Nazis into Germans : re-education and democratisation in the British and French occupation zones, 1945-1949
University of Cambridge
Faculty of History
Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
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Torriani, R. (2005). Nazis into Germans : re-education and democratisation in the British and French occupation zones, 1945-1949 (Doctoral thesis). https://doi.org/10.17863/CAM.11653
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In May 1945, the Allied powers embarked on an enterprise that was unprecedented both in scope and ambition: they set out to change the collective perceptions of an entire population. Through a broad set of cultural and educational policies, Germany was to become democratic, and democratic ideas were to be firmly rooted in the Germans' collective consciousness. This research focuses on the democratisation policies of the two smaller of the four Allied powers, France and Great Britain, during the four years between the collapse of the Third Reich and the foundation of the Federal Republic. The title of this study is an inversion of Peter Fritzsche's Germans into Nazis, his book on the nazification of Germany. Methodologically, this dissertation is an exercise in comparative history. Significantly, in spite of the rather large body of secondary material on the topic, no detailed comparison exists to date. Applying the paradigms developed by theoretical historians on comparative history and the history of transfer to the French and the British occupations of Germany between 1945 and 1949, this research aims to redress this balance. The first part analyses the ideas and concepts that led the Allies to the decision to re-educate an entire population, as well as on the pre-surrender planning period. Thus, it not only places the democratisation policies in their wider conceptual framework, but it also discusses why such a set of policies emerged at this specific historical juncture. In particular, it establishes that the differences in the French and British approaches to re-education replicate differences in their colonial thought and their methods of colonial administration. The second part puts democratisation in the context of the literature on national identity. Accepting that nations are 'imagined' and founded upon a select set of traditions, the decision by the Allies to re-educate and create a more peaceful and democratic Germany can be understood as a particular kind of 're-invention' of German identity, some sort of 'imagined community from without'. The analysis is limited to the three elements of identity that the Allied powers focused on most: history, territory and religion. Finally, the conclusion reverses the gaze and relates the measures to reeducate and democratise the German population to the more general discussions about society and social reform in France and Great Britain. In fact, the precise outlook of the measures implemented in occupied Germany tell us just as much, if not more, about Britain and France than about Germany in the middle of the twentieth century.
This record's DOI: https://doi.org/10.17863/CAM.11653