The Morgenthau Plan for post-war Germany (1944)

In September 1944, the United States government received a series of recommendations from Secretary of the Treasury Henry Morgenthau Jnr. Formally titled “Suggested post-surrender program for Germany” but dubbed the Morgenthau Plan, it contained a proposed strategy for managing post-war Germany:

“It is suggested that the position of the United States should be determined on the basis of the following principles:

1. Demilitarisation of Germany

It should be the aim of the Allied forces to accomplish the complete demilitarisation of Germany in the shortest possible period of time after surrender. This means completely disarming the German Army and people (including the withdrawal or destruction of all war material) and the total destruction of the whole German armament industry as well as those parts of supporting industries having no other justification.

2. Partitioning of Germany

Poland should get that part of East Prussia which doesn’t go to the USSR and the southern portion of Silesia… France should get the Saar and the adjacent territories bounded by the Rhine and the Moselle Rivers… An International Zone should be created containing the Ruhr and the surrounding industrial areas. Denmark should be given the territories between its present borders and the International Zone, north of the Kiel Canal. The remaining portion of Germany should be divided into two autonomous, independent states: a South German state comprising Bavaria, Wuerttemberg, Baden and some smaller areas; and a North German state comprising a large part of the old state of Prussia, Saxony, Thuringia and several smaller states.

There shall be a customs union between the new South German state and Austria, which will be restored to her pre-1938 political borders.

3. The Ruhr

Here lies the heart of German industrial power. It should be dealt with as follows:

a. An International Zone should be created containing the Ruhr and the surrounding industrial areas. Included in the Zone should be the Kiel Canal and the Rhineland. The Zone should be governed by the international security organization to be established by the United Nations. The approximate borders of the Zone are shown on the attached map.

b. The internationalization of this area shall in no way interfere with total destruction of the German armament industry and supporting industries in the Ruhr… [and] restitution and reparations, including removal and distribution of industrial plants and equipment…

c. Ownership and control of major industrial properties remaining shall be transferred to the international organisation…

4. Restitution and Reparation

Reparations, in the form of recurrent payments and deliveries, should not be demanded. Restitution and reparation shall be effected by the transfer of existing German resources and territories, e.g. by restitution of property looted by the Germans in territories occupied by them; by transfer of German territory and German private rights in industrial property…; by the removal and distribution among devastated countries of industrial plants and equipment situated within the International Zone…; by forced German labour outside Germany; [and] by confiscation of all German assets of any character whatsoever outside of Germany.

5. Education and Propaganda

All schools and universities will be closed until an Allied Commission of Education has formulated an effective reorganization program. It is contemplated that it may require a considerable period of time before any institutions of higher education are reopened. Meanwhile, the education of German students in foreign universities will not be prohibited. Elementary schools will be reopened as quickly as appropriate teachers and textbooks are available. All German radio stations and newspapers, magazines, weeklies, etc. shall be discontinued until adequate controls are established and an appropriate program formulated.

6. Political decentralization

The military administration in Germany in the initial period should be carried out with a view toward the eventual partitioning of Germany into three states. To facilitate partitioning and to assure its permanence the military authorities should be guided by the following principles:

a. Dismiss all policy-making officials of the Reich government and deal primarily with local governments.

b. Encourage the reestablishment of state governments in each of the states, corresponding to 18 states into which Germany is presently divided, and in addition make the Prussian provinces separate states.

c. Upon the partition of Germany, the various state governments should be encouraged to organise a federal government for each of the newly partitioned areas. Such new governments should be in the form of a confederation of states, with emphasis on states’ rights and a large degree of local autonomy.

7. Local German economy

The sole purpose of the military in control of the German economy shall be to facilitate military operations and military occupation. The Allied Military Government shall not assume responsibility for such economic problems as price controls, rationing, unemployment, production, reconstruction, distribution, consumption, housing, or transportation, or take any measures designed to maintain or strengthen the German economy, except those which are essential to military operations… The responsibility for sustaining the German economy and people rests with the German people, with such facilities as may be available under the circumstances”…