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Title: Britain and the Occupation of Germany, 1945-49
Author: Cowling, Daniel Luke
ISNI:       0000 0004 7660 9269
Awarding Body: University of Cambridge
Current Institution: University of Cambridge
Date of Award: 2019
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The Allied Occupation of Germany, 1945-49, was intended to transform the war-torn Third Reich into a peaceable nation through a series of far-reaching political, economic, and social reforms. But amid the growing tensions between East and West these radical plans would be significantly altered, culminating in the formation of two German states in 1949. Historians have tended to view the occupation as a backdrop to the nascent Cold War or a transitional period in the history of modern Germany. Yet this thesis suggests that British participation in the Allied occupation was, in fact, much more than simply an exercise in political pragmatism or a contribution to the rebuilding of war-torn Europe. Rather, this undertaking catalysed Britain's political and public confrontation with Nazism, laying some of the most significant and durable foundations of the postwar Anglo-German relationship. This research utilises contemporary mass media sources and official records to explore British images and perceptions of Germany under occupation, scrutinising the interactions of decision-makers, the media, and the public. It begins with an examination of the pervasive culture war that emerged in wartime Britain over the precise interpretation and resolution of the so-called 'German problem'. The thesis then goes on to consider public portrayals of the occupation vis-à-vis the evolution of official policy, beginning in the summer of 1945 when British policymakers responded to popular demands for a 'hard peace' and approved a rigorous programme of denazification, re-education, and demilitarisation. In the coming years, scandals engulfed the public image of the British occupiers, threatening to undermine Britain's claims on 'winning the peace' and even prompting an official public relations campaign. The mass market press led calls for an abrupt end to the occupation, fearing it was undermining the nation's prestige while failing to adequately address the threat still posed by Germany. At around the same time, Britain's political and military leaders reassessed their position in the face of the Cold War, turning towards the reconstruction and rehabilitation of western Germany. By 1949, a clear dichotomy had emerged, with implications reaching far beyond the immediate postwar period: while anxieties over the 'German problem' remained largely intact amongst substantial sections of the British press and public, with many regarding the occupation as an abject failure, policymakers were firmly set on the path towards Anglo-German reconciliation and alliance.
Supervisor: Grunwald, Henning Sponsor: AHRC
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
Keywords: Anglo-German relations ; British Occupation of Germany ; Postwar Germany ; Germany 1945-49 ; Postwar Britain ; Britain 1945-49 ; Public Opinion ; Public Relations ; Control Commission ; British Army of the Rhine ; Fraternisation ; Manstein