Before the Allied Control Council finally declared the state of Prussia history in its Law No. 46 of February 25, 1947, the victorious powers set about creating new state structures in their zones of occupation.

As far as Hessen was concerned, the United States followed the Prussian model.

Historical borders were put at the discretion of the politician, the Hessian patchwork quilt, which had been drastically turned inside out by the victorious Prussia in 1866, was given a new face.

The birth certificate consisted of four articles.

For the reorganization of post-war Germany, however, Proclamation No. 2 was of the greatest importance.

As American commander-in-chief in occupied Germany, General Dwight D. Eisenhower launched "Greater Hessen" on September 19, 1945.

At the same time, the US military government founded the federal states of Bavaria and Württemberg-Baden, which later became part of Baden-Württemberg, which was created in 1952.

All of them are among the richest federal states in Germany today.

Eisenhower, who was to be elected to the White House in 1953, signed the announcement in the IG-Farben building in Frankfurt, which is steeped in history.

"This creates administrative areas within the American zone of occupation, which from now on will be referred to as states."

The British Air Marshal Arthur Tedeer (from left), the British Field Marshal Bernard L. Montgomery and the Soviet Marshal Georgi K. Schukow (right front) visiting the headquarters of US General Dwight D. Eisenhower (center) in 1946 in Frankfurt am Main

Source: dpa


The Americans thus contrasted the National Socialist central state with a federal structure with strong countries.

The former Prussian province of Hessen-Nassau (with the administrative districts of Wiesbaden and Kassel) and the people's state of Hessen-Darmstadt, created in 1918/1919, were united to form Greater Hessen.

The Americans paid little attention to economic and geographic contexts.

However, the desire for a large Hessen corresponded very well to the will of the new elites and also of the population, says the historian Walter Mühlhausen.

The new state had to do without the wealthy Rheinhessen with the cities of Mainz and Worms, which belonged to Hessen-Darmstadt before the war.

The areas on the left bank of the Rhine belonged to the French occupation zone.

Four Nassau districts - including Montabaur - were also assigned to the French as a bridgehead to the right of the Rhine by the zone protocol on June 22, 1945.

They later came to Rhineland-Palatinate.

An exclave went to Württemberg-Baden.


Even before Eisenhower's directive, the politicians who took responsibility in the war-torn Hesse had tried to consolidate the territory.

In addition to the Frankfurt trade unionist and later DGB boss Willi Richter, this also included Ludwig Bergsträsser (SPD), who was then head of administration in Darmstadt.

But representatives of the economy and the Kassel head and district president Fritz Hoch made similar statements.

The original copy of the constitution of the State of Hesse from December 1, 1946 is a simple printed matter

Source: dpa

Especially in the 19th century there were repeated attempts in Hesse to bring together the small territories under the rule of counts and lesser princes.

In 1866, after the victory over Austria and its allies, including Hessen-Kassel, Prussia dictated the new order.

The Landgraviate and Nassau became Prussian.

This was particularly bitter for the once so important free imperial city of Frankfurt.

Frankfurt was also to become a loser in Greater Hesse: Wiesbaden was awarded the state capital - it was the first ever in post-war Germany.

The Americans took a pragmatic approach.

The old Nassau royal seat was far less destroyed in the war than Frankfurt.

A little later, with the Federal Criminal Police Office and the Federal Statistical Office, two important federal authorities came to Wiesbaden.


On October 16, 1945, the first Hessian cabinet appointed by the military and made up of representatives from all parties began its work.

At the top was the independent Heidelberg lawyer Karl Geiler.

After the state elections on December 1, 1946, the provisional solution was replaced by the first parliamentary government under Prime Minister Christian Stock (SPD).

With the simultaneous adoption of the new constitution through a referendum, the “large” in “Hessen” was deleted.

This name was too reminiscent of the greater Germany of the National Socialists.

Attempts to win back Rheinhessen were made again and again - especially in the first post-war years.

But at the end of August 1948, the West German minister-presidents decided, to the chagrin of Hesse, to dissolve the state border committee.

This should actually develop new proposals.

With six to five votes, the vote was very close at the time.

Even after the referendum in 1951, Bad Wimpfen stayed with Württemberg

Source: picture alliance / James Emmerso

The affiliation of the spa town of Wimpfen north of Heilbronn remained a matter of dispute.

This Hessian exclave has been administered by Württemberg-Baden since 1946.

In 1952, however, the citizens voted in a non-binding referendum in favor of joining the Heilbronn district.

The state government in Stuttgart rejected the objection from Wiesbaden.

The state of Hesse also failed in 1975 with a referendum to repatriate the region around Montabaur.

After all, the city of Wiesbaden can be pleased that former districts of Mainz on the right bank of the Rhine, such as Mainz-Kastel, now belong to it.

Despite the economic gap between the structurally weak north and the Rhine-Main area, Hesse became an economic success story.

The country integrated a million refugees and displaced persons.

The central location in Germany attracted investments.

Incidentally, the Americans were quite proud of the "Greater Hessen" they created.

What did not succeed in Germany was achieved by a "victorious power" from across the Atlantic, according to a report by the US military administration from October 1945.

The winners also did not resent the Hessians for having fought on the side of the British colonial rulers in the American War of Independence (1775-1783).

The Landgrave of Hessen-Kassel, who was allied with the British royal family, had sold thousands of subjects overseas with a notorious soldier trade.

The "Hessians" became the epitome of foreign mercenaries.

This article was first published in 2015.