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GIs and Germans

GIs and Germans: Culture, Gender, and Foreign Relations, 1945–1949

Petra Goedde
Copyright Date: 2003
Published by: Yale University Press
Pages: 304
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  • Book Info
    GIs and Germans
    Book Description:

    At the end of World War II roughly 300,000 American GIs were deployed as occupation forces in Germany. Many of them quickly developed intimate relations with their former enemies. Those informal interactions played a significant role in the transformation of Germany from enemy to ally of the United States, argues Petra Goedde in her engrossing book.Goedde finds that as American soldiers fraternized with German civilians, particularly as they formed sexual relationships with women, they developed a feminized image of Germany that contrasted sharply with their wartime image of the aggressive Nazi stormtrooper. A perception of German "victimhood" emerged that was fostered by the German population and adopted by Americans. According to Goedde, this new view of Germany provided a foundation for the political rapprochement that developed between the two countries even before the advent of the Cold War. Her provocative findings suggest that the study of foreign relations should focus on interactions not only between politicians and diplomats but also between ordinary citizens.

    eISBN: 978-0-300-14803-9
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-xii)
  4. Introduction
    (pp. xiii-xxiv)

    Three years after the end of World War II the sound of American military aircraft approaching Berlin was still familiar to its citizens. The American C-47s and C-54S did not carry bombs but delivered food, fuel, and other vital goods to the population in the city’s western sectors around the clock. The Anglo-American airlift, one of the opening scenes of the cold war, was the western Allies’ response to the Soviet blockade of West Berlin, itself a response to the introduction of a new currency in the western zones of Germany and the western sectors of Berlin. Unlike in 1944...

  5. CHAPTER 1 “Know Your Enemy?”: American and German Wartime Images
    (pp. 1-41)

    “I have always thought the Krauts would fight like devils for every inch of German soil,” Sergeant Henry Giles wrote in his diary as he fought his way into Germany in February 1945, “and in a way they are.” Many of the first American troops to enter Germany in late 1944 and early 1945 shared Giles’s apprehension. Hardened by months of deadly exchanges with the German Wehrmacht, they feared that the intensity of the fighting would increase as German civilians joined soldiers to battle for their homeland. A month later Giles revised his judgment after entering town upon town in...

  6. CHAPTER 2 Crossing the Border: The Breakdown of the Fraternization Ban
    (pp. 42-79)

    “Two years of war have built up an intense hatred among front-line troops for the Germans,” Drew Middleton wrote in theNew York Times Magazineon 8 October 1944. Having accompanied the First Army since it fought its way into Germany from Belgium in the middle of September, he reported that the American soldiers treated the civilian population with “a mixture of contempt and indifference and, in the case of many front-line outfits, hatred.”¹ According to Middleton, the soldiers were adhering to the fraternization ban imposed on September 12 by General Dwight D. Eisenhower, the Supreme Commander of the Allied...

  7. CHAPTER 3 Villains to Victims: The Cultural Feminization of Germany
    (pp. 80-126)

    “American soldiers pay no attention to German men,” James P. O’Donnell wrote inNewsweekin December 1945. “To German women they do.”¹ He reassured readers, however, that the GIs’ interest in German women was outside the political scope of the occupation. Apparently, American soldiers’ interactions with German women did not affect the way they thought about Germany, the war, or Nazi atrocities. O’Donnell’s portrayal was indicative of the changing attitudes among many U.S. soldiers about the nature of their relationship with Germans. By the time the article appeared, the term fraternization had already become synonymous with sexual contacts between GIs...

  8. CHAPTER 4 Selling Democracy: GIs and German Youth
    (pp. 127-165)

    “Youngsters,” a U.S. military government report asserted in May 1946, “have become at the same time the hope and the problem of the German people.” Arguing that juvenile delinquency threatened the already fragile social order in Germany, the report placed Germany’s youth at the center of the country’s political rehabilitation. “The treatment of this all-important age-group,” the report continued, “will determine whether they will become the nucleus of a future nationalistic group 10, 15, or 20 years hence, or whether they will develop into the strong basis of a democratic and peaceful Germany.”¹ The military government’s increased focus on Germany’s...

  9. CHAPTER 5 Forging a Consensus: Americans, Germans, and the Berlin Airlift
    (pp. 166-198)

    On a Saturday in the early summer of 1948, the commandant of the American sector of Berlin, Colonel Frank Howley, received a visit from his medical officer who reported that the Russians had cut off the milk supply to the western sectors. The embargo followed the Colonel’s earlier refusal to give in to the Soviet demand that western trucks pick up the milk directly from the East Berlin farms rather than having it delivered to the sector border, as had been the custom from the beginning of the occupation. “Unless we get that fresh milk,” the medical officer warned, “six...

  10. Conclusion
    (pp. 199-210)

    “The process of denazification is less than half done,” warned James H. Sheldon of the Non-Sectarian Anti-Nazi League in a letter to several congressional representatives in late March 1949. Indeed, Sheldon argued, “our policies are actually promoting the revival of Nazi forces in the German economy.”¹ The occasion for Sheldon’s appeal was the impending opening of a German industrial exhibition at New York’s Rockefeller Center under the auspices of the American Military Government in Germany. While the League’s concerns resonated with some legislators, among them Representative Abraham J. Multer of New York, who read the letter into theCongressional Record,...

  11. Notes
    (pp. 211-244)
  12. Select Bibliography
    (pp. 245-271)
  13. Index
    (pp. 272-280)