Defeated Germany to Divided Germany 1945–9| 7
1 | The Seeds of Allied Disagreements andTensions: The Potsdam Conference
At the end of April 1945 Hitler committed suicide and thefollowing short-lived German government unconditionallysurrendered on 8 May. On 5 June, the Allies (Britain, France, theUSA and the USSR) took over joint control of all governmentresponsibilities in the defeated Germany. A major conference wasthen held at Potsdam just outside Berlin in July 1945. In relationto Germany, the conference aimed to deal with four main issues:disarmament,
, territorial adjustments and
. It is important to remember the German issue wasonly part of the conference discussions and much of the time wasspent discussing the war which the Allies were still ﬁghting in theFar East against Japan. The disagreements between the Allies atPotsdam provide an insight into the different aims and prioritiesof the occupying powers. The Potsdam Conference contributed tothe increasing tension between the Soviet leader Stalin and the Western Allies by bringing out into the open differing views andpriorities.
On the issue of demilitarisation the Allies found it easy to agree.Disarmament was a relatively straightforward process because allthe Allies agreed that Nazi expansionist policies had been thecause of the Second World War. This meant that the Allies agreedto the dismantling or destruction of any German factories usedfor building weapons or armaments, as well as the disbanding of Germany’s armed forces. It was not until the mid-1950s that bothGerman states were able to develop – and then verycontroversially – their own armed forces. However, by then theFRG and the GDR were ﬁrmly integrated respectively into thetwo rival military alliances of
The Nuremberg Trials
The Allies agreed to put leading Nazis on trial as war criminals.These trials took place in the German city of Nuremberg in 1946,chosen because of its close associations with the Third Reich asthe scene of Nazi rallies. Hitler, Goebbels and Himmler hadalready committed suicide. Altogether 22 leading Nazis were puton trial. Of these, 12 were sentenced to death on 1 October 1946(Göring mysteriously managed to obtain poison and commitsuicide the night before his execution, despite being held in aprison under Allied control and intense supervision), seven weregiven various prison sentences and three were acquitted.The seven Nazis who were sentenced were sent to Spandauprison, just north-west of Berlin. These included Hess, Hitler’sformer deputy, sentenced to life imprisonment, and Speer,Hitler’s Minister of Armaments and War Production from 1942.The four occupying powers had not previously planned theprison arrangements. They eventually agreed that they wouldeach staff Spandau prison on a monthly rotating basis and this
What was decided atPotsdam and whatissues were leftunresolved?
K e y d a t e s
Germanyunconditionallysurrendered:May 1945Potsdam Conference:July 1945Nuremberg Trials:1946
K e y t e r m s
The process of ridding Germany of the conditions andindividuals that were responsible forNazism.
Payments byGermany ascompensation forthe damage causedduring the Second World War.
The North AtlanticTreatyOrganisation, set upin 1949, which wasmade up of countries in Western Europe as well as the USA andCanada as a systemof mutual defence.
Set up in 1955 as amilitary alliance of Eastern Europeansocialist states bythe USSR inresponse to FRG’smembership of NATO.