Re-education and the America Houses (1945–1961)- The American Information Centers and their Involvement in Democratic Re-education in Western Germany and West Berlin from 1945 to 1961
Table Of Contents
- About the author(s)/editor(s)
- About the book
- This eBook can be cited
- Table of Contents
- 1. The America Houses and Political Re-education
- 1.1 Re-education: Inherently negative or E Pluribus Unum supportive
- 1.2 The lead up to the America Houses
- 1.2.1 The structural organizations from 1945–1961
- 1.3 Re-education and the America Houses
- 1.4 Germany: cultural similarities/differences
- 1.4.1 Democracy and Culture
- 1.5 Propaganda and Re-education
- 1.5.1 Propaganda and the America Houses
- 1.5.2 Soviet propaganda
- 2. America Houses - Detailed
- 2.1 Strategy and America House Objectives
- 2.2 Location and Number
- 2.3 Structural Setup
- 2.4 Names and Publicity
- 2.5 Costs and Financing
- 2.6 The Core - The Library
- 2.6.1 McCarthyism: a short, powerful lesson in misguided overseas policies
- 2.6.2 Reading Rooms, Bookmobiles, DAB and DAI
- 3. America Houses - The Programs
- 3.1 Programs - General
- 3.1.1 Visitors and Target Groups
- 3.2 The Programs - Historical Background
- 3.2.1 Films
- 3.2.2 Lectures and Discussions
- 3.2.3 Exhibitions
- 3.2.4 Music
- 3.2.5 Children and Youth
- 4. America Houses - The Buildings
- 4.1 Introduction
- 4.1.1 General Background
- The Importance of the SOM Plans
- 4.1.2 The Buildings - Similarities/Differences
- 4.2 The First - Essen
- The Layout
- The exterior
- The interior
- 4.3 Cologne - 1955
- A visual re-education tour – The building
- The Interior
- The back block
- 4.4 The Wave of 1957
- 4.4.1 Frankfurt
- A visual re-education tour - The building
- The plans
- The design – the exterior
- The Interior
- 4.4.2 Munich
- A visual re-education tour - The building
- The Interior
- 4.4.3 Hamburg
- The building
- The Interior
- 4.4.4 Berlin
- A visual re-education tour - The building
- The Exterior
- The Interior
- 5. Conclusion and Results
- Sources and Literature Reference
- Selected Original Documentation from Archives and Collections
- Documents and official sources/Government publications
- Selected articles
- On-line Bibliography
- Selected Interviews
- Photographic Sources
- Archives Visted
About the author(s)/editor(s)
About the book
How can firmly established democracies aid and support emerging democracies? Historically, where has this been done? This book looks at the American Information Centers and their involvement in democratic re-education in Western Germany and West Berlin from 1945 to 1961. Referred to as America Houses in Germany, this thesis argues that this institutions continued re-education much longer on a subtle level and were one of the few influencing, yet powerful tools that America had at its disposal to guide democracy. Considering the fact that these Houses were financed with American taxpayer dollars, it remains astounding that so little has been written about them in English to date. This publication seeks to provide unique insights into this fascinating time in US history.
This eBook can be cited
This edition of the eBook can be cited. To enable this we have marked the start and end of a page. In cases where a word straddles a page break, the marker is placed inside the word at exactly the same position as in the physical book. This means that occasionally a word might be bifurcated by this marker.
Table of contents
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The following study is a result of my dissertation presented to the Faculty of Art and Design at the University of Wuppertal in the summer of 2012. There are a great number of individuals to whom I am very grateful and without their help this work would not have been possible. Firstly, I would like express my thanks to Professor Bazon Brock for his breadth of knowledge, analytical mind and support. I am also indebted to the Deutsche Akademischer Austausch Dienst for their financial backing towards the end of this project. Various program directors of the America Houses, who provided the initial interviews, were of great help. These were Dr. Gerhard Wiesinger in Frankfurt, Bernd A. Herbert in Cologne, Renate Semler in Berlin and Dr. Christoph Peters in Munich. I would also like to thank Professor Rainer K. Wick, whose knowledge in art education and of Bauhaus was immensely beneficial. My deepest admiration goes out to Victoria Sheppard, of Merle & Sheppard, for her editing work on this project. Heide Kley and Lore Wolf literarily opened their homes and offices, providing the physical space necessary to complete such a project. Finally, I would like to thank Roger Wrighton, Anthony and Alexander who supported me in this project and my parents, Len and Sharon Hooper whose encouragement made this possible.
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On May 19, 2011, US President, Barack Obama, delivered an address about the newly emerging Arab democracies and the US policy in the Middle East.1 Pledging economic support, the concept of economic development was nevertheless a secondary factor in the President’s plan for encouraging positive change in the region. The President’s speech had started with the need to uphold human rights2 and advance political reforms in this area. His main focus on civil rights and democracy is the integral American philosophy rooted in E Pluribus Unum.3 This Latin expression, found on the Great Seal of the United States means “one from many,” is innately intertwined with supporting civil liberties and a democratic system. These essential principles form “the one” while respecting the individual differences of “the many.” Essentially a guiding light for America, this basic notion shapes peaceful co-existence especially where differences abound. In emerging democracies, such differences pose a constant threat to the order of government. Left unsupported the possibility exists that democracy will not establish permanence in these countries. Thus, it is essential that firmly established democracies aid and support these countries in developing their own democratic roots.
Economic support, as promised by President Obama is only one means to guarantee political reforms. It is clear that without economic stability emerging democracies will suffer. The punitive economic measures that took place in Germany after World War One (WWI), as outlined in the Treaty of Versailles (1919) ← 9 | 10 → combined with the world financial crisis of 19294 are considered crucial contributory elements to the demise of the short-lived German Weimar Republic. The establishment of political reforms which Obama defined in his address as “free speech; the freedom of peaceful assembly; freedom of religion; equality for men and women under the rule of law; and the right to choose your own leaders…”5 are also of paramount importance. Set in place, it is often assumed that these reforms will forge a long-term democracy. Yet, the mere establishment of democratic structures in nations new to democracy is, as history has proven, often not enough. After WWI democratic structures were set in place in Germany; nevertheless, in 1933 these structures did not prevent Hitler from being appointed German Chancellor. Thus, it is crucial that these emerging democracies develop democratic concepts within the individuals of society and the society as a whole. One of the best methods of achieving this permanent change is through a process of education or rather democratic re-education.
The term re-education is defined by the Oxford Dictionary, as “to educate again, esp. to change a person’s views.”6 In societies which have been controlled by dictatorships the absence of democracy can actually hinder long-term democratic change making re-education for new or struggling democracies of utmost importance. In other words, fundamental political changes when moving from a dictatorship to a democracy need to be accompanied by a corresponding change in the mind-set of the affected populace. Thus re-education anchors the positive benefits of subsequent political change and provides much-needed support for the new democracy to ensure its long-term survival as a system of choice.
Though the numerous forms of democracy are not without criticism; it is nevertheless the political form that best supports human rights. This noble concept, however, which many stable democracies take for granted, is not adequately rooted in emerging democracies. Re-education allows for these ideas to establish themselves. Considering West Germany as an historical example, re-education was part of the basic US foreign policy which took place after WWII. The policy’s underlying purpose was to change “the inward character”7 of individuals who ← 10 | 11 → had built or reinforced borders. It was aimed not at incarceration or punishment of those concerned, but rather to positively encourage a civilized society where individuality could be respected and civil liberties supported, in a democratic setting. The important role that re-education took in this change and its success in ensuring a stable democracy in Germany after WWII is unique. One of the key areas where this re-education took place was in the Information Centers, better known in Germany as the America Houses.
The re-education policies of the Western Allies in Germany have been the subject of several books.8 These have mainly focused on the strong Prussian tradition and the lack of US staff as being the main roadblocks in the implementation of re-education.9 The British historian Nicholas Pronay sees the roots of the post war re-education policies as being British.10 However, a re-education program on this scale required enormous funding after WWII. The Americans, whose financial reserves and whose country and infrastructure had suffered little damage compared to that of the British, were simply in a better position to provide this. Admittedly, the word re-education has been a subject of controversy, due to the negative connotations inherent in its historical usage as a “method” employed by dictators and other regimes to support their policies. This resulted in a change of terminology within the post-war American re-education program itself, replacing the term “re-education” with the more socially acceptable term of reorientation. However, more than half a century later the term re-education, at least with regard to West Germany, is considered in a more favorable light.
From 1945 to 1949 Germany was an occupied country with military governments in the various zones and it was understandably during this time, that the most “direct” re-education activities occurred. Nevertheless, America’s activities in this area continued well beyond 1949, beyond the time of the Office of the Military Government for Germany, which was referred to as OMGUS. With the establishment of the Federal Republic of Germany (FRD) in May 1949 direct re-education policy control ended. Thus a more indirect, advisory position was needed by the ← 11 | 12 → United States Government and subsequently overseen by the Office of the United States High Commission for Occupied Germany (HICOG).11 Here, a further re-thinking of the re-education policy was necessary with even more weight falling on the America House program. In 1955, with the abolishment of HICOG, these Houses would now play a significant educational role in encouraging democratic concepts. It is the America Houses that are the focus of this dissertation.
The America Houses, which were originally referred to as Information Centers (IC), became part of the Information Control Division (ICD) at a very early stage in post-war Western Germany. First they were connected to OMGUS and then HICOG. When in 1953 the United States Information Agency (USIA) was established, it oversaw the United States Information Services (USIS), which eventually became responsible for the Houses. Even though the USIA was an Independent Executive Agency it received its political direction from the Department of State.12 The Information Centers in Western Germany were integrated into this network, yet were in a unique situation as the German language term, Amerika Haus (America House) was used on the buildings themselves and officially adopted. Nevertheless, many of the American reports naturally used the English term and which will be used throughout this paper.
The America Houses in West Germany had an American library and in due time offered programs, lectures, educational courses, films, music, exhibitions, theatre and musical reviews. Most importantly, the America Houses supported the concept of individualism. In supporting American culture to communicate democratic values and by providing a “safe house” for Germans to explore what the Nazis had condemned, re-education could take root. America was too far away and too expensive to visit, however the Houses themselves could demonstrate the concept ← 12 | 13 → of E Pluribus Unum. Today, these Houses remain unique to America’s re-education efforts in Germany. Thus, a focus on these Houses, their programs and the buildings built for this special purpose allow for a deeper understanding into a very important aspect of America’s role in post-war re-education.
This paper argues that the America Houses were instruments of America’s post-war re-education efforts and that these efforts continued significantly longer than has been considered to date.13 The Houses, established directly after WWII not only functioned during OMGUS and HICOG, but with the construction of such specifically built Houses re-education efforts continued long after “direct” control and the advisory position of HICOG had disappeared. The America Houses in Germany at one point numbered 47 and included a network of 20 bookmobiles and 115 German-American libraries.14 These numbers alone are enough to make any scholar question why more has not been written for the English-speaking world about this uniquely extensive program.15
While many Americans may have heard of the Fulbright Program16 or Voice of America,17 few Americans have ever heard of the United States Information Centers.18 These Centers existed in most countries throughout the world (numbering one or ← 13 | 14 → two per country) and were considered institutions of American culture. In West Germany, however, they were located in virtually every major city and became synonymous with the term re-education. In this context they worked directly and indirectly through their services, programs and even the physical make up of the buildings to promote democratic concepts and ideas. Even after 1955, when many direct forms of re-education and the advisory influence of HICOG had been removed, the Houses remained in a position to guide West Germany down the path of democracy. These institutions, unique in America’s re-education efforts, demonstrate the depth and breadth of the program. The extensive network established through these Houses, their book mobiles and branch libraries highlight the enormity of the change that re-education attempted. This undertaking was further reinforced by the building of new specially designed America Houses in the 1950s.
This work attempts to highlight the fascinating historical development through the use of various original source materials, including many which have yet to be used in research to date.19 The dissertation combines established literary sources with more recently declassified materials on the America Houses. Though this dissertation has been written with the international community in mind, a key audience is the US reader. Whereas in Germany, the topic of post-war re-education continues (see 1.1), in the US there has been little research into America’s extensive and long-term involvement in promoting democratic values in Germany through the America House program.
- ISBN (PDF)
- ISBN (ePUB)
- ISBN (MOBI)
- ISBN (Hardcover)
- Publication date
- 2014 (May)
- US Information Centers Demokratie Re-education American Information Centers America Houses
- Frankfurt am Main, Berlin, Bern, Bruxelles, New York, Oxford, Wien, 2014. 317 pp., 33 coloured fig., 37 b/w fig.