What are the unresolved secrets of Stalin

Germany 1945-1949

In the summer of 1945 the heads of government of the three great powers, the USA, the Soviet Union and Great Britain, came together for their last war conference to determine in the so-called "Potsdam Agreement" how Germany should be treated in the future.

After the conclusion of the Yalta Conference in February 1945, the Allied heads of state Winston Churchill (Great Britain), Franklin D. Roosevelt (USA) and Josef Stalin (USSR) had their photos taken. (& copy Wikimedia)


The Second World War began with the German invasion of Poland on September 1, 1939. It reached secular proportions with the German invasion of the Soviet Union in June 1941 and the declaration of war on the USA in December 1941. It was a war of ideologies and a war of annihilation with no parallel in history. The number of victims of non-German nationality is estimated at 33 million, between four and five million Germans were killed. The Second World War was also unprecedented because of the crimes it served as a background: the genocide of European Jews, Sinti and Roma, the murder of prisoners of war, the murder of the disabled and the enslavement of Polish and Russian slave laborers. The extermination campaign under the sign of the National Socialist ideology of the German "mastermind" and the striving for world domination was opposed in the understanding of the Western Allied democracies with a crusade to liberate the world from National Socialism. The Soviet Union strove to be liberated from occupation and threats and then, under the sign of its expansive ideology, to expand and pacify its sphere of influence. This war ended with the total defeat of the aggressor, the elimination of his ideology and the punishment of most of his exponents through public trials.

Yalta Conference

The Allies had agreed on the treatment of Germany after its defeat at several conferences. From February 4 to 11, 1945, the "Big Three", US President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, British Prime Minister Winston Churchill and the Soviet dictator Josef Stalin met in Yalta on the Crimean peninsula.

In Yalta, Stalin was primarily concerned with getting Eastern and Southeastern Europe largely recognized as a sphere of interest of the Soviet Union. In view of Churchill's resistance, he wanted at least to achieve interpretable formulas with regard to Poland (recognition of the postponed eastern border with the Soviet Union and the Oder-Neisse line as the western border with Germany) and to have the Soviet role in relation to the Balkan states enshrined. Stalin was also interested in determining the amount of reparations that would have to be imposed on Germany and the portion that the USSR would receive from it. Stalin proposed a total of $ 20 billion, of which he asked for $ 10 billion. This demand was still to be discussed theoretically in Yalta; six months later in Potsdam it contributed considerably to the deterioration in relations with the Western powers.

The main concern of the American President Roosevelt at the Yalta Conference was to get Stalin to agree to war against Japan (after the defeat of Germany), and he wanted to ensure the cooperation of the Soviet Union in the establishment of the United Nations. The establishment of a permanent peace organization had been the US's most solemnly declared war goal since the Atlantic Charter of 1941. Third, like Churchill, Roosevelt did not want the Soviets' urge to expand in Eastern and Southeastern Europe to get completely out of hand.

The negotiations in Yalta were rather chaotic because the Western allies distrusted the Eastern partner, because so many bills of exchange had to be issued for an uncertain future and because the interests of the parties involved so varied. The scope of some of the appointments was therefore not to be found out until much later. For example the disastrous consequences for hundreds of thousands of Soviet citizens who - voluntarily or involuntarily - left their homeland in the wake of the German Wehrmacht. They were returned to the Soviet Union by repatriation commissions after May 8, 1945, whether they liked it or not, where a bleak future awaited most of them.

The decision of the Big Three to ensure the complete disarmament and demilitarization of Germany and to impose high reparations on the defeated enemy was important for Germany. And of considerable importance was the agreement to invite France (that is, its provisional government under Charles de Gaulle) as the fourth power to participate in Allied control of Germany and to grant the French their own zone of occupation. The French occupation zone was cut in the southwest from the American and British occupation areas that had already been defined; the Soviet zone was to remain unchanged. And France should also be involved in the joint administration of the capital Berlin. The originally planned division of Berlin into three sectors was corrected, France was assigned its own sector.

Just like the summit meeting in Yalta in February, de Gaulle was not invited to the last war conference in Potsdam from July 17 to August 2, 1945. The awareness of being viewed and treated only as a second-rate factor hurt immensely in Paris. This had consequences for French policy towards Germany in the next few years, because France initially blocked all joint decisions on Germany in order to achieve its own goals.

Plans to divide Germany

The plans and considerations for the division and fragmentation of Germany soon proved to be out of date in the final phase of the war. A British planning staff had already come to the conclusion in autumn 1944 that a political division of Germany would weaken its economic strength so that serious problems were to be expected: The new state structures would become dependent on other countries, the standard of living would fall, which would result in the The independence of the new states would be in jeopardy and the reduction of the German capacity with regard to the reparations to be paid. One of the main arguments of the British experts was the idea that dismemberment would impoverish Germany, slow the world’s recovery from the war damage and thus, in the long run, harm British economic interests. The legendary "Morgenthau Plan", with which the American Treasury Secretary Henry Morgenthau wanted to turn Germany into an agricultural country without industry, was also off the table at the end of 1944.

The British Chancellor of the Exchequer John Anderson had opposed plans to partition Germany in early March 1945. He, too, cited economic reasons when he wrote in a memorandum that, in his view, Britain could pursue either a reparations policy or a dismemberment policy, but certainly not both at once.

The intention to dissect Germany, as it was propagated at the Tehran summit conference of the anti-Hitler coalition in November 1943, apparently confirmed at the Crimean conference in February 1945 and institutionalized by the establishment of a corresponding commission, was actually buried in February 1945 . The economically-minded politicians in Washington and London did not want to harm themselves: a controlled German industry would both guarantee security and serve British economic interests while simultaneously disarming and demilitarizing Germany.

The British Foreign Minister Robert Anthony Eden tried to convince politicians of this, who only thought of holding down Germany: A handful of small German states would be economically ballast and politically a source of unrest for the winners of the world war. Both of these together would create a difficult to bear mortgage for the hoped-for new order in Europe.

The anti-communist slogans of National Socialist propaganda influenced the imagination of Germans well beyond 1945. Part of these slogans, because it was also used in the West during the Cold War era, was particularly effective and lasting, and also served as a consolation in defeat. The anti-communist slogans made it easier for West Germany to submit to the victors because they soon learned to understand them as protective powers against the Stalinist Soviet Union.