28 March 2010

Berlin, from Grandeur to Defeat

World War II left Berlin shattered. In the summer of 1945, Gremany's capital city lay in ruins, occupied by the United States, the Soviet Union, Britain, and France. 
Sources: American Forces in Berlin Cold WAr Outpost, 1945-1994 (Robert Grathwol and Donita Moorhus)
Germany descended from the apex of power at the beginning of the twentieth century into chaos in 1918. In the tumultuous era after its defeat in World War I, Germany struggled for political and economic stability. Through it all, Berlin continued to grow. It reorganized its boundaries in 1920 and expanded by incorporating 8 towns, 59 rural communities, and 27 farming estates to its present-day dimensions of 345 square miles.

During 1920s, Berlin augmented its intellectual, artistic, and cultural reputation. The city's inhabitants supported 149 dailiy periodicals, earning Berlin the label "newspaper city". Noble Prize-winning scientists lived and worked in Berlin. Walter Gropius brought the genius of his Bauhaus movement in architecure to the city. Bertolt Brecht wrote for the Berlin theater. Film and cabaret etertainment flourished, its fretenic excitement and allure captured by Britsh author Christopher Isherwood, whose Berlin Stories(1946) became the basis for the Broadway musical Cabaret.

Adolf Hitler's appointment in January 1933 as German canchellor ended Berlin's cultural brilliance. Withing months, Hitler destroyed the republican framework of German politics and suppressed intellectual independence. He depised modern artistic expression, which he labeled as a manifestation of "Jewish" decadence. His pathological hatred to the Jews ledo to the organized murder of millions men, women, and children. Of Berlin's predominant Jewish citizenry of 170,000, over 60,000 where killed in Holocaust.

During the War, the United States, Great Britain, and the Soviet Union had crafted dimplomatic plans to occupiy postwar Germany. The agreements divided Germany into zones and Berlin into sectors, each assigned to one of the three powers. In each zone, the military commander of the occupying power exercised absolute authority.

For issues common to Germany as a whole, the powers set up the Allied Control Council. In Berlin, the military commanders of each sector governed the city through the Kommandatura. In both the Allied Control Council and the Kommandatura, decisions required unanimous approval.

Only the Soviet Red Army entered Berlin by right of conquest, and between May and July 1945, it held exclusive control of the city. In Eastern Europe, the course of battle put American forces in areas that the allies had assigned to the Soviet Union. To emphasize their willingness to abide by the agreements, American policymakers withdrew troops back to the assigned zone of occupation in south-central Germany.

By the End of 1946, military authorities had reorganized command lines for the American occupation in Germany. The structure established in July 1945, U.S. Forces, European Theater (USFET), had evolved to inclued a headquarters and two subsidiary commands, one responsible for military operations and the other for military government in the American zone.

Between 1945 and March 1947, the commanding general of the American forces in Europe operated out of his headquarters in Frankfurt (the move to Heidelberg came in 1948). He oversaw both the military forces (USFET) and the Office of Military Government (OMGUS), which operated out of Berlin under General Clay. The commander in chief was most involved in military operations (as contrasted with the military government) throughout Germany and Austria. For the next 45 years, Berlin's destiny remained in the hands of the powers that occupied the city in mid-1945.
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