The Cold War in Germany
(Melbourne: World Unity Publications, 1950),
258 pages. UCSB: DD257.B87.
The Split in Germany: Was it the Fault of the United States?
book essay by Aaron Johnson
For Prof. Marcuse’s upper division lecture course Germany since 1945
UC Santa Barbara, Winter 2004
About the author:
The Split in Germany: Was it the fault of the United States?
The book Cold War in Germany by Wilfred G. Burchett, written in 1950, represents the view of a British journalist who traveled in Germany and the Soviet Union for three years after World War II had ended. The purpose of the author behind the publication of this book is to show the slanted view of the events that took place surrounding the split in Germany. Burchett argues that there was a direct conspiracy to split Germany even before World War II ended as well as afterwards because it would benefit the United States and its economy to have a split Germany, half of which the United States would control.
Burchett breaks down the major issues of post-war Germany, which include: the food crisis myth, land reform in the east and the west, the occupation of the city of Berlin, the non-socialization of the Ruhr, disarming Germany and finally the "wreckers of Potsdam". He explains how each of these elements was presented to the public through the media and that the Soviets were blamed for many of the negotiation problems encountered when trying to decide exactly how to split Germany. For example, the negotiations between the four leaders of Britain, France, the United States, and Russia ended with Soviet Marshall Sokolovsky walking out of a meeting because the other leaders did not want to discuss pertinent information for the unification of Germany. He left the meeting declaring that "The session is closed." (Burchett, 38) Following this meeting on March 20, 1948, "concrete, practical measures were taken in those days by the Western Allies to ensure that Germany should finally be split." (Burchett, 38) Therefore, it can clearly be seen that the information received by the public was skewed and favored the viewpoints and aims of the Western Allies. It also shows that the Western Allies, particularly the United States, were trying to be un-negotiable with the Russians so that there would be no chance for the re-unification of Germany.
Propaganda is a powerful tool for influencing the minds of a nation. The United States used the tool of propaganda to further its aims directly following World War II. In the eyes of Americans and other western Europeans, the Russians were considered to be the nation trying to gobble up all of Eastern Europe. "If there was something positive to report in the way of four-power co-operation, trade agreements between the Soviet Zone and the west, it was always left to the correspondents to dig it out for themselves. If there was anything that could be given an anti-Soviet twist, the Roneo [mimeograph] machine were soon churning it out . . ." (Burchett, 195) However, Burchett argues that the Russians were not responsible for the division of Germany and consequently the Cold War as portrayed by the media, but the blame falls on the United States for its policies which were primarily economically based.
The issue of currency reform was the one on which the unity of Germany was to be decided. After World War II, the old marks and Allied occupation marks were worth close to nothing and a new currency was needed. It was believed that if the Allies could agree on one currency for all of Germany that there would be hope for a gradual agreement on other issues, primarily economic matters. However, for several months in 1948, there had been propaganda fed to the western German press that the Russians had been printing new notes of their own that they intended to distribute in the Soviet Zone. A report by the head of British Finance Division, Mr. Chambers, saw only minor differences between the Soviet and British plans for a united currency. Mr. Chambers was immediately fired and new stories were churned out stating that "the Russians and the Russians alone were blocking currency reform because they wanted to issue their own currency with no control of the amounts issued." (Burchett, 40) However, upon closer inspection and after an interview Burchett had with one of General Clay’s financial advisors, it is apparent that the United States did not want a united currency at all. Clay’s advisor told Burchett:
"The Russians have agreed to everything and it’s going to be as
embarrassing as hell to wriggle out of it now . . . We had everything
ready for something quite different and then Clay had to go and put his
god-damned big foot in it.
The United States already had plans for a new currency and had printed notes of their own which were distributed three months after the decision was made for a non-united currency. This is an example of one of the major conflicts that was not resolved for the unification of Germany because the United States did not find currency reform to be economically in its best interest.
The problem of disarmament was also one that plagued the conflict between the eastern and western blocs of Germany that were clearly becoming more split. The West Berlin press began to run stories that the Soviets were actually secretly building warships at the shipyards at Rostock because shipyards were not included in the terms of disarmament. The Russians called the bluff of the Allied propaganda and inspection teams that were inspecting the installations in the Soviet bloc were not only allowed to inspect their shipyards, but also all military installations could be inspected as well. In the British and American zones, disarmament had barely begun and they were stalling on some of the most vital aspects of de-militarization. The Western allies therefore did not pursue the full disarmament of the Soviet bloc because they did not want to reciprocate and allow the Soviet inspection teams to see how little they had actually disarmed. Google marcuse 133c to find where this essay is published on the web. Instead, a new line of propaganda was fed to the public stating how if the Soviets did not open up all of their military sites as well as industrial plants for the Allied teams to inspect, that they did not want any more Soviet representatives roaming around in the British and American zones. Ernest Bevin, Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs for Britain, spoke during a House of Commons debate on Germany on Thursday, July 22, 1949 regarding his involvement in disarmament: "I said I would complete the dismantling of what were called Number 1 war plants, by June, 1948. I tried my best but I was completely hampered by the Allies. ‘By whom?’ from a questioner. The Americans . . ." (Burchett, 199: Mr. Bevin, defending himself from Tory attacks on the dismantling policy in Germany) According to Burchett, the Soviets cooperated according to the Potsdam Agreement: "In the Soviet Zone, the dismantlings were completed long before January, 1948 . . . In Western Germany exactly the opposite is true." (Burchett, 203-204) This non-cooperation with the Potsdam Agreement by the Western Allies was due in large part to the United States who saw Germany as the front lines against the spread of communism and therefore did not want to see West Germany completely disarmed. The United States used its power to persuade leaders. An example of this was: "demilitarization was abandoned by Mr. Bevin on his own admission because of American pressure." (Burchett, 199) This pressure put on the other Western Allies by the United States shows that the best cooperative policies were not always carried out because they did not coincide with the political and economic aims of the United States.
By 1950, although the West German economy was faring better than that of the Eastern bloc, a survey carried out in the British zone showed that most Germans believed "the revival of a totalitarian regime would do most to restore German morale." (Burchett, 249) There were four steps included in this process of re-moralization: improved economic conditions, the establishment of a strong German state with reaffirmed authority, a banning of foreign films, novels, dances, and the introduction of labor camps. This cynicism of Germans was due to the fact that in the news every week there was a scandal in which a Western Allied officer was involved ranging from everything from the theft of crown jewels to stealing a few hundred cartons of army cigarettes. The Western Allies policy: "by words condemned Nazism as the greatest evil which had befallen the German people, and by deeds glorified all the components of Nazism, intolerance, and above all, anti-Bolshevism." (Burchett, 249) This is an example of the hypocrisy of the Western Allied occupation. The Western Allies, especially the Americans, were pouring money into Germany through the Marshall Plan and in exchange were taking goods from Germany and investing in heavy German industry. Therefore, the split between the eastern and western blocs was merely so that the United States could bully Britain and France into submission and then exploit Germany for its useful industries.
Not only did the United States bully Britain and France into submission so that it could exploit German industries, but it also forgot about all the atrocities that were committed by the Germans during the war. While visiting Berlin after the war, Burchett found that in "the atmosphere in the Allied clubs . . . it was regarded as seriously ‘bad form’ to mention the record of German troops in the occupied countries, or the torture and execution of ten million men, women and children." (Burchett, 77) Even though the German middle-class knew what was taking place when the synagogues were burned and the shops looted in November 1938, official recognition was given by the highest British and American officers that Germans were "innocent" on these matters. Even General Robertson, then British Military Governor, issued a statement on June, 4 1948 stating that the Germans: "are a Christian and civilized people to whom we can no longer bear any ill-will . . . A people who had fallen under evil influences during the war." (Burchett, 78) During the war when Russia’s help was needed to defeat Germany and Japan the Allies were on friendly terms with the Russians, but as soon as the war was over the rest of the Allies turned their backs on the Russians. They forgot the grievances that they had had against the Germans and instead turned their aggression towards the Soviets. This is an example of the split between the Russians and other Allies that occurred directly following the war. It was a direct result of the hostile intentions of the United States to gain the acquisitions in Germany that it wanted.
However, since this book was written in 1950, which was only five years into the Cold War and the split in Germany, there is information that Burchett did not have access to at this point in history that slanted his view on Allied interactions.. For example, Burchett states that "Despite thousands of stories about Russian rapings, in three and a quarter years in Berlin, I never met a German woman who herself had been raped, but there were an enormous number in Berlin’s West-end who would willingly go to bed with any soldier for twenty cigarettes." (Burchett, 75) There are now compilations of the names of the women who have come forward to tell their stories about the violent actions of the Russian soldiers in Germany at the end of World War II. Additionally, Burchett contradicts himself when he states "The abuse hurled at Russia for her policy in Germany is based only on the fact that she carried out to the letter the principles and objectives outlined in the Potsdam Agreement." (Burchett, 206) Burchett states earlier in his book that the Russians destroyed everything according to the Potsdam Agreement, except for the reparations that they felt were due to them. Although Burchett does have some information that has been slanted to fit his viewpoint, the rest of his information seems very accurate and comes from reliable sources that were available to him as a journalist.
Therefore, the issues of currency reform, disarmament, and the distrust of the German people of the occupying Allies are all factors showing the reasons for the split of Germany and the beginnings of the Cold War. These factors make it clear that the Russians were trying to not only unify a neutral Germany, but were complying with all of the requests of the Western Allies. The United States wanted a split between the two blocs so that it could control the western bloc and would not have to share power with another country. Additionally, the United States wanted to be economically linked with western Germany so that it could invest in the German heavy industries and exploit the resources and available markets that Germany had to offer. It is evident that the United States used propaganda to portray the Soviet Union as the bully in Europe, when it was really the United States who was actually the power-hungry country stirring up conflict.
Verena Botzenhart-Viehe, The German Reaction to the American Occupation,
1944-1947(UCSB: Viehe Publications (dissertation), 1980), 220 pages.
Lucius Clay, Decision in Germany (New York: Doubleday and Company
Inc, 1950), 522 pages. UCSB: DD257.C5
Terence Prittie, Germany Divided (Boston: Little, Brown and Company,
1960), 381 pages. UCSB: DD257.P97