Marshall Plan

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Official logo that was used in aid projects under the Marshall Plan
ERP - Marshall Plan

The Marshall Plan , officially known as the European Recovery Program ( ERP for short ), was a major reconstruction program for the United States of America that, after the Second World War, benefited Western Europe , which was suffering from the consequences of the war, and the United States. It consisted partly of loans , but mostly of raw materials , food and goods .

The $ 12.4 billion program was passed by the United States Congress on April 3, 1948 and put into effect on the same day by US President Harry S. Truman . It took four years to reach June 1952. Over the entire period (1948–1952), the United States provided needy countries to the Organization for European Economic Cooperation ( OECD , founding name OEEC) with aid totaling 13.12 billion dollars (today the equivalent of around 139 Billion dollars).

Program development

The program was named after the US Secretary of State and 1953 Nobel Peace Prize Laureate George C. Marshall (1947-1949), on whose initiative it goes back. It was worked out in the United States Department of State, primarily by Secretary of State William L. Clayton and George F. Kennan , the head of the planning team. The program had three goals:

The plan was developed from May 1947 to convene the conference participants in April 1948 and to found an "Organization for Economic Cooperation in Europe" (OEEC). The Soviet Union and Central and Eastern European countries were also invited to deliberations on US aid. However, the Soviet Union soon withdrew from it and also forbade the European states under its influence to participate.

Billboard in West Berlin Marshall Plan, after 1948
Atlas with globe and lettering ERP , postage stamp for the German Industry Exhibition in West Berlin, 1950


Poster used by the US government to promote the Marshall Plan in Europe. The flag of Trieste (right below Germany) was mistakenly colored blue instead of red

Historians have questioned the reasons and economists have questioned the effectiveness and efficiency of the Marshall Plan; many consider it successful.

When the program ended, the economies of all participating states, with the exception of Germany , were stronger than they were before the war. Over the next two decades, all of Western Europe experienced unprecedented prosperity known as the post-war boom . The Marshall Plan made a not insignificant, but not particularly strong, contribution to the impetus for this upswing. In purely nominal terms, the economic historian Barry Eichengreen calculated an increase in gross domestic product through the ERP means by an average of 0.5 percent p. a. in the years from 1948 to 1951 through the aid money, which made up less than three percent of the national income of the 16 supported countries.

The Marshall Plan is also seen as the first step towards European integration . The establishment of a joint institution (the OEEC) was a prerequisite for the dismantling of customs barriers. One intended consequence was the systematic adoption of the American leadership style in companies. Many researchers attribute the rapid growth of the Western European countries after the war to this liberalization policy, which ensured that interstate trade restrictions were reduced or abolished.


Second World War

21 years after the end of the First World War , Germany triggered the Second World War by invading Poland in 1939 . In the end, the German Reich and the other Axis powers fought against the allies united in the anti-Hitler coalition . It was an alliance of convenience between the communist Soviet Union and the Western powers with their market economy orientation, which stood in clear contrast to the planned economy of the Soviet Union. Large parts of Europe were devastated in the six-year war, and around 50 million people died in the global conflict. Bombing and fighting mainly destroyed the large industrial cities, leaving millions of people homeless. The destruction of agriculture resulted in a food shortage in several parts of Europe, especially in the famine winter of 1946/47 . The smaller cities and towns in Western Europe had suffered less damage, but were isolated by the massive destruction of the infrastructure . In their war conferences , the Allies tried to agree on a common treatment for Germany after the war, which was ultimately unsuccessful because of the onset of the Cold War .

Development in Europe

After 1918, the European and especially the German economy had plunged into crises several times. The policy of the victorious powers of the First World War to keep Germany from another war by demanding high reparations had contributed to the takeover of power by the NSDAP under Adolf Hitler and thus the renewed World War. The USA had switched to isolationism after the First World War , even if they tried to support growth in Europe and, in part, campaigned for Germany on the reparations issue .

After World War II, the Washington, DC political elite agreed that such a crisis should not repeat itself. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs, under President Harry S. Truman, advocated an active foreign policy, but was more likely to be rejected by Congress. At first it was hoped that not much would have to be done to rebuild Europe and that Britain and France would rebuild their economies more quickly with the help of their colonies. Little progress had been made until 1947; the cold winters had exacerbated the situation. In 1947, the European economies were still below their performance levels before the war began. They showed little sign of growth; high unemployment rates and food shortages led to strikes and unrest in several countries . Agricultural production reached 83%, industrial production 88%, and exports 59% of the pre-war level.

One of the first sacks of flour from Kansas to reach southern Germany, MILLED MARCH 1945, Kansas

The most pressing problem was the lack of food. Before the war, Western Europe had imported food from Eastern and Central Europe; this source was now cut off by the emerging Iron Curtain . The situation was particularly bad in Germany, where in 1946/1947 every citizen could only consume an inadequate 1,800 kilocalories per day on average  . William Clayton reported to Washington that "Millions of people are slowly starving to death." Equally important for the decline of the economy was the shortage of coal, which was exacerbated by the hard winter of 1946/1947 (in which hundreds of Germans froze to death). The humanitarian goal of ending this emergency was a reason for the Marshall Plan.

The only major power whose infrastructure survived the war almost unscathed was the United States. They later took part in the war more than most European countries (with the exception of the Soviet Union) and suffered little damage on their own territory. The American gold reserves were still there, as was the large agricultural and industrial production base. During the war years, the country had the fastest economic growth in its history, as it produced for its own military, for its allies and also for its opponents. After the war, the factories quickly switched production to consumer goods , and the shortage of the war years was replaced by a boom in consumer goods spending. Nevertheless, the long-term development of the economy depended on trade in order to secure permanent prosperity through exports. With the funds from the Marshall Plan, Europeans could buy goods and raw materials from the United States.

Development of relations between the USA and the Soviet Union

At the Potsdam Conference , after the end of the war in Europe , the opposing views and goals became apparent. At that time there was still a consensus on the demand for reparations from Germany, the amount of which, however, was controversial. The post-war Germany was divided into four occupation zones split the Allied Control Council should make decisions for Germany as a whole. The lack of food in the harsh winter of 1946/1947 led the Americans and British to rethink, as it was detrimental to the " reeducation " of the Germans and, above all, Great Britain was burdened by occupation costs; In the USA, therefore, there were calls primarily from the Republicans for a return to isolationism . The Democratic President Truman, on the other hand, was of the opinion that the United States should assume its global political responsibility. One reason for the American interest in the reconstruction of Germany was its economic importance for the USA.

At that time, communist parties were hugely popular in some countries in Western Europe. In France and Italy , the poverty of the post-war era brought new influx of Communist parties, which had also played an important role in the resistance movements during the war; in France the Parti communiste français became the strongest force. Although the possibility that France and Italy could have become communist is now considered slim by historians, some Western politicians saw it as a real threat and saw the Marshall Plan as a possible remedy. The further attempt to remove some Central and Eastern European states from communist influence through the Marshall Plan did not succeed.

US aid to Greece under the Truman Doctrine of the Marshall Plan

Even before the Marshall Plan began, the United States invested a great deal, an estimated nine billion dollars between 1945 and 1947, in the reconstruction of Europe. Much of the aid came indirectly, as part of the war allies' loan and lease law or through attempts by American troops to rebuild the infrastructure or to help refugees. A number of bilateral treaties were also signed, the most important of which was the Treaty of Military Assistance to Greece and Turkey under the Truman Doctrine . The newly formed United Nations also began humanitarian interventions, almost entirely paid for by the United States. These efforts lacked central organization and planning; Moreover, they did not meet the real needs in Europe, namely the reconstruction of the infrastructure and the development of the economy.

Develop the plan

Even before the Marshall Plan was announced, there were plans to rebuild Europe. US Secretary of State James F. Byrnes presented an early version of the plan in the so-called hope speech in Stuttgart on September 6, 1946. In 1947, General Lucius D. Clay asked industrialist Lewis H. Brown for a report on the state and problems of Germany after the war and for suggestions for solutions.

For a long time, a preferred alternative to building Europe through American means was to demand the necessary means from Germany as war reparations . In 1944, the US Treasury Secretary developed the Morgenthau Plan named after him . The plan envisaged the division of Germany and the dismantling of industrial plants in order to make another war impossible for Germany and to rebuild the attacked states with the dismantled plants. The first plan of the French Jean Monnet , according to which France should get control of the German hard coal deposits in the Ruhr area and Saarland , followed a similar path . The occupying powers agreed in 1946 on a strict schedule for dismantling in Germany; the dismantling of industrial plants did not end until 1950. It turned out that the poverty in Germany had a negative effect on the development of Europe, the supply of the German population with sufficient food posed problems for the occupying powers.

For these reasons, and because of the public opposition that the two plans encountered after they were publicized by the press, they were abandoned. However, some ideas were incorporated into JCS 1067 , which formed the basis for US occupation policy until July 1947. The Saarland and Upper Silesia , areas rich in natural resources, were separated from Germany, civil industrial plants were destroyed in order to limit production, and the Ruhr area was also threatened with separation until 1947. At the end of April 1947, President Truman and his Secretary of State George C. Marshall were convinced that the United States had to provide considerable aid.

Confrontation, Truman Doctrine and Marshall Plan

The trigger for the decision to support the European countries including Germany was the beginning of the Cold War . In response to the situation in Greece, Truman proclaimed the Truman Doctrine on March 12, 1947 , according to which the USA would support all "free peoples" in the fight against totalitarian forms of government . According to the decisions of the war conferences, Greece was a British sphere of influence; Nevertheless, the Soviet Union supported the communists there in the civil war . Britain found itself unable to cope with this situation on its own; it asked the US for assistance.

US Secretary of State George C. Marshall
Marshallplan headquarters, Hôtel Talleyrand, northern edge of Place de la Concorde, Paris

On June 5, 1947, in a twelve-minute speech to the Harvard University graduate class, Marshall announced :

“It would be neither fitting nor efficacious for this government to undertake to draw up unilaterally a program designed to place Europe on its feet economically. This is the business of the Europeans. The initiative, I think, must come from Europe. The role of this country should consist of friendly aid in the drafting of a European program and of later support of such a program so far as it may be practical for us to do so. The program should be a joint one, agreed to by a number, if not all European nations. "

“It would be neither appropriate nor useful for the United States government to draft a program of its own accord to carry out the economic rebuilding of Europe. That is a matter for the Europeans themselves. I believe that the initiative must come from Europe. Our role should be to amicably promote the drafting of a European program and later to support this program as far as is practicable for us. The program should be a collaborative one, agreed by some, if not all, European nations. "

- George C. Marshall

George F. Kennan had already worked out the main features of such a program on behalf of Marshall in May 1947. Support was originally planned for all countries involved in the war. But the Soviet Union forced some of the countries in its sphere of influence to forego the funds. Even Czechoslovakia , which was still democratic at the time, had to forego pressure from Moscow. So only the western countries could benefit from it. Neutral states like Switzerland and Sweden also received financial aid.

After the details of the Marshall Plan had been discussed at several conferences, the Marshall Plan Act ("Foreign Assistance Act of 1948") was signed on April 3, 1948 by President Truman. On April 16, 1948, 16 European countries founded the Committee for European Economic Cooperation (OEEC), the forerunner of today's OECD, to coordinate financial aid . The United States guaranteed these countries financial support through the European Reconstruction Program (ERP) until 1952. This program was accompanied by an information campaign for the population of the participating states, which from today's perspective is somewhere between practical advice , political education and propaganda . The ECA was founded in 1948 to manage the aid funds , which was replaced by the MSA in 1951 . On October 30, 1949, the Federal Republic of Germany also joined the OEEC.

After Yugoslavia broke with the Soviet Union in the summer of 1948 (details here ), the USA supported the country with aid deliveries and generous loans. The first of several aid deliveries under the Marshall Plan for Yugoslavia took place on November 23, 1950 to Belgrade.

However, the Länder also had to make commitments. The respective public finances had to be stabilized - for example through currency reforms .

Benefits from the Marshall Plan

Services of the Marshall Plan to the individual countries
Sign "This is where the Marshall Plan helped".

The American Congress approved Truman's reconstruction program. The Foreign Assistance Act came into force on April 3, 1948 and approved aid for four years. They had to be applied for and approved annually. In total, benefits amounted to approximately $ 14 billion by 1952. Most of it, $ 9.3 billion, was subsidies, the rest mostly loans and "conditional aid".

The subsidies were given in dollars that could be used to import goods and capital goods. These subsidies did not have to be repaid. However, the governments had to pay the equivalent of the dollar amounts allocated to them in local currency into special funds (counterpart funds). 95 percent of these special funds served to promote national reconstruction.

ECA / MSA awards from April 3, 1948 through December 31, 1952 in millions of dollars
country 1948/49 1949/50 1950/51 1951/52 1952/53 All in all Total in%
AustriaAustria Austria 280 166.5 114.3 116.0 35 0711.8 05.12%
BelgiumBelgium Belgium and LuxembourgLuxembourgLuxembourg  261.4 210.9 74.3 8.9 - 0555.5 03.99%
DenmarkDenmark Denmark 126.2 86.1 45.1 14.0 4.5 0275.9 01.98%
FranceFrance France 1313.4 698.3 433.1 261.5 100 2806.3 20.18%
GermanyGermany Germany 613.5 284.7 399.1 91.7 23.8 1412.8 10.16%
GreeceGreece Greece 191.7 156.3 167.1 178.8 - 0693.9 04.99%
IcelandIceland Iceland 8.3 7.0 8.4 5.5 0.6 0029.8 00.21%
IrelandIreland Ireland 86.3 44.9 15.0 - - 0146.2 01.05%
ItalyItaly Italy 668 403.7 244 159.3 40 1515 10.89%
NetherlandsNetherlands Netherlands (without Indonesia ) 507 268.3 101.9 100 - 0977.3 07.03%
NorwayNorway Norway 101.1 89.5 46.1 16.8 - 0253.5 01.82%
PortugalPortugal Portugal - 38.8 11.7 - - 0050.5 00.36%
SwedenSweden Sweden 45.4 51.9 21.2 −11.4 - 0107.1 00.77%
Yugoslavia Socialist Federal RepublicYugoslavia Yugoslavia - - 29 80.3 50.0 0159.3 01.15%
TurkeyTurkey Turkey 49 58.5 45 70 20th 0242.5 01.74%
United KingdomUnited Kingdom United Kingdom 1619.7 907.9 298.4 350 266.9 3442.8 24.75%
Trieste flag Trieste 17.9 12.5 2.1 - - 0032.6 00.23%
IndonesiaIndonesia Indonesia 64.1 37.3 - - - 0101.4 00.73%
General Freight prepayments - - - 33.5 - 0033.5 00.24%
EPU capital funds - - 350 11.4 - 0361.4 02.60%
All in all 5,953 3,523 2,405.9 1,486.2 0540.8 13,908.9

ECA / MSA: "Economic Cooperation Act", later "Mutual Security Agency" were American organizations that implemented the Marshall Plan

The means

The USA granted funds totaling almost 14 billion US dollars under the Marshall Plan, of which West Germany received around 1.4 billion. According to today's monetary value, the total is approximately USD 130 billion (as of 2015). Of the total amount to West Germany, around 1 billion was paid off directly by the federal government through the budget until 1966, and the rest was waived.

The administration of the funds in the Federal Republic of Germany

The Kreditanstalt für Wiederaufbau (KfW), which began its work on December 16, 1948 in Frankfurt am Main, was of particular importance . West Germany received the funds in the form of economic goods, especially food, fuel and medicines, the purchase price of which went to KfW, which in turn used these funds for lending, for which West Germany bore the US dollar- denominated debt burden of imports, which the USA financed in advance. which overall also represented a US economic stimulus program. On November 5, 1948, the Economic Council of the United Economic Area created the conditions. Hermann Josef Abs became a member of the board . Today, the KfW banking group manages the ERP special fund of twelve billion euros on behalf of the Federal Ministry of Economics and uses it to finance programs for economic development .

In Austria

Austria was the only state that was (partially) occupied by Soviet troops (see Soviet occupation zone in Austria ) to receive aid from the Marshall Plan. The agreement between the USA and Austria was concluded on July 2, 1948; then Austria received the funds as grants (gifts) in the form of material goods. In return, Austria had to stabilize the schilling and keep the national budget as balanced as possible. The Soviet Union had the approval of the Allied Commission bought off with a different exchange rate for its cash assets.

The goods received had to be sold at the domestic price. The income from these sales had to be paid into a counterpart account. Deliveries of goods continued through 1953 and were valued at approximately one billion dollars. The US government handed over the counterpart account with a balance of 11.2 billion Schilling to Austria on July 1, 1962; This resulted in the ERP fund , which has been managed since 2002 by the Austria Wirtschaftsservice Gesellschaft (aws), the development and financing bank of the Republic of Austria.

The subsidies for Austria were relatively high. There were two reasons for this: on the one hand, Austria was very weakly industrialized before the Second World War and had to establish an industry first; on the other hand, the Soviet occupation zone was economically exploited by the Soviets (the USIA companies did not pay any taxes to the state). In contrast to Germany, Austria did not have to pay any reparations to the Soviet Union under Article 21 of the Austrian State Treaty of 1955, but Article 22 of it states: "The Soviet Union receives concessions on oil fields for a period of thirty years, which are 60% correspond to the oil production in Austria in 1947 [...] The Soviet Union receives oil refineries with a total annual production of 420,000  tons of crude oil [...] The Soviet Union receives the assets of the DDSG located in Hungary, Romania and Bulgaria ”. Austria was also considered particularly worthy of support because of the propaganda effect during the Cold War .

In Western Europe

The Marshall Plan was intended to help against several crises in the post-war period :

  • Domestic political stability in France ( Fourth Republic ) and Italy - which had eight cabinets from 1945 to 1953, all under Prime Minister Alcide De Gasperi - was at risk.
  • The future of Germany was open and many economic and social problems urgently awaited a solution.

Finland and Spain

Two Western European countries ( Finland and Spain ) did not take part in the program. After 1945 Finland pursued a non-bloc, neutral policy, which, because of the geopolitical situation of the country, took into account the sensitivities of the Soviet Union, and therefore renounced it (see History of Finland # Finland in the Cold War ).

Spain applied to participate in the program, which was rejected because the Franco regime in Spain had fascist traits that the US did not want to support. Towards the end of the 1950s, Spain received help from an OEEC special fund that led to the “Spanish economic miracle”.

Economic and political importance for the USA

After the Second World War, liberal American business circles feared the loss of important sales markets and trading partners because of the economic decline in Europe. The economic strengthening of Europe benefited American exports.

In addition, the program also played an important role in the context of the US containment policy ( Truman Doctrine ) that had been pursued by the USA since March 1947 with regard to the Soviet Union. The ties between the governments and economies of European countries and the USA have been strengthened. Although the offer of American economic aid had also officially been addressed to the Soviet Union and other countries of the Eastern Bloc , an acceptance could not be expected for ideological reasons. Seen in this way, the Marshall Plan was a "child of the Cold War".

Reaction of the Soviet Union to the Marshall Plan

As expected, the Soviet Union, through Foreign Minister Molotov , refused to participate in the ERP as an interference in the sovereignty of European states at the London Foreign Ministers' Conference (November and December 1947) . The Soviet Union had already responded in July 1947 with the " Molotov Plan ", which later resulted in the Council for Mutual Economic Aid (COMECON). This prevented the Central and Eastern European states in their immediate sphere of influence from being included in the Marshall Plan. Bulgaria, Czechoslovakia, Poland and Hungary, among others, expressed interest in participating. Instead, the Soviet Union initiated the founding of the Cominform and, in January 1949, the Comecon as a political and economic counterpart to the containment policy and the Marshall Plan.

See also

Web links

Wiktionary: Marshall Plan  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations
Commons : Marshall Plan  - collection of images, videos and audio files


On behalf of and with the assistance of the Federal Ministry for the Marshall Plan , Adolf Wittkowski compiled a bibliography ( literature on the Marshall Plan and the Economic Integration of Europe , Bad Godesberg 1953).

For more recent writings see:

Individual evidence

  1. ^ The Marshall Plan
  2. Reconstruction aid for the destroyed Europe . In: FAZ , April 3, 2008.
  3. See e.g. B. Werner Bührer : Forced or Voluntary Liberalization? The USA, the OEEC and the West German foreign trade oil policy 1949–1952 , in: Ludolf Herbst (Hrsg.) Et al .: From the Marshall Plan to the EEC - The integration of the Federal Republic of Germany into the Western World . Oldenbourg Verlag, Munich 1990, p. 139 ff, here p. 161
  4. Michael J. Hogan: The Marshall Plan , p. 30.
  5. ^ Alan S. Milward: The Reconstruction of Western Europe .
  6. Gregory A. Fossedal: Our Finest Hour . About the fight against hunger . In: Die Zeit , No. 11/1946.
  7. John Lewis Gaddis : We Now Know .
  8. ^ Tony Judt , The Marshall Plan: Fifty Years After , p. 4.
  9. full text (PDF)
  10. Wilfried Loth : Die Teilung der Welt 1941–1945 , Munich 1982, ISBN 3-423-04012-2 , p. 204 ff.
  11. Manfred Knapp: Germany and the Marshall Plan . In: Hans-Jürgen Schröder (Ed.): Marshall Plan and West German Resurgence . Stuttgart 1990, p. 35 ff., Here p. 75 .
  12. US $ inflation calculator.
  13. ^ Federal Agency for Civic Education: 65 Years of the Marshall Plan | bpb. Accessed May 31, 2019 .
  14. [1]
  15. Ulrike Wronski: The Marshall Plan - the history of the financial post-war aid program. Accessed May 31, 2019 .
  16. ^ The Marshall Plan and the ERP. Retrieved May 31, 2019 .
  17. Myth or master plan? ( Memento from December 14, 2018 in the Internet Archive ) In: First German television. Called in December 2018.
  18. a b Dieter Stiefel : “Help for Self-Help” - The Marshal Plan in Austria, 1945–1952. In: Ernst Bruckmüller : Reconstruction in Austria - Reconstruction or a new beginning? Oldenbourg 2006, ISBN 978-3-486-57864-5 , pp. 90-101, here p. 97 f.
  19. Start-ups benefit from the Marshall Plan, December 28, 2017, accessed on December 29, 2017. - Image of the signing, currently funded: Innovative companies, start-ups.
  20. Norman Davies : Europe at War. Nikol, 2013, ISBN 978-3-86820-181-9 , p. 334: Ernest Bevin (British Foreign Minister 1945–1951) informed Molotov that the economic performance of all participating countries had to be carefully examined (knowing full well that the SU or . Stalin would not accept that).
  21. The view from the east - The Marshall Plan . Federal Agency for Civic Education , October 31, 2005.
  22. ( Memento from February 22, 2014 in the Internet Archive ) Table of contents (PDF) and nine film clips.
  23. , , Dossier