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Chapter 29

EUH 1000 Chapter 29: book outline - ch. 29

European History
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Chapter 29: Chapter Outline
Postwar Europe and the Origins of the Cold War
The Legacies of the Second World War
1945 Europe lay in ruins: fighting had destroyed cities and landscapes and had obliterated
buildings, factories, farms, rail tracks, roads, and bridges.
About 50 million human beings died in WWII - 20 million Soviet soldiers and civilians were
killed; 9–11 million noncombatants died in Nazi concentration camps.
Tens of millions were left homeless
Displaced persons – postwar refugees, including 13 mil. Germans, former Nazi prisoners
and forced laborers, and orphaned children.
The newly established United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration (UNRRA)
opened over 760 DP camps and spent $10 billion to house, feed, clothe, and repatriate the
refugees between 1945 and 1947.
Postwar authorities were left to deal with the crimes committed by the Nazis; almost 100,000
Germans and Austrians were convicted for wartime crimes (along w/ collaborators)
In Germany, Allied occupation governments set up denazification procedures meant to
identify former Nazi Party members and punish those responsible for the worst crimes of the
National Socialist state.
At the Nuremberg trials (1945–1946), an international military tribunal organized by the four
Allied powers tried and sentenced high-ranking Nazi military and civilian leaders.
In the Soviet zone, about 45,000 former party officials, upper-class industrialists, and large
landowners were identified as Nazis and sentenced to prison or death.
The Peace Accords and Cold War Origins
Hostility between the Eastern and Western superpowers disappeared.
Americans and the British made military victory their highest priority and focused on the
policy of unconditional surrender to solidify their alliance with the Soviet Union.
The Americans and the British avoided discussion of Stalin’s war aims and the shape of the
postwar world until a conference at Teheran in November 1943 between Stalin, Roosevelt,
and Churchill, when such a discussion could no longer be postponed.
Stalin, concerned that the Soviet Union was bearing the brunt of the fighting, asked his allies
to relieve his armies by opening a second front in France.
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Roosevelt’s consent to an American-British frontal assault through France meant that the
Soviet and the American-British armies would come together in defeated Germany along a
north-south line and that only Soviet troops would liberate eastern Europe.
When the Big Three met again in February 1945 at Yalta, advancing Soviet armies were
within a hundred miles of Berlin, while the temporarily stalled American-British forces had
yet to cross the Rhine into Germany.
Given the strong Soviet position and the weak American position at the time, an increasingly
sick and apprehensive Roosevelt could do nothing but double his bet on Stalin’s peaceful
The Allies agreed at the Yalta Conference that each of the victorious powers would occupy a
separate zone of Germany, and that the Germans would pay heavy reparations to the Soviet
They also agreed in an ambiguous compromise that eastern European governments were to be
freely elected but pro-Russian.
The Yalta compromise over elections in eastern Europe broke down almost immediately, as
the advancing Soviets formed coalition governments that included Social Democrats and
other leftist parties, but reserved key government posts for Moscow-trained communists.
At the postwar Potsdam Conference of July 1945, the long-avoided differences over eastern
Europe finally blew open when Roosevelt’s successor, the more determined Harry Truman,
demanded immediate free elections throughout eastern Europe and Stalin refused point-blank.
Mutual distrust, anxious security concerns, and antagonistic desires for economic and
territorial control now destroyed the Allies’ former partnership.
Stalin, who had lived through two enormously destructive German invasions, was determined
to establish a defensive buffer zone of sympathetic states around the Soviet Union and at the
same time expand the reach of communism and the Soviet state.
The United States, for its part, wished to maintain liberal democracy and free-market
capitalism in western Europe and quickly showed it was willing to use its vast political,
economic, and military power to maintain predominance in its own sphere of influence.
West Versus East
In May 1945, as the fighting ended, Truman abruptly cut off all aid to the ailing Soviet
Union, and in October he declared that the United States would never recognize any
government established by force against the free will of its people.
In March 1946 former British prime minister Churchill ominously informed an American
audience that an “iron curtain” had fallen across the continent, dividing Germany and all of
Europe into two antagonistic camps.
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Recognizing that communists could not take power in free elections, Stalin purged
noncommunist elements from the coalition governments set up after the war and established
Soviet-style one-party communist dictatorships.
Stalin’s seizure of power in Czechoslovakia in February 1948 was particularly antidemocratic
and greatly strengthened Western fears of limitless communist expansion.
The large, well-organized Communist Parties of France and Italy returned to what they called
the “struggle against capitalist imperialismat the same time that communist revolutionaries
were waging bitter civil wars in Greece and China.
In the spring of 1947, when it appeared to many Americans that the Soviet Union was
determined to export communism by subversion around the world, the United States
responded with the Truman Doctrine, aimed at “containing” communism to areas already
occupied by the Red Army.
The United States, President Truman promised, would use diplomatic, economic, and even
military means to resist the expansion of communism anywhere on the globe.
The U.S. government restructured its military to meet the Soviet threat, pouring money into
defense spending and testing nuclear weapons.
The American determination to enforce containment hardened when the Soviets exploded
their own atomic bomb in 1949.
In 1947, recognizing that an economically and politically stable western Europe could be an
effective block against the popular appeal of communism, U.S. Secretary of State George C.
Marshall offered Europe economic aid—the Marshall Plan—to help it rebuild.
The Marshall Plan was one of the most successful foreign aid programs in history, giving
about $13 billion in aid (over $200 billion in today’s dollars) to fifteen western European
nations, thus setting the European economy on the path to recovery.
In 1949 the Soviets established the Council for Mutual Economic Assistance (COMECON)
to rebuild the East Bloc independently of the West.
In June 1948 the Western allies replaced the currency in West Germany and West Berlin, a
first move in plans to establish a separate West German state and a violation of the peace
In response, Stalin blocked all traffic through the Soviet zone of Germany to Berlin.
The Western allies coordinated around-the-clock flights of hundreds of planes over the Soviet
roadblocks, supplying provisions to West Berliners and thwarting Soviet efforts to swallow
up the western half of the city, and the Soviets backed down after 324 days.
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