  • Georgy Maksimovich Pushkin (Jul 16, 1954 - Sep 20, 1955)

President of the German Democratic Republic

  • Wilhelm Pieck (October 7, 1949 - Sep 21, 1955)


Germany After World War II


  1. The Library of Congress: Germany - A Country Study, Chapter2: Postwar Occupation and Division
  2. The Library of Congress: Germany - A Country Study, Chapter2: Postwar Occupation and Division
  3. The Library of Congress: Germany - A Country Study, Chapter2: Postwar Occupation and Division
  4. The Library of Congress: Germany - A Country Study, Chapter2: Postwar Occupation and Division
  5. The Library of Congress: Germany - A Country Study, Chapter2: Postwar Occupation and Division