Historic Events of the Allied Occupation of Germany / Historische Ereignisse der alliierten Besatzung Deutschlands

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High Command Trial

The High Command Trial (officially, The United States of America vs. Wilhelm von Leeb, et al.), also known initially as Case No. 12 (the 13 Generals’ trial), and later as Case No. 72 (the German high command trial: Trial of Wilhelm von Leeb and thirteen others), was the last of the twelve trials for war crimes the U.S. authorities held in their occupation zone of Germany in Nuremberg after the end of World War II. These twelve trials were all held before U.S. military courts, not before the International Military Tribunal, but took place in the same rooms at the Palace of Justice. The twelve U.S. trials are collectively known as the “Subsequent Nuremberg Trials” or, more formally, as the “Trials of War Criminals before the Nuremberg Military Tribunals” (NMT).

Tripartite Naval Commission

The Tripartite Naval Commission (TNC) was a naval commission founded by the United States, Great Britain and the USSR in order to allocate seized German ships and submarines to the said nations. France was excluded due to Soviet intervention. It was a consequence of the Potsdam Heads of State Conference which took place in Berlin between 17 July and 2 August 1945. The record of the Conference – the so-called Potsdam Agreement – stated that:

“The Three Governments agree to constitute a Tripartite Naval Commission to submit agreed recommendations to the Three Governments for the allocation of specific German warships” and that “The Three Governments agreed that transfers shall be completed as soon as possible, but not later than 15 February 1946”.

The Tripartite Naval Commission began its work in Berlin on 15 August 1945 by appointing a Technical Sub-Committee which had responsibility for making the appropriate recommendations and preparing the allocation lists. This Sub-Committee, in turn, appointed Inspection Parties (also called Tripartite Naval Boards) to undertake the detailed work involved in deciding which ships and submarines would be retained, their allocation between the three Allies, and the disposal arrangements for the remainder.

In August, September and October 1945, the Tripartite Naval Boards, based in Germany, visited the UK, the USA, Canada, Trinidad and Norway, as well as Poland and the USSR, inspecting the surrendered ships and U-Boats, and determined which should be recommended to the Technical Sub-Committee and then the TNC for allocation, and therefore transfer, to each of the three Allies.


Wiederbewaffnung (rearmament) refers to the United States of America plan to help build up West Germany after World War II. They could not function outside an alliance framework. These events led to the establishment of the Bundeswehr, the West German army, in 1955. The name Bundeswehr was a compromise choice suggested by former general Hasso von Manteuffel. Wehrmacht had been vetoed by the American occupational authorities.

Heinz Guderian stated that the fight was mainly between the Soviet Union and the United States. “People resent the fact that while the United States followed a policy of German disarmament and of friendship with Russia after the war, it now advocates rearmament they could just as easily argue that it was for cooperation with the Soviet Union and to change its policy”. On August 29, 1949, the Soviet Union exploded an atomic bomb at Semipalatinsk in Kazakhstan. This forced a reevaluation of the defense requirements of Western Europe. In June 1950, the Korean War began and scared West Germans greatly. Many saw a comparison between the actions of North Korea and the possible actions of East Germany. Both France and the United Kingdom were wary of the revival of German martial potential with any rearmament. They had both been severely tested in World War I and World War II. American political figures such as Senator Elmer Thomas of Oklahoma stated that West Germany needed to be included in a defensive system, “several divisions of German troops should be armed by the United States without Germany herself being permitted to manufacture arms.” German Prime Minister, Konrad Adenauer was determined to use offers of rearmament to regain sovereignty for West Germany.

During the NATO meeting in September 1950, France decided to become isolated for the operation because they did not want Germany to join NATO. The Federal Republic of Germany (West Germany) wanted to join NATO because the then German chancellor Konrad Adenauer decided that it would appease the fears of its neighbors and it would gain Germany’s trust and show willingness to cooperate. At first the US was skeptical about the whole operation, but after Dwight D Eisenhower agreed to endorse the deal then the US was for the operation. The Federal Republic of Germany in Paris, France, agreed to support the operation. One of the better known attempts to gain West Germany the right to re-arm was the European Defense Community or EDC. A modification of the Pleven Plan it would permit the raising of West German forces but integrate them into a European Defense Force. When West-Germany embraced an edited plan and the push for rearmament seemed to be assured, France decided to kill it in August 1954. In 1955 West Germany joined NATO.

East and West Germany were still then unarmed but had defense systems (western Bundesgrenzschutz and eastern Kasernierte Volkspolizei). The Bundeswehr was armed originally from Military Assistance Program funds from the United States. Former Kriegsmarine ships were returned by the United States that had been seized under the Tripartite Naval Commission. Slowly, West German sailors were put on US navy ships and also West Germany helped to supply the navy. This whole operation was intended to make sure that West Germany possessed an effective military force. The US supplied the potential sailors with intensive training to help build up the navy for the future as West Germany set a goal to have up to 50,000 men. Theodor Blank wanted to have a bigger military than Italy because he wanted to project German power and make bigger contributions. To get his point across he used this chart:

To reach that goal, they took the West German border security force (Bundesgrenzschutz) and changed them into military personnel, utilizing both young men having “difficulty” finding something useful to do, and men who volunteered. West Germany instituted a policy of conscription, despite apprehension that the new fighting force would be compared to Hitler’s Wehrmacht. Erik Reger, editor of the Berlin Tagespiegel was noted as saying “As soon as Germany has soldiers, there will be war.”  There was enough favor for the new army the state then became a more right sided party. The social democrats still argued that even though the numbers were high and there was enough positive reaction, it would still not be enough to revive German militarism.

Among large numbers of former German officers, however, there was the conviction that no future German army would be possible without the rehabilitation of the Wehrmacht. To this end, a group of former senior officers gathered on 9 October 1950 at Himmerod Abbey to produce a memorandum for West German chancellor Konrad Adenauer, which included these key demands:

  • All German soldiers convicted as war criminals (Kriegsverurteilte) would be released.
  • The defamation of the German soldier, including Waffen-SS, would have to cease.
  • Measures to assure the welfare of former soldiers and their widows would have to be taken.

Adenauer accepted these propositions and in turn advised the representatives of the three Western powers that German armed forces would not be possible as long as German soldiers remained in custody or were brought before courts. Part of Allied’s willingness to commute a number of sentences for incarcerated officers undoubtedly tied back to that condition. In the early months of 1951, public declarations from Dwight D. Eisenhower and other American military brass followed, to the effect of there being ‘a real difference between the German soldier and Hitler and his criminal group.’

To build the military’s strength the US established the Naval Historical Team (NHT) to help with the British-American World War II navy historical project. Both countries recruited naval veterans and naval activists to help build up the navy by gaining a better perspective of the war in the water. NHT was not there for long studying the history and tactics for fighting at sea. They were then told to get information about the Soviet naval forces. The first thing that they tried to study was the landing and targets of the Soviet navy. Eventually this agency became the coordinating staff of Bundesmarine, the West German navy. Another group of veterans were called the labor service units to do similar tasks. The veterans that were hired were from former Kriegsmarine and they did a lot of converting of surveillance. Eventually the operations were set to the ground as well. Chancellor Adenauer created the Blank Office (Amt Blank) to gain sovereignty through the defense contribution. He also hired Kriegsmarine veterans to work with him. With the different organizations working together a naval proposal referred to as the Wagner Paper was adopted to use as a negotiation tool at the conference of the European Defence Community (ECD). The ECD was held in Paris and it became a dead lock for all the naval issues in 1951. France did not approve of West Germany having its own navy for defense. They did not want them to have submarines or destroyers as a part of their navy because it was a threat to France and the weapons were perceived as Nazi regime. To resolve the issue the Wagner Paper was sent to the SHAPE organization. SHAPE wanted the navy to have weapons and have a big navy. Eventually France came to a conclusion, they offered some escorts and they got their desired size on the navy. The West German military was under the supreme allied NATO control. This hurt the militaries command positions.

The growth of the German Bundeswehr proved a key element in the growth of West German influence in central Europe. This, along with the Treaty of Paris which cemented the elements of Western European economic cooperation helped to integrate post-war West Germany into European life. At the same time, the Soviet Union used this as foundational justification to implement the Warsaw Pact, which provided substantial military and political control over key Eastern European states. In April 1985 Eastern Europe got together in Warsaw to sign an extension to the 1955 Treaty on Friendship. The Warsaw pact ensured that it will be a part of the international political and military for years to come. It has been used to develop some other Eastern European militaries in a reasonable manner so there is no conflict between ranks, power, and alliances.



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