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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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4. America Houses - The Buildings


4.1 Introduction

The America Houses could not have existed without a physical space. Their very existence demanded a building and in due time ones large enough to house the ever increasing program offers. As re-education was a priority of the Military Government the importance and size of the America Houses, their libraries and programs grew quickly. Under HICOG restructuring took place and some Houses were close; those that did remain though, increased in importance. More significantly, under the HICOG administration the first America House was designed and built for the specific needs of this program. The Amerikahaus Ruhr, as it was called, was the first of several America Houses built in Germany. Buildings constructed for the purpose of State or Country representation are most notably informative, especially when viewed within their historical context. This chapter proposes that the America Houses designed and built specifically for this purpose can be considered instruments in the re-education policy and need to be thought of in this light. They were part of the concept of the America Houses as expressions of democracy. Though writings exist on various America House buildings,694 these writings draw few comparisons between the Houses themselves. The purpose of this sub-chapter is to look at the lead up to the building of these facilities with the further sub-chapters providing a detailed look at the physical makeup of some of these Houses. In drawing comparisons and highlighting details, aided by photographs from the time, the America House...

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