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A Tale of Two Occupations: A Comparative Examination of the Occupation Policies of the U.S. and the Soviet Union in Post-War Germany




Parks, Kendall

Type of Degree

PhD Dissertation


Political Science

Restriction Status


Restriction Type

Auburn University Users

Date Available



At the end of World War II, Germany lay in ruins. The Wehrmacht had inflicted horrific levels of death and destruction on numerous European countries, only to have the war end with an utterly defeated, destroyed, and demoralized Germany. The Allies (the United Kingdom, the United States, France, and the Soviet Union) established four zones of occupation. The military leaders in each occupation zone were responsible for the governance and performance of key administrative functions in their zone. This dissertation will examine the actions taken by the U.S. Army and the Soviet Red Army leadership during the period from 1945-1949 and the resulting outcomes. In order to best explore the differences that occurred in these two zones of occupation, this dissertation looks at the following question: How did implementation of occupation policies adopted by the U.S. and USSR affect the lives of those living within their respective spheres of occupation? To answer this question, I will investigate policy decisions and activities in five broad categories that the authorities executed in their respective spheres of occupation: Soldier Discipline, Health Policy, Economic Policy, Political Representation, and Civil Liberties (those items that Americans would describe as part of the purview of the ‘First Amendment’). The findings of my research indicate that the American occupation zone leader, General Lucius D. Clay, enjoyed many structural advantages with regard to his ability to make decisions that the literature of organizational theory indicates contribute to success. Clay had a great amount of autonomy in his decision-making, he gained enormous support from the American government, and a variety of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) provided food, clothing, and a variety of other materials. In the Soviet zone of occupation, the Red Army leadership did not enjoy the same independence of decision-making. In addition, they also needed to overcome the impact of the atrocities committed by the Red Army soldiers at the end of the war and the early part of occupation, as well as the decisions made by the Soviet leadership to ship East German factories and equipment to the Soviet Union as reparations for Soviet losses during the war. Many in the Soviet zone of occupation ultimately demonstrated their dissatisfaction with the Soviet methodologies by voting with their feet. The research findings indicate that the rape, looting, and violence of Soviet soldiers significantly contributed to the desire to flee the Soviet zone. Additionally, the health, economic, and civil liberties policies enacted in the U.S. sector gave citizens in the American zone a healthier life with more economic and political freedoms. The foundations embedded by General Clay in the American sector led to the creation of a democratic government in the Federal Republic of Germany (FRG). The Soviet actions evolved into the communist government in the German Democratic Republic (GDR). After the years of occupation, the FRG achieved extraordinary economic success and became a nation of personal liberties, whereas the GDR became a nation oppressed by the State Security forces and enjoyed a significantly lower mark of economic outcomes. These results in the two halves of post-WWII Germany can be attributed to the policies emplaced by the occupation zone leadership in the American and Soviet zones of occupation.