April 1945 -- The German city of Nuremberg lies in ruins during the closing weeks of World War II, the most destructive conflict in human history. Tens of millions died, and great cities lay in ruins.
Two years later, in the spring of 1947, a demoralized Europe remained on the brink of economic and social collapse. Millions were homeless and millions more were refugees. Jobs were scarce, starvation common. National governments turned inward and refused to cooperate with neighbors. Banks would not exchange foreign currency. Food was rationed. Inflation was rampant. Roads and railways remained destroyed.
Meanwhile, the Soviet Union, seeking a protective buffer, strengthened its control over Central Europe and began building the political and social framework for the Iron Curtain. Increasingly numbers of people in Western Europe believed Communism might hold a viable solution for rebuilding their war-torn worlds. Democratically elected leaders feared that continued economic failure would result in Communism sweeping across the continent. (© AP Images)