How did Germany get rich after World War II

post war period

Denazification and the Nuremberg Trials

On April 30, 1945, Adolf Hitler killed himself in Berlin. The Second World War was lost for Germany. The German high command signed the unconditional surrender on May 8, 1945 in Reims, France and on the morning of May 9 in Berlin.

Almost 60 million people died as a result of the war and National Socialist rule.

The Big Three decide the future fate of the country: British Prime Minister Winston Churchill, Soviet dictator Josef Stalin and US President Franklin D. Roosevelt - after his death in April 1945, his successor Harry S. Truman takes over.

They set the demilitarization and denazification in motion and determine the further economic and territorial development of Germany. One of the most urgent tasks of the occupying powers is the legal processing of war crimes and the murders in the concentration camps.

In November 1945 the trials of the main war criminals began in Nuremberg. 177 people are charged before the Allied International Military Court, including Reichsmarschall Hermann Göring, Hitler's deputy Rudolf Hess and Foreign Minister Joachim von Ribbentrop. Of the 24 people sentenced to death, twelve are executed.

The denazification of the population at large, carried out by the occupying powers, is only partially successful: a questionnaire and hearing are to be used to decide who was involved in what level of Nazi crimes. In these large-scale proceedings, numerous active National Socialists escape persecution, and conversely, people who were actually victims of the Nazi regime are also prosecuted.

From the zone to the social market economy

Life in the four zones of occupation developed differently in the first few years after the end of the war. With the establishment of the federal states and the implementation of local and regional elections, a federal system was established in the western zones, while a centralized power structure was created in the Soviet occupation zone, which was directed by communist cadres.

With the slogan "Junkersland in peasant hands", more than 7000 large landowners are expropriated, agricultural production cooperatives (LPG) and state-owned enterprises (VEB) are set up.

All Allied plans to create an all-German administration failed. The foundation stone for the Cold War and the later division of Germany is laid in the different policies of the occupying powers France, Great Britain, the USA and the USSR. The grave ideological differences between the emerging superpowers USA and USSR are clearly evident in post-war Germany.

At the London Foreign Ministers' Conference in December 1947 there was a final break between the Western Powers and the Soviet Union. As a result, on June 3, 1948, the three Western powers announced the political alignment of their zones, thereby creating the basis for a West German state.

On June 18, with the currency reform, the German mark is introduced in the western zones. Every West German receives a bounty of 40 D-Marks, credits in Reichsmark are exchanged at a ratio of 1:10. In the course of the currency reform the black market is disappearing and the shop windows are gradually filling up again. Ludwig Erhard, at that time economic director of the western zones, proclaimed the social market economy.

From the D-Mark to the Basic Law

The introduction of the D-Mark led to a confrontation with Stalin, who began to block the access roads to Berlin as early as March 1948. After the currency reform, the Berlin blockade comes to a head. Stalin wants to underpin his claim to Berlin and hopes that the western powers will be weak.

For almost a year, West Berliners are supplied with the essentials via an airlift. The raisin bombers fly to Berlin 277,000 times and carry over two million tons of food into the city. On May 12, 1949, Stalin ended the blockade.

He realizes that a division of the state and the city of Berlin can no longer be prevented, because a parliamentary council in Frankfurt is already working on the Basic Law. 65 delegates elected by the state parliaments formulate the details of a constitution.

Under the chairmanship of Konrad Adenauer (CDU) and Carlo Schmidt (SPD), the politicians in post-war Germany are struggling to fix the basic principles for the new state. Finally, on May 8, 1949, the Basic Law was passed. It comes into force on May 23, 1949. The Federal Republic of Germany is founded.

The USSR reacts to the emergence of the Federal Republic with its own constitution for the Soviet occupation zone and on October 7, 1949 the German Democratic Republic is proclaimed. The immediate post-war period ends with the division of Germany.