AHC: A different division of Germany after World War II

By a weird coincidence, the line between West and East Germany after World War II turns out to be the railroad journey through Germany of Lenin in April 1917...


(The map is from http://catherinemerridale.com/map---pictures.html)
Berlin directly on the border instead of an island in East Germany, would West Germany also keep Berlin as its capital?
Berlin directly on the border instead of an island in East Germany, would West Germany also keep Berlin as its capital?
I don't think it would. Actually, it might be the case that neither Germany has a capital in Berlin, given it's a frontline city for both sides now and the East also has places like Munich as an option.

In addition, I would expect the French to be alarmed if the West tried to immediately reconstitute a government in Berlin.
Germany divided like that, then the soviets are probably further west all around, possibly divided Italy as well, Austria firmly in Soviet hands.

However I think they'll create a separate state for Austria and still recognize them as the first victims of Nazi expansion.

The Swiss are even more trained in self defense and even stronger than otl in hand to hand combat if need be, something like Israel.
What is the basis for this alternative partition line being proposed and agreed to by the three major Allies?

I believe that the OTL division of Germany in the Cold War period was largely the outcome of agreements prior to D-Day, I would guess at Yalta, refining prior proposals, and was supposed to be in principle a pragmatic assignment of primary occupation zones of responsibility based on anticipated rates of troop advances. With the Western front assigned so that British forces were concentrated in the north and US forces in the south, while the Soviets were progressing westward, one could guess about where all of them would meet up. Then it was agreed to assign these anticipated zones rather than let it roll with the facts on the ground in the real event, to prevent any ally from having a motive to shortchange the others to advance their own "share" of Germany.

It is hard to tell from the OP whether in fact it is not a "coincidence" that the route Lenin's train took happens to mark the boundary, and actually this arbitrary line struck the author as a fair balance of the German sectors, or whether the author did in fact either follow a real world OTL historic proposal or come up with one of their own based on resource balances, demographics etc designed so the Soviet Sector would be more fair to them.

Whatever more conservative thinkers of the day feared might be postwar reality, at the time the war was being fought it was not supposed to be a two-power balance with Stalin claiming half of everything; supposedly Britain, USA and USSR were each fairly equal partners. The Soviets could certainly argue on several grounds they deserved more than 1/3 of the spoils of Germany--OTOH any terrain assigned by pre-victory agreement would be the responsibility of the occupier, to disarm, keep at peace, feed and rebuild.

The alternative line, whatever its origin, appears to hand the Russians overall a lot more territory. Versus OTL, it gives the northern subdivision of the western part a bit more, the boundary there being eastward, but then making up and more, from a Soviet point of view, pushes the southern sector farther west, adding a great deal of Bavaria to the Soviet occupation zone. In so doing, I notice a very generous perimeter of Soviet occupied Germany around Czechoslovakia, which would be an excellent concession to Soviet bloc interest if the line were meant to be drawn primarily to gratify Soviet desires. But in fact the Western Allies had no intention to assign Czechoslovakia to a Soviet sphere of interest, and the OTL lines of occupation zones made sure that the people of that nation would have some contact with Western forces.

Meanwhile insofar as the eastward push of the line in the north compensates the Western powers overall, it would, given the actual latitude chosen to partition the western front between Commonwealth and US forces, benefit the British and penalize the Americans. Obviously if the British and Americans agreed to the east/west divide proposed, they could simply shift the Anglo/US divide northward.

But the question is, why should the proposed line, which so far to me does look an awful lot like being defined in fact by the route of Lenin's train, and not any particular strategic or logistic or otherwise operationally expedient argument, have been chosen and agreed to at Yalta or any other time?

It might make sense in an ATL where 1) the Soviets were seizing territory more rapidly than OTL and 2) doing better in the south, while facing tougher resistance in the north and calling on the western allies to rout higher shares of invading force northward.

But I would guess that OTL, the occupation zones were defined with little regard to estimates of which powers would manage what pace of conquest, and were drawn up based on the resources and demography of Germany as known pre-war for "fair shares."

I read up a bit more on it; the actual history of the agreement was more an agreement in principle than in detail as the US and Soviet Army moved toward making direct contact with one another on April 25, 1945. Just a couple years before this President Roosevelt did in fact propose something that of all the maps I have glanced over in this inquiry, looked the most like your proposal--steaming aboard the USS Iowa to Cairo on his way to the Teheran conference, he took a pencil to a National Geographic map of prewar Germany and ignoring historical borders, sketched a proposed layout. This sketch appears in different sources but a clear and simple account that seems accurate enough can be found in


The map is under the section head "Roosevelt's North-South Split. But FDR wanted the USA to have the northwestern section, which would incorporate all of Berlin as entirely in the US sphere, with Britain relegated to the southwest; it seems unlikely the USA would back the somewhat aggrandized NW if it were going to another power! Roosevelt's proposal also scants the Soviet sector versus what was agreed to by early 1945, by which time it was also understood that Poland would be annexing much of the farther east of Germany, along with the Soviets taking northern East Prussia directly to the USSR (and other recent Reich annexations being transferred to Latvia).

A later, if evidently somewhat conceptual, evolution of Roosevelt's sketch shows concession to the idea of joint Allied occupation and control of Berlin itself, putting the joint territory on the border of the NW/Eastern third, again leaving the Soviet zone quite scanty of territory west of Poland's annexation (which at the time of this sketch, had not been agreed to yet). This article contains quite a lot of discussion of the evolution of Roosevelt's concept before it was finally sidelined completely, the later US proposal is on the article's page 121:

The British strongly objected to the US demand to control the northwest zone on logistical grounds--neither US nor UK wanted to have a zone with access limited by the need to transit France or Italy. The practical logistics of the planned Operation Overlord would involve the British landing on the left, to the north, and being responsible for driving through to take northern German objectives, while the USA would be landing to the south, to liberate France and strike Germany from the southwest. Americans did suggest the alleged tangles involved in swapping occupation zones after victory had been achieved would be entirely manageable, but it appears Winston Churchill settled the matter with something of a fast one, getting one to one meeting with Stalin at Teheran in which he presented the British tri-zone proposal, which granted the Soviets territories 150 miles westward of the American ones, and gave the UK responsibility for the reduced size northwest resulting.

In a sense, I suppose I may have put my finger on a POD here--some combination of conscience, or superior US intelligence, prevents Churchill from winning Stalin's approval without US say-so, and Churchill, to avoid a rupture with Roosevelt, capitulates to the Yankee demands that 1) the USA have the NW and 2) the US zone at any rate touches upon Berlin giving alternate access to that city not running through the Soviet zone. Churchill agrees in principle to the American proposal of a clockwise exchange of British and American control with the US forces withdrawing from their southwest initial zone of conquest through France and other liberated countries-I imagine the concrete plan boils down to Americans coming in to the north in stages, starting with the Baltic coast and the zone west of Berlin, with the British moving south into the northeastern most block of US occupation, the Yankee troops leaving that zone either to be routed north and east again to take up relocated occupation or rotating home as fresh recruits take their places in the north. Then the Yankees withdraw from the southeast block of their southern zone, with British troops from another block of their original northern section moving south, and so on until the exchange is completed. Churchill will of course have the same objection Roosevelt had, that now it is Commonwealth troops isolated to the mercy of French and Italian politics to have access to their zone, and I suppose FDR will relent to British logic enough to offer a more generous version of the OTL grant of isolated bits of North Sea ports (Bremen and Bremerhavn) to the US zone, whereby a continuous if narrow corridor from Bremerhavn to the main southern British zone is alienated from the northern US zone; to the west of this corridor, France is given a zone, and the portions of the OTL US zone grant to France are reduced, though they cannot be eliminated as the southwest corner of Bavaria had to be extended a bit to give France access to her occupation zone in Austria.

So that might be the agreement in principle--the USA, anticipating ultimate possession of the northern zone, modifies the British proposal to give that zone a broad corridor to Berlin, and perhaps a bit more Baltic coast. In compensation for losing this salient, Stalin is offered a block of territory south and west of Berlin. To form a corridor of some strategic depth from the OTL British proposed northwest zone, a triangle of western Brandenburg, its north border going from Berlin to Rathenau, its south swinging south of Potsdam and the city of Brandenburg, along with a large part of the northern portion of Saxony-Anhalt to border on OTL Lower Saxony would have to be annexed to the northwest zone. In compensation, I judge a large part of Lower Saxony, south of the river the city of Hannover is on down to the region of Göttingen would be annexed to the Soviet zone.

A continuous salient from the southwest zone all the way to Bremen would be prettty disruptive actually, and handing France everything west of it a huge concession to France, so I imagine instead Churchill is satisfied as the US was OTL with the little enclaves forming Bremen proper and assurance of free passage of goods and men through the northern zone.

Now if we chop it up like that, the zone borders zig zag a lot. Strategic depth is hard for either the Soviets or Western powers to maintain. Note that the portion of the German Soviet zone east of Berlin is quite narrow before reaching the new Polish border on the Oder; the Soviet zone becomes essentially two sections, one oriented toward the Baltic in the north and another reaching across various major developed inland areas as far west as Hannover. Thus the Western set of zones divided between the three western powers is also more dissected than OTL West Germany,

Meanwhile, Berlin itself is nestled between what was meant to be an American section, whose center is pretty sparsely populated though both its borders have considerable development, and the Soviet zone north, east and south. The Americans would probably have to plan on considerable upgrading of road, rail and canal access from that direction.

Now in a final switcheroo leading to something more like OTL postwar history, FDR dies on schedule shortly before the final collapse of German resistance, and the final configuration of occupation zones is hammered out at Potsdam (now in the Yankee zone, once the armies finish their reshuffling, which despite British objections did happen on the interface with the Red Army zones, mostly western forces withdrawing to let Soviet ones in). But suppose Harry Truman is dissuaded by both the new British PM Clement Attlee and Stalin, taking the same side in this case, from ordering the swap of territories between Britain and US, on the grounds that time is of the essence and important business must be carried out immediately by the authorities in place, lest occupied Germany become more desperate and unmanageable. Instead, the Americans will accept the deal Britain was willing to in principle, with the realpolitik fact in favor of the US holding the south that actually, given overall American power in the world at this point, and French dependency on US support, the French and still less Italy are unlikely to pose any obstacle to free movement of American logistics, and so the USA is less impeded by the isolation of its block of occupation than any other power would be--certainly it is easier for the Americans to get right of way from either France or Italy than for Britain to. Whereas the USA can also count on Britain to guarantee the alternate route via Bremen that Americans will control directly. This leaves the responsibility for maintaining the access of the three Western powers collectively to Berlin in Britain's lap of course. In the immediate aftermath of VE Day, with the Soviets mobilizing to attack Japan as Roosevelt and Churchill were anxious to get them to promise to do, with the USA having the monopoly on the secrets of the atomic bomb (though we actually had damn few of them at the time! Nor would the "secrets" last long) and the most massive overall force mobilization in human history rivalled only by the more numerous if less well equipped Red Army, it would not be deemed likely that the Soviets would risk another round of devastating war immediately over such an issue, particularly not when gaining access to such plum regions as Hannover (not to mention its far westward strategic projection) and the major academic center of Gottingen.

It is possible that when proposing the modified version of the British maps that give the northwest zone direct access to Berlin, Stalin might instead prefer to annex out of the southwest section a block southward of Thuringia, seeking to beef up the defense of the east. But a reasonably sized block of northeast Bavaria to compensate for the slice out of Brandenburg and top of Saxony-Anhalt is not going to totally block whichever Ally has the southwest section from direct contact with Czechoslovakia, whereas the western salient I propose in compensation gives Stalin many advantages.

So that's my counteroffer. What it has against it is that while it might be more gratifying to FDR to have his way in getting control of northwest Germany, and also direct access to Berlin, the resulting borders are pretty zigzag and not very reassuring. Roosevelt of course was hoping that war would be avoided in the future, but his OTL proposals were pretty greedy versus the more balanced British proposal that is the basis of the OTL choice. It was unfortunate to leave Berlin isolated, but not the end of the world. Well, it was believed to have almost been literally that several times! But it is not clear that zigzagging the borders would actually have led to a more stable outcome.

Actually, apparently a major barrier to the option of the several territories being coordinated into one unified policy of reconstruction was French policy, second only to the well known obstructionism of the Soviet zone. Both France and USSR sought to scrape reparations from their German zones, and it was against French policy, until much later, to permit Germany to re-industrialize.

There was a time when I had decent software compatible with my current operating system that might allow me to whip up a quick sketch, perhaps no worse than FDR's penciled lines, to indicate the changes in border I am talking about. Alas those days are gone. I think though in keeping it relatively simple, if not compact, I must have come up with something more conservative about giving the Eastern zone more territory wholesale, especially in Bavaria, than your line.
I wonder how the German auto industry would be in this TL. Auto Union (now known as Audi) was originally based in Dresden but moved Ingolstadt due to Dresden becoming part of East Germany, here Auto Union might move further west. At least East Germany would now have good cars, since BMW is based in Bavaria 😎