The War for the German Mind: Re-Educating Hitler's Soldiers

The War for the German Mind: Re-Educating Hitler's Soldiers

The War for the German Mind: Re-Educating Hitler's Soldiers

The War for the German Mind: Re-Educating Hitler's Soldiers

Synopsis

There are several important studies on Allied efforts to re-educate German civilians after the fall of Nazism. The simultaneous major program of the U. S., Britain and Soviet Union to influence the future of German politics and society through the re-education of prisoners of war has not previously been studied. Based on extensive archival research, including hitherto unknown material from the Soviet archives, as well as interviews with participants, this book draws a fascinating picture of the war for the postwar German mind. It also explores the question of the impact of the returnees upon the two German states that emerged after 1945. The unique value of this study lies in its genuinely comparative approach which also examines the program that Soviets introduced in their POW camps.

Excerpt

Is it possible for a nation victorious in war to reorient the political thinking of enemy prisoners through a process of re-education, and then use these "graduates" as a vanguard in directing the defeated state toward a specific form of government? the United States, Great Britain, and Russia thought so, for they created re-educational programs for a selected number of German prisoners of war between 1943 and 1949 with that very aim in mind. While the British and Americans hoped to graduate German prisoners with an understanding of, and a desire for, democracy, the Russians, however, were counting on German prisoners steeped in the finer points of Marx and Lenin to turn the tide in the direction of communism.

The three programs--the United States' Special Projects, Britain's Wilton Park, and Russia's National Committee "Free Germany," or nkfd, and antifascist schools--differed in time, place, and circumstances, but all shared two fundamental features: each of these wartime Allies wanted German prisoners who were ready to exchange National Socialism for a new set of political beliefs, and each hoped to influence the political shape of postwar Germany.

There is a vast quantity of literature concerning the fate of German prisoners of war during and after World War II, but no one has done a comparative analysis of these educational experiments undertaken by the three wartime Allies, nor attempted to measure their ultimate impact on postwar Germany. the present study aims to fill this gap.

Since thousands of German war prisoners attended the re-education courses during the 1940s, it occurred to me that many of these men were still alive and would perhaps give me personal accounts of their experiences. I knew their testimony would greatly enhance my study and provide valuable insights that might otherwise be soon lost. But how to locate them? the first . . .

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