Friday, 2 September 2011

A controversial plan for post-war Germany

At the Second Quebec Conference in the middle of September 1944, President Roosevelt and the US Secretary of the Treasury Henry Morgenthau tried to persuade Winston Churchill and the British delegation on a radical plan for post-war Germany.

The militaristic, Prussian tradition would be destroyed once and for all, ensuring that Germany could never again threaten the peace in Europe and the world. Part of this would be achieved by destroying the integrity of Prussia – dividing it between Germany, Poland and Russia.

The next stage of the plan was far more ambitious. Germany would be:

·         partitioned into two independent states – north and south (admittedly, not so very different from what happened upon partition between east and west Germany);

·         annexation or internationalisation of the industrial areas of the Saar, Ruhr and Upper Silesia;

·         all heavy industry in the remaining territory of Germany to be dismantled or destroyed.

The aim was to return the bulk of Germany to a pre-industrial past, or, as the memorandum of the conference put it, “converting Germany into a country primarily agricultural and pastoral in its character”.

The plan was never put into effect. The combination of practicalities (it was estimated that if fully implemented it would have resulted in the death of 25 million Germans unable to support themselves in a purely agricultural economy) and realpolitik (a strong West Germany became a lynchpin to the USA’s Cold War strategy).

U.S. Secretary of State Cordell Hull and U.S. Secretary of War Henry Stimson firmly opposed the policy as did Anthony Eden (at the time Foreign Secretary). In its place came the Marshall Plan, which had almost the exact opposite intention and result to the Morgenthau Plan and saw Germany quickly resume its position as one of the world’s leading industrial and manufacturing nations. 

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