Marshall Plan: US aid to ailing post-war Europe

In parts of Europe, economies are recovering rapidly after World War II. Yet other countries, particularly Germany, face severe food shortages and largely destroyed industry. The US Marshall Plan, presented by Secretary George C. Marshall on June 5, 1947, has seen the economies of Western Europe recover at a rapid pace. The plan is also aimed at the expansion of communism in Europe.

Morning plan

At the end of World War II, one thinks about what to do with Germany once it has been defeated and occupied. US Treasury Secretary Henry Morgenthau Jr. comes with a radical plan, the Morgenthau plan. Important in this plan is the premise that Germany can never start a war again. Germany must be demilitarized. The country is divided into 2 separate states. The main industrial and mining areas come under international control or are annexed. All heavy German industry must also be dismantled or destroyed.

Henry Morgenthau

The plan came to the attention of the American media in September 1944. When the Germans became aware of the plan, the German propaganda minister Joseph Goebbels used it as an encouragement to continue the fight. US General George C. Marshall complains to Morgenthau that German resistance has increased, for fear of a large-scale starvation of the German people. A diluted version in which Germany is transformed into an agricultural state is signed by President Franklin D. Roosevelt and British Prime Minister Winston Churchill during the Second Quebec Conference in September 1944. The division of Germany is no longer on the agenda.


There is also great opposition from the Americans and the British to the Morgenthau plan. British Foreign Secretary Anthony Eden is strongly opposed to the plan and, with the help of others, manages to set the plan aside in Britain. US Secretary of State Cordell Hull believes that there is nothing left of Germany but land and that only 60 percent of Germans can live on that land. Which means 40 percent die. U.S. Secretary of War Henry Stimson called the plan “a crime against civilization.” Former United States President Herbert Hoover is examining the economic situation in Austria and Germany at the request of President Harry S. Truman. He argues that the Morgenthau plan is impractical and that 25 million Germans will die as a result.

Germany has long been Europe’s industrial giant, and post – war poverty is holding back its recovery. While food levels have returned to a reasonable level in a number of European countries, countless Germans starve to death between 1945 and 1947. The scarcity of Germany leads to large expenditures from the occupying powers, which must remedy the shortcomings. Germany is of great importance to the economies of Western Europe. Immediately after the war, industrial production is only a quarter of the level before the war. Due to the disappearance of German industry, there is an energy problem in the surrounding countries. Because the German coal industry is very important to these countries.

Marshall plan

As mentioned, the economies of a number of countries in Europe are recovering rapidly. In 1947, the recovery stalled because the balance of payments in Western European countries deteriorated and there was a great shortage of foreign currency. Especially in dollars. Also in 1947, aid from UNRRA, an international organization founded in 1943 to help countries liberated from the Axis powers, ceases.

Persistent poverty and hunger in parts of Europe and the beginning of the Cold War make it clear that change is needed. A major political change comes with the European Recovery Program. It was proposed by the US Secretary of State, former General George C. Marshall. The plan is better known as the Marshall Plan.

The Truman Doctrine

After World War II, the Communist East is the new enemy of the capitalist West. Between 1945 and 1948, many countries in Eastern Europe fell into communist hands. The United States and countries in Western Europe fear the rise of communism. In February 1947, the British government informed the Americans that it was no longer financially able to provide economic and military support to Turkey and Greece. These countries have received assistance from Britain since the end of World War II. Now they are threatening to come under communist influence. After the war, there was also great support for communism in the Western European countries. Americans are afraid of the spread of communism in Western Europe and claim that economic growth is an important factor in counteracting communism.

On March 12, 1947, US President Truman delivered a speech to both Congress and the House of Representatives. That speech is seen as the proclamation of the Truman Doctrine. The Truman Doctrine is American foreign policy whose primary goal is to stem the Soviet Union’s global expansionist drive. That is why Truman promises American support for countries threatened by communism. Historians consider Truman’s speech to be the beginning of the Cold War.

The Marshall Plan must ensure Europe’s economic recovery. An important factor for the United States in this assistance is to counter communist expansion. Because of this, the Marshall Plan can be seen as part of the Truman Doctrine.

Cause Marshall

On June 5, 1947, Secretary Marshall gave a speech at Harvard University proposing the European Recovery Program. He is there to receive an honorary doctorate. In this speech he says that “Europe’s need for foreign food and other essential products, mainly from America, for the next 3 or 4 years is so much greater than Europe’s financial capacity. That this continent needs outside help to rebuild its own resources and that without that help Europe will languish economically, socially and politically. ” It is only logical, he claims, that the United States is doing what it can to help the world economy recover. Without that recovery, there can be no political stability and peace.

Marshall plan

George C. Marshall during his speech on June 5, 1947.

In addition to humanitarian and political motives, there are also economic motives for the Marshall Plan for the United States. US export opportunities are limited due to lack of dollars in Europe. By pumping money into these economies, this problem can be solved. It is also more attractive for the United States to provide assistance to the entire region than to each country individually. The Marshall Plan could thus lead to more European cooperation.

Marshall said: “It is clear that before the United States can continue its efforts to remedy the situation and help Europe on the road to recovery, there must be some degree of agreement between European countries on their needs and the share that these countries themselves will contribute to the assistance that our government will provide if our action is to have the intended result, and it would be neither right nor effective for our government to devise a unilateral aid program to get Europe back on its feet financially. come from Europe. ”

Molotov plan

On April 3, 1948, President Truman signs the Marshall Plan. Initially, the aid is also intended for countries in Eastern Europe and even for the Soviet Union. But they refuse, and Soviet Foreign Minister Vyacheslav Molotov calls the plan “a threat to the sovereignty of European countries.” When a conference is held in Paris in July 1947, where America and several European countries talk about the Marshall Plan, countries from Eastern Europe are not there, because on the orders of the Soviet leader Joseph Stalin, they are not allowed to accept the invitation.

The Truman Doctrine

Harry Truman signs the Marshall Plan.

It may be questioned whether the offer of Marshall aid from the Americans to the Soviet Union has been sincere. It is unlikely that Congress would have approved the plan to give money to the country that has become the new enemy. The Soviet Union decides to develop its own Marshall Plan, the so-called Molotov Plan. However, nothing came of it.

The Netherlands receives Marshall aid

Eventually, 16 countries will be eligible for Marshall aid, including the Netherlands. These countries are applying for $ 22.4 billion in aid. In April 1948, the US Congress approves the Marshall Plan. Over the next 4 years, America will pay out approximately $ 13 billion to the participating countries. 80 percent of the amount is a gift and 20 percent a loan. In 4 years, the Netherlands will receive an amount of more than 1 billion dollars, about 109 guilders per. inhabitant. In 1948, the ship “North Dam” of the Holland-America Line sent first aid supplies from America to the port of Rotterdam. The ship arrives on April 26. With wheat, general cargo, soybean oil, agricultural machinery, steel and cars on board. For the Netherlands, Marshall aid is mainly of economic importance because American aid promotes the economic recovery in West Germany in particular.

The United States twice threatens to stop Marshall aid to the Netherlands. In 1949, this happened during the Dutch police operations in Indonesia. If the Netherlands in 1950 did not want to supply troops for the war in Korea, the United States again threatened to stop Marshall aid.

Western European economies continue to thrive and German reconstruction is accelerating. Between 1948 and 1952, gross domestic product in Western Europe grew from $ 120 billion to $ 159 billion.

The Marshall Plan has been a great success as the economies of the recipient countries are recovering at an accelerated pace. The threat of communism coming to power in these countries has also disappeared. George C. Marshall receives the 1953 Nobel Peace Prize for the plan named after him.

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