Post War Germany
On May 7, 1945, Colonel General Alfred Jodi, the last chief of staff of the German Army, signed Germany’s unconditional surrender to the Allied Forces of the United States, France, Russia and England, at Rheims, France. This signified the end of the five-year European Conflict of World War II. As may be expected, Germany found herself in tatters with bombed cities and ruins. To help rehabilitate Germany, the Allied Forces divided the land into four jurisdictions. The zone assigned to the Americans included Bavaria, Hesse and northern Baden- Wurttemberg.
Later on, the port area of Bremen and Bremerhaven also came under American control. Thus settled, the United States Military Government set up headquarters in the former IG Farben building in Frankfurt. The Americans immediately saw that they had their work cut out for them. About 75,000 tons of bombs from both the United States and British air forces have been dropped on their zone thereby leaving only a little more than 300,000 habitable places from what used to have been a million and a half.
The estimates alone of ten fifty-car trainloads to clear away the rubble runs to almost 16 years. Unburied corpses mingled with sewage being spewed by broken sewer systems. There was very little food and most of the population had only about 64% of the normal 1,240-calorie requirements per day. In his report to the US Council for Foreign Relations on December 3, 1945, Allen Dulles one-time Bern station chief for the Office of Strategic Services and former Head of the CIA (1953-1961) described the situation as:
In the American zone the standard is 1,500 calories daily; but this figure has not been realized. Both we and the British will have to import food if the Germans are to stay alive. Sixty percent of the population of Germany is in the French, British, and American zones which produce only about forty percent of the food. In the Russian zone some of the food there is being diverted by the Russians to their own uses. (Dulles, 2003) For some time the Russians put the mostly female German population to work hauling rubble into carts. Then the Americans came.
With the coming of the Americans, the Germans felt both gratitude to be “rescued” from the harsh Soviets, as well as some reservations as to how things will be with the new “administrators. ” They also had two tendencies to contend with explains Peter K Breit, Professor Emeritus of the University of Hartford in his essay “Culture as Authority: American and German Transactions” (1995) The first is that during the years of the Third Reich, the Germans have grown accustomed to a unified popular and political culture that centered around “duty,” “good citizenship,” responsibility,” and “patriotism. “.
The next was a poorly informed knowledge or understanding of the culture and civilization of their occupiers thereby fueling an instinctive resistance to the ideas and programs proposed by the foreigners. (Breit, 1995, p. 127) All that the Germans knoew of US culture was that it was daring and “stressed spontaneity, consumability, and finally disposability. ” (Breit, 1995, p. 125) In the course of re-building the shattered German land from the time of Germany’s official surrender on V-E Day, the American soldiers were instructed to observe non-fraternization with the Germans particularly the Nazi prisoners.
Then military-governor of Germany Dwight Eisenhower, issued order JCS 1067 that stated soldiers caught fraternizing with any German prisoner or civilian, be they man, woman or child, will be dealt with summarily (Ziemke, 1990. p. 322. ) This directive encountered opposition and rebellion among the troops. In his book “The U. S. Army in the Occupation of Germany 1944-1946” Earl F. Ziemke observed that the number of arrests and cases being tried of US soldiers being friendly with the Germans rose steadily.
The “non-fraternization” policy also cost the US forces valuable assistance that came in the person of anti-Hitler Germans who offered their help and services to the American military government. While the Americans strove to treat the Germans with courtesy, the observance of polite gestures such as handshakes which were so important in German culture had to be foregone as doing so would automatically render the American involved in a court-martial. This prompted the Germans who didn’t fully understand the necessity or principle of “anti-fraternization” to never renew their offer of help again.
(Zink, 1957, p. 135) Ziemke further details how the US Army found the compromise being proposed by Eisenhower as to restricting friendliness to German children below the age of 12 as ludicrous (322). Questions were raised as to how soldiers would be able to know if a child was aged 11 or 12 without talking to him or her first. Some however say that the troop’s problems with the “non-fraternization” rule was not the frustrated kindness and friendliness the soldiers felt for the children. Besides the inherent friendliness of Americans and their need to be “liked,” Ziemke quotes Maj.
William Hill of the 28th Infantry Division as saying: “Soldiers are going to have their fling regardless of rules or orders. If they are caught they know what the punishment will be. However, that is not stopping them and nothing is going to stop them. “(324) This was probably made even more difficult to control with the ready number of German women who were willing to be pleasant in return for food, money and small favors from the American soldiers. Eisenhower eventually realized the futility of banning interaction and relationships between the Americans and Germans and rescinded the anti-fraternization order by June 11 of that year.
Maria HOhn (2002) believes that this “need for a fling” and the readiness of German women to be “friendly” with the GIs were the precursors to what would later become a growing anti-American sentiment. In her book “Gis and Frauleins: The German-American Encounter in 1950’s West Germany,” she describes the common belief shared by conservative German Catholics and Protestants with regard to how Germany can recover from the problems brought by the Nazis (HOhn. 2002. p. 9). Both groups believed a return to the Pre-Weimar traditions of the Christian Occident (Abendland) was the way to go if the German people stood a chance at recovery.
According to HOhn, the conservative elders were dismayed at the striptease halls and prostitutes that seemed to accompany the American Gis wherever they went. This supports Breit’s statement that the very casual nature of the American culture threatened to “pervert” the otherwise authoritarian culture of the Germans (Breit, 1995, p. 128). The unprecedented rate at which common-law marriages between the Americans and German girls as well as the numbers of illegitimately born children grew only seemed to prove the conservative Germans right.
There were also instances reported of looting and raping done by the American soldiers themselves. One of the truly sensational cases involved the theft of the crown jewels of the Prince of Hesse from Kronberg castle. One commanding general of a division went so far as to justify looting on the part of his troops by stating that many of his men had lost their lives or been wounded by the Germans and now that victory had come it was quite proper that they should take what they wanted of German chattels. (Zink, 1957, p. 136) As these were the very things that the Americans criticized the German Nazi Army for, it
Seemed to some that the Americans were just hypocrites. Not all American brass supported this though and looting remained one of the top offences punishable in the military. While a large number of American GIs managed to stay away from promiscuous relationships with the Germans, and the incidences of rape wasn’t as high as that done by the Soviets, some people believe that the reason for this was that the German women were more than willing to be with the GIs explains Depauw University Political Science Professor Harold Zink (1957) in his book “The United States in Germany, 1944-1955”
German women were expected to play a vital role in post-war Germany. Economically, the years following the surrender to the Allies was a period of subsistence with very minimal available resources and food supplies. This is one of the reasons why German women were open to relations with the Americans. Whatever the benefit is in the form of food, nylons, and other supplies, it was not that hard to persuade the women particularly when they were hungry. But that wasn’t all the German women were good for.
Indeed, they proved to be huge movers in the re-establishment of economic stability and sustenance of their families. “Housework” done by the Frauleins proved to be one significant contributor to the eventual economic stabilization of Germany. The Frauleins were primarily looked upon to do “housework” duties like clearing up rubble, hauling water and “hamstering” or searching for food in the countryside. As most able young German men became part of Hitler’s war, the women simply outnumbered the remaining men.
Eventually, such housework led to a more lucrative position in the 1950’s when women began to be employed in domestic service. This would be the start of a more “consumer” and lifestyle based economy where the women would save up resources and start buying and accumulating products like vacuum cleaners, automobiles and other items that the fledgling West German industries were starting to produce. (Crew, 1998) Because of this growing consumerism combined with the scarcity of resources, some American GIs resorted to black marketing (Neiberg, 2002).
In his article on “John Willoughby, Remaking the Conquering Heroes: the Postwar American Occupation of Germany” Dr. Michael Neiberg of the Carnegie Mellon University cites the negative image such black market practice done by a select group of GIs was severely affecting the German perception of their occupiers. He refers to John Willoughby, one of the leading contributors to warfare literature: Willoughby’s view of the American occupation army is intensely negative. It reads like a bacchanalian orgy of alcohol abuse, grand and petty theft, sexual predation, and endemic racism.
Willoughby’s American GI is a provincial “martial tourist” interested only in the perks (legal and illegal) of service in Germany. To take him at his word, one would have to believe that all American GIs were black marketeers, dealing PX goods in exchange for money, access to young German women, and the petty power that comes from being relatively wealthy amidst vast poverty. (Neiberg, 2002) This probably did not help public perception of the Americans as the American community’s population in Germany continued to grow.
According to the research done by Maria HOhn “since 1945, more than 15 million Americans have lived and worked in West Germany, and the great majority of those individuals have spent their time in Germany as members of the American military. “(HOhn, 2002, p. 5) The town of Baumholder which used to accommodate just around 2,500 inhabitants was transformed into a military base and training camp for nearly 30,000 American GIs in the year 1950. Another base set up by the Americans was in the provincial city of Kaiserslautern which accommodated 40,000 GIs along with their families. .(HOhn, 2002, p. 6) Why with their families?
In her article “American Military Families Overseas and Early Cold War Foreign Relations,”(2000) Dr. Donna Alvah, history professor at St. Lawrence University in New York explains the US government strategy and necessity of sending families abroad to be with their husbands: The first important reason for sending families abroad was that wives were no longer willing to endure separation from their soldier husbands. After the war, wives demanded the reconstitution of their nuclear families. In so doing, wives helped to persuade the military of the centrality of heteronormative families in the campaign against the spread of communism.
Second, the US government hoped that sending military families overseas would help to solve a problem in maintaining hundreds of thousands of servicemen abroad for long tours of duty. Servicemen’s unruly behavior strained relations between the US and host countries. The men’s drunkenness, brawling, criminal activities, and sexual relationships with citizens of host countries contributed to a poor image of Americans and the United States, undermining Cold War foreign relations. The federal government hoped that the presence of wives and children would civilize and domesticate servicemen.
Alvah uses the term “unofficial ambassadors,” in reference to the American families of servicemen abroad. She said that despite the expense of relocation, one purpose in sending the men’s families along would be to “promote the United States to its allies around the world. ” She further states that the government believed that in addition to helping manage the men’s behavior, the presence of the family would set an example to the people of the land they are occupying and perhaps establish the roles of men and women in “strong nuclear families.
” In so doing, perhaps the concepts of “democracy” along with the other ideas symbolic of the American way of life may also be conveyed. (Alvah, 2000. p. 1) Alvah also cites the research done by Maria HOhn, where local leaders have expressed much concern as to the rising rate of prostitution by both German women and refugees. This got so bad that even German women who were not prostitutes but dated American GIs were subjected to insult and ostracism. “Germans used “Veronika” to label all women who entered relationships with GIs as prostitutes.
Other derogatory expressions included “Amiliebchen” (Ami-lover) and “soldiers’ brides. ”(Poiger, 2000, p. 35) There were also fears that the GIs “preyed on their children, girls as well as boys” as well as “draw young Germans into a “”whirlpool of homosexuality. “” (Alvah, 2000. p. 2) Perhaps the United States felt that at this point, the presence of the GIs’ families should be enough to dispel such concerns. One positive side to having American families on the base was that it provided more employment for the Germans.
There were some factions however who believed that this employment particularly of the German women was severely hindering Germany’s return to traditional society and beliefs. German Conservatives emphasized that despite the roles women have been forced to take during the war, they should still be able to revert back to being stay at home housewives who look after their children and honor their husband’s ability to provide for the family (Poiger, 2000, p. 5)Sample Essay of EduBirdie.com