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"Die Brücke ist geschlagen" : die Konfrontation deutscher Kriegsgefangener mit der Demokratie in amerikanischer und britischer Kriegsgefangenschaft

"The gap has been bridged": confrontation between German prisoners of war and democracy in American and British prisoner of war camps
[journal article]

Steinbach, Peter

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Abstract Die zentrale Fragestellung der Untersuchung befaßt sich mit der Rolle, die die Konfrontation deutscher Kriegsgefangener mit dem Typus der westlichen Demokratie in amerikanischer und britischer Gefangenschaft spielte und der daraus resultierenden politischen Neuorientierung. Dabei liegt die These zugrunde, daß durch die Konfrontation deutscher Gefangener mit den politischen Strukturen und Wertvorstellungen des Westens nicht selten ein Wandel eingeleitet wurde, der die durch die deutsche Diktatur geprägten Werte, Grundüberzeugungen, Einstellungen abschwächte und auch auflöste. Dieser Prozeß ist nicht allein als Denazifizierung zu charakterisieren, sondern entfaltete auf längere Sicht eine Wirkung, die die politische Demokratisierung unterstützte. Dargestellt werden die verschiedenen Programme zur 'Re-education', wobei der Autor unveröffentlichte Quellen ausgewertet hat sowie auf Ergebnisse eines empirischen Projektes des Militärarchivs Freiburg aus den siebziger Jahren zurückgriff. (pra)

"From 1942 onward, more and more soldiers of the German Wehrmacht became American prisoners of war (POWs). Among the German POWs, conflicts occurred frequently between opponents of the former National Socialist regime and its adherents. The American occupation authorities attempted early on to win over, or at least influence, German POWs in the direction of western democratic principles. Prison camp newspapers, classes, discussion groups, and other forms were the traditional means for this 'reeducation'. Soon a more systematic program of reeducation was initiated, whose effectiveness is examined here. Over the course of time, one can trace changes in the POWs consclousness. Such changes depended on the age and level of education of individual prisoners, but they also depended on the date when a reading was taken. The closer the end of the war appeared, the more willing prisoners were to rethink their position. Frequent surveys tracked these changes of attitude in detail. This contribution analyses one of the more extensive of such surveys. It is possible to say to what degree, and in what ways, the Americans were able to implement their plan to confront German prisoners of war with the principles and values of the constitutional state. It is possible to determine how such reeducation changed the world views of the POWs. Above all, military defeat increased in many German soldiers the conviction that they had to confront this historical turning point on an intellectual level, and that they had to come to terms with their own past. An oppeness toward the principles of democracy was decisive for many in providing the opportunity to free themselves from habits of mind adopted during the period of dictatorship." (author's abstract)
Keywords conception of democracy; Third Reich; political attitude; denazification; prisoner of war; post-war period; re-education; value change
Classification Social History, Historical Social Research
Method historical
Document language German
Publication Year 1997
Page/Pages p. 275-299
Journal Historical Social Research, 22 (1997) 3/4
ISSN 0172-6404
Status Published Version; peer reviewed
Licence Creative Commons - Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works