138. a new Balance of Power and Cold War (1945-1948)

Название138. a new Balance of Power and Cold War (1945-1948)
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138. A New Balance of Power and Cold War (1945-1948)

"The Soviet Union never deserts its friends."- Soviet ambassador threatening intervention in Hungary

The aftermath of World War II. The human capacity for self-destruction had reached new heights in World War II. Recent estimates put the number of dead in the Second World War at 72 million, 27,000,000 in the Soviet Union alone. An estimated 25 million soldiers died, 4 million of them in POW camps. Forty-seven million of the dead were civilians who just happened to be caught in the wrong place at the wrong time. Twenty million of those deaths were the results of famine and disease. Two thirds of the dead in World War II were civilians, compared to 5% in World War I.

The Western allies' losses were relatively small. France, Britain, the U.S., and Canada together lost approximately 1.5 million dead, less than 1% of their combined populations. That still seems like a lot until one looks at other countries’ death tolls, especially in Central and Eastern Europe.

Germany lost 4.5 million soldiers and around 2 million civilians, some 9% of its population.

Some towns were left totally devoid of adult men.

By 1945, Treptow, a Berlin suburb had 1105 women age 19-21, but only 181 men

that age.

Two-thirds of all German men born in 1918 at the end of the First World War

didn’t survive the second one.

While Britain devoted over half its GDP for the war effort, Germany ransacked

other countries’ economies and workforces. By September, 1944, there were

7,487,000 foreigners in Germany, the vast majority of them there against their

will. They made up 21% Germany’s population.

Greece lost 7% of its population.

Ten per cent of Yugoslavia’s population died in the war, many of them when the Germans would execute all males over age 15 in a village in reprisal for partisan activities.

An estimated 27,000,000 Soviets died in the war, roughly 14% of its population.

Of 800,000 Soviet citizens who joined the German army, 215,000 (26.8%)


Out of 5.5 million Russian POWs, 60% died in German camps.

Of 750,000 Soviets captured at Kiev in 1941, only 22,000 survived war

After the war, there were 20 million more women than men in the Soviet


Poland lost around 5.5 million, including 3 million Jews from the Holocaust, totaling over 16% of its population.

Six million Jews, 60% of Europe’s total Jewish population, died, mainly from the Holocaust.

Forty per cent of those released from concentration camps didn’t survive

their first weeks of freedom.

In Asia, China had lost 20 million people, and Japan 3.78 million.

Berlin, like Warsaw and Stalingrad, was virtually destroyed, and was a prime example of the war’s destruction, especially in Central and Eastern Europe.

In the last 14 days of the war, it was hit by 40,000 tons of shells.

Up to 95% of its center and 75% of its houses were destroyed.

Wheeled transportation, including ambulance service no longer existed.

It had almost no fuel, electricity, or communications, and no working


There were 3000 breaks in its water mains, leaving virtually no clean

water or sanitary facilities. As a result, rats proliferated.

There was hardly any police & fire protection.

The dead lay unburied for months, creating a horrible stench

People lived in basements and dugouts of rubble in Stone Age like

existence. They were the lucky ones, for some had no shelter at all.

Some people estimated it would take fifteen years to clear its rubble.

As one witness described Berlin: "Wherever we looked we saw desolation. The streets were piled high with debris which left in many places only a narrow one way passage between high mounds of rubble, and frequent detours had to be made where bridges and viaducts had been destroyed. The Germans seemed weak, cowed, & furtive and not yet recovered from the shock of the battle of Berlin. It was like a city of the dead."

Other cities hardly did any better.

In Hamburg, devastated by a firestorm resulting from a massive raid in 1943,

pre-fabricated huts built for GI’s were the only decent shelters.

Wiener Neustadt, near Vienna had only 18 houses and 860 of its previous

population of 45,000 left.

Sixty per cent of Japan’s sixty largest cities were in ruins, being especially

vulnerable to American air raids since so many of their buildings were

made of wood. Americans had a hard time finding suitable targets for the

atomic bomb, because so few cities were relatively intact by August 1945.

Cultural damage. Much of Europe’s art and architecture were also ruined. In addition, high-ranking Nazis, such as Herman Goring, had plundered massive amounts of art, often stored in mine shafts that needed to be returned to their rightful owners. By the same token, the Soviets plundered much of Berlin’s art treasures, such as the Trojan gold excavated by Heinrich Schliemann in the 1800s. Not until after the fall of communism in 1991 did Russia admit to having these priceless artifacts.

In addition to the dead were another 50-60 million refugees (AKA Displaced Persons or DPs) some 10% of Europe’s population. Some 35 million of them had been forcibly uprooted, another15 million were escaping new political boundaries, especially Soviet Bloc countries.

Among them were people uprooted by the war trying to find their ways home, Jews still being persecuted even in the aftermath of the war, Germans driven from their homes as Stalin cut back Germany's borders to make room for his own expansion, and Soviets released from German prison camps only to be forced to return home as "traitors" to face Stalin's labor camps.

Refugees flocked to the cities desperately seeking jobs, food, and shelter, only to find mountains of rubble. Some 20,000 such DPs were reaching Berlin each day. Others fled to the countryside, already swollen by refugees from wartime bombing. One village grew from 890 to 3000 people.

Until 1945, when the UN Relief & Rehabilitation Administration (UNRRA) was founded, U.S. and British armies were responsible for DPs, something they weren’t prepared for. Refugee camps were organized by nationality. Authorities tried to talk people into returning home, but as soon as some agreed, a new flood of refugees came west fleeing the imminent Communist takeovers of their countries.

By 1947, the number of refugee camps run by UNRRA had risen from 227 to 762, most in West Germany. Some refugees were siphoned off to Canada, the U.S., Australia, and New Zealand, but slowly since jobs there were scarce too. Not until the Displaced Persons Act in 1948 did the U.S. let some 200,000 refugees in.

DPs. Uprooted from their homes, displaced persons wandered across Europe, murdered by hostile soldiers and civilians, dying from starvation and exposure, or wasting away in DP camps set up by the allies. Not wanted by the locals, the unfortunate émigrés were driven further on, attacked by bandits, robbed, raped, and murdered. In one case, several hundred Jewish children were loaded on a train to remove them from anti-Semitic attacks by people who, of all things, blamed the Jews for the war.

All too often, DPs and Jewish concentration camp inmates found themselves kept in old concentration camps, since there was nowhere else to put them. In some of these camps people continued dying at the rate of 1000 to 1500 a day, their bodies stacked like cordwood as in the days of the Third Reich.

German DPs. During the war, Hitler had expelled 750,000 Poles from Eastern Europe and replaced them with 500,000 Germans, a process that was reversed after the war when 8 million Germans were driven West to a Germany seriously reduced in size by Stalin. Hitler’s goal to include all Germans in one border had come true, but not as he had planned.

Of the 8 million Germans forcibly uprooted from Eastern Europe and driven to Germany, some 2 million died on the journey.

Rape. In addition, thousands of German women were raped, mainly by Russian soldiers in retribution for atrocities committed by the Nazis. There were 87,000 women in Vienna hospitals, and even more in Berlin, who reported being raped by Russian soldiers. However, since it was so humiliating to report such a crime, the real number of rape victims is estimated at several times that.

As a result, there were 150-200k “Russian babies” born in East Germany (1945-6). The number of illegal abortions performed and how many women died from them is unknown.

There were 700,000 needy children in Czechoslovakia; half of them infected with Tuberculosis.

Soviet DPs. Even more tragic, Stalin wanted East Europeans, especially Russians, in Western Europe back. Many of them had served in the German army, making up an estimated 10% of the Wehrmacht.

Thousands more were prisoners of the Germans, many of them wounded, but Stalin viewed them as traitors too. The allies gave in to Stalin’s demands and agreed to return any people from areas part of USSR before 1939.

In one case, thousands of Cossacks who had served in the German army at Stalingrad had made their way with their families to Austria, an ideal area with its pastures and relatively plentiful supplies. Then came the shattering news they were to be handed over to Stalin. In desperation, some killed themselves and their families.

Overall some 5.5 million Soviet citizens were repatriated. According to one estimate:

20% were sentenced to death or 25 years hard labor (death).

15-20% were given shorter labor sentences from which one might survive.

10% were exiled to Siberia.

15% were sent to rebuild cities.

15-20% were allowed to return home.

The remaining 15-25% escaped or died in transit.

Some accounts of DP's disembarking in USSR relate they were taken behind buildings after which came the sound of machine gun fire.

"Above the muzzle of our window and from all the other cells of the Lubyanka [Prison] we too, former prisoners of war & former front line soldiers, watched the Moscow Heavens, patterned with fireworks & crisscrossed by the beams of search lights. That victory was not for us."-- Alex Solzhenitsyn on victory celebrations from prison cell

Retribution. There were also angry recriminations against those who had collaborated with the Germans, especially in France. French women, who had fraternized with German officers, had their heads publicly shaved and were driven through the streets of their towns to the taunts of their neighbors. Other collaborators were beaten by angry mobs or, in some cases, shot.

Hardly a city in Europe had escaped the roar of the bombs, with some cities, such as Stalingrad, Warsaw and Berlin, being 95% destroyed. No wonder that one observer referred to Europe as "half graveyard and half junkyard." The psychological shock from so much destruction even caused many to question whether a decent civilization could be rebuilt.

Famine and pestilence also loomed over "the lunar landscape of craters & rubble” that was Europe in 1945. For one thing, much farmland was ruined by flooding and scorched earth policies, while damage to roads and bridges left each area isolated, making even unscathed farmland useless. In addition, lack of equipment and fertilizer led to lower crop yields and widespread hunger. To make matters worse, farmers wouldn’t trade the food they had for worthless cash. Finally, a drought in 1945 reduced Europe’s agricultural production to 50% below normal. This led to strict rationing, many people receiving less than 900 calories a day.

In Holland, people were allotted fewer calories in a week than they should have had in a day.

Getting by in postwar Germany. Before the 1945 harvest, the average German’s diet was 950 calories per day, less than half of what the average worker needed and one-third of the American diet. In Berlin it was 850 calories, leading to 4000 deaths each day. Broken water mains and sewers in Berlin led to outbreaks of cholera, killing two-thirds of all newborns.

In response, the U.S. and Britain in particular had to import food to prevent mass starvation in Germany. West Germany was especially hurt since Stalin had the best German lands and 4,000,000 refugees had fled to the West.

Britain imported 1,000,000 tons of food & the U.S. brought in another 500,000 million tons. Britain had to ration food for its own people, something it hadn’t had to do during the war.

Unfortunately, a grain shortage in America the next spring led to shipments being stopped, reducing the average single daily meal of watery soup to 400 calories, less than half of some concentration camps. People started collapsing on the job.

Others dug through the garbage of GI's who were receiving 4200 calories a day.

The "$65 question". In the early months of the occupation, things got steadily worse for the German people. Typhus spread among those too tired to clean lice. Tuberculosis in Hamburg increased five times. Children often went without breakfast or lunch, shoes or winter coats.

In contrast, occupation troops were very well off, which led to growing fraternization between allied troops and the local population. All this in spite of the fact that fraternization was strictly forbidden, bringing a fine of $65 (one month’s pay). This gave rise to the expression, "the $65 question".

U.S. propaganda, such as this passage from the GI paper, Stars and Stripes, tried to scare GI's from fraternizing with the Germans: "Don't get chummy with Jerry. In heart, body & spirit, every German is a Hitler...If in a German town you bow to a pretty girl or pet a blonde child, you bow to Hitler & his reign of blood."

In time so much fraternization took place that the Allied authorities could do nothing about it. According to one German at the time, "It is impossible to distinguish between good girls and bad girls in Germany. Even nice girls of good family, good education and family background have discovered their bodies afford the only real living.

Moral standards have crashed to a new low level. At the present rate, in two months, I wonder if there will be a decent moral woman left."
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