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Occupied Germany and Divided Germany

This map is part of a series of 16 animated maps showing the history of Europe and nations since 1945.

After its defeat, Germany lost all the lands it had conquered since the beginning of the war, and part of its territory prior to 1938.

Its eastern border was redrawn at the Potsdam Conference and now ran along the Oder and Neisse Rivers. Eastern Prussia, Pomerania and Silesia were lost to Poland and the USSR.

To the West, the Saarland was placed under international control, as was management of Germany’s heavy industry in the Ruhr.

Germany was divided into four occupation zones controlled by the Allies who were given sovereign rights. To the East lay the Soviet zone and to the North the British zone, the Americans occupied the Southern zone, while the French were given the South-West zone, carved out of the northern and southern areas. The city of Berlin, located in Soviet occupied territory, was also divided into four separate sectors. The Occupying Powers created a decision-making body, called the Allied Control Council, whose decisions were carried out by a military governor located in each zone.

In January 1947, in order to check the advance of communism, the American and British zones merged to create the “Bizone”, which, when France joined in spring 1948, was renamed the “Trizone”. The Soviets reacted by throwing a cordon around the city of Berlin in June 1948, thus cutting the Trizone’s access to West Berlin by land or river. An air bridge, set up by the United States to guarantee the delivery of supplies, finally broke the blockade in May 1949.  However, this could not prevent the inevitable division of Germany: the Trizone became the Federal Republic of Germany (FRG) in September 1949. A month later, Eastern Germany was transformed into the German Democratic Republic (GDR) and a USSR satellite state.

Between 1945 and 1949, nearly 12 million Germans were forced out of the Eastern European countries of Poland, Czechoslovakia and Hungary and became refugees in Germany. For the most part, they were completely without resources or lodgings and their arrival exacerbated the socio-economic crisis which lasted until 1948-1949.