Diagnosing Nazism : U.S. perceptions of National Socialism, 1920-1933 / by Robin L. Bowden.
Historical coverage of American perceptions of National Socialism normally begins with Adolf Hitler’s appointment as chancellor in 1933. Yet American policymakers were aware of and reported on the party from its formation in the early 1920s, though their concern with Germany’s political and economic stability caused them to inaccurately assess the growing National Socialist threat during this formative period. U.S. diplomats’ often stark differences of opinion when it came to dealing with National Socialism before Hitler's chancellorship have been relatively unexamined. Consequently, a complete understanding of the interwar relationship between the United States and Germany and the American understanding of National Socialism has heretofore been impossible.Using extensive primary documentation from the State Department and U.S. military intelligence, this dissertation dissects American diplomatic reporting on Germany from the formation of the NSDAP through Hitler’s appointment as chancellor. Part one examines U.S. assumptions about the Nazi Party from its infancy through the failed Beer Hall Putsch in 1923. Part two explores the U.S. failure to recognize that Hitler and the NSDAP were successfully reorganizing and restructuring their approach in the period prior to 1930. The final section details how American observers responded to a revitalized Nazi Party from 1930 to 1933.This study begins to fill the gap in the history of American perceptions of National Socialism by placing U.S. diplomatic reporting in its broadest historical context. Understanding American perceptions of National Socialism illuminates U.S.-German relations in the post-World War I era. At the same time the dissertation supplements the literature on U.S. policy history by contributing to a fuller understanding of the State Department’s relationship with its diplomats and Foreign Service officers. Finally, with its emphasis on the American understanding of National Socialism, this dissertation adds to the growing and important work done on U.S. perceptions of the enemy.As this study makes clear, U.S. observers had the opportunity to document and comprehend the developing National Socialist movement more than a decade before Hitler became chancellor. Lamentably, their coverage proved to be marked by misconceptions, some confusion, and, at times, complete disregard for the success of Hitler and his party.
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