Politics & Policy

A Familiar Place

It got ugly in postwar Germany, too.

With all the nay saying about our presence in Iraq, it’s worth noting that none of these difficulties are particularly new. No postwar occupation has been without serious challenges, including the occupation of Germany after World War II. The New York Times ran a series of news stories in late 1945 reporting, in part, the following:

“Germans Reveal Hate of Americans,” October 31, 1945

The German attitude toward the American occupation forces has swung from apathy and surface friendliness to active dislike. According to a military government official, this is finding expression in the organization of numerous local anti-American organizations throughout the zone and in a rapid increase in the number of attacks on American soldiers. There were more such attacks in the first week of October than in the preceding five months of the occupation, this source declared.

This official views the situation as so serious that he and others are protesting the withdrawal of 1,600 experienced military-government officers form the German governments on township, county and regional levels between Nov. 1 and Dec. 15. “We have been talking since the summer about the trouble that we expect this winter,” the source said. “That trouble has now begun and we meet it with a plan to withdraw officers from communities where trouble is already being encountered.

“Loss of Victory in Germany Through U.S. Policy Feared,” November 18, 1945

Grave concern was expressed today by informed officials that the United States might soon lose the fruits of victory in Germany through the failure to prepare adequately for carrying out its long-term commitments under the Potsdam Declaration. Government failures were attributed in part to public apathy. The predictions of a coming crisis are predicated upon three points:

1) The failure to start training a civilian corps of administrators to take over when the Army’s Military Government pulls out of Germany by June 1.

2) The failure of the Government to set up an expert advisory group, such as that which existed in the Foreign Economic Administration’s Enemy Branch to back up the American administrators of Germany with informed advice and provide a focal point in Washington for policy-making on the German question.

3) The failure of the Allies to decide together, or the United States for itself, the crucial economic question raised by the Potsdam Declaration; namely what level of German economic activity is desired over the long term?

“Germans Declare Americans Hated,” December 3, 1945

An exhaustive compilation of opinions of Germans in all walks of life on their reaction to the United States occupation of their country was released this afternoon from the confidential status under which it was submitted to officials of the United States Forces in the European Theatre recently.

Bitter resentment and deep disappointment was voiced over the Americans’ first six months of occupation, though there was some praise for the improvements in transportation, health conditions, book publishing and entertainment.

“German Election Set In Towns of U.S. Zone,” December 19, 1945

United States Seventh Army headquarters announced today that plans had been completed for initial German elections in January at Gemuende. A statement said that a vast majority of Germans remained passive in attitude toward politics and displayed no disposition to take over civic responsibilities.

I think we can agree that the postwar occupation of Germany, and the rest of Europe, worked out quite well, despite numerous difficulties and the best efforts of the New York Times to highlight them–as it does today in postwar Iraq.

Mark R. Levin is president of Landmark Legal Foundation and talk-radio host on WABC 770 AM in New York.


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