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Designing Democracy

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

Kathleen Hooper

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 these 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.
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1. The America Houses and Political Re-education


1.1 Re-education: Inherently negative or E Pluribus Unum supportive

The America Houses and the term re-education are closely intertwined therefore the degree of influence and the number of America Houses must be looked at in this context. However, before looking closely at re-education and the Houses, the term itself must be considered in its historical context. As pointed out in the introduction, the Oxford Dictionary defines the word re-education as “to educate again, esp. to change a person’s views.”34 It is this term that shall be the focus of the discussion. Nevertheless, the Oxford definition is limiting and provides no reference to other definitions such as to the medical usage35 as found in the American Merriam-Webster on-line dictionary.

Although the 21century e-based knowledge bank Wikipedia is not considered an academic reference source due to its collaborative and changeable nature, it nevertheless provides quick look at how the term re-education is considered by the masses. There are diverse interpretations; brainwashing, re-education through labor (as done in China and the Soviet Union), medical (rehabilitation, psychotherapy), adult education and even a song by a punk rock band.36 The negativity inherent in the word is seen in the first two interpretations. Oppressive regimes re-educate, not democratic ones. The very thought that one nation thinks it can re-educate another is seen as pure arrogance. Alone the title of Casper von Schrenck-Notzing book’s Charakterwäsche: Die Politik der amerikanischen Umerziehung in Deutschland (Character Washing: The Politics of the American...

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