The Rebirth of Europe

Division, Reconstruction and Integration of a continent (1945-1949)

Seminar Paper, 2010
24 Pages, Grade: 2,0


I.) Introduction

II.) Re-Shaping Europe after World War II
2.1) Europe in 1945
2.2) The German Question
2.3) The Soviet-Satellite System

III.) The Beginnings of the Cold War
3.1) Winston Churchill
3.2) The Truman Doctrine

IV.) Rebuilding Europe – The Marshall Plan
4.1) Need and Intentions
4.2) Assistance for Eastern Europe
4.3) Conditions
4.4) OEEC and Results
4.5) Soviet Response
4.6) Effects and consequences

V.) Additional Steps towards a European integration
5.1 The Brussels Pact
5.2 The Council of Europe

VI.) Assessment and conclusion

VII.) Bibliography

VIII.) Attachments

I.) Introduction

The following essay aims at depicting the European continent in the way it emerged from the ruins of he Second World War and how it presented itself in the immediate years thereafter. In a first step it will be shown how exactly the victorious powers of the war, namely the United States and the Soviet Union, set about re-shaping the continent along ideological, cultural and political lines. Secondly, the many efforts conducted in order to solve the continent's vastly economic problems will also be depicted. Finally it will be outlined in what manner these and other decisions can ultimately be perceived as the foundations of institutions which eventually led to the European integration process.

II.) Re-Shaping Europe after World War II

2.1) Europe in 1945

At the end of the second World War, great parts of Europe lay in ruins. Sixty million[1] people had died in the wake of the five-year fighting, with forty million[2] of them alone on the European Continent. Moreover, half of all European casualties were civilians[3] . In addition to this vast amount of lives lost in this tragic conflict, nearly twenty million people had been forced to leave their homes and belongings due the cruel mass deportations conducted by the Nazis into the labour and extermination camps.[4] Thus Europe did not only have to cope with its casualties but also with a vast number of displaced and homeless persons. Having been torn out of their former existence, these people now had nowhere to go and faced a future of personal hardship.[5]

Yet the second World War did not only bring about the death of millions of peoples, but also the total or partial destruction of many of the continents major cities on account of constant air-bombing or due to fierce and heavy ground fighting; as a result the damages dealt to the infrastructure of many of the continent's nations were immense[6] . Important industries and good-producing factories had been destroyed, entire road networks and railway systems had either been severed or entirely put out of use, and many countries simply lacked the transportation means to keep national, much less international trade going.[7]

However, logistical difficulties were by far not the only problems the war-torn nations faced at the time. Probably even worse, many countries suffered from a shortage of key resources and raw materials like carbon and steel[8] . In addition, a severe shortage of food supply was threatening the continent. Not only had many harvests fallen victim to the fighting as well, but due to the fact that many farmers had been enlisted in the army, many fields had not been worked and thus couldn't produce the needed amount of food. In addition, animals important for farming work and producing food had also been killed in the war.[9]

Above the dire consequences of economical bankruptcy, Europe also had to deal with a shattered political landscape. As a direct result of the war, many former political structures and institutions had broken down: Many former governments were no longer accepted by the population, either because they had collaborated with the Nazis, hadn't been able to avert the occupation of their homeland in the first place or because they had been in exile too long. In addition, western Europe now saw the rise and support of strong communist movements and sentiments.[10]

2.2) The German Question

At the heart of any hopes for a peaceful Europe stood in particular the delicate question concerning the future of Germany, which, after the defeat of the Nazi-Regime, would certainly be essential to the success of a European integration process. Even before Nazi-Germany's eventual defeat in May 1945, the leaders of the Allied Nations had put great thought and consideration as to how it was to be dealt with after the Second World War had come to an end and what role it was to play henceforth in the international community. Opinions on the matter differed widely within the alliance, most notably between the United States and the Soviet Union. Therefore the future of Germany was one of the most important issues of the Yalta Conference in February 1945, which was attended by the „great“ three leaders, namely Joseph Stalin, Winston Churchill and Franklin D. Roosevelt.[11]

At Yalta, a number of highly important issues were settled. First, the Allies reinforced their intention that they had „[]agreed on common policies and plans for enforcing the unconditional surrender terms which we shall impose on Nazi Germany after German armed resistance has been finally been crushed.“[12] In addition, they consented on a profound De-Nazification and De-Militarization of Germany and demanded reparation payments on its part in the form of confiscation of capital equipment. Probably most essential of all, the establishment of military zones in an occupied post-war Germany was agreed upon, with France becoming the fourth member of a joint control commission[13] .

At the Potsdam Conference held in July of the same year, attended by the new US President Henry Truman, Soviet Leader Josef Stalin and the new British Prime Minister Clement Attlee, the Allies then took further steps towards shaping the post-war world.[14]

A major issue revolved around Germany's industrial and economical power[15] . Here, Stalin energetically stood firm on his point that Germany was to undergo a complete and full-scale industrial dismantling and De-Militarisation process. This resulted of course from a profound fear on the part of the Soviet Union that Germany might again make use of its industrial potential and abundant resources to wage another devastating war against it. Yet it were, however, not only the Soviets who feared a re-strengthening of Germany, but other nations as well. Most notably France was concerned with the idea that Germany might once again become the aggressor of another major conflict[16] . Naturally this mistrust and fear were likely to pose a major obstacle for a European integration process.

In the end the participants settled on two major points concerning the German economy: First, Germany was to be subjected to a profound De-Cartalisation an De-concentration of its industrial power[17] . In order to achieve this, the heavy industry was to be reduced to fragmented industrial units and the major industrial and resource-processing cartels of the Ruhr-area had to be dismantled. Secondly, the over-all level and quantity of Germany's industrial output would be reduced substantially[18] . The long-term implications of these two measures were likely to have a very negative effect on the German economy, since the nation's industrial capacity had ever been one of its key factors.

Above all, the Potsdam conference brought about the definite and irrevocable division of Germany into four occupation zones[19] . Special status and importance was given to the city of Berlin, which was divided into four occupied sectors, although it was actually located deep within the Soviet zone.

Especially Stalin was very insistent that the political authority over Germany be collectively exercised by military commanders of the allied nations, despite the fact that the Soviet's occupation zone actually comprised „only“ a third of the total German population and had a relatively low share of the over-all German industrial production[20] . But then why did Stalin accept this seemingly unsatisfying agreement? After all the Soviet Union had taken by far the highest toll of casualties in bringing Nazi Germany down[21] . A possible explanation might be his secret hope that the Marxist regime he intended to put to power in eastern Germany might in due time serve as an example for a well-functioning state so that a great number of Germans would eventually come to realise the benefits of a Leninist system. At best, he thought that this approach would finally bring about the long-sought Proletarian revolution in Germany[22] .

Naturally, such considerations might appear far-fetched and unrealistic in hindsight. Nevertheless, Stalin's firm belief in this approach can easily be substantiated by his unrelenting demands for dismantling the German industry, which was foremost located in the western parts of Germany. Deprived of its main industrial power, it was bound to expect some serious production shortages and economical difficulties.

The western Allies, for their part, had never warmed to the idea of governing all of Germany together with the Soviet Unions. Most importantly they feared that the Soviet Union might get control over the entire German territory, much as they had gained control over most of Eastern Europe. Under all circumstances they desired to prevent such a scenario, which was why the set about re-firming their occupied territories and eventually even accepted the division of the country[23] . Yet by deciding that Germany was to be governed by a military control commission, with each of the four occupants given control over their respective sector (albeit the British, American and French zones were later united) it was made certain that the political reunification of the country would remain unlikely for the time being.

In the end, Stalin hopes for igniting „soviet-friendly sentiments“ with the German population were shattered by the reality of events. As it was, the governing model implemented in the Soviet-controlled occupation zone certainly didn't attract the liking of the German population. Quite to the contrary. On account of the harsh treatments of the population by the Soviet Army and the mass confiscation of property, the Germans soon came to realise that this sort of governing was anything but desirable. Instead they choose to tighten their bonds with the western Allies even more and acknowledged, albeit reluctantly, their governing authority[24] .

2.3) The Soviet-Satellite System

As a result of the 1945 conferences, it was not only Germany that was subjected to a territorial division, but other countries as well were forced to accept new border lines. Most notably among these was Poland, which saw a major and comprehensive re-drawing of its pre-war territory. As was agreed at the Yalta conference the Soviet Union would be given great parts of the country's eastern lands (Curzon-Line)[25] . As a means of compensation, Poland would receive parts of eastern Germany, with the famous Oder-Neiße-Line as the divisional line[26] .

Even more upsetting than the political difficulties and inconveniences this agreement brought about were the implications on the social and human level. Millions of people in both regions lost their home and property, which eventually led to one of the greatest displacement movements the continent had come to see. The struggles and hardships enforced on the concerned people were immense: a great number of them died because of hunger and cold, and the overall movement of a number of people as large as this one also led to great social and economical difficulties.[27]

At Yalta, the „Big Three“ had also signed the ‘Declaration on the policy to be followed in the liberated regions’ according to which text freely elected, democratic governments were to take control of the respective nations. Although this agreement was largely followed through both in west as well as central and eastern Europe, events in the countries occupied by the Soviet union took a profoundly different turn than in their western counterparts:

For the Soviet Union it was clear from the start that no government not being to their likening would be tolerated by Moscow[28] . However, a great number of countries didn't turn out to fulfil this requirement, most notably Poland. The local Communists certainly couldn't count on any strong popularity, much less support among the populations given the resentments on account of the harsh treatment exercised by the Russian forces during the Soviet occupation. As a result, they did not manage to emerge victorious from the elections held in various eastern European countries in 1945/1946 (Hungary, Czechoslovakia, East Germany). Nevertheless, the members of the communist parties were being given key positions and functions in the respective governments. What was more, the members of other parties were gradually pushed out of their positions, either by intimidation or the works of propaganda. At the worst, dissidents were subjected to trials based on hardly credible charges, which often ended in imprisonment or even execution. This approach clearly illustrates that the Soviet Union was determined to go to great lengths in order to install Moscow-friendly regimes throughout their sphere of influence. These governments were either imposed on the respective nations by force or through what at least appeared to be free elections.[29] .


[1] Http://; Article: Europe in Ruins in the aftermath of the Second World War , December 6th 2009.

[2] Http://; Article: Europe in Ruins in the aftermath of the Second World War , December 6th 2009.

[3] JUDT, Tony, Geschichte Europas. Von 1945 bis zur Gegenwart, München 2006, S. 34.

[4] JUDT, Geschichte Europas [See No. 3], S.41c

[5] SHEEHAN, James, Kontinent der Gewalt. Europas langer Weg zum Frieden, München 2008, S.77.

[6] Chronik des zweiten Weltkrieges, Chronik Verlag, Gütersloh/München 2004, S. 518.

[7] JUDT, Geschichte Europas [See No. 3], p. 32c

[8] JUDT, Geschichte Europas [See No. 3], p. 33.

[9] JUDT, Geschichte Europas [See No. 3], p. 35.

[10] JUDT, Geschichte Europas [See No. 3], p. 83-87.

[11] MAWDSLEY, Evan, World War II. A New History, Cambridge 2009, p 392c.

[12] Report of the Crimea (Yalta) Conference (February 4-11, 1945), Cmd. 6598; reprinted in Beata Ruhm von Oppen, ed., Documents on Germany under Occupation, 1945-1954, Oxford, 1955, p. 4-6.

[13] Chronik des zweiten Weltkrieges [See No. 6], p. 460.

[14] MAWDSLEY, World War II [See No. 11], p. 424c.

[15] Chronik des zweiten Weltkrieges [See No. 6], S. 508c.

[16] SHEEHAN, Kontinent der Gewalt [See No. 5], S. 193.

[17] Chronik des zweiten Weltkrieges [See No. 6], S. 508c.

[18] Chronik des zweiten Weltkrieges [See No. 6], S. 508c.

[19] SHEEHAN, Kontinent der Gewalt [See No. 5], S. 193.

[20] GADDIS, John Lewis, Der kalte Krieg. Eine neue Geschichte, München 2008, S.35.

[21] SHEEHAN, Kontinent der Gewalt [See No. 5], S. 179.

[22] GADDIS, Der kalte Krieg [See N0. 20], S.35c.

[23] GADDIS, Der kalte Krieg [See No. 20], S.37c.

[24] GADDIS, Der kalte Krieg [See No. 20], S.37.

[25] See Map#1 in Attachment Section.

[26] Chronik des zweiten Weltkrieges [See No. 6], S. 460c.

[27] JUDT, Geschichte Europas [See No. 3], S.44.

[28] GADDIS, Der Kalte Krieg [See No. 20], S.33c.

[29] VALENTIN, Veit, Die Teilung der Welt. In: Illustrierte Weltgeschichte, S. 1429.

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The Rebirth of Europe
Division, Reconstruction and Integration of a continent (1945-1949)
University of Luxembourg
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Nachkriegszeit, Marshall Plan, Europa, Europäische Integration
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Joe Majerus (Author), 2010, The Rebirth of Europe, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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