VII. The Contemporary Period, 1945–2000 > B. Europe, 1945–2000 > 6. Western Europe, 1945–2000 > h. Germany
  The Encyclopedia of World History.  2001.
(See July 20)
h. Germany
Chancellors (Federal Republic): Konrad Adenauer (1949–63, Christian Democrat); Ludwig Erhard (1963–66, Christian Democrat); Kurt Kiesinger (1966–69, Christian Democrat–Christian Social Union); Willy Brandt (1969–74, Social Democrat); Helmut Schmidt (1974–82, Social Democrat); Helmut Kohl (1984–98, Christian Democrat); Gerhard Schroeder (1998–, Social Democrat). The end of World War II brought profound changes to Germany. The fighting itself left the country in ruins, the outbreak of cold war hostilities led to partitioning in 1949, and in East and West Germany the dismantling of traditional structures of power by occupation forces produced very different cultural shifts as well as contrasting economic trajectories. After four decades of development along separate paths under divided statehood, Germany unified in 1989. One country again, Germany began to face a series of new challenges that tested not only its economic strength, but also the nation's cultural integrity and social cohesiveness.  1
1945, April 30
ADOLF HITLER COMMITTED SUICIDE IN BERLIN as Soviet forces captured the city.  2
May 8
Terms of unconditional surrender, signed at Reims on the previous day, became effective and ended the Second World War in Europe. Surrender terms were also signed in Berlin between German and Soviet commanders.  3
With the total defeat of the Hitler regime, no German government remained. Instead, supreme authority was vested in an Allied Control Council of Great Britain, France, the United States, and the Soviet Union. Each of these powers administered its own occupation zone, with the Soviet Union holding the region east of the Elbe. The former capital, Berlin, was likewise divided into four sectors. Future policy toward Germany had been outlined at the Potsdam Conference, though its implementation varied in the different occupation zones. The victors' most immediate measures were concerned with the liquidation of the Nazi system, the transformation of Germany's economy to peacetime production, and the transfer of administrative functions into German hands. On Nov. 20 the trial of major Nazi leaders opened at Nuremberg before an inter-Allied tribunal. In addition, thousands of lesser Nazis were removed from office and held for trial. Also on Nov. 20, the Control Council approved the transfer of 6,500,000 Germans from Austria, Hungary, Czechoslovakia, Poland, and the German region beyond the Oder-Neisse line, which had been handed to Poland at the Potsdam Conference, pending a peace settlement. In the months that followed, Germany's industrial power was drastically reduced by the dismantling of the war plants and the removal of equipment for reparations purposes. At the same time, large stores of food were imported to maintain a minimum ration. In all occupation zones, political parties were authorized by the end of 1945. In the Soviet zone administrative authority was vested in the provincial councils, which immediately initiated far-reaching land reforms. In the three Western zones, German self-government was initiated on local and provincial levels.  4
The Encyclopedia of World History, Sixth edition. Peter N. Stearns, general editor. Copyright © 2001 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Maps by Mary Reilly, copyright 2001 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved.