Churchill, Truman & Stalin at Potsdam, July 1945
Churchill, Truman & Stalin at Potsdam, July 1945

UCSB Hist 133c, L08:
The Goals of the Potsdam Conference
lecture on Jan. 27, 2006 (L07; L09)

by Professor Harold Marcuse (homepage)
contact: marcuse@history.ucsb.edu
page created Jan. 28, 2006, updated 2/9/06


Introduction
Film Clip
Conference Planning
The 4 Ds
Denazification
Democratization
Three Rs

Introduction (back to top)

  • The underlying questions for this lecture were:
    • What were the Allies' goals in Germany after WW2?
    • How did they attempt to accomplish them?
    • As far as "learning lessons from history" goes, these questions are very relevant for thinking about policy options for post-invasion Iraq today (see some 2004 comparisons)

Film Clip: Scenes of German Life 1945-1949 (back to top)

  • I began lecture with a film clip to supply some images of what, concretely, this period looked like.
    • 1994 film "From Partition to Unity" (6 min. clip from beginning of film)
    • somber tone of divided country pulling itself up by its bootstraps, turns optimistic
      • Allies concerned with destroying/rooting out the old
      • Germans concerned with nurturing the young
      • scenes of ruined Berlin and the Potsdam conference
      • scenes from the liberated concentration camps
      • happy children and women stacking and cleaning bricks
      • turning steel helmets into strainers
      • growing differences between US & Soviet Union
      • partitioning of Berlin
      • currency reform (June 1948), Soviet blockade of Berlin, western airlift to Berlin
      • founding of East & West German state

Conference Planning for post-victory (back to top)

  • October 1943: Moscow conference
    • SU, UK, US & China agree to act together in fighting against Germany
    • postwar aims for Italy, Austria laid out
    • Italy: precursors for Germany's "denazification"--
      • "All institutions and organizations created by the Fascist regime shall be suppressed."
      • "All Fascist or pro-Fascist elements shall be removed from the administration and from institutions and organizations of a public character."
    • statement on atrocities: threatened swift justice for those responsible for mass slaughters
    • Avalon project: Moscow declaration
  • November 1943: SU, UK & US meet at Tehran
  • February 1945: Yalta/Crimea conference: again the big three
  • July-Aug. 1945: Potsdam conference (suburb of Berlin; Prussian residential castle)
    • Two main issues:
      • 1. new national borders
      • 2. reparations
      • also political goals: "4 Ds" (next section, below)
      • But: vague language concealed underlying differences (see textbook pp.132f)
    • Participants:
      • Stalin (as at previous conferences)
      • Truman replaced Roosevelt (had died unexpectedly Apr. 12)
      • Attlee replaced Churchill (Labor Party victory)
    • Truman found out about successful test of atom bomb (Truman library documents)
    • Avalon project: Potsdam protocol

The 4 Ds (back to top)

  • The number is NOT canonical: usually 3 mentioned, sometimes 4, in Germany I learned 5
  1. Demilitarization (not the "pastoralization" of the Fall 1943 Morgenthau Plan)
  2. Denazification: two differenct approaches
    • "...is like delousing: you get rid of the Nazis": hard-line, e.g. Nuremberg trials
    • or softer approach: cleanse the Nazi mindset
    • What to do with the "fellow travelers"?
      Soviets: remove structural causes of Nazism (textbook p. 144)
      US (Fr & GB): individual responsibility--classify according to commitment to Nazism
    • sample problem: using party membership as a criterion
      joined before 1937: did it out of inner conviction, but didn't know how evil Nazism was
      joined after 1938: had to in order to make a living, but knew well about Nazi crimes
    • fundamental W-E difference: use of individual ideals or public actions as core criteria
  3. Democratization: What is democracy? How to implement it?
    • A positive goal, in contrast to the negatives of 1 & 2
    • Reeducation: problems with practicing what you preach
  4. Decartellization: break up the corporate congomerates that had supported Nazism
    (IG Farben=chemicals, Thyssen=steel, Siemens=electronics)
  5. Decentralization: Germany as a federation of semi-autonomous states

Denazification (back to top)Denazification Laundry

The "Denazification Laundry"

  • June 1946 political cartoon
  • The banner reads:
    "For one repentant sinner there is more joy than for ten just people."
  • The inscription on the barrel:
    "Denazificator, patent H. Schmitt"
    Schmitt was the minister of denazification in Bavaria. He was criticized for his lax treatment of former Nazis,
  • The text reads:
    Jump right in! What can happen to you,
    You black sheep from the brown house!
    You'll be painlessly rehabilitated.
    As white lambs you'll come out at the end.
    We know already: You weren't the ones!
    (The others are always guilty --)
    How quickly to the good the bad can change
    As we see in black and white in this picture.

Democratization (back to top)

Democracy: socialist vs. capitalist conceptions

  • Consensus on democracy as a goal at Potsdam conference, butů
  • Soviet: based on economic equality first
    • use of political parties to mediate interests
    • example: NDPD for former Nazis--like legalizing drugs, brings them into the open and makes them easier to monitor and control
  • Western: one person, one vote--always equal no matter how powerful/influential the person
    • but many preferred the policies of communist and socialist groups, and did not vote for the Western-friendly parties
    • this led the US to annul or manipulate some elections (Fulbrook 1992, 140: Nazi elected mayor); Hesse state constitution delayed
    • comparison to Iraq: don't want the pro-Saddam Hussein Bathists and Sunnis in control (but need to have their support of the new government); also don't want Saddam's main opponents, the Shiites (also the dominant party in our headache country Iran), to create a state according to their values, either.
      In post-1945 Germany: don't want former Nazis in control, but need their support; don't want the Nazi-opposing communists and socialists to implement their ideas, either.
  • Actual "third way" (Germans left to their own devices)
    • example of the "Free Republic of Schwarzenberg" (Thuringia), 1984 book by Stefan Heym (wiki Schwarzenberg page)
    • county left unoccupied by both US and SU until July 1945

 (at right) widespread dissatisfaction:
Munich students demonstrate again hunger, 1947

(below) strong socialist movements, in all zones:
Ruhr miners demand socialization of factories, 1947

Ruhr miners demand socialization of factories in 1947
students demonstrate against food policy, Munich, 1947

2 or 3 Rs of Potsdam Conference (back to top)

  • Reeducation
    • the positive means of democratization (opposite of denaz)
    • initially: punishment ("rub noses in excrement") (remember "Vansittartism" & long-term "special path")
    • later: independence to practice democratic behaviors
  • Reparations
    • economic scarcity makes democratization more difficult (images of demonstrations from last time)
  • Resettlement / Refugees
    • did not make anything any easier!

prepared for web by Harold Marcuse, Jan. 28, 2006, updated: see header
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