(COLD WAR: 1945-49 – continued)
The U.S. had been urging the Soviet Union to conform to the agreement at Potsdam that Germany be treated as one economic unit. The U.S. wanted to move ahead with German reunification while the Soviet Union remained uninterested. The U.S. and Britain merged their zones of occupation. And from the reunification issue came the crisis over Berlin – a city deep in the Soviet zone of occupation and a city itself divided into zones of occupation. The Western powers issued a new currency in their zones. The Soviet Union retaliated on June 23, 1948, by cutting access by the Western powers to Berlin, and the U.S. and Britain countered with what was called the Berlin Airlift, which was to last to May 1949.
In February, 1949, average daily delivery of goods by the U.S and Britain by airplane to West Berlin was 5,437 tons. In March it increased to 6,328 tons per day. In April this climbed to 7,845 tons per day. More tonnage of goods was being transported over the air bridge than had been delivered to West Berlin by truck, rail and barge prior to March 1948. [link]
While the U.S. and Britain were conducting their airlift to Berlin, their strategists were considering a defense organization for Europe. U.S. intelligence had no information telling them that the Soviet Union was preparing to march into Western Europe or even thinking about it, but there was belief that a defensive force should come into existence anyway. On April 4, 1949, five nations joined together in a defensive alliance called the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). Membership soon increased to twelve: Belgium, Canada, Denmark, France, Iceland, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Britain and the United States. Parties to the treaty pledged their faith in "the purposes and principles" of the UN and their "desire to live in peace with all peoples and all governments." They pledged their determination "to safeguard the freedom, common heritage and civilization of their peoples, founded on the principles of democracy, individual liberty and the rule of law" and to "seek to promote stability and well-being in the North Atlantic area."
Stalin did not want war. He dropped a hint that he wanted settlement of the crisis in Germany, and the United States began secret negotiations with the Russians: the Jessup-Malik negotiations. In May, the Soviet Union lifted its blockade and the Western powers lifted a counter blockade. Both sides claimed victory, and a meeting between the Russians and the western powers took place. The meeting's closing communiqué acknowledged that no agreement had been reached on the economic and political unity of Germany, but it did describe Germany's occupation powers (the Soviet Union, the U.S., et cetera) as duty bound to take necessary measures which would assure a normal functioning of traffic and other communications to and from Berlin.
The Western Powers still had no written access rights to Berlin, other than the air corridor agreements of 1946-47. The Soviet Union had not been able to eliminate the Berlin window to the West. The zones occupied by the Western powers now became the German Federal Republic, a federation of German states also known as West Germany. Parliamentary elections were held in August, 1949, and the Federal Republic of Germany was officially declared on September 15, 1949. Theodor Heuss was elected first President of the Republic, and Konrad Adenauer was elected as chancellor.
In West Germany, the Americans had been gaining respect. Adenauer was openly associating himself with the United States and many Germans viewed their country's future as aligned with the United States. There was still the view that people who had abandoned Germany during World War II, such as Willy Brandt, had been traitors, but admiration for fascism was dying a natural death. Leftists in West Germany were blaming wars on capitalism, and some of Germany's Social Democrats wanted more central planning. But what was coming to the fore in West Germany instead was a belief that the best way to recover from the war was to let the economy run freely. This was about to bring what would be described as West Germany's economic miracle.
Stalin decided to consolidate and solidify the Soviet Union's gains in Eastern Europe. That was his reaction to his inability to prevent the formation of the West German government and his recognizing that the tide had turned in Western Europe with the Marshall Plan, NATO and the failure of the Berlin blockade. A part of his reaction was the creation of a rival German government in the Soviet zone of occupation. The Soviet Union tried to make the regime in East Germany look democratic by creating a coalition government consisting of members of the Social Democratic Party and others who had opposed Hitler. But few of the Social Democrats in the Soviet sector were interested in joining such a government. So orders came down from Moscow compelling Social Democrats to join the government. Those Social Democrats who resisted mysteriously disappeared. Some others were sent to Buchenwald – a concentration camp in the Soviet zone that had been converted to Soviet uses. And some were sent to Siberia. The forced integration between the Communist Party and the Social Democrats in the Soviet zone produced what was called the Socialist Unity Party (Sozialistische Einheitspartei Deutchlands) – a party subservient to Moscow. The Soviet zone, on October 7, 1949, became the German Democratic Republic (GDR), or East Germany, with East Berlin as its capital.
In 1949, Stalin conducted another of his purges of Communist Party officials within the Soviet Union – officials numbering more than one thousand. Meanwhile, in countries that had accepted the Marshall Plan, business confidence was rising. Between 1947 and 1949 these countries enjoyed a 25 percent rise in total output of goods and services. Agriculture was also improving, and agriculture was being revolutionized with the arrival of tractors and fertilizers from the United States. Inflation was being brought under control – except in France. The average European still could not buy a refrigerator, automobile, canned foods, washbasins or sinks, but goods were beginning to reappear in shop windows and life was becoming brighter.
Copyright © 2000-2011 by Frank E. Smitha. All rights reserved.