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The Allied powers who defeated Nazi Germany in World War II divided the country west of the Oder–Neisse line into four occupation zones for administrative purposes. This was formally approved at the Potsdam Conference (17 July to 2 August 1945).[not verified in body] In autumn 1944 the three powers (still without France) had agreed upon the zonal make-up by the London Protocol. In the closing weeks of fighting in Europe, United States forces had pushed beyond the agreed boundaries for the future zones of occupation, in some places by as much as 200 miles (320 km). The line of contact between Soviet and American forces at the end of hostilities was temporary. After two months in which they had held areas that had been assigned to the Soviet zone, U.S. forces withdrew in the first days of July 1945.[1] Some have concluded that this was a crucial move that persuaded the Soviet Union to allow American, British, and French forces into their predesignated sectors in Berlin, which occurred at roughly the same time (July 1945), although the need for intelligence gathering (see Operation Paperclip) may also have been a factor.

Territories annexed by Germany 1938-1945

All territory annexed by Germany before the war from Austria and Czechoslovakia was returned to these countries. The Memelland annexed by Germany from Lithuania before the war was annexed by the Soviet Union in 1945 and given to the Lithuanian SSR. All territories annexed by Germany during the war from Belgium, France, Luxembourg, Poland and Yugoslavia was returned to those countries.

The Zones of Occupation

Map of the Allied zones of occupation in post-war Germany, as well as the line of US forward positions on V-E Day. The south-western part of the Soviet occupation zone, close to a third of its overall area was west of the U.S. forward positions on V-E day.

The Allied zones of occupation in post-war Germany, highlighting the Soviet zone (red), the inner German border (black line) and the zone from which American troops withdrew in July 1945 (purple). The provincial boundaries are those of pre-Nazi Weimar Germany, before the present Länder (federal states).

American Zone of Occupation

The American zone consisted of Bavaria and Hesse in Southern Germany, and the northern portions of the present-day German state of Baden-Württemberg. The ports of Bremen (on the lower Weser River) and Bremerhaven (at the Weser estuary of the North Sea) were also placed under American control because of the American request to have certain toeholds in Northern Germany. The headquarters of the American military government was the former IG Farben Building in Frankfurt am Main.

Beginning in May 1945, many of the American combat troops and airmen in and around Germany were sent back to the United States based on their Advanced Service Rating Scores. Some of the experienced officers and non-commissioned officers were selected to be sent to the Pacific Theater of Operations for the proposed Invasion of Japan, but most of those men who had served the longest in combat were discharged from the U.S. Army, the Army Air Forces, and the U.S. Navy upon their returns home. Following the Surrender of the Japanese Empire in mid-August 1945 – by its acceptance of the Potsdam Declaration – a higher percentage of soldiers, airmen, and sailors were granted their final discharges from service. The official signing of the surrender took place on September 2, 1945, but the hostilities had ended weeks earlier.

British Zone of Occupation

Road sign delimiting the British zone of occupation in Berlin, 1984. Photo by George Garrigues

The Canadian Army was tied down in surrounding the Netherlands until the Germans there surrendered on May 5, 1945 – just two days before the final surrender of the Wehrmacht in Western Europe to General Eisenhower. After the liberation of the Netherlands and the conquest of northern Germany by the British Army, the bulk of the Canadian Army returned home, leaving northern Germany to be occupied by the British Army and (around Bremen and Bremerhaven) by the U.S. Army.

Then in July 1945, the British Army withdrew from small slices of Germany that had previously agreed to be occupied by the Soviet Army. The Control Commission for Germany - British Element (CCG/BE) ceded some slices of its area of occupation to the Soviet Union – specifically the Amt Neuhaus of Hanover and some exclaves and fringes of Brunswick, for example, the County of Blankenburg and exchanged some villages between British Holstein and Soviet Mecklenburg by the Barber-Lyashchenko Agreement.

Within the British Zone of Occupation, the CCG/BE re-established the German state of Hamburg, but with borders that had been drawn by Nazi Germany in 1937. The British also created the new German states of Schleswig-Holstein – emerging in 1946 from the Prussian Province of Schleswig-Holstein; Lower Saxony – the merger of Brunswick, Oldenburg, and Schaumburg-Lippe with the state of Hanover in 1946; and North Rhine-Westphalia – the merger of Lippe with the Prussian provinces of the Rhineland (norther part) and Westphalia – during 1946 – 1947. Also in 1947, the German state Free Hanseatic City of Bremen became an exclave of the American Zone of Occupation located within the British Zone.

Much of the British Zone of Occupation had once been part of the Kingdom of Hanover. This Kingdom was in a personal union with the United Kingdom (formed in 1707) from 1714 through 1837 – with the same monarch, but otherwise completely separate. The first joint monarch was King George I.

French Zone of Occupation

French forces in front of the Reichstag, Berlin 1946.

Despite its being one of the Allied Powers, the French Republic was not granted an occupation zone in Germany at first because of concerns over the great historical animosity between France and Germany. Also the French Army had carried out a minor role within the alliance, as compared with the armies, navies, and air forces of the United Kingdom, the only one fighting throughout all the war, the United States (since 1941), and the U.S.S.R. (the Soviet Union, also since 1941, before 1941 being allied with Nazi Germany).

On the other hand, throughout World War II in Europe, the leader of the Free French forces, Charles de Gaulle, persistently argued in favor of the role of France in post-war Europe. Finally, both the British government and the American government recognized the role of France during World War II in Europe (but not in the Pacific Theater). These two powers of occupation in Germany agreed to give some western parts of their Zones of Occupation to the French Army. This agreement created a French Zone of Occupation in westmost Germany. This zone consisted of two barely-contiguous areas of Germany along the French border that met at just a single point along the Rhine River.

The Saargebiet, at first a part of the French zone, was disentangled from the French zone on 16 February 1946. By 18 December 1946 customs controls were established between the Saar area and allied occupied Germany. The French zone ceded several times further adjacent municipalities to the Saar (mid-1946, early 1947, early 1949).

Included in the French zone was the town of Büsingen am Hochrhein, a German exclave separated from the rest of the country by a narrow strip of neutral Swiss territory. The Swiss government agreed to allow limited numbers of French troops to pass through its territory in order to maintain law and order in Büsingen.

Soviet Zone of Occupation

Pink: portions of Germany east of the Oder-Neisse line attached to Poland (except for northerly East Prussia and the adjoining Memel Territory, not shown here, which were joined directly to the Soviet Union.) Red: the Soviet Occupation zone of Germany.

File:Bundesarchiv Bild 183-14059-0018, Berlin, Oberbefehlshaber der vier Verbündeten.jpg

The Supreme Commanders on June 5, 1945 in Berlin: Bernard Montgomery, Dwight D. Eisenhower, Georgy Zhukov and Jean de Lattre de Tassigny.

The Soviet occupation zone incorporated Thuringia, Saxony, Saxony-Anhalt, Brandenburg and Mecklenburg-Vorpommern. The Soviet Military Administration in Germany was headquartered in Berlin-Karlshorst.

Minor zones

Belgian zone

The Belgian Zone formed part of the British Zone, forming a corridor from the Belgian-German border to the edge of the Soviet zone, and including the town of Cologne.[2] It was initially under British command, but the Belgians were given autonomy from 1946. The Belgian Forces in Germany (FBA-BSD), was created from former soldiers of the Free Belgian Brigade Piron, and was commanded by Jean-Baptiste Piron.

Luxembourgish zone

From November 1945, the Luxembourgish army was allocated a zone within the French sector.[3] The Luxembourgish 2nd infantry battalion was garrisoned in Bitburg and the 1st battalion was sent to Saarburg.[3] The final Luxembourgish troops in Germany, in Bitburg, left in 1955.[3]


While located wholly within the Soviet zone, because of its symbolic importance as the nation's capital and seat of the former Nazi government, the city of Berlin was jointly occupied by the Allied powers and subdivided into four sectors. Berlin was not considered to be part of the Soviet zone.

Other German territory

In 1945 Germany east of the Oder-Neisse line (Farther Pomerania, the New March, Silesia and southerly East Prussia) was attached to Poland and the northern portion of East Prussia became the newly formed Kaliningrad Oblast within the Soviet Union. Most German citizens residing in these areas were subsequently expropriated and expelled. Returning refugees, who had fled from war hostilities were denied return.

The Saargebiet, an important area of Germany because of its large deposits of coal, was turned into the Saar protectorate. The Saar was disentangled from the French zone on 16 February 1946. In the speech Restatement of Policy on Germany on 6 September 1946 the U.S. Secretary of State James F. Byrnes stated the U.S.' motive in detaching the Saar from Germany as "The United States does not feel that it can deny to France, which has been invaded three times by Germany in 70 years, its claim to the Saar territory".

By 18 December 1946 customs controls were established between the Saar and Allied occupied Germany. Most German citizens residing in the Saar area were allowed to stay and keep their property. Returning refugees, who had fled from war hostilities were allowed to return. Especially refugees who had fled the Nazi dictatorship were invited and welcomed to return to the Saar.

The protectorate was a state, nominally independent of Germany and France, but with its economy integrated into that of France. The Saar territory was enlarged on the expense of the French zone in mid-1946, early 1947 (but also 61 municipalities returned to the French zone) and in early 1949. On 15 November 1947 the French currency became legal tender in the Saar Protectorate, followed by the full integration of the Saar into the French economy (Customs union 23 March 1948). In July the Saar population was stripped its German citizenship and became of Sarrois nationality.

Governance and the emergence of two German states

The original Allied plan to govern Germany as a single unit through the Allied Control Council broke down in 1946–1947 due to growing tensions between the Allies, with Britain and the US wishing cooperation, France obstructing any collaboration in order to unwind Germany into many independent states, and the Soviet Union, unilaterally implementing from early on elements of its political-economic (mass expropriations of land, nationalisation of businesses). Another dispute was the absorption of post-war expelles. While the UK, the US and the USSR had agreed to accept, house and feed maybe six million expelled German citizens from former eastern Germany, and 4 million expelled and denaturalised Czechoslovaks, Poles, Hungarians and Yugoslavs of German ethnicity in their zones, France generally had not agreed to the expulsions approved by the Potsdam agreement (a decision made without input from France). Therefore France strictly refused to absorb war refugees who were denied return to their homes in seized eastern German territories or destitute post-war expellees who had been expropriated there, into the French zone, let alone into the separated Saar protectorate.[4] However, the native population, returning after Nazi-imposed removals (e.g., political and Jewish refugees) and war-related relocations (e.g., evacuation from air raids), were allowed to return home in the areas under French control. The other Allies complained that they had to shoulder the burden to feed, house and clothe the expellees who had to leave their belongings to Poles and Soviets.

In practice, each of the four occupying powers wielded government authority in their respective zones and carried out different policies toward the population and local and state governments there. A uniform administration of the western zones evolved, known first as the Bizone (the American and British zones merged as of January 1, 1947) and later the Trizone (after inclusion of the French zone). The complete breakdown of east-west allied cooperation and joint administration in Germany became clear with the Soviet imposition of the Berlin Blockade that was enforced from June 1948 to May 1949. The three western zones were merged to form the Federal Republic of Germany in May 1949, and the Soviets followed suit in October 1949 with the establishment of the German Democratic Republic (GDR).

In the west, the occupation officially continued until May 5, 1955, when the General Treaty (German: Deutschlandvertrag) entered into force. However, upon the creation of the Federal Republic in May 1949, the military governors were replaced by civilian high commissioners, whose powers lay somewhere between those of a governor and those of an ambassador. When the Deutschlandvertrag became law, the occupation officially ended, the western occupation zones ceased to exist, and the high commissioners were replaced by normal ambassadors. West Germany was also allowed to build a military, and the Bundeswehr, or Federal Defense Force, was officially established on November 12, 1955.

A similar situation occurred in East Germany. The GDR was founded on October 7, 1949. On October 10, the Soviet Military Administration in Germany was replaced by the Soviet Control Commission, although limited sovereignty was not granted to the GDR government until November 11, 1949. After the death of Joseph Stalin in March 1953, the Soviet Control Commission was replaced with the office of the Soviet High Commissioner on May 28, 1953. This office was abolished (and replaced by an ambassador) and (general) sovereignty was granted to the GDR, when the Soviet Union concluded a state treaty (Staatsvertrag) with the GDR on September 20, 1955. On March 1, 1956, the GDR established a military, the National People's Army.

Despite the grants of general sovereignty to both German states in 1955, full and unrestricted sovereignty under international law was not enjoyed by any German government until after the reunification of Germany in October 1990. Though West Germany was generally independent, the Allies maintained some responsibilities for West Germany. At the same time, East Germany was a satellite state of the Soviet Union. The provisions of the Treaty on the Final Settlement with Respect to Germany, also known as the "Two-plus-Four Treaty," granting full sovereign powers to Germany did not become law until March 15, 1991, after all of the participating nations had ratified the treaty.

A 1956 plebiscite ended the French administration of the Saar protectorate, and it joined the Federal Republic as Saarland on January 1, 1957, being its the 10th state.

Officially, the city of Berlin was not part of either state and continued to be under Allied occupation until the reunification of Germany in October 1990. For administrative purposes, the three western sectors of Berlin were merged into the entity of West Berlin. The Soviet sector became known as East Berlin and while not recognized by the Western powers as a part of East Germany, GDR declared its capital (Hauptstadt der DDR).

Occupation policy

American poster, warning against "fraternization" with images of concentration camp victims.

General Eisenhower ensured a strict non-fraternization policy was enforced throughout all commands of allied occupation troops in Germany. However, this policy was relaxed in stages. By June 1945 the prohibition on speaking with German children was made less strict. In July it became possible to speak to German adults in certain circumstances. In September the whole policy was completely dropped in Austria and Germany.

Nevertheless due to the large numbers of Disarmed Enemy Forces being held in Rheinwiesenlagers throughout western Germany, the Americans and the British – not the Soviets – used armed units of Feldgendarmerie to maintain control and discipline in the camps. In June 1946, these German military police units became the last Wehrmacht troops to surrender their arms to the western powers.

By December 1945 over 100,000 German civilians were interned as security threats and for possible trial and sentencing as members of criminal organizations.

The food situation in occupied Germany was initially very dire. By the spring of 1946 the official ration in the American zone was no more than 1275 calories per day, with some areas probably receiving as little as 700. In the British zone the food situation was dire, as found during a visit by the British (and Jewish) publisher Victor Gollancz in October and November 1946. In Düsseldorf the normal 28-day allocation should have been 1,548 calories including 10 kg of bread, but as there was limited grain the bread ration was only 8.5 kg. However as there was only sufficient bread for about 50% of this “called up” ration, the total deficiency was about 50%, not 15% as stated in a ministerial reply in the British Parliament on December 11,. So only about 770 calories would have been supplied, and he said the German winter ration would be 1,000 calories as the recent increase was “largely mythical”. His book includes photos taken on the visit and critical letters and newspaper articles by him published in several British newspapers; The Times, The Daily Herald, The Manchester Guardian etc.[5]

Some occupation soldiers took advantage of the desperate food situation by exploiting their ample supply of food and cigarettes (the currency of the black market) as what became known as frau bait (The New York Times, June 25, 1945). Some soldiers still felt the girls were the enemy, but used them for sex nevertheless.[6]

The often destitute mothers of the resulting children usually received no child support. In the earliest stages of the occupation, U.S. soldiers were not allowed to pay maintenance for a child they admitted having fathered, since to do so was considered "aiding the enemy". Marriages between white U.S. soldiers and Austrian women were not permitted until January 1946, and with German women until December 1946.[6]

The children of black American soldiers, commonly called Negermischlinge[7] ("Negro half-breeds"), comprising about three percent of the total number of children fathered by GIs, were particularly disadvantaged because of their inability to conceal the foreign identity of their father. Black soldiers were reluctant to admit to fathering such children since this would invite reprisals, and even in the cases where a soldier was willing to take responsibility, until 1948 the U.S. Army prohibited interracial marriages.[7] The mothers of the children would often face particularly harsh ostracization.[8]

Between 1950 and 1955 the Allied High Commission for Germany prohibited "proceedings to establish paternity or liability for maintenance of children."[7] Even after the lifting of the ban West German courts had little power over American soldiers.

In general, the British authorities were less strict than the Americans about fraternization, and the French and Soviets more.

While Allied servicemen were ordered to obey local laws while in Germany, soldiers could not be prosecuted by German courts for crimes committed against German citizens except as authorized by the occupation authorities. Invariably, when a soldier was accused of criminal behavior the occupation authorities preferred to handle the matter within the military justice system. This sometimes led to harsher punishments than would have been available under German law – in particular, U.S. servicemen could be executed if court-martialed and convicted of rape.[8] See United States v. Private First Class John A. Bennett, 7 C.M.A. 97, 21 C.M.R. 223 (1956).


Rumors of Nazi plans for insurgency, related to the Nazi Werwolf plan, and successful Nazi deception about plans to withdraw forces to what turned out to be its fictional Alpenfestung redoubt and to use the redoubt as a base from which to conduct guerrilla warfare, affected the last Allied war advances into Germany and influenced Allied occupation plans. It has been estimated that no Allied deaths can be reliably attributed to any Nazi insurgency.[9]

Expulsion policy

The Potsdam conference, where the victorious Allies drew up plans for the future of Germany, noted in article XIII of the Potsdam Agreement on August 1, 1945 that "the transfer to Germany of German populations (...) in Poland, Czechoslovakia and Hungary will have to be undertaken"; "wild expulsion" was already going on.

Hungary, which had been allied with Germany and where no expulsions had as yet taken place and in addition population was opposed to an expulsion of the German minority, tried to resist this, but in the end had to yield to the pressure exerted mainly by the Soviet Union but also by the Allied Control Council.[10] Of the millions expelled from former eastern territories of Germany, Poland, Czechoslovakia, Hungary and elsewhere, when they were not used for forced labor, over a period of years they were sent to the occupation zones of UK, USA, and USSR, who agreed in the Potsdam Agreement to absorb the post-war expellees into their zones, where many remained in refugee camps for a long time.

France was not invited to the Potsdam Conference. As a result, it took its own liberties to approve some decisions of the Potsdam Agreements and to dismiss others. As to the question of the post-war expellees, France maintained the position that it did not approve post-war expulsions and that therefore it was not responsible to accommodate and nourish the destitute expellees in its zone. While the few war-related refugees who had reached the area to become the French zone before July 1945 were taken care of, the French military government for Germany refused to absorb post-war expellees deported from the East into its zone. In December 1946, the French military government for Germany absorbed into its zone German refugees from Denmark, where 250,000 Germans had found a refuge from the Soviets by sea vessels between February and May 1945.[4] These clearly were war-related refugees from the eastern parts of Germany however, and not post-war expellees.

Military governors and commissioners

American Zone

Military governors
  1. May 8, 1945 – November 10, 1945 Dwight D. Eisenhower
  2. November 11, 1945 – November 25, 1945 George S. Patton (acting)
  3. November 26, 1945 – January 5, 1947 Joseph T. McNarney
  4. January 6, 1947 – May 14, 1949 Lucius D. Clay
  5. May 15, 1949 – September 1, 1949 Clarence R. Huebner (acting)
High commissioners
  1. September 2, 1949 – August 1, 1952 John J. McCloy
  2. August 1, 1952 – December 11, 1952 Walter J. Donnelly
  3. December 11, 1952 – February 10, 1953 Samuel Reber (acting)
  4. February 10, 1953 – May 5, 1955 James Bryant Conant

British Zone

Military governors
  1. May 22, 1945 – April 30, 1946 Field Marshal the Viscount Montgomery
  2. May 1, 1946 – October 31, 1947 Air Chief Marshal Sir William Sholto Douglas (later Lord Douglas)
  3. November 1, 1947 – September 21, 1949 General Sir Brian Hubert Robertson (later Lord Robertson)
High commissioners
  1. September 21, 1949 – June 24, 1950 General Sir Brian Hubert Robertson
  2. June 24, 1950 – September 29, 1953 Sir Ivone Kirkpatrick
  3. September 29, 1953 – May 5, 1955 Sir Frederick Hoyer Millar (later Lord Inchyra)

French Zone

Military commander
May 1945 – July 1945 Army General Jean de Lattre de Tassigny
Military governor
July 1945 – September 21, 1949 Army General Marie Pierre Kœnig
High commissioner
September 21, 1949 – May 5, 1955 André François-Poncet

Soviet Zone

Military commander
April 1945 – June 9, 1945 Georgy Konstantinovich Zhukov
Military governors
  1. June 9, 1945 – April 10, 1946 Georgy Konstantinovich Zhukov
  2. April 10, 1946 – March 29, 1949 Vasily Danilovich Sokolovsky
  3. March 29, 1949 – October 10, 1949 Vasily Ivanovich Chuikov
Chairman of the Soviet Control Commission
October 10, 1949 – May 28, 1953 Vasily Ivanoivich Chuikov
High commissioners
  1. May 28, 1953 – July 16, 1954 Vladimir Semyonovich Semyonov
  2. July 16, 1954 – September 20, 1955 Georgy Maksimovich Pushkin

See also


  1. What Is to Be Done? Time magazine, July 9, 1945
  2. Brüll, Christoph (PDF). Entre ressentiment et ré-éducation, L’Armée belge d’Occupation et les Allemands, 1945-1952. CEGES-SOMA. 
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 "L'Armée luxembourgeoise après la libération (1944-1967)". Armé Retrieved 6 July 2013. 
  4. 4.0 4.1 Cf. the report of the Central State Archive of Rhineland-Palatinate on the first expellees arriving in that state in 1950 from other German states in the former British or American zone: "Beyond that [the fact, that until France took control of her zone west only few eastern war refugees had made it into her zone] already since summer 1945 France refused to absorb expellee transports in her zone. France, who had not participated in the Potsdam Conference, where the expulsions of eastern Germans had been decided, and who therefore did not feel responsible for the ramifications, feared an unbearable burden for its zone anyway strongly smarting from the consequences of the war." N.N., „Vor 50 Jahren: Der 15. April 1950. Vertriebene finden eine neue Heimat in Rheinland-Pfalz“, on: Rheinland-Pfalz Landesarchivverwaltung, retrieved on 4 March 2013.
  5. Gollancz, Victor (1947). In Darkest Germany. Victor Gollancz, London. pp. 116, 125–6. 
  6. 6.0 6.1 Perry Biddiscombe: Dangerous Liaisons: The Anti-Fraternization Movement in the U.S. Occupation Zones of Germany and Austria, 1945–1948, Journal of Social History 34.3 (2001) 611–647
  7. 7.0 7.1 7.2 Children of the Enemy by Mary Wiltenburg and Marc Widmann, Der Spiegel, 2007-01-02
  8. 8.0 8.1 Hitchcock, William I. (2008). The Bitter Road to to Freedom. Free Press, New York. 
  9. Benjamin, Daniel (2003-08-29). "Condi's Phony History". Slate magazine. Archived from the original on July 20, 2008. Retrieved 2008-07-08. 
  10. The Expulsion of the ‘German’ Communities from Eastern Europe at the End of the Second World War Steffen Prauser and Arfon Rees, European University Institute, Florence, Department of history and civilization

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