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The German reaction to the American occupation, 1944-1947 / by Verena Botzenhart-Viehe.

Publication | Library Call Number: DD257 .B67 1980

At the end of the Second World War, Allied policy determined the fata of Germany. The United States Britain, France and the Soviet Union divided Hitler's Reich into four occupation zones. The American zone comprised the states of Bavaria, Hesse, Wuerttemberg-Baden and Bremen. The administration of these four areas serves as an example of America's endeavors to export its democracy. During the last year of the war the press and public opinion in the United States carried on a lively discussion on what to do with Germany after victory. This discussion also existed in the government agencies of the departments of war and state, and it continued until after American soldiers already had occupied their zone. While the Washington officials worked out an abstract program the military forces started to implement their own occupation policies. Washington's orders found their expression in the Joint Chief of Staff (JCS) Order 1067, a document often unsuitable and incomplete to deal with the German realities. The military government in Germany therefore acted often independently and sometimes contrary to these policies by primarily responding to human needs. The goals of JCS 1067 were to disarm, denazify, demilitarize, and decentralize Germany and thereby to establish a democracy in the country. The Americans wanted to help as well as punish Germany. Moreover the occupation was to be just, humane, and executed with consideration for the welfare of the population. The American occupation officials pursued a double purpose, namely to fulfill American as well as German interests. While they struggled to reform and gain the respect of the Germans, they were criticized by some of their countrymen. American reporters and intelligence officials disputed the success of the occupation efforts and questioned the German willingness to repent their Nazi past. They saw Germans, who in the wake of occupation, emphasized age old great historical traditions, and made attempts to preserve their own political culture. To be successful in their task, the Americans not only had to recruit capable, untarnished Germans to fill crucial posts but, they had to demonstrate a willingness to learn German ways and show knowledge of this Gepnan culture. Especially the military governors of the four states needed the gift of fulfilling American interests and convincing the Germans that the actions were also in their interest. Those governors who succeeded proved that personality and compassion were as important as executing orders. Only a few American military officials knew Germany, the psychology of the Germans, their political institutions and the German language. They stumbled over strong regionalism, provincialism, and a German cultural elite eager to reform their fatherland themselves. Germans saw Americans making many mistakes. They accused the occupation forces of ignorance and resented American insistence on democratizing them. Nevertheless, the chronicles also give an indication of German respect for the American endeavors. The Germans not only appreciated American practical help but were grateful for their presence in order to lend security and stability - a climate necessary to cultivate a new democratic beginning. German reaction to the occupation seemed at once critical and complimentary. They liked the occupation for providing stability and economic help in reconstruction and opposed it by accusing the Americans of ignorance, materialism and the emphasis on moral rehabilitation. Because of such a reaction the Americans had difficulties in correctly evaluating Germans and consequently in punishing them for their Nazi past while at the same time providing them with a democratic example. The American occupation officals had to keep in mind that they did not operate in a cultural vacuum but rather in a realm where Germans and Americans perceived each other through their own cultural glasses. Research of this study was based on German and American memoirs of the occupation period, contemporary newspapers and magazines partially gathered from the German collection at the Hoover Institution for War and Peace, at Stanford University. Moreover the National Archives provided the opinion polls gathered by the Information Control Division of the Office of the Militar Government in Germany, United States (OMGUS).

Botzenhart-Viehe, Verena, 1952-
Record last modified: 2018-05-29 16:28:00
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