Michael Neiberg is a professor of history and the Stimson Chair of the Department of National Security and Strategy at the U.S. Army War College. The author of several award-winning books, Neiberg lives in Carlisle, PA.
His new book is Potsdam: The End of World War II and the Remaking of Europe.
From Neiberg's Q & A with J.P. O'Malley at Salon:.
How to deal with Germany was obviously a crucial aspect of the Potsdam conference. Was there a general consensus among the Big Three?Learn more about Postdam at the Basic Books website.
The real problem in 1945 regarding Germany was, (a) who is really to blame for this? Is it the German people? That is to say: If you devastate Germany are you in fact punishing the wrong people. And, (b) what is best way going forward to try and re-build a peaceful Europe?
Again you have to go back to Versailles in 1919, where the Allies devastated Germany. However, they also left Germany strong enough to do something about it. And that was a fundamental mistake. So what they did at the end of the Second World War was to apply hard power — they divided Germany, reduced the size of it, occupied it, and kept the army down.
But they also applied liberal solutions too: They tied western Germany into the international economy, and into a wider alliance like NATO, which allowed it to have a military force. But at the same time they didn’t allow Germany to operate that military force independently.
What was the reasoning behind this?
They thought that if you give Germany enough time, hopefully enough Germans can come to the fore who won’t believe [the Nazi ideology] that their parents and grandparents believed. And that worked. Germany may be the most dominant power in Europe today; but most Europeans — outside of Athens of course — aren’t particularly worried about Germany as they might have been in, say, the 1930s.
But presumably you have an interest as a historian in understanding why the Germans voted for the Nazi party in the first place?
Well it’s a tough question to deal with because..[read on]
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The Page 99 Test: Potsdam.