After the capitulation in 1945, everyone suffered from hunger and cold, but that didn't matter too much. What we most of all wanted was to broaden our own horizons on what had happened and to rebuild a new Germany. I and my friends studying at Göttin gen, not far from the border with the Soviets, kept a knapsack packed in case war broke out. What we couldn't agree on was whether in case of war it would be safer to head west to the Americans or east out of the combat zone.
Two things stand out in my memory: the magnanimous and at the same time wise action of the Marshall Plan, and, secondly, the keen American interest in getting the western part of Germany organized as a state and included in a Western alliance against the Soviets. The thing I least expected in 1945 was that by 1950 the American Secretary of State, Dean Acheson, would publicly ask for a German military contribution to the alliance.
Naturally, there was an enormous debate in Germany about whether we should rearm. We reluctantly accepted the necessity for rearming, but we didn't want the Bundeswehr simply to be a copy of the old Wehrmacht. We wanted to found a federal republic based on a democratic constitution and included in the West, but we didn't want it to res ult in the division of Germany. Ultimately it was Stalin's impossible conditions for unity that resulted in the division of our country.
An enormous and decisive factor in our thinking was the Berlin blockade. Berlin was close to our hearts, particularly to me as a dyed-in-the-wool Berliner. But it was extraordinary that Berlin became the symbol of democracy and longing for freedom in the face of Stalin's and, later, Khrushchev's policy of trying to isolate Berlin. As to the denazification process shortly after the war, I had some misgivings. When I drove through the entrance of the building where the trials were being held, there were two American tanks on each side of the road. My friends and I yelled to them, "Le ave this business to us!" It was wrong to leave the denazification process to the Allied occupation forces alone, because the Nazis committed crimes not only against Jews and Russians but against Germans as well. The problem was that it was difficult to f ind German judges qualified morally and politically for the job. But real denazification had to be in the hearts of us, the Germans, and therefore it was our task.
Former mayor of West Berlin, Richard Von Weizsäcker was President of the Federal Republic of Germany from 1984 to 1994
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