Cold War Files: All Units: Activities: Soviet and Western Options in Germany

Soviet and Western Options in Germany

Accompanying Materials:
Student journals
Poster paper and marker pens
Resources for research (computers with Internet access, CWIHP Website)
Primary Source Document: “Consequences of a Breakdown in Four-Power Negotiations on Germany” (CWIHP Website “Documents”)

Objectives: Students will:
1) Become familiar with the circumstances in Germany in September 1948, three months after the start of the Soviet’s blockade of Berlin and the West’s Berlin Airlift.
2) Evaluate a primary source document.
3) Use simulation to develop contingency plans (Soviet and Western versions) for dealing with the potential breakdown in East-West negotiations on Germany.
4) Compare the contingency plans with actions taken by the Soviets and the West during the period September 1948 to May 1949.

Student Activities:
1) Pre-class preparation: Before class, assign students to one of two policy groups: the “Kremlin Crisis Group” or the “Western Powers Crisis Committee.” Within the WPCC, assign pairs of students to represent ambassadors from the U.S., Great Britain, France, the Netherlands, Luxemburg, and Belgium and the major of West Berlin. Assign all students to read “Consequences of a Breakdown in Four-Power Negotiations on Germany” (a handout, or ask students to download from the CWIHP Website) and answer the following questions in their journals:
a) Why have the Soviets undertaken the Berlin Blockade?
b) What are the Soviets hoping to gain?
c) What was the initial American, British and French response to the Blockade?
d) In September 1948, does it appear that the Western nations were unified in their vision of post-war Germany? Why or why not?
2) Warm-up: Upon arriving to class, students take their pre-assigned places in either the “Kremlin Crisis Group” or the “Western Power Crisis Committee.” Within the Kremlin Crisis Group and the Western Powers Crisis Committee, each group’s members should review the status of the Blockade as of September 1948 and write down on poster paper a list of 1) major objectives (how this crisis can be resolved in our favor) and 2) major concerns.
3) In-class activity: After the students have completed the warm-up activity, ask each group to develop a contingency plan for dealing with the situation in Berlin.
The contingency plan being prepared by the Western Powers Crisis Committee should include answers to the following questions:
a) What do we do if…the Soviets use military force in an attempt to interrupt the airlift?
b) What actions by the West might prompt the Soviets to use military force to interrupt the airlift?
c) What do we do if the winter weather forces the cancellation of large numbers of airlift flights into Berlin?
d) What do we do if one of the American or British flights crashes in the Russian Zone?
e) Under what circumstances might the Russians bring pressure on the Europeans to oppose plans for establishing a West German government?
f) What actions could we take to persuade the Soviets that the blockade does not serve their interests?
The contingency plan being prepared by the Kremlin Crisis Group should include answers to the following questions:
a) What do we do if the Americans decide to challenge the blockade of surface access routes through the Soviet Zone to West Berlin?
b) What do we do if the blockade is successful and the Western Powers are unable to provide West Berlin with sufficient food and fuel supplies?
c) What do we do if one of the American or British flights crashes in our zone in Germany?
d) What demands could we place on the Western Powers in return for supplying West Berlin with food and fuel supplies?
e) What actions could we take that would divide the Americans from their European allies?
f) What actions should we take if the Western Powers proceed with plans to establish a West German government?
g) Under what circumstances would we end the blockade?
Before the end of class, allow representatives from each of the two groups to present their contingency plans to the class.
4) Wrap-up/homework: Assign the students to compare their contingency plans with what actually occurred in 1948-1949 and to prepare a short journal entry answering the following questions:
a) Why did the crisis end in May 1949?
b) How did my group’s contingency plan compare to what actually happened?

Students will be evaluated based on their pre- and post-class journal entries and their group projects (contingency plans).

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