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Germany – The Marshall Plan and The Berlin Blockade

The Marshall Plan

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During the Postwar depression of 1947, Western Europe was struggling to restore their economies. There was major unemployment and social unrest, which concerned the US, mainly Washington. They feared that without a rapid revival of European economies, the US would be dragged down into a depression for they strongly relied on European countries to purchase their exported items so that they themselves could thrive as a nation. As of June 5th 1947, George Marshall, the US Secretary of State, had announced the Marshall Plan.

The plan offered economic aid to all countries devastated by the war, courtesy of the US. If the US was able to get European nations back on their feet, they could secure the stability their economy.

If a country wished for the US to financially aid them however, they had to accept 3 main conditions:

1. Open their economic records for American examination.

2. Publicise their need for financial aid

3. Present a plan to the Americans for the distribution of the funds

external image 220px-Marshall_Plan_poster.JPGGermany, as well as 16 other Western European countries, agreed to a four year recovery plan by the fall of 1947. Some nations however didn’t accept the aid offered by the Americans, like the Soviet bloc. The Soviet foreign minister, Vyacheslav Molotov, was willing to explore the possibility of accepting the US aid but in the end refused the proposal. Molotov had then had been convinced that the plan would divide Europe, strengthen Germany, enforce imperialism in Europe and give the US control over European affairs.

There was some truth to Molotov’s concerns. On top of wanting a healthy European economy to help them flourish, they also hoped to repel communism in the process. Not wanting the Marshall Plan to dominate Europe, Cominform was established in September 1947 under Moscow direction. The purpose of Cominform was to help secure the position of the Soviet Union in Europe and bring the Soviet Bloc countries closer together. Communist supporters were ordered to provoke strikes and form as opposition to the Marshall Plan. Unfortunately for the Soviets, their efforts failed and the Cominform was disbanded in 1956. Between 1948-1952 Western Europe’s industrial growth was exponential, on the other hand Eastern Europe remained poor throughout the 1950s and 1960s due to Molotov Plan and Comecon, which limited them to only consuming and providing Soviet products at high prices.

The Soviet bloc gave in once under leadership of Leonid Brezhnev, opening up the markets to the West in the 1970s.

The Berlin Blockadeexternal image 410_Berlin-zones.jpg

The conflict surrounding the Berlin Blockade was the first serious crisis during the Cold War. The relationships between the Communists (the Soviets) and the non-communists (mostly being the United States) were sensitive, any movement towards one side or the other caused a lot of tension. Due to this tension, the unification between East and West Germany was not possible, so they remained as their own occupation zones, the East being occupied by Communist Russia, and the West occupied by non-communist states such as America, Britain and France.

The conflict had started due to a number of reasons. One; Americans wanted to approach Germany differently; Soviets wanted to convert Germany to a communist state, while America, Britain and France did not want to repeat the same mistakes at Versailles. Second; The Marshall Plan had made Russia take new measures to converting all of Germany to communism, which lead up to the Berlin Blockade being built.

After America made Germany reform their Currency from the Reichsmark, to the Deutschmark, Russia was displeased. To avoid any further American/British influence on Eastern Germany, the Soviets created the Eastern Block/Berlin Blockade. The Blockade was built on June 24th, 1948 and it not only physically separated East and West Berlin, but additionally during this time, the Soviets closed all Railway, Road, Canal, and Electricity access to Western Berlin.external image b_mur5.jpg

By doing this, Western Germany would become helpless and isolated, this was done so that Western Germany would willfully convert to communism. However, America, Britain and France (particularly America) did not approve, the Truman Doctrine declares that no ground should be given to the communists at any cost.Since the Communists had successfully taken Czechoslovakia, the US, under no circumstances wanted to give up on West Berlin. Quote From Twentieth Century History (textbook): “We have lost Czechoslovakia. Norway is threatened. We retreat from Berlin. When Berlin falls, Germany will be next. --- We are going to stay, Period.”

external image 250px-C-54landingattemplehof.jpgAmerica and Britain, however, did not want to cause a fight, and in response, instead of tearing down the wall, they created the “Berlin Airlift” to send packages of food, medicine, etc... to Berlin, 24 hours a day, starting on June 25th, 1949.

This Aircraft caused further issues between West and East Berlin. Due to there being a counter-blockade, America and Britain would not help Eastern Berlin; because of this West Berlin was doing well. Since they were getting all the supplies they needed, economically, West Berlin was doing alright, however this was not the same for Eastern Berlin. Since trade between East and West was poor, Eastern Germany wasn’t able to receive supplies they needed, and therefore did poorly economically, and due to the wall separating each side, people were unable to easily escape to the other, or see family. This cause a lot of lack of support for the communist occupation of East Berlin.

May 12th, 1949 Stalin realized that the Wall was pointless, and wasn’t getting him what he needed, and in response he allowed surface access to and from each side. Although surface access was permitted, the Berlin Airlift was still in action for another 1-4 months in case there were any further complications between each occupation zone.

However Germany remained split into its two occupation zones. East Germany became the German Democratic republic, while the West became the Federal Republic of Germany, and although the wall was considered in-effective, it remained standing until Germany united as one in 1990.external image berlin_wall2.jpg

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