Whereas previous volumes address the troubling question of how Germans got themselves into one of the most brutal dictatorships of the 20th century, this one focuses on how they emerged from the experience of Nazism to rebuild their economy, society, political system, and culture. Key aspects of this process will be introduced in the present narrative and explored in greater detail in the accompanying primary source documents and historical photographs. Before we proceed, however, a few words about the organization of this volume are in order.
The documents included in Occupation and the Emergence of Two States, 1945-1961 have been divided into 28 sections. The first looks at Allied planning in the final months of war and Allied policies after Germany’s defeat. Then follow various sections on the re-emergence of political and economic life in East and West Germany. Among other subjects, these sections introduce the major domestic and international issues that the two Germanies, together with the occupying powers, grappled with throughout the 1950s, right up to the building of the Berlin Wall in 1961.
Roughly speaking, the first half of the volume deals with economic and political history, foreign and security policy, and population movements, while the second half focuses more broadly on the social and cultural history of East and West Germany. Gender and sexuality, consumption, popular culture, and so-called modern lifestyles are just some of the topics covered. The volume concludes with a selection of West German public opinion polls. These surveys constitute a fitting endpoint insofar as they show how contemporary Germans responded to various questions relating to a host of issues raised in the preceding sections.
Confronted with thousands of documents from the postwar period, we had to be highly selective. This means that some subjects are covered with one or two documents, whereas others – such as the system of civil or criminal law – are not mentioned at all. Readers should also note that no one section has been devoted to “coming to terms with the past,” since the question of Nazi legacies – like the competition between capitalist liberal democracy and state socialism – shaped all aspects of life in Germany between 1945 and 1961. While the documents we have chosen go a long way in illuminating the process of reconstruction in both East and West, the visual and statistical materials included in this volume constitute an equally rich source of information. We would encourage our readers to take full advantage of them, drawing connections wherever possible. Having said this, we will now offer some general reflections on the postwar period, our aim being to provide a larger narrative framework and some basic points of orientation.