Cautious Crusade: Franklin D. Roosevelt, American Public Opinion, and the War against Nazi Germany

By Steven Casey | Go to book overview

5
HARDENING THOUGHTS,
UNCHANGING RHETORIC
MARCH 1943 TO JUNE 1944

Too many people here and in England hold
to the view that the German people as a
whole are not responsible for what has taken
place—that only a few Nazi leaders are re-
sponsible. That unfortunately is not based on
fact. The German people as a whole must
have it driven home to them that the nation as
a whole has been involved in a lawless con-
spiracy against the decencies of modern civil-
isation.

—FDR, August 1944

As Franklin Roosevelt's thoughts turned from planning Germany's defeat to planning its future during the course of 1943, his image of the enemy—the basic framework he had long employed when analyzing the German problem —changed dramatically. Gone were the old fears and hopes that had encouraged him to think in terms of a difference between the brutal Nazis and the more peaceably inclined population. They were replaced by a greater tendency to conceive of the German nation as a monolithic whole in which everyone shared a degree of culpability. Thus, whereas in December 1942 Roosevelt had still been willing to believe that there were elements within Germany who might still "rise, and protest against the atrocities, against the whole Hitler system," a year later he was starting to stress that there were few differences between Germans and their leaders. "Fifty years ago, there had been a difference," he told Stalin at Tehran, "but since the last war it was no longer so."1 Similarly,

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