Chapter 4: The Dawn of the Competition Principle in Western Europe, 1945–1957
The unconditional surrender of Nazi Germany on 8 May 1945 brought the Second World War in Europe to an end. The final two years had been waged at considerable economic and physical cost to Germany and the outcome radically changed the political map of Europe and heralded the slow demise of the former great West European empires as economic bankruptcy took its toll. Military might and power now transferred to the two new superpowers in the form of the United States of America (USA) and the Soviet Union (USSR). During the war both powers and their allies (primarily France and the United Kingdom) had shared a common goal in securing the defeat of Hitler’s Germany, but little united these powers beyond this objective and little was said about what form the post-Hitler order would take. Indeed, different visions and approaches, given the incompatibility between capitalism and communism on the part of both new superpowers, ensured that the wartime coalition not only disintegrated very quickly but led to the onset of the Cold War and the division of Europe between East and West for over forty years. The difficulties and tensions between the superpowers became pretty visible in their handling of policy towards Germany. Both Moscow and Washington may have sought the means to remould Germany into a democratic and peaceful state and agreement had been reached to divide Germany (shorn of its eastern territories of East Prussia, Silesia and East Pomerania) into four separate control zones of occupation prior to...
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