Understanding post-WWII German peace process is not simple
In the Sept. 4 letter to the editor, George Pieczenik falsely claims that Germany “never even signed a peace treaty, just an armistice” following their defeat in the Second World War. George is incorrect, and overlooks the complex and important history of the German state following their loss in 1945.
Pieczenik has failed, in his historical and political analysis, to look beyond the German Instrument of Surrender (GIS), signed on May 8, 1945, which brings about an official ceasefire and official end to armed German resistance. Pieczenik seems to believe that the armistice that ended the Second World War also brought about the end of the German peace process — he is incorrect.
Following the signing of the GIS, the victorious allied powers, chiefly the United States, Soviet Union, United Kingdom and provisional French government, took steps to legally dissolve the German state and bring about the legal grounds in which a formal occupation and partition of Germany could be undertaken. On June 5, 1945 the Berlin Declaration was signed.
The Declaration, along with further detailing the logistics of the German surrender, officially dissolves all of Germany’s governing bodies, laying the groundwork for denazification and a restructuring of the German state. To quote the second paragraph of the Declaration: “There is no central Government or authority in Germany capable of accepting responsibility for the maintenance of order, the administration of the country and compliance with the requirements of the victorious Powers.”
With this declaration, Germany lost its sovereignty and was partitioned on the grounds that the German people could not govern themselves. This declaration, along with the occupation of Germany and the stunted sovereignty of the German state, remained the status quo until Sept. 12, 1990, when the governments of East and West Germany, as well as Germany’s “Plus Four” (plus-Vier, the Allied states that partitioned the German state) signed the Treaty on the Final Settlement with Respect to Germany.
This treaty laid the groundwork for German unification, and is the peace treaty that ends Germany’s Second World War. For Germany, the Second World War does not end in 1945 with the GIS. Germany, despite the Marshall Plan, and despite the advent of pro-NATO (West Germany) and pro- Moscow (East Germany) governments, remained partitioned until 1991, when the Final Settlement went into effect, and remained occupied until the Allied forces were withdrawn in 1994.
Pieczenik’s view of Germany’s peace process is shortsighted and overlooks the complex nature of devolution, occupation, peace and unification. This lack of depth and analysis undermines the heart of Pieczenik’s letter, and unnecessarily deducts from his credibility. He must understand that the victorious powers did sign a peace treaty with the German state.
Christopher Carlson is a graduate of the State University of New York at New Paltz.