Germany had fought to the bitter end, and that end had proved quite bitter indeed: much of the “thousand-year Reich” lay in rubble, and the country was occupied by the four major allies who had combined to defeat the Nazi regime (the USA, Britain, the Soviet Union and France). Now the question was what to do with this conquered giant.
A number of plans were put forward to guarantee that Germany would never again become a military power capable of smashing its neighbors. But any coordinated plan for handling Germany was quickly undercut by increasingly acrimonious disputes between the three Western allies on one side and the Soviet Union on the other. As a result, two very different Germanys started to emerge in the occupational zones.
For the Germans, the early years of the Occupation were in some ways much worse than the war years, as food production and distribution had almost broken down with the fall of the Third Reich. During these early days, the German farmers themselves were able to produce only 900 -1,000 calories a day per inhabitant, so the Germans required dietary supplements from the occupying powers. For 12 years these people had been told by their leaders they were the “master race”, and now they were totally dependent on foreign military forces for their daily survival.
Germans refer to this time as Stunde Null (Zero Hour), because they were forced, as it were, to begin all over again from scratch. But the industriousness, ingenuity and discipline that had characterized German societies for so long sprang forth again, this time slowly, painfully rebuilding the industrial and agricultural bases of the society.