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The Morgenthau Plan: A Soviet-Created Document by John Wear

James Bacque wrote: “The Morgenthau Plan has three remarkable aspects: that it was devised, that it was implemented after it had been cancelled, and that it has since been covered up so well. Now it has shrunk from sight in the West.”[1] This article documents that the Morgenthau Plan was implemented, that it was drafted primarily by Soviet agents, and that it resulted in the deaths of millions of Germans after World War II.
At the Quebec Conference in September 1944, U.S. President Franklin Roosevelt and British Prime Minister Winston Churchill announced the adoption of the Morgenthau Plan. Named after U.S. Secretary of the Treasury Henry Morgenthau, the objectives of the Morgenthau Plan were to deindustrialize Germany and diminish its people to a pastoral existence once the war was won. The Morgenthau Plan was designed to reduce the military-industrial strength of Germans forever, so that never again could Germany threaten the peace.[2] As many proponents of the Morgenthau Plan knew, adoption of this plan would result in the starvation of many millions of the German population.
The Morgenthau Plan created division within and outside the Roosevelt cabinet. Secretary of War Henry Stimson privately said that it amounted to Jewish retribution-a view shared by many. Raymond Moley, a former New Dealer who had become a bitter critic of the Roosevelt administration, said, “Such a plan as that attributed to Mr. Morgenthau would shatter whatever economic balance will remain in Europe when peace comes.” A Washington Post editorial called the Morgenthau Plan “the product of a fevered mind.”[3]
The leaking of the Morgenthau Plan provided Joseph Goebbels, Hitler’s propaganda minister, with strong arguments for a bitter resistance by the Germans. The horrible prospects of eternal slavery, deindustrialization, exile to Siberia, starvation, the break-up of Germany and even sterilization were portrayed to the German people by their leaders. The fear of the consequences of unconditional surrender greatly bolstered German resistance. The Germans fought even when their country had been cut in half and they had no realistic prospect of winning the war.[4]

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One Reply to “The Morgenthau Plan: A Soviet-Created Document by John Wear

  1. In 1944, Morgenthau proposed the Morgenthau Plan for postwar Germany, calling for Germany to lose its heavy industry, and the Ruhr “should not only be stripped of all presently existing industries, but so weakened and controlled that it can not in the foreseeable future become an industrial area”.[23] Germany would keep its rich farmlands in the east. However Stalin insisted on the Oder-Neisse border, which moved those farming areas out of Germany. Therefore, the original Morgenthau plan had to be dropped, Weinberg argues, because it was “too soft on the Germans, not too hard as some still imagine.”[24]

    At the Second Quebec Conference on September 16, 1944, Roosevelt and Morgenthau persuaded the initially very reluctant British Prime Minister Winston Churchill to agree to the Morgenthau Plan, likely using a $6 billion Lend-Lease agreement to do so.[25] Churchill chose however to narrow the scope of Morgenthau’s proposal by drafting a new version of the memorandum, which ended up being the version signed by the two statesmen.[25] The gist of the signed memorandum was “This programme for eliminating the war-making industries in the Ruhr and the Saar is looking forward to converting Germany into a country primarily agricultural and pastoral in its character.”

    The plan faced opposition in Roosevelt’s cabinet, primarily from Henry L. Stimson, and when the plan was leaked to the press, there was public criticism of Roosevelt.[26] The President’s response to inquiries was to deny the press reports.[27] As a consequence of the leak, Morgenthau was in bad favor with Roosevelt for a time.

    German Propaganda Minister Joseph Goebbels used the leaked plan, with some success, to encourage the German people to persevere in their war efforts so that their country would not be turned into a “potato field.”[28] General George Marshall complained to Morgenthau that German resistance had strengthened.[29] Hoping to get Morgenthau to relent on his plan for Germany, Roosevelt’s son-in-law, Lt. Colonel John Boettiger, who worked in the United States Department of War, explained to Morgenthau how the American troops had had to fight for five weeks against fierce German resistance to capture Aachen and complained to him that the Morgenthau Plan was “worth thirty divisions to the Germans.” In late 1944, Roosevelt’s election opponent, Thomas E. Dewey, said it was worth “ten divisions”. Morgenthau refused to relent.[30]

    On May 10, 1945, Truman signed the U.S. occupation directive JCS 1067. Morgenthau told his staff that it was a big day for the Treasury, and that he hoped that “someone doesn’t recognize it as the Morgenthau Plan.”[31] The directive, which was in effect for over two years directed the U.S. forces of occupation to “… take no steps looking toward the economic rehabilitation of Germany”.[32]

    In occupied Germany Morgenthau left a direct legacy through what in OMGUS commonly were called “Morgenthau boys”. These were U.S. Treasury officials whom General Dwight D. Eisenhower had “loaned” in to the Army of occupation. These people ensured that JCS 1067 was interpreted as strictly as possible. They were most active in the first crucial months of the occupation, but continued their activities for almost two years following the resignations of Morgenthau in mid-1945, and some time later, of their leader, Colonel Bernard Bernstein, who was “the repository of the Morgenthau spirit in the army of occupation”.[33] They resigned when, in July 1947, JCS 1067 was replaced by JCS 1779, which instead stressed that “An orderly, prosperous Europe requires the economic contributions of a stable and productive Germany.”

    Morgenthau’s legacy was also seen in the plans for preserving German disarmament by significantly reducing German economic might.[34] (see also Allied plans for German industry after World War II)

    In October 1945, Morgenthau published a book titled Germany is Our Problem in which he described and motivated the Morgenthau plan in great detail.[35] Roosevelt had granted permission for the book the evening before his death, when dining with Morgenthau at Warm Springs. Morgenthau had asked Churchill for permission to also include the text of the then still secret “pastoralization” memorandum signed by Churchill and FDR at Quebec but permission was denied.[36] In November 1945 General Dwight D. Eisenhower, the Military Governor of the U.S. Occupation Zone, approved the distribution of 1000 free copies of the book to American military officials in occupied Germany. Historian Stephen E. Ambrose draws the conclusion that, despite Eisenhower’s later claims that the act was not an endorsement of the Morgenthau plan, Eisenhower both approved of the plan and had previously given Morgenthau at least some of his ideas on how Germany should be treated.[37]

    Following his resignation, along with other prominent individuals such as the former first lady, Eleanor Roosevelt, Morgenthau remained for several years an active member of the group campaigning for a “harsh peace” for Germany.[38] Ultimately though, the policy of re-integrating a fully industrialized and de-Nazified modern Germany[citation needed] into Europe was the policy adopted, as described in Frank Capra’s influential 1945 short subject “Here is Germany”.

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