Know your enemy : American interpretations of National Socialism, 1933-1945 / by Michaela Hönicke.
The dissertation is a study of American governmental and public interpretations and representations of the Third Reich during the thirties and World War Two. It examines the wide range of conflicting attitudes towards Germany and diverse postwar plans for the enemy nation. The study traces the emergence of the main explanatory models and images that Americans formulated to characterize the Nazi regime and outlines the discussions that took place within the Roosevelt administration and among the interested public, involving journalists, academics, church leaders, and congressmen. The dissertation examines the different views of Nazi Germany in presidential addresses, government documents, Hollywood movies, newsreels, magazine articles, radio shows as well as in public opinion polls. In an effort to understand what was happening in Germany and what it meant for the United States, Americans discussed the political preconditions and popular support for the Nazi regime; they evaluated the historical roots of National Socialist ideology in German culture and advanced conflicting interpretations of Nazi foreign policy aims and of postwar prospects for German reeducation. Few Americans accepted the formulation that “Hitler equals Germany.” More Americans exculpated the German people by distinguishing them from their Nazi leaders. But beneath and beyond the antagonism between these two positions, Americans generated important insights into the nature of the National Socialist regime in Germany. Central metaphors and paradigms of the American debate included the characterization of National Socialism as a “disease,” the argument of “German peculiarities” and Germany's historical special path, and the insistence that the German people were basically “like us,” except that they had fallen victim to a regime composed of “gangsters.” American ethnic self-identification and basic political assumptions shaped the image of Nazi Germany and put significant limits on what many Americans could believe and imagine about German behavior and intentions. American wartime views of Germany showed little exaggeration and defamation, much information and self-consciousness.
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