Declaration Regarding the Defeat of Germany and the Assumption of Supreme Authority by Allied Powers Summary

  • Last updated on November 10, 2022

Fewer than twenty years after World War I, Germany again attempted to take over Europe. Critics both wondered how the League of Nations' provisions for worldwide disarmament failed to prevent Germany from amassing an enormously powerful military and believed France and Britain's refusal to intervene effectively enabled World War II.

Summary Overview

Fewer than twenty years after World War I, Germany again attempted to take over Europe. Critics both wondered how the League of Nations' provisions for worldwide disarmament failed to prevent Germany from amassing an enormously powerful military and believed France and Britain's refusal to intervene effectively enabled World War II.

After six years of fighting, from 1939 to 1945, the Allies finally defeated Germany again. The newly established United Nations turned over control of German disarmament and occupation to the four main Allied countries: the United States, the Soviet Union, Great Britain, and France. Since Germany had been fully defeated, the Allies needed to rebuild its administrative infrastructure and tend to the most basic needs of its citizens, including food and shelter. The Declaration Regarding the Defeat of Germany and the Assumption of Supreme Authority by Allied Powers both established a procedure for disarming the Germany military and set rules for the occupation by Allied forces.

Defining Moment

World War I officially ended on June 28, 1919, with the signing of the Treaty of Versailles. Key provisions of the treaty sought to disarm Germany, such as limiting the number of trained soldiers and establishing a demilitarized zone in the Rhineland bordering France. It also established the League of Nations, an organization with the goal of preventing future wars and promoting disarmament around the world. Throughout the 1920s, the league held conferences to negotiate disarmament treaties; however, all of these attempts failed.

Despite paying lip service to the idea of disarmament, in little more than a decade, Germany was able to build the military power needed to again attempt a takeover of Europe. In 1936, under Nazi leader Adolf Hitler, Germany moved soldiers and armed police into the Rhineland, in direct violation of the Treaty of Versailles. When the French and British militaries failed to react, the Nazis felt empowered to continue their expansion. Within a short time, Nazi forces had invaded much of mainland Europe and instituted air raids on the islands of Great Britain.

When World War II ended, the League of Nations gave way to the United Nations, which officially came into existence on October 24, 1945, after fifty nations ratified its charter. The United Nations was determined to avoid a repeat of the past and delivered full control of German military, industry, and administration to the United States, the Soviet Union, Great Britain, and France.

Together, these four nations established the Declaration Regarding the Defeat of Germany and the Assumption of Supreme Authority by Allied Powers. This declaration established the ground rules for disarming Germany, as well as the rights and obligations of German military, civilian authorities, and individual citizens with respect to the Allied takeover.

Author Biography

The terms of the Declaration Regarding the Defeat of Germany and the Assumption of Supreme Authority by Allied Powers were largely negotiated by the leaders of the Big Three governments of the Allies: Soviet leader Joseph Stalin, British prime ministers Winston Churchill and Clement Attlee, and US presidents Franklin D. Roosevelt and Harry S. Truman. During 1945, these men held several conferences to broker the terms of Germany's surrender to the Allies, including the Yalta Conference (held in the Soviet Union) and the Potsdam Conference (held in Germany).

The Declaration was signed by US Army general Dwight D. Eisenhower, Soviet Union marshal Georgy Zhukov, British field marshal Bernard Montgomery, and the French Provisional Government army general Jean de Lattre de Tassigny. Each of these individuals played a significant role in World War II for their respective countries and was authorized to sign the declaration on behalf of the Allied forces of the United Nations.

Historical Document

The German armed forces on land, at sea and in the air have been completely defeated and have surrendered unconditionally and Germany, which bears responsibility for the war, is no longer capable of resisting the will of the victorious Powers. The unconditional surrender of Germany has thereby been effected, and Germany has become subject to such requirements as may now or hereafter be imposed upon her.

There is no central Government or authority in Germany capable of accepting responsibility for the maintenance of order, the administration of the country and compliance with the requirements of the victorious Powers.

It is in these circumstances necessary, without prejudice to any subsequent decisions that may be taken respecting Germany, to make provision for the cessation of any further hostilities on the part of the German armed forces, for the maintenance of order in Germany and for the administration of the country, and to announce the immediate requirements with which Germany must comply.

The Representatives of the Supreme Commands of the United States of America, the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, the United Kingdom and the French Republic, hereinafter called the “Allied Representatives,” acting by authority of their respective Governments and in the interests of the United Nations, accordingly make the following Declaration:

The Governments of the United States of America, the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics and the United Kingdom, and the Provisional Government of the French Republic, hereby assume supreme authority with respect to Germany, including all the powers possessed by the German Government, the High Command and any state, municipal, or local government or authority. The assumption, for the purposes stated above, of the said authority and powers does not affect the annexation of Germany.

The Governments of the United States of America, the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics and the United Kingdom, and the Provisional Government of the French Republic, will hereafter determine the boundaries of Germany or any part thereof and the status of Germany or of any area at present being part of German territory.

In virtue of the supreme authority and powers thus assumed by the four Governments, the Allied Representatives announce the following requirements arising from the complete defeat and unconditional surrender of Germany with which Germany must comply:

ARTICLE 1

Germany, and all German military, naval and air authorities and all forces under German control shall immediately cease hostilities in all theatres of war against the forces of the United Nations on land, at sea and in the air.

ARTICLE 2

(a) All armed forces of Germany or under German control, wherever they may be situated, including land, air, anti-aircraft and naval forces, the S.S., S.A. and Gestapo, and all other forces of auxiliary organisations equipped with weapons, shall be completely disarmed, handing over their weapons and equipment to local Allied Commanders or to officers designated by the Allied Representatives

(b) The personnel of the formations and units of all the forces referred to in paragraph (a) above shall, at the discretion of the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of the Allied State concerned, be declared to be prisoners of war, pending further decisions, and shall be subject to such conditions and directions as may be prescribed by the respective Allied Representatives.

(c) All forces referred to in paragraph (a) above, wherever they may be, will remain in their present positions pending instructions from the Allied Representatives.

(d) Evacuation by the said forces of all territories outside the frontiers of Germany as they existed on the 31st December, 1937, will proceed according to instructions to be given by the Allied Representatives.

(e) Detachments of civil police to be armed with small arms only, for the maintenance of order and for guard duties, will be designated by the Allied Representatives.

ARTICLE 3

(a) All aircraft of any kind or nationality in Germany or German-occupied or controlled territories or waters, military, naval or civil, other than aircraft in the service of the Allies, will remain on the ground, on the water or aboard ships pending further instructions.

(b) All German or German-controlled aircraft in or over territories or waters not occupied or controlled by Germany will proceed to Germany or to such other place or places as may be specified by the Allied Representatives.

ARTICLE 4

(a) All German or German-controlled naval vessels, surface and submarine, auxiliary naval craft, and merchant and other shipping, wherever such vessels may be at the time of this Declaration, and all other merchant ships of whatever nationality in German ports, will remain in or proceed immediately to ports and bases as specified by the Allied Representatives. The crews of such vessels will remain on board pending further instructions.

(b) All ships and vessels of the United Nations, whether or not title has been transferred as the result of prize court or other proceedings, which are at the disposal of Germany or under German control at the time of this Declaration, will proceed at the dates and to the ports or bases specified by the Allied Representatives.

ARTICLE 5

(a) All or any of the following articles in the possession of the German armed forces or under German control or at German disposal will be held intact and in good condition at the disposal of the Allied Representatives, for such purposes and at such times and places as they may prescribe:

(i) all arms, ammunition, explosives, military equipment, stores and supplies and other implements of war of all kinds and all other war materials;

(ii) all naval vessels of all classes, both surface and submarine, auxiliary naval craft and all merchant shipping, whether afloat, under repair or construction, built or building;

(iii) all aircraft of all kinds, aviation and anti-aircraft equipment and devices;

(iv) all transportation and communications facilities and equipment, by land, water or air;

(v) all military installations and establishments, including airfields, seaplane bases, ports and naval bases, storage depots, permanent and temporary land and coast fortifications, fortresses and other fortified areas, together with plans and drawings of all such fortifications, installations and establishments;

(vi) all factories, plants, shops, research institutions, laboratories, testing stations, technical data, patents, plans, drawings and inventions, designed or intended to produce or to facilitate the production or use of the articles, materials, and facilities referred to in sub-paragraphs (i), (ii), (iii), (iv) and (v) above or otherwise to further the conduct of war.

(b) At the demand of the Allied Representatives the following will be furnished:

(i) the labour, services and plant required for the maintenance or operation of any of the six categories mentioned in paragraph (a) above; and

(ii) any information or records that may be required by the Allied Representatives in connection with the same.

(c) At the demand of the Allied Representatives all facilities will be provided for the movement of Allied troops and agencies, their equipment and supplies, on the railways, roads and other land communications or by sea, river or air. All means of transportation will be maintained in good order and repair, and the labour, services and plant necessary therefor will be furnished.

ARTICLE 6

(a) The German authorities will release to the Allied Representatives, in accordance with the procedure to be laid down by them, all prisoners of war at present in their power, belonging to the forces of the United Nations, and will furnish full lists of these persons, indicating the places of their detention in Germany or territory occupied by Germany. Pending the release of such prisoners of war, the German authorities and people will protect them in their persons and property and provide them with adequate food, clothing, shelter, medical attention and money in accordance with their rank or official position.

(b) The German authorities and people will in like manner provide for and release all other nationals of the United Nations who are confined, interned or otherwise under restraint, and all other persons who may be confined, interned or otherwise under restraint for political reasons or as a result of any Nazi action, law or regulation which discriminates on the ground of race, colour, creed or political belief.

(c) The German authorities will, at the demand of the Allied Representatives, hand over control of places of detention to such officers as may be designated for the purpose by the Allied Representatives.

ARTICLE 7

The German authorities concerned will furnish to the Allied Representatives:

(a) full information regarding the forces referred to in Article 2 (a), and, in particular, will furnish forthwith all information which the Allied Representatives may require concerning the numbers, locations and dispositions of such forces, whether located inside or outside Germany;

(b) complete and detailed information concerning mines, minefields and other obstacles to movement by land, sea or air, and the safety lanes in connection therewith. All such safety lanes will be kept open and clearly marked; all mines, minefields and other dangerous obstacles will as far as possible be rendered safe, and all aids to navigation will be reinstated. Unarmed German military and civilian personnel with the necessary equipment will be made available and utilized for the above purposes and for the removal of mines, minefields and other obstacles as directed by the Allied Representatives.

ARTICLE 8

There shall be no destruction, removal, concealment, transfer or scuttling of, or damage to, any military, naval, air, shipping, port, industrial and other like property and facilities and all records and archives, wherever they may be situated, except as may be directed by the Allied Representatives.

ARTICLE 9

Pending the institution of control by the Allied Representatives over all means of communication, all radio and telecommunication installations and other forms of wire or wireless communications, whether ashore or afloat, under German control, will cease transmission except as directed by the Allied Representatives.

ARTICLE 10

The forces, ships, aircraft, military equipment, and other property in Germany or in German control or service or at German disposal, of any other country at war with any of the Allies, will be subject to the provisions of this Declaration and of any proclamations, orders, ordinances or instructions issued thereunder.

ARTICLE 11

(a) The principal Nazi leaders as specified by the Allied Representatives, and all persons from time to time named or designated by rank, office or employment by the Allied Representatives as being suspected of having committed, ordered or abetted war crimes or analogous offences, will be apprehended and surrendered to the Allied Representatives.

(b) The same will apply in the case of any national of any of the United Nations who is alleged to have committed an offence against his national law, and who may at any time be named or designated by rank, office or employment by the Allied Representatives.

(c) The German authorities and people will comply with any instructions given by the Allied Representatives for the apprehension and surrender of such persons.

ARTICLE 12

The Allied Representatives will station forces and civil agencies in any or all parts of Germany as they may determine.

ARTICLE 13

(a) In the exercise of the supreme authority with respect to Germany assumed by the Governments of the United States of America, the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics and the United Kingdom, and the Provisional Government of the French Republic, the four Allied Governments will take such steps, including the complete disarmament and demilitarization of Germany, as they deem requisite for future peace and security.

(b) The Allied Representatives will impose on Germany additional political, administrative, economic, financial, military and other requirements arising from the complete defeat of Germany. The Allied Representatives, or persons or agencies duly designated to act on their authority, will issue proclamations, orders, ordinances and instructions for the purpose of laying down such additional requirements, and of giving effect to the other provisions of this Declaration. All German authorities and the German people shall carry out unconditionally the requirements of the Allied Representatives, and shall fully comply with all such proclamations, orders, ordinances and instructions.

ARTICLE 14

This Declaration enters into force and effect at the date and hour set forth below. In the event of failure on the part of the German authorities or people promptly and completely to fulfill their obligations hereby or hereafter imposed, the Allied Representatives will take whatever action may be deemed by them to be appropriate under the circumstances.

ARTICLE 15

This Declaration is drawn up in the English, Russian, French and German languages. The English, Russian and French are the only authentic texts.

BERLIN, GERMANY, June 5, 1945.

Signed at 1800 hours, Berlin time, by

Dwight D. Eisenhower,

General of the Army USA;

Zhukov,

Marshal of the Soviet Union;

B. L. Montgomery,

Field Marshal, Great Britain;

De Lattre de Tassigny,

Général d'Armée, French Provisional Government.

Document Analysis

The opening paragraphs of the declaration establish that German armed forces “have been completely defeated and have surrendered unconditionally”; therefore, the victorious countries must establish rules for administration and rebuilding. This task is to be undertaken by the governments of the United States, the Soviet Union, Great Britain, and the French Republic.

Article 1 states that Germany and its military must “immediately cease hostilities” against any forces of the United Nations. Article 2 requires all of Germany's armed forces to disarm completely by surrendering their weapons to local Allied commanders. Any German military personnel can be declared prisoners of war at the discretion of the commander in chief of the armed forces for the Allies. German civil police, designated by the Allied representatives, shall carry only “small arms” for guard-duty purposes.

Articles 3 and 4 address German aircraft and naval vessels, respectively. Any such vessels that are in Germany or German-occupied territory are to remain stationary; any that are in other locations are to immediately return to Germany or to another location, as specified by Allied representatives.

Article 5 requires that arms, ammunitions, explosives, military equipment, naval vessels, aircraft, communication equipment, and other implements of war under German control must be held in good condition and turned over to Allied representatives. Additionally, Germans must comply with any requests for labor or services made by the Allied representatives and maintain all means of transportation in good working order to move troops and supplies as directed.

Article 6 provides for the immediate release of all Allied prisoners of war, as well as detailed lists of where such prisoners are being held. German authorities must also release any nationals of UN member states who have been imprisoned either for political reasons or because of any Nazi law that discriminates on the basis of race, color, creed, or political belief.

Article 7 requires German authorities to turn over full information regarding the numbers and locations of any military forces, as well as detailed information about mines and any other “obstacles to movement” by land, sea, or air.

Article 8 forbids the destruction, removal, or concealment of any military location, shipping port, or other similar facilities, unless so directed by the Allied representatives. Article 9 orders all forms of wire and wireless communications under German control to cease transmission except as directed by the Allied representatives. Article 10 establishes that the declaration further applies to any forces or military equipment supplied by other countries that were under German control during the war.

Article 11 states that principal Nazi leaders will be apprehended and surrendered to the Allied representatives and requires the cooperation of the German authorities and citizens. Articles 12–15 establish the conditions under which this declaration governs, the rights of the Allied representatives, and the obligations of the German authorities and citizens.

Essential Themes

The stirrings of World War II began barely more than a decade after World War I ended. As before, Germany had amassed significant military power and acted with aggression. Many criticized the efforts made to demilitarize Germany after World War I as unsatisfactory. One of the reasons the United States refused to sign the Treaty of Versailles following World War I was because President Woodrow Wilson felt its provisions were too focused on “punishing” Germany for its actions. Indeed, some historians believe the harsh restrictions the treaty placed on Germany stunted its economic growth in the years following the war, thus creating the conditions that led to the rise of the Nazi Party and ultimately to World War II. Germany was nonetheless able to rebuild its military with little or no resistance.

Thus, in hopes of avoiding a third war, the United Nations and the Allied forces were determined to fully disarm and reorganize Germany following World War II. The Declaration Regarding the Defeat of Germany and the Assumption of Supreme Authority by Allied Powers was the method by which the Allies planned to reshape Germany so that it would be both unable and unwilling to provoke another major conflict.

Bibliography and Additional Reading
  • Bark, Dennis L., and David R. Gress. A History of West Germany: From Shadow to Substance, 1945–1963. Vol. 1. Oxford: Blackwell, 1989. Print.
  • “The Formation of the United Nations, 1945.” Office of the Historian. US Dept. of State, n.d. Web. 12 Nov. 2014.
  • Milward, Alan S. The Reconstruction of Western Europe, 1945–51. Berkeley: U of California P, 1984. Print.
  • “The Potsdam Conference, 1945.” Office of the Historian. US Dept. of State, n.d. Web. 12 Nov. 2014.
  • Shuster, Richard J. German Disarmament after World War I: The Diplomacy of International Arms Inspection, 1920–1931. New York: Routledge, 2006. Print.
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