Chapter Seven - The Occupation of Germany
IN 1944, THE CENTRAL COMMITTEE of the Communist Party of Germany had drawn up a number of documents laying down guidelines for the activities of German democrats in the final stages of the war and in the immediate post-war period. One of these documents, the Programme of Action of the Bloc of Fighting Democrats, was to play an important part in the post-war development of Germany. It had called for the building up of a mass popular movement capable of stamping out the last vestiges of nazism and creating a new democratic Germany under the conditions of Allied occupation.
In February 1945, with the end of the war insight, the Political Bureau of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Germany (still in exile) had set up a commission under the chairmanship of Walter Ulbricht to draft directives for anti-fascists in the specific areas occupied by the Soviet Army. On the 28th April, some days before hostilities had ended, Colonel-General Bezarin, in whose hands the administrative and politi- cal power for the whole of Berlin was to be placed, had issued an order to the effect that all communal enterprises and all other vital institutions should start operating again. Two days later, on the day that Hitler had committed suicide, a large group of German party functionaries, including Walter Ulbricht, had returned to their homeland.
On the 19th January 1945, while Soviet troops were still fighting on the Vistula and on the Oder, Stalin had issued instructions that the German population was not to be treated harshly. The Soviet Army would be entering Germany as her liberator and not as her conqueror. Despite the fact that almost everyone in the Soviet Union had lost a near relative in the fighting, the cause of humanity demanded that a distinction be made between the common people of Germany and their fascist rulers. The Soviet government could not be indifferent to the suffering of the German people and did everything in its power to help them return to normal life and to supply them with food - especially in Berlin, where the food shortage was more acute than in any other part of Germany.
It was no small task to undertake the feeding of almost three million Berliners, requiring some 20,OOO tons of flour and 2,700 tons of grain a month, not to mention other products, such as meat, sugar, fats and salt. In order to solve the problem quickly, the Vice-Chairman of the Council of Ministers (Anastas Mikoyan) and the Chief of Logistics of the Soviet Army (General A. V. Khrulev) arrived in Berlin on the 9th May on instructions from the State Defence Committee. As a result, new daily rations were issued to the Berliners in accordance with their work - those performing hard, manual labour, of course, receiving more. In addition, 200 grammes of milk were issued daily to all children under thirteen years of age.
A new, democratic administration was set up in Berlin on the 17th May 1945, with Dr. Arthur Werner, a non-party man, as Lord Mayor. It held its first meet- ing on the 20th May and decided to put anti-fascist trustees in charge of all enterprises which had been run by active nazis, to remove nazi elements from the newly set-up administration, from the schools and other institutions, and to build up an anti-fascist police force. Trade unions and factory councils started to clear fascist elements out of places like the Thyssen and Daimler-Benz works. By the end of the month, 73 fascist economic organisations had been disbanded.
On the 5th June 1945, three important documents were issued by the four occupying powers - Britain, the USA, the USSR and France. The first of these documents proclaimed the assumption of supreme authority with respect to Germany by the governments of the four occupying powers; the second gave "supreme authority in Germany" to the British, United States, Soviet and French Commanders-in-Chief, "each in his own zone of occupation, and also jointly, in matters affecting Germany as a whole;" and the third defined the Zones of Occupation as allocated to their respective powers. The third document also stated that "the area of Greater Berlin will be occupied by forces of each of the four powers" and that "an Inter-Allied Governing Authority consisting of the four commandants, appointed by their respective commanders-in-chief, will be established to direct its administration.'" As there were to be only four zones, Berlin clearly lay in the Soviet Zone and was an integral part of it under the "supreme authority" of the USSR. In accordance with this interpretation, the railways throughout Berlin and the entire Berlin waterways network were placed under the control of the Soviet Commandant. The Western powers had only the right to participate in the occupation and to co-operate in the joint administration of Berlin through the Allied Control Council. It is interesting to note that at its first meeting, on the 11th July, the Allied Contro1 Council, which could only carry out decisions taken unanimously, approved all the measures taken up to that date by the Soviet City Commandant.
The Soviet Military Administration in Germany assumed supreme authority in the Soviet Zone of Occupation on the 9th June 1945. On the following day, Marshal Zhukov issued an order permitting the establishment of "all anti-fascist parties working for the complete eradication of nazism and the strengthening of democratic foundations and civil liberties in Germany." By the same order, Zhukov granted the working population in the Soviet Zone "the right to unite into free trade unions and organisations for the purpose of up-holding the interests and rights of the working people."
In the British and American Zones of Occupation, however, the authorities had already banned all political activity so far as the German population was concerned. The attitude of the Americans to this issue had been made perfectly clear by President Truman a full month earlier, on the 10th May, when he had written in a directive to the Commander-in-Chief of the United states Forces of Occupation: "Germany will not be occupied for the purpose of liberation but as a defeated nation."
On the 11th June, the Political Bureau of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Germany, relying on the support of the Soviet Military Command, issued an appeal to the working population in the towns and villages for the confiscation of property belonging to nazi leaders and war criminals; the abolition of large landed estates and the distribution of the land to the poor peasants and farm hands; the transfer of all key utilities (transport, gas, water, power, etc.) to self-government bodies; and recognition of the need to compensate for the war damage caused by Germany to other countries.
By drawing all the democratic forces in the country into political activity around these issues, the Communist Party of Germany was able to create a united People's Front which included, besides themselves, the Social Democratic Party, the Christian Democratic Party and the Liberal Democratic Party. All this was achieved by the middle of July when a united committee (five from each party) was set up to co-ordinate activity.