The British were slightly more restrained but inflicted 'punishment' in other ways — especially with absurdly reduced daily rations for the occupied and which resulted in mass starvation — especially for infants and small children. Industrially, the Soviets, French, and British practiced the dismantlement-theft of whole industries and dragged same off to their own homelands. The western Allies eventually woke up to the reality of how counter-productive this was and put a stop to it, but the Soviets took a bit longer to end the practice.
The Americans had little in the way of industrial needs or desires and tended instead to make off with whatever seemed eminently lootable — although all the victors did this of course. Masses of Germans were literally enslaved to run mines in Poland and stolen industrial concerns taken to France. While these enslavements and forced deportations were occurring, individual Germans were on trial in victor 'war crimes' courts for doing the same thing — an irony not lost upon the author.
If not for the tragedy of it all, the practices of the Russians were almost comical. As the Soviet forces entered modern Germany, they found themselves unable to comprehend all that they had at their feet. Even the flush toilet was something new and amazing to most of them, and much of what was looted was not understood or served them no practical purpose.
After the Reich: The Brutal History of the Allied Occupation
Culturally, socialists and communists — including a very high number of Jewish internees recently released from concentration camps or importing themselves into Germany from the USA, Britain, or elsewhere — were given virtual control of a revamped German cultural life, including theatre, music, publishing, newspapers, etc. The population was deprived of anything remotely National Socialist or nationalist in nature, and were instead fed on an imposed internationalist-socialist intellectual life.
Almost literally in fact, as the starving population thirsted for music, books, etc. MacDonogh explores the development of postwar Germany's literature in particular, as well as the various disputes between exiles and anti-Nazis who stayed in Germany throughout the war. Politically the punished received an imposition similar to that of the cultural realm, as fairly quickly the Russians and Americans granted the 'freedom' to the Germans to choose their own representatives and government — up to a point, that is — and so long as it a excluded National Socialism, b closely resembled the systems practiced by the victors, and c remained under the overall control of the Allied military governors and their troops.
This strange form of self-government was formalized with the formation of the Adenauer government in , and the author provides a number of interesting insights into Adenauer's own goals and how the Allies viewed and used him.
After the Reich
The author details the formation of the various new political parties, their goals, and the extent to which they were controlled or directed by the victors. He cites the failure of Soviet policy in which their own sponsored candidates failed dismally in early elections, largely because of German women voters who saw a vote for Soviet sponsored candidates as a vote for rape. The treatment of captured German POWs is covered, in which MacDonogh cites their re-categorization from POWs into 'DEPs' disarmed enemy persons and thus airily and illegally erasing their Geneva Conventions protections; he minimizes the numbers of their fatalities under the new acronyms, resultant to starvation and deprivation of shelter and medical care.
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Millions of POWs — now 'DEPs' — living in holes dug out of the mud in sub-zero temperatures and without sufficient food and no medical care did not afford much of a life-expectancy, all the more so as their captivity dragged from months into years. But the author's own politics intrudes, as indeed he indulges a common practice of that period in which the Cold War began, by attributing or shifting responsibility for the huge numbers of 'missing' German prisoners to the Russians.
Revisionist authors who have done outstanding work in this area are mostly ignored. James Bacque, for example, is mentioned briefly, but only to be dismissed without argument, his detractors' assumptions and criticisms being apparently blindly accepted.
The Journal of Military History
An exception is that of the several citations of Victor Gollancz's books and his central argument that starving and mistreating the civilian population of Germany did nothing to advance the moral or political agendas of the Allies and instead merely created new enemies and the possibilities of new conflicts. After they left, suicide and self-inflicted abortion claimed more lives.
The book also recounts the hundreds of thousands of eastern German civilians forced from their homes and across the border into Russia and used for slave labor most were not released until the mids. The Red Army comes off as the most barbaric of the occupying forces, but MacDonogh spares no one. Civilians in all four zones were kept on starvation rations for years despite death and disease.
MacDonogh writes with authority but isn't the most fluid storyteller -- the book is dense with too much choppy information, however important, and his prose is sometimes ponderous. The wealth of statistics and factual accounts will appeal to academics but might be too arcane for casual history buffs more interested in an accessible approach. Something of a Renaissance man, the Oxford-educated MacDonogh is also a painter and an expert in French gastronomy and wine -- which explains the odd but interesting sections that detail soldiers drinking themselves into oblivion by pilfering priceless wines from Germany's ancient cellars while the populace wastes away on meager rations of bread.
FDR's treasury secretary, Henry Morgenthau, advocated a "peace of punishment" plan that split Germany into four mostly agrarian states. Roosevelt's successor, Harry Truman, disliked the Morgenthau plan, which he considered an act of revenge.
Matt Stegner on Giles MacDonogh ()
When Truman met in Potsdam with Stalin and Churchill replaced by Clement Attlee after the election , he surprised much of the world by conceding to many of Stalin's demands. As first outlined at Yalta, the Potsdam Conference divided Germany into four zones also split into four were the capital cities of Vienna and Berlin.
There were similar scenes of death and dispossession in Pomerania, Silesia and East Prussia as the age-old German communities of those provinces were likewise brutally expunged.
We are ceaselessly reminded of the Third Reich's wartime concentration camps. But few Americans are aware that such infamous camps as Dachau, Buchenwald, Sachsenhausen and Auschwitz stayed in business after the end of the war, only now packed with German captives, many of whom perished miserably. The vengeful plan by US Treasury Secretary Henry Morgenthau to turn defeated Germany into an impoverished "pastoral" country, stripped of modern industry, is recounted by MacDonogh, as well as other genocidal schemes to starve, sterilize or deport the population of what was left of the bombed-out cities.
It wasn't an awakening of humanitarian concern that prompted a change in American and British attitudes toward the defeated Germans. The shift in postwar policy was based on fear of Soviet Russian expansion, and prompted a calculated appeal to the German public to support the new anti-Soviet stance of the US and Britain.
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MacDonogh's important book is an antidote to the simplistic but enduring propaganda portrait of World War II as a clash between Good and Evil, and debunks the widely accepted image of benevolent Allied treatment of defeated Germany. This page volume is much more than a gruesome chronicle of death and human suffering.
Enhanced with moving anecdotes, it also provides historical context and perspective.