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60th Anniversary of the Marshall Plan and the Pro-American Myth

The State Department writes about the 60th anniversary:
On June 5, 1947, U.S. Secretary of State George C. Marshall addressed the graduating class at Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts, delivering a 12-minute speech that changed the world. Within days, his remarks became known as the Marshall Plan. The following month, European leaders met in Paris to discuss how they could cooperate regionally to qualify for Marshall’s offer of massive U.S. financial assistance. Ten months after Marshall’s speech, the U.S. Congress overwhelmingly approved the European Recovery Program. (...) By the time the Marshall Plan ended in 1952 – five years after Marshall’s speech – the United States had invested $13.3 billion, and the years 1948 to 1952 had recorded the fastest economic growth in European history.
Writing for the German Embassy in Washington DC, Susan Stern describes how the Marshall plan worked and explains the pro-American myth that is so popular in Germany:
Many Germans believe that the Marshall Plan was alone responsible for the economic miracle of the Fifties. And when scholars come along and explain that reality was far more complex, they are sceptical and disappointed. They should not be. For the Marshall Plan certainly did play a key role in Germany's recovery, albeit perhaps more of a psychological than a purely economic one. The Plan gave the Germans back some of their self-esteem. It opened up new perspectives. It gave them the boost - a positive mind-set - which released their energies and made them work all the harder to rebuild their country. The Marshall Plan did what it set out to do - help people help themselves. Because of the Marshall Plan myth, a lot of East Germans and Eastern Europeans immediately invoked the Marshall Plan after the communist regimes tumbled and the extent of their own economic plight became only too clear. In fact, as Western leaders searched for ways to help, the Marshall Plan became a buzzword.
Thank you nevertheless!
June 5, 1972, was the 25th anniversary of George Marshall's Harvard speech, and German Chancellor Willy Brandt was determined to come up with a very special anniversary present as a sign of his nation's appreciation. He flew to Harvard with a moving speech in one pocket and a large check in the other. His thank-you gift: the "German Marshall Fund of the United States," an independent American foundation to be paid for by Germany, and designed to "increase understanding, promote collaboration, and stimulate exchanges of practical information between the United States and Europe."
Allen W. Dulles had argued:
The Marshall Plan ... is not a philanthropic enterprise ... It is based on our views of the requirements of American security ... This is the only peaceful avenue now open to us which may answer the communist challenge to our way of life and our national security.
Related post in the Atlantic Review: Speech of Hope Set the Course for American-German Relations 60 Years Ago


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Pat Patterson on :

It's nice to see the recognition of the importance of the Marshall Plan but rather surprising to learn that the Germans aren't aware of their own countrys efforts. Great Britain and France received more on a per capita basis and total amount that Germany got but didn't even begin to approach the rate of reindustrialization and the rise in living standards that the West Germans experienced. I heard Milton Friedman give a lecture more than a few years ago where he briefly mentioned the Marshall Plan and argued that the money was not as important but that the currency reform and the singlemindness of Konrad Adenauer made the difference and that it was one of the major successes of american policy in the century. He, Friedman, had absolutely nothing good to say about the post-war leadership of either France or Great Britain and considered the Marshall Plan money wasted on them. He also acknowledged that Truman and the Republican Congress both agreed that the only way to keep West Germany out of the Soviet orbit would not be decided by military or propaganda efforts but the rising expectations of the Germans themselves. Especially when compared to the fate of their fellow countrymen.

Bill on :

Glenn Hubbard and William Duggan of the Columbia University Business School are arguing that the continent of Africa needs a "Marshall Plan" similar to the one that helped to pull Europe out of the abyss after WWII. Here is an excerpt from their article published to the Financial Times (U.K.): Why Africa needs a Marshall plan By Glenn Hubbard and William Duggan Published: June 4 2007 19:12 | Last updated: June 4 2007 19:12 Robert Zoellick, the likely new president of the World Bank, will face a long to-do list, but at or near the top will be the dire economic conditions in much of sub-Saharan Africa. As a seasoned diplomat, Mr Zoellick will seek counsel from many sources. But the best advice may be in the history books. Sixty years ago on Tuesday, George Marshall, US secretary of state, announced what became known as the Marshall plan for Europe in an address at Harvard University. The Marshall plan has been widely heralded as an example of the triumph of foreign aid on a grand scale. Given the high rate of extreme poverty in sub-Saharan Africa, and that Africa is poorer today than 20 years ago, some leaders have called for a Marshall plan for Africa. We agree. But the original Marshall plan was less a grand aid programme than a targeted effort to restore the power of business as a growth engine. A true Marshall plan for Africa could ignite growth and reduce poverty, but only through a different set of institutions than the current aid system. The plan had four main elements. First, a rich country – the US – made grants to European governments for restoring production through loans to local businesses which repaid them to their own governments. Second, each European government spent the repaid funds on restoring commercial infrastructure to boost production, such as ports and railways. Third, each European government made economic policy reforms to support their domestic private sectors. Fourth, a regional co-ordinating body handled the distribution of funds among countries. Grand foreign aid plans have little in common with the original Marshall plan. Aid plans foster government-led development with an emphasis on social services. The Marshall plan fostered business-sector development with an emphasis on loans and economic infrastructure. It was something that Africa has never seen on a large scale – a business-sector support project. A real Marshall plan for Africa would stand apart from the aid system of governments and non-governmental organisations. The original Marshall plan had its own institutions: it created an Economic Co-operation Administration to run the entire programme, with headquarters in Washington and small missions in every European country. Each country had a special ECA account. Receiving countries formed a regional co-ordinating body, the Organisation for European Economic Co-operation, which led to both the OECD and the European Union. (Read more at

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