The consequences of World War II were devastating for much of the world. They're often discussed in relation to the populations massacred in the Holocaust and the devastation the conflict wreaked across the continents of Europe and Asia. Germany's losses following their surrender were tremendous, and the legacy of the war continues to affect the nation in terms of foreign and domestic policy.
How World War II Affected Germany
German military surrendered in Berlin on May 9, 1945. At this time, the country had been almost totally destroyed. Approximately 12 million of Germany's citizens had been made refugees, and the country's economy was in shambles. As Germany had been responsible for the conflict and for the Holocaust itself, it bore much of the responsibility for the devastation throughout Europe. Reparations were paid by Germany to France, the Soviet Union and the United Kingdom, largely in the form of factories, coal and other labor-related resources.
How Was Germany Divided at the End of World War II?
Following the close of the war at the Yalta and Potsdam conferences in 1945, the United States, Great Britain, the USSR and, to a lesser extent, France, planned the demilitarization and democratization of Germany. The country was divided into four separate zones, each to be governed by one of the Allied Powers and France. The goal was to treat Germany as a single economic zone, but trade issues necessitated that the Western and Eastern zones of the country be considered separately.
By 1949, the Western half of Germany, also known as the Federal Republic of Germany, had taken on the model of a Western democracy, while the Soviet-controlled Eastern side was a socialist state. This was the beginning of what Winston Churchill called "the Iron Curtain" and presaged the Cold War. The two halves of Germany became further separated, culminating in the erection of the Berlin Wall in 1961, which stayed up until 1989.
Is There Any Part of the Berlin Wall Still Up?
The Berlin Wall was formerly a 96-mile border surrounding West Berlin. Today, some parts of the wall remain, and much of it covered with graffiti and protest art. The Berlin Wall Memorial is located in the center of the capital city and extends across nearly a mile of the wall's former location. Visitors to the memorial can see the only part of the wall with preserved grounds behind it, which also includes the area known as the "death strip" – the area attended by dozens of armed guards in watchtowers with guard dogs intent on capturing, and in some cases killing, people attempting to flee to West Berlin.