This preface introduces the central perspective, argument, and scholarship context for the book. The book reassesses American policy toward eastern Germany and seeks to write the GDR back into the history of U.S. foreign policy in the early Cold War.
Chapter 1 describes the July 1945 Potsdam Conference, at which the United States, Great Britain, and the Soviet Union agreed that each occupying power would satisfy its reparations demands from its own zone instead of pooling them across the three (after the inclusion of France, four) zones. This zonal reparations solution put the Soviet zone and the western zones on very different economic and political trajectories, eventually leading to German division. Much of the scholarship blamed the Truman administration's preoccupation with reviving German coal production in the western Rhine-Ruhr area (as a critical element in the economic rehabilitation of Western Europe) and American insistence that any German exports be a first charge against Allied-financed imports for the decision to abandon German economic unity. Yet Soviet dismantling practices in the Soviet zone essentially prejudiced a zonal solution once it became shockingly evident to Truman and his advisers at Potsdam.
Chapter 2 details how Dwight D. Eisenhower and Lucius D. Clay, as leaders of the American military government in Germany, pursued quadripartite solutions and especially Soviet cooperation in occupied Germany through the establishment of German central administrations, a level-of-industry agreement, and an export-import plan. It was in particular Clay's hope that such four-power solutions would facilitate the unified treatment of Germany in economic and political terms, temper sovietization of the eastern zone, and ultimately roll back Soviet power in Germany. In the fall of 1946 American and Soviet officials came precipitously close to an agreement on reparations that would have led to the lowering of zonal borders. Yet against the backdrop of deteriorating relations between the West and the USSR over crises in Iran and Turkey, Soviet reticence with regard to opening up its zone doomed these efforts.
Chapter 3 analyzes the U.S. attitude toward the restoration of political life in eastern Germany. The chapter argues that events on the ground in East Germany were more complicated than Washington believed, and that General Clay had good reasons to believe that the situation remained more fluid and open to the West. For example, the United States maintained extensive contacts with Otto Grotewohl, the SPD leader who eventually would acquiesce to the merger of his party with the Communists. In contrast to Washington's perspective, which tended to write off East Germany as hopelessly lost to the West, Clay continued to believe that the East was open to Western influence despite the forced merger of the SPD and the KPD. This chapter highlights the frequent contrast in U.S. foreign policy between Washington perspectives—often influenced by domestic politics and necessities—and American representatives on the ground in the respective countries.
Chapter 4 reveals a turning point in American perceptions of East Germany with the launching of the Truman Doctrine and the Marshall Plan. A perception developed that East Germany offered the Soviets a "springboard for penetration" of the West, enabling them to play the "national card" against the West, which was increasingly eschewing national unity in favor of creating and integrating a Western German state into Europe. As late as the March 1947 Moscow conference, General Clay remained convinced that a reparations arrangement with the Russians was possible. But some Americans, including Kennan, believed the Soviet position in the East was weak and that the United States should seek a unified Germany through four-power negotiation.
Chapter 5 analyzes the U.S. attitude toward the new East German state's appeal to German nationalism through discussion of the May 1950 "Free German Youth" (FDJ) rally. American leaders faced a dilemma in dealing with the East German state, and their approach differed from their dealings with other Soviet satellites. Determined to deny the East German state any legitimacy, the United States kept open the concept of a united Germany but also pursued policies, especially European integration, that deepened the division of Germany. The West feared that renouncing pursuit of German unity would lose them support from "its" Germans. The result was that some initiative was left in the hands of the East Germans, who used it to stage the massive youth rally.
In Chapter 6, in the wake of the Korean War, the American response to East Germany is demonstrated in the Carroll-Speier report, which served as a catalyst for more aggressive American actions toward East Germany. In effect, the United States sought to construct a series of strategies to encourage resistance and undermine the East German regime. The plan was not directed solely at regime change—it was directed at the regime's elimination! In discussing and making clear the importance of these efforts toward psychological warfare, this chapter brings to light an aspect of the confrontation in Germany that the literature largely missed.
Chapter 7 puts the Germans in the foreground. The chapter analyzes the American attitude toward East German "unity initiatives," the West German government and private anti-communist organizations in promoting rollback activities. It also highlights American policy toward the 1951 Communist Youth Festival in Berlin.
Chapter 8 analyzes U.S. policy toward inter-German trade. Trade with the East highlighted all the dilemmas that America faced in designing a specific policy toward Germany while fighting a global Cold War. At a maximum, the United States wanted to restrict West German trade with the east and use it to wage economic warfare against the Soviet Union. It also wanted to use trade as economic leverage to defend its highly vulnerable position in Berlin and to keep the Soviets from imposing another devastating blockade on the city. But it was almost impossible for the Americans to control inter-German trade; the West German government resisted dictation from the Allies and found ways around their strictures.
The United States did play a role in the 1953 rebellion, largely through RIAS and the transmission of information across East Germany. But the United States was caught as flat-footed and off guard by the rebellion as it had been by Stalin's death. The U.S. response was cautious, although a U.S.-sponsored food program proved to be a major Cold War victory. Ironically, the very success of the food campaign, which helped Adenauer politically in the West, may also have helped Ulbricht in the East, as the Soviets did not want to appear weak by forcing his resignation.
The conclusion provides a summary of the main arguments of the book and ends by raising questions about the problematic legacy of American rollback policies during the early Cold War and beyond.