Military History Q&A Series Q17

Brett’s Question: How did the allies do reconstruction differently after WW2 to avoid another “post WW1 catastrophe”?

Justin’s answer:

The difference between 1919 and 1945 was very different. In 1919-20, the Germans and the Russians made a separate peace while the US decided to pull away from European affairs. In WW1, the Western allies kept Germany “geographically intact” while punishing her. In 1945, the situation was very different. Soviet forces occupied Berlin. US and Soviet armies met at the River Elbe in the middle of Germany, setting the stage for a future partition.

In 1945, US Secretary of Treasury Morgenthau wanted to raze German industrial ability down to nothing and turned the country into a giant agricultural country. Fortunately, Churchill and Roosevelt overruled Morgenthau. The Allies divided Germany into 4 occupational zones: US, GB, France, and USSR.


The western allies realized that they needed to rebuild Germany socially and politically, not punish her economically as they did in WW1. The war was bad enough. One policy the Allies enacted was called denazification. Anyone who was a Nazi was stripped from power and tried for any crimes he or she committed. Otherwise, ordinary Germans will run the country. At least that was ideal.

Eventually, the three western sectors formed one country called West Germany and the Soviet sector became East Germany. This would create a state of affairs for another 45 years.  Germany would later be reunited when the Cold War ended. That’s another discussion.


Meanwhile, the western 3 allies realized that denazification might not work. There were plenty of Germans who had certain knowledge that would be useful to the west against the rising Soviet threat. Certain individuals with strong Nazi ties like Wernher von Braun (father of modern rocketry) had their backgrounds scrubbed. Others like Richard Gehlen, a spymaster who had a spy network, was folded into the CIA.

Watchf Associated Press    Germany APHS55429 HEADS SPY GROUP

Richard Gehlen. His spy network was later folded into the CIA. 

Many officers and enlisted men who had no ties of the Nazi party later joined the Bundeswehr and became senior officers.


Otto Kretschmer. Top U-Boat commander during the Kriegsmarine. Without Nazi ties, Kretschmer joined the new Bundesmarine. He retired as a rear admiral.

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