Chapter

1945: Europe's ‘zero hour’

Kjell M. Torbiörn

in Destination Europe

Published by Manchester University Press

Published in print December 2003 | ISBN: 9780719065729
Published online July 2012 | e-ISBN: 9781781700488 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.7228/manchester/9780719065729.003.0001
1945: Europe's ‘zero hour’

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At the end of World War II, Germany – formerly the dominant power in continental Europe – found itself under the occupation of the victorious powers: the United States, the Soviet Union, the United Kingdom and France. Although tensions would soon arise between the United States and the Soviet Union – resulting in the division of Europe into two hostile blocs – the new situation also offered a unique opportunity for reconciliation and budding co-operation, especially between Germany and France, whose rivalry had underlain both world wars. The Marshall Plan, launched by the United States in 1948, kick-started economic recovery and co-operation in Western Europe, permitting democracy and a market economy to take hold. In Central and Eastern Europe, however, the Soviet political grip hardened, and communist regimes posing as ‘people's democracies’ were installed, emphasising state ownership of the means of production and central planning of the economy. Europe's two halves grew increasingly apart, and a ‘Cold War’ ensued. The establishment of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) under U.S. leadership in 1949 confirmed this division and extended it to the security field.

Keywords: World War II; United States; Europe; Marshall Plan; economic recovery; co-operation; democracy; market economy; Cold War; NATO

Chapter.  5198 words. 

Subjects: European Union

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