Conclusion: The American Decision to Divide Germany  pp. 485-493

Conclusion: The American Decision to Divide Germany

By Carolyn Woods Eisenberg

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Ahead were forty years of Cold War, which ended abruptly on November 9, 1989, when euphoric Germans from east and west breached the wall in Berlin. Their reunion, oddly reminiscent of an earlier rendezvous when the two joyous Allied armies joined at the Elbe, terminated an exceptionally dangerous and tragic period of international relations.

To an American audience, the denouement in Germany held an obvious meaning: The Russians had split the country, and they had lost. For a generation, the Berlin Wall had been the prime symbol of the Cold War era. It exemplified the Soviet habit of foisting communism on unwilling people and imprisoning them forever. Although erected in 1961, twelve years after the establishment of two separate German states, it was the tangible proof of the Soviet Union's culpability.

Despite their manifold violations of human freedom, the Soviets were not the architects of the German settlement. It was the Americans and their British partners who had opted for partition with the associated congealment of the continental division. In contrast to their British confederates, U.S. policy makers had made their decision slowly and reluctantly, but it was America's wealth and power that assured its realization.

Though long forgotten, the Americans and British had initiated all the formal steps toward separation. In violation of the quadripartite framework established at Yalta and Potsdam, they had opted to fuse their two zones economically (December 1946), to incorporate western Germany in the Marshall Plan (July 1947), to implement a separate currency reform (June 1948), and to convene a Parliamentary Council for the establishment of a West German state (September 1948). In each instance, there was some equivalent move in the eastern zone.