Americans and German youth in Nuremberg, 1945-1956 : a study in politics and culture / by Harald Thomas Oskar Leder
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While American policy makers needed three years after World War II to recognize the importance of re-educating German youth and to develop a consistent policy, a look at Nuremberg reveals that American representatives in the field started positive and constructive programs immediately after the war. American soldiers ignored non-fraternization, the Army became heavily involved in helping German communities survive, while the Youth Section of the Office of Military Government was the first to focus on persuasion instead of coercion in its re-education efforts. It designed long range programs to introduce young Germans to a democratic culture. Official American policy simply confirmed the new direction months later. The Army introduced a completely new concept of youth work, offering alternatives for those who refused to join traditional German clubs with their membership requirements. It also provided almost all transport and equipment for youth activities in the American zone. Private organizations and Washington's child feeding program reached additional German youths. In spite of administrative shortcomings and a constant shortage of personnel, these Americans were able to make significant contributions to youth work and even schooling in Germany, although the effort fell short of institutional reform, especially in recalcitrant Bavaria. With American power and support behind them, progressive Germans in key positions adopted American ideas and models for youth work and explored new ways of integrating young Germans into the international community. American youth programs and the presence of substantial numbers of soldiers and civilians in Germany had a positive and long lasting effect which went beyond immediate material gains. Many young Germans became acquainted with American culture, ideas, and ideals. Most of those who participated in exchange programs with the United States served as multipliers, introducing American concepts to German schools, social work, and even the churches. American efforts in youth work succeeded because their programs and the mere presence of so many Americans offered different and attractive approaches without dictating them at a time when most young Germans and open-minded members of the older generation were looking for new ideas and alternatives to a discredited ideology and lifestyle.
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