May 5

This Day in History

Cold War

May 5, 1955:

Allies end occupation of West Germany

The Federal Republic of Germany (West Germany) becomes a sovereign state when the United States, France, and Great Britain end their military occupation, which had begun in 1945. With this action, West Germany was given the right to rearm and become a full-fledged member of the western alliance against the Soviet Union.

In 1945, the United States, Great Britain, and France had assumed the occupation of the western portion of Germany (as well as the western half of Berlin, situated in eastern Germany). The Soviet Union occupied eastern Germany, as well as the eastern half of Berlin. As Cold War animosities began to harden between the western powers and Russia, it became increasingly obvious that Germany would not be reunified. By the late-1940s, the United States acted to formalize the split and establish western Germany as an independent republic, and in May 1949, the Federal Republic of Germany was formally announced. In 1954, West Germany joined the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), the mutual defense alliance between the United States and several European nations. All that remained was for the Americans, British, and French to end their nearly 10-year occupation. This was accomplished on May 5, 1955, when those nations issued a proclamation declaring an end to the military occupation of West Germany. Under the terms of an agreement reached earlier, West Germany would now be allowed to establish a military force of up to a half-million men and resume the manufacture of arms, though it was forbidden from producing any chemical or atomic weapons.

The end of the Allied occupation of West Germany meant a full recognition of the republic as a member of the western alliance against the Soviet Union. While the Russians were less than thrilled by the prospect of a rearmed West Germany, they were nonetheless pleased that German reunification had officially become a dead issue. Shortly after the May 5 proclamation was issued, the Soviet Union formally recognized the Federal Republic of Germany. The two Germany's remained separated until 1990, when they were formally reunited and once again became a single democratic country.

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