I mean in the political sense rather than the physical sense. Given the depth of feeling around the fact that Germany had started* two world wars in the space of a generation was there any suggestion from the victorious powers that Germany should cease to exist as a state, much as Germany and the USSR did to Poland during the war.
I am aware of the Morgenthau Plan but while that would have reduced it to basically an agarian society there was no suggestion of wiping out Germany as a nation.
Germany as a unitary state was itself was a fairly recent invention, so it may have been feasible to break it up into smaller areas and incorporate them into, say Greater France and West Poland with the demarcation line running down the middle of what had previously been Germany.
Was this ever given serious consideration?
*not entirely fair in the case of WW1 but plenty of people felt that way at the time.
btw I’m aware that I’m not explaining myself very well in the above but I can’t quite seem to get what I mean down on the page.
Actually Germany was divided into three zones, US, UK and USSR. Later the Western Allies wanted to give France a part of the action so they gave up part of their zones to France to make four.
The purpose was to make administration of post war Germany easier.
Austria was similarly divided up. The intent was to reunite it, but when it became obivous the Soviets weren’t going to allow it, the Western Allies united their zones to be done with the occupation (for the most part, it legally lasted till the 90s.)
After the fall of the Berlin Wall, many politicians such as Margaret Thatcher thought it a bad idea to allow Germany to reunify.
Remember that one third of present day Poland was Germany and the Germans were moved physically westward to depopulated it. So the ideas of “greater” Poland or anything were off the cards. As Khrushchev stated his only intention was to get Poland as far west as possible.
Some concepts like Prussia were disabled and Austria was neutralized as a condition of the Soviets leaving their zone and allowing Austria to be reunited.
Most surrounding nations wouldn’t have minded more German territory but they didn’t want the Germans that went with it. The Dutch said that getting the entire Ruhr area wouldn’t make up for the damage the Germans caused and without the Germans to work it, it wasn’t worth much. And with the Germans it would dilute the Dutch.
The French would’ve been happy with the Saar and got its resources and had it separated from Germany for awhile.
After the Battle of Stalingrad, it was clear Germany had no chance of victory and the Western Allies had to balance the need of the Soviets in fighting Japan with ruling out allowing the Soviets to walk all the way to the Atlantic. So they needed a German buffer state of some sort. And this couldn’t be a weak state.
Stalin would certainly have done so if it were up to him. There was much discussion of what to do about Germany at the end of the war, and some of it revolved around eliminating Germany. But what would have taken its place? In the end, maintaining total control over his sphere, i.e. East Germany, was the best Stalin could do and that was quite good enough at the time.
I recall reading a book – long ago – published in Britain early in World War II, about plans for dealing with Germany after an Allied victory in the war. It stays in my mind largely because Dennis Wheatley, of whom I’m something of a fan, was heavily involved in its compiling.
Book long and elaborate (despite World War II shortages), with many detailed maps illustrating alternative possibilities. General and basic idea: post-war dividing-up of Germany into several component parts, and merging those with neighbouring countries, to ensure its never again becoming a threat to the world as a united aggressive nation. Much going back many centuries in history, to various geopolitical combinations-back-then; which might be built on in the post-WW II sorting-out.
Picture generally got from the book, from what I remember: the idea, not cruel vengeance as such on Germany and the Germans: just – sort things out so that “1914 and 1939” could never happen again.
One feels that publication of this tome at this time, was likely an exercise in bravado and “whistling in the wind” – attempted message to Germany: “You’re beating the shit out of us right now ; regardless of that, ultimately our side will win, and then we’ll carve you up so that you’ll never threaten anyone again – pick the bones out of that”. None of the book’s projected stuff, actually happened; but in 1941, everything was up for grabs.
Like people said, the idea was seriously considered, but didn’t win out, IMO largely because of the Cold War starting. It’s hard to want to trash Germany too much if you think you might need to use the area against communists later. If you had something other than the USSR in the east (say, during the worst-looking part of 1941 someone shoots Stalin, takes over, and declares Greater Russia is no loner Communist), it’s quite possible that Germany would not have gotten off as lightly as they did in the settlement, and today there would be a bunch of small formerly German states with constitutions that specifically forbid them joining together.
I don’t have a cite, but I once heard that the Allies definitely wanted to resurrect the Hanseatic League as an alternative to a monolithic Germany, to coax it along as an economic-but-not-military entity in the coming postwar. But, as both the US and Russia assumed they’d be at war with each other in the then-near future and both wanted German troops and scientists on their side, this plan went up in smoke.
A great deal of it was. Germans were expelled with much bloodshed and suffering from eastern territory that had been German for centuries. Any idea of a resurgence of Prussian militarism was firmly quashed with the territory of East and West Prussia being divided between the USSR and Poland. To this day the former East Prussian capital Königsberg is now part of the Russian Federation, today called Kaliningrad.
The “concept of Germany”, which only became a national reality about 150 years ago, is a concept of people in a contiguous area speaking a common language. That is a concept that can be done away with only by destroying either the language or the unity of the people speaking it.
And guess what? Poland is back, alive and well. The concept was not done away with, for the reason I mentioned above.
You could rename the place South Denmark or something like that. But the reality if that if there was a place where seventy million Germans were living, it was going to be Germany for all practical purposes.
We did divide Germany up and placed it under occupation for several years. But unless we were going to kill off the German people, the restoration of some kind of German nation was inevitable.
Well, the Soviets did do essentially this. Although it was officially the ‘German Democratic Republic’ it was really *Vostok-Germaniya-stan *in all but name. And this is the primary reason why Germany did ultimately survive as a country, because we needed the rest of it intact to counter the Russians. Patton was right…
At Yalta, Roosevelt had made a proposal that involved dividing Germany up into five states; Prussia, Hanover, Saxony, Bavaria, and Hesse, with East Prussia going to Poland and international zones being set up on the French and Dutch borders.
Why? Instead of the Nazis, the Soviets won, and Poland survived that intact, too. Poland was absorbed by Lithuania for a few centuries, and survived that.
The Soviets did everything possible to obliterate countries like Lithuania and Georgia, and a century later the Russians are gone, and those are proud and thriving national cultures. Any effort by the Allies to do the same to Germany would have had the same result.
According to George McDonald Fraser (author of Flashman) in his autobiography, when the newsreels of the death camps were publicly shown, there was a definite strand of public opinion in favour of killing all Germans.
I don’t have a cite to hand (on holiday) but IIRC a contemporary opinion poll found 13% of the British population in favour of exterminating every German living.
However: over-the-top instinctive outrage at the moment of first hearing about the horrible stuff – most of us tend, naturally, to do so, and to think of visiting on the perpetrators of atrocities, worse atrocities; and then, to cool down and reflect and think otherwise.
If I recollect rightly from Fraser’s memoir: he and his unit – fighting the Japanese in Burma – saw the newsreels when they were on leave in India. He quotes one of the guys under his command as suggesting: “Kill all the German men; give all the German women to the Russians, to do what they like with them; send all the German kids to Australia and Canada and places like that, and have them adopted by proper humans.” Said chap was not very bright, and was speaking in the outraged and appalled heat of the moment – one reckons that in time, he would probably have calmed down; and somewhat, anyhow, moderated his above-quoted plan for solving the “German problem”.