Quebec City, Quebec, Canada September 16, 1944

On this date in 1944 the four-day Second Quebec Con­fer­ence ended with mul­tiple agree­ments that shaped war-torn and post­war Europe for decades to come. Chief attendees were U.S. Pre­si­dent Frank­lin D. Roose­velt, British Prime Minis­ter Win­ston Chur­chill, and their com­bined mili­tary chiefs of staff. Also in atten­dance was long-time U.S. Trea­sury Secre­tary Henry Morgen­thau, Jr. Among the signif­i­cant agree­ments reached in Que­bec con­cerned con­tin­ued U.S. Lend-Lease aid to Great Britain, the Allied occu­pa­tion zones in a van­quished Nazi Germany, and Morgen­thau’s proposed plan to disarm and demilitarize Germany after its unconditional surrender.

Sometime between January and Septem­ber 1944 Morgen­thau drafted a memo­ran­dum titled “Sug­gested Post-Surren­der Pro­gram for Germany” for Roose­velt’s con­sid­er­a­tion. Ini­ti­ally against Morgen­thau’s pro­posal, Chur­chill was able to narrow its scope by drafting a new ver­sion, which ended up being signed by the two states­men. That signing coin­cided with their signing a $6.5 bil­lion long-term aid pack­age to Great Brit­ain, which Chur­­chill desperately needed to see his nation through a war that was bank­rupting it. To Roose­velt’s Sec­re­tary of State Cordell Hull, the two signings looked like a quid pro quo.

Morgenthau advocated harsh mea­sures to en­sure post­war Germany would be un­able pro­voke a third world war. According to his orig­i­nal plan, Germany was to be demili­ta­rized by com­pletely dis­arming the German armed forces and people (including the removal or destruc­tion of all war mate­rial), the total destruc­tion of the whole German arma­ments in­dus­try, and the reduc­tion or destruc­tion of all civil­ian heavy indus­try that might have a mili­tary poten­tial. Morgen­thau likened these steps to “castrat[ing] the German people . . . so they can’t just go on repro­ducing people who want to con­tinue the way they have in the past.” Produc­tion of air­craft, mer­chant ships, and loco­mo­tives, for instance, was pro­hib­ited. What was left of the German eco­nomy was to be restruc­tured toward light indus­try and agri­cul­ture in accor­dance with Germany’s “approved peace­time needs.” Also, Germany was to be par­ti­tioned into two auto­no­mous, inde­pen­dent states, one in the north and one in the south, after Germany’s east­ern neigh­bor Poland was awarded Germany’s East Prus­sia and Sile­sia regions and Germany’s western neigh­bor France awarded Germany’s Saar and adja­cent terri­tories between the Rhine and Moselle rivers. The heavily popu­lated Ruhr region (“the caul­dron of wars”) was to be stripped of its indus­tries, its skilled workers and fami­lies relo­cated, and the whole area turned into an inter­na­tional zone to be governed by an agency of the United Nations (see map below).

The Western Allies implemented some portions of the Morgen­thau Plan following the Que­bec con­fer­ence. Some of them strongly influ­enced Joint Chiefs of Staff Direc­tive 1067 signed by Presi­dent Harry S. Truman on May 10, 1945. JCS 1067 directed U.S. occu­pa­tion forces in Germany to “take no steps looking toward the eco­no­mic reha­bil­i­ta­tion of Germany [nor steps] designed to main­tain or strengthen the German eco­nomy.” The new presi­dent suc­ceeded in incor­po­rating much of JCS 1067 (and indirectly the Morgen­thau Plan) into the Pots­dam Agree­ment, a “com­muni­qué” that the victo­ri­ous powers hashed out during their meeting in a Berlin suburb from July 17 to August 2, 1945. Following the Agree­ment’s imple­men­ta­tion, German living stan­dards declined and mal­nu­tri­tion and death rates rose above prewar levels.

Beginning in mid‑1946 many observers came to see JCS 1067 as in­flicting undue hard­ship on Germans and limiting the abil­ity of their coun­try to recover from the devas­ta­ting effects of the past decade. Tru­man’s new Secre­tary of State, retired Gen. George C. Marshall, citing U.S. secu­rity con­cerns following a fact-finding visit to West­ern Europe, was able to con­vince the presi­dent to rescind the puni­tive occu­pa­tion direc­tive JCS 1067 in 1947, 14 months after the Morgen­thau Plan had been abandoned as official U.S. policy.

Exacting Revenge on Germany: The 1944 Morgenthau Plan

1944 Morgenthau Plan

Above: Map of the 1944 Morgenthau Plan. The plan envisioned defeated Germany totally demili­tarized and divided into three areas: a north­ern state, a south­ern state, and a de-in­dus­tri­al­ized Inter­na­tional Zone in the west, admin­is­tered by “an inter­nat­ional secu­rity organ­i­za­tion to be estab­lished by the United Nations.” The Inter­na­tional Zone in­cluded the Ruhr area (dark green), regarded as Germany’s indus­trial heart­land (coal, steel, arma­ments, chem­icals), and the impor­tant Baltic naval port of Kiel. The inten­tion was to pre­vent Germany from ever again being able to develop mili­tary indus­try or wage war. In addi­tion, the Saar region and sur­rounding area, an­other impor­tant source of coal and indus­try for Germany, was to be ceded to France. To Poland would go most of Sile­sia and south­ern East Prussia; to the Soviet Union, north­ern East Prussia; and to Den­mark, north­ern Schles­wig. The Morgen­thau Plan, in the sense of the plan drafted by Morgen­thau or the plan ini­tialed by Roosevelt, was never imple­mented. In April 1948 a new plan, infor­mally named after Presi­dent Truman’s Secre­tary of State George C. Mar­shall, was in place. The $13 bil­lion, four-year Eco­no­mic Recovery Pro­gram helped Euro­pean eco­no­mies (apart from those of the Soviet satel­lites trapped behind the Iron Cur­tain in Cen­tral and East­ern Europe) quickly recover and mod­ern­ize their indus­trial and busi­ness prac­tices along Amer­i­can lines. Besides instilling a sense of hope and self-reli­ance in war-weary Euro­peans, the Mar­shall Plan also sti­mu­lated the poli­ti­cal recon­struc­tion and eco­nomic inte­gra­tion of West­ern Europe, which today finds expression in the 27‑member‑state European Union.

U.S. Treasury Secretary Henry Morgenthau, Jr., oil by David Silvette, 1936azi Propaganda Minister Joseph Goebbels, August 1934

Left: Henry Morgenthau, Jr. (1891–1967) was U.S. Secre­tary of the Treasury during all but one year of Pres­i­dent Frank­lin D. Roose­velt’s admin­is­tra­tion. He played a major role in designing and finan­cing Roos­evelt’s New Deal, which was a series of wel­fare pro­grams and finan­cial reforms that helped lift the nation out of a deep depres­sion. His biggest domes­tic success was the new Social Secu­rity prog­ram, signed into law in 1935. During the World War II era he was the godf­ather of the mas­sive public rela­tions cam­paign to finance U.S. parti­ci­pa­tion in the war through the sales of war bonds. More than 85 mil­lion Amer­i­cans pur­chased bonds totaling $185.7 bil­lion. As the only Jewish member in Roose­velt’s cabin­et, Morgen­thau pushed the presi­dent to create the U.S. War Refugee Board in Janu­ary 1944, which helped save as many as 200,000 Euro­pean Jews from Nazi exter­mi­na­tion. On the inter­national stage at the 1944 Bretton Woods Con­fer­ence, Chair­man Morgen­thau was pre­sent at the crea­tion of the Inter­na­tional Mone­tary Fund and World Bank. And, of course, he was the author of the 1944 Morgen­thau Plan, a pro­posal to pre­vent Germany from ever again becoming an international military threat.

Right: Joseph Goebbels (1897–1945) was German Minis­ter of Propa­ganda from 1933 to 1945. A viru­lent anti-Semite, Goeb­bels was one of Adolf Hitler’s closest and most devoted aco­lytes, choosing sui­cide for him and his family hours after Hitler and his wife had ended their lives in the ruins of the Nazi capi­tal, Berlin. Upon learning the details of the Morgen­thau Plan, Goeb­bels was able to use its exis­tence to bolster German resis­tance on the Western Front, telling his media audi­ence that “the Jew Morgen­thau” planned the enslave­ment of Germany. Screamed a head­line in the Voelkischer Beobachter, the offi­cial news­paper of the Nazi Party (circu­lat­ion 1.7 mil­lion in 1944): “ROOSE­VELT AND CHUR­CHILL AGREE TO JEWISH [Morgen­thau] MURDER PLAN!” The Wash­ing­ton Post urged the Roose­velt admin­is­tration to stop giving Goeb­bels ammu­ni­tion: if the Germans suspect that nothing but com­plete destruc­tion lies ahead, then they will fight on. Roose­velt’s Repub­lican oppo­nent in the 1944 presi­dential elec­tion com­plained in his cam­paign that the Germans had been terri­fied by the plan into fana­tical resis­tance: “Now they are fighting with the frenzy of despair.” A mem­ber of the War Depart­ment said the Morgen­thau Plan was worth 30 German divisions.

Appraisal of the 1944 Morgenthau Plan

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