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Rogers, Politics after Hitler, cover

Allied Influence on the Development of Moderate Politics in Post-War Germany

Book Essay on: Daniel Rogers, Politics After Hitler: The Western Allies and the German Party System
(New York: New York University Press, 1995), 206 pages.
UCSB: JN 3971 A979 R635

by Craig Nelson
December 5, 2008

for Prof. Marcuse's lecture course
Germany, 1945-present
UC Santa Barbara, Fall 2008

About the Author
& Abstract
and Links
Plagiarism Warning & Links
Amazon.com page

About Craig Nelson

I am a third-year History major currently writing a thesis on the evolution of environmentalism in surfing. I have taken numerous European history courses, but they have left me disillusioned about post-WWII German political development and division. Dating back to high school, the common curriculum involving German history is filled with gaps, and an overwhelming emphasis is placed on the two World Wars and unification in 1989. I am interested in learning the details of post-war Germany after WWII because it will provide me with a more complete understanding of post-war Europe, American foreign policy and the Cold War. The details of party development and Allied success from 1945-1949 have been absent in my previous studies, but they are crucial to knowing the complete history of Germany. I chose Daniel Rogers' book because he explains the four years of Allied intervention in German political development, a period that would influence political and cultural developments even past 1989.

Abstract (back to top)

Daniel Rogers' book examines the four years of Allied intervention in West Germany from roughly 1945-1949. During these years, the Allies continuously worked to suppress political activity in reaction to their preexisting fears of revolution, nationalism, and the formation of radical far right and far left political parties. Rogers first examines how history and tradition played a role is re-starting German political organization. After establishing these traditions as a firm base for explaining why occupying military governments would allow only a modest rebirth of political organization, Rogers details specific examples of direct Allied intervention. Rogers also describes what the Allies did when new political parties became too strong for the Allies despite direct actions to suppress them. These actions included denazification techniques, restricting the geographic range of parties, and the introduction of political licensing. Although he does explore the Soviet-occupied east, his focus remains on Western Germany because his book ultimately credits the success of the Federal Republic to the Allies' ability to control and shape emerging post-war political parties. In this context, Roger's states that his thesis "is that the Allies, fearful of reaction, revolution, nationalism and fragmentation, reacted to German political initiatives by limiting the incipient political party system to fewer and more moderate parties than would have otherwise arisen" (Rogers ix).

Essay (back to top)

In Politics After Hitler, Daniel Rogers addresses the main policies, strategies and enforcement techniques used by the Allies after World War II to produce a moderate and stable party system within West Germany. The most pressing question the book seeks to answer is how fear of rising political parties influenced both German citizens and Allied occupiers after 1945. Although the book's main focus is on the effect that Allied fear played in shaping post-war German politics, the author also investigates the individual influence of the United States, Britain, France, and at times the Soviet Union. Rogers organizes the book to look at both German and Allied responses to these fears, and he structures his argument to answer three main questions. The first question he poses is how did history and tradition play roles in re-starting German political groups from the far right to the far left? Second, how did Allied military governments go about deliberately interfering with the West German party system to produce moderate political activity? Last, what actions were taken against parties that became too strong for the liking of occupying military governments? To answer these questions, the author did research in all four countries involved and collected documents from foreign ministries and the records of relevant political parties. In a broad sense, Rogers organizes the chapters in the book to follow his thesis with the goal of proving that Allied forces had no planned policy to deal with new political organization. Rather, they simply reacted to situations as they developed. The author's thesis “ is that the Allies, fearful of reaction, revolution, nationalism and fragmentation, reacted to German political initiatives by limiting the incipient political party system to fewer and more moderate parties than would have otherwise arisen” (Rogers ix).

To begin an argument about the effects of reaction and revolution on German post-war politics, Rogers places his discussion in the context of the collapse of central government in 1944 and 1945, and the lack of Allied wartime planning for political reemergence. Because the Allied efforts had been focused solely on winning the military conflict, all re-birth of politics lacked any formal structure of Allied policy. “Rather, it would have much more to do with what proto-political groups Germans themselves began presenting to the Allies in the aftermath of the Nazi collapse” (Rogers 14). Germans would present the Allies with parties that either had a formal history or ones that represented new ideas. However, in the Soviet dominated east, the forced formation of the Socialist Unity Party (SED) gave communists a head start. Thus, the Allies feared allowing the formation of open party politics because the communist were the most organized. At the same time, the Allies began to react to their most immediate fear of a Nazi revival. While western Allied inaction allowed the Soviet zone to appear more democratic at first, they soon introduced licensing in the Western zone to slow (rather than begin) the process of German party formation.

The first step Rogers takes to argue the role of fear and reaction in post-war politics is to examine the Allies efforts to create a system that would keep Nazi infiltration out of German politics while at the same time promoting internal democratization. The Civil Administration Division and Political Affairs office issued Title 3, putting the control of political parties not in a legal framework, but instead creating ordinances and military government regulations. In doing so, the Americans required parties to elect their officers by a vote and keep themselves independent from their party's central headquarters (Rogers 33-34). Furthering their commitment to insuring non-Nazi, “democratic” party organizations, all members of new parties were required to submit Fragebogen, or questionnaires that could clear them of involvement with the defeated Nazi regime. The goal of this system was to keep German political parties small, thus easier to be monitored. Rogers claims the American system was initially successful, and he cites a military report from December 1945 to show that in the American zone there was less than one authorized political group per Kreis (county district) .

The British created a system similar to the Americans, but they shaped their party restrictions under legal requirements. The British Military Government Ordinance 12 allowed open party politics and kept the “military government fully aware of the ‘changing political scene' and [prevented] ‘the formation of bogus political parties that conceal illegal aims behind a façade of respectability” (Rogers 36). The British also had a system to keep former Nazis out of emerging political parties. But unlike the Americans, they wanted to know the identity of all party members, and required German political parties to keep a party register that could be inspected by British officials at any time (Rogers 37).

The French took yet another approach to emerging German politics. Because they had suffered the worst damages during the war and feared the Nazi tradition, they adopted a policy centered on a principal goal of keeping Germany decentralized, and initially restricted all political party formation. When they did announce that they would allow the creation or reconstruction of political parties on November 7, 1945, they did so without the manpower or resources of the British or Americans. This disadvantage would lead them to adopt a policy of only allowing four parties to exist within their zone, and successfully limited some of the problems that emerged in the British and American zones.

Before going into his discussion about how Allied military governments deliberately interfered with West German party systems to produce moderate political activity, Rogers reinforces why the Allies had such a strong interest in controlling the political destiny of emerging parties. Rogers cites Martha Hoyle's book A World in Flames and Gary M. Walton's History of the American Economy to put into perspective the total loss that the war had cost the Allies who occupied West Germany. The French had suffered over 600,000 total deaths and the British over 350,000 total deaths, while the Americans “spent the then unimaginable sum of over $300,000,000,000 to bring Nazi Germany and the Imperial Japanese to surrender, in addition to suffering 405,000 military deaths” (Rogers 50). To all three Allies, these losses could be traced back to right-wing political supporters in the Weimar Republic who brought Hitler into power. Thus in 1945 the Americans, British and French would not tolerate a revived right and “[feared] that the conservatives, now reactionaries, would seek to take Germany to a distant past, with its social and political inequalities, problems that had all too easily led Germany into two World Wars” (Rogers 52).

To ensure that Germany would not return to right-wing politics or other undesirable political forms that did not fit the mold of Allied “democratic” ideals, licensing was introduced throughout the Western zones that made potential parties seek Allied permission to form. The third chapter of Rogers' book shows that conservative German politics meant reactionary politics, and the Allies succeeded in keeping conservative parties small or non-existent. Their first challenge came from the National Democratic Party (NDP) that had the potential to transcend its appeal of right-wing ideology and attract support from other parties like the Economic Reconstruction Party (Rogers 53). Led by Heinrich Leuchtgens, a right-wing crony from the Weimar Republic, the NDP gained extremist support in a time when food was scarce, and it exceeded expectations by receiving high percentages of the popular vote. Although the party committed a double sin for being too conservative and too popular, the Americans found nothing in the NDP's official platform that was at odds with the democratic revival the Americans were encouraging (Rogers 55). This forced the American military government to issue them a license. “Thus once the party was licensed, American attention had to focus on somehow limiting the party's growth rather than on finding reasons to ban it” (Rogers 55). Although this example is an isolated one that occurred in the American zone of occupation, similar situations occurred throughout West Germany that forced the Allies to limit a party's influence or find ways to outright ban its existence.

With licensing, the Allies guaranteed themselves an administrative outlet to deny the formation of certain political parties, from the conservative right to the antifascist far left. However, there were instances when parties were granted permission to form and quickly became too powerful in the eyes of Western military governments. One example of this was the Communist Party of Germany (KPD). Throughout the West, the KPD was tolerated because it had a significant following, but once the party began to pose a threat to Allied conceptions of democracy, a policy of containment was introduced. To contain the spread of the KPD, the western Allies “would prevent four specific gains by the Communists: the establishment of a unified party…; the formation of a Socialist Unity Party; the presenting of a more moderate face to the German electorate; and successful propaganda attacks on the Allied occupation” (Rogers 76). While this can be seen as a strategy developed by the Allies without contact from the Soviet Union since the Big Three had severed relations after the Potsdam Conference, there still existed a strong influence from Soviet politics. The first danger came from the SED in the Soviet zone. The Allies were struck with horror when the SED formed behind the “inter-German iron curtain,” and they quickly worked on a way to react. The tripartite occupying force quickly developed a political strategy and decided “no SED in the western zones before the SPD and other parties in the eastern zone had equal rights there” (Rogers 83). In developing a way to quiet the SED, the Allies restricted any ability for them to air their message in West Germany.

The picture presented thus far in this essay has drawn on isolated examples from the varying western zones and specific circumstance that presented problems for the Allies. It should now be reinforced that the conditions given on topics like licensing, right and left wing political ideology, and the differences between the Americans, British and French are not the most important conclusions that should be taken from Politics After Hitler. Rather, focus should be on Daniel Rogers' thesis about the strategies the Allies employed to successfully produce more moderate parties than would have otherwise arisen because this is the part of his book that has received the most criticism. Counterevidence exists that challenges this very idea. After reading his book, you feel that Rogers has successfully proven that the Allies played the exclusive role in determining which political parties created a stable Federal Republic. Other scholars do not entirely support this view, and some outright reject it.

In the two literature reviews used to produce an outline for this paper, evidence is presented to show that Rogers overlooked some very important aspects of post-war Germany. James Diehl of Indiana University claims that “in emphasizing the role of the occupiers, [Rogers] at times goes too far, neglecting positive continuities that contributed to the growth of the major parties as well as overlooking the lessons learned by Germans themselves” (Diehl 1571). His overall point is that Rogers overlooked the indigenous factors that shaped emerging party systems in 1945. Peter Merkl of UCSB also has problems with Rogers' argument. He attacks the thesis of the book that credits the reduction of parties to the success of the Federal Republic. Merkl cites the same evidence used by Rogers to show that the British and Americans tolerated numerous political parties and shows that “he neglects to stress the profound disapproval … of the emergence of the communist dictatorship in the Soviet Zone” (Merkl 604).

Overall, criticisms of Daniel Rogers' book focus on his argument that the Allied occupying forces determined the shape of the Federal Republic. Because the occupying governments only controlled political formation in West Germany until 1949, other indigenous phenomena had to shape the success of the Federal Republic. Especially if Rogers' intended audience is readers who are not experts on German history, he should address the fact that his evidence oversimplifies some issues. However, if Politics After Hitler is used to examine the success of Allied occupation between 1944-45 and 1949, credit can be given where credit is due. Rogers presents a thoroughly researched argumen and clearly demonstrates the techniques used to quell the emergence of politically unsatisfactory parties in the eyes of the three occupying forces in the west. If Rogers' thesis was more focused on the time of occupation, he could without question prove that the Allies produced moderate political activity throughout Germany.

Bibliography and Links (back to top)(links last checked 12/x/08)

Book Reviews

  • Diehl, James (Indiana University). “Politics After Hitler: The Western Allies and the German Party System.” Review: [untitled] The American Historical Review, Vol. 101, No. 5 (Dec., 1996), p. 1571.
    James Diehl's review directly identifies Daniel Rogers' thesis that is stated in the abstract. In a broad sense, Diehl summarizes Roger's book and highlights the main points that Politics After Hitler discusses. Among these, the most influential topics supported by Rogers are the Allies' concern with suppressing political activity rather than encouraging it and giving sole credit to the Allies for contributing to the success of the Federal Republic. The review criticizes some of the powerful stances that Rogers takes throughout his book, especially his statement that without allied intervention “1949 would have been 1919 all over again.” Diehl believes that Rogers went too far in giving sole credit to the Allies because he overlooks the lessons learned by Germans themselves in the aftermath of Hitler.
  • Merkl, Peter H. (UCSB). “Politics After Hitler: The Western Allies and the German Party System.” Review: [untitled] Central European History , Vol. 29, No. 4 (1996), pp. 602-604.
    This review criticizes Daniel Rogers' book for not discussing critical issues in regards to Soviet occupation and influence. But, Peter Merkl does make it a point to praise the work done in researching the topic. Rogers clearly made massive efforts to find primary documents that would support his position, and he uses them throughout his work. However, Rogers' book lacks a thorough and complete discussion of the Soviet East. As the review states, Rogers “neglects to stress the profound disapproval…of the emergence of the communist dictatorship in the Soviet Zone.” This is another of many reviews that are critical of Rogers for giving too much credit to the Allies' intervention in emerging political parties for the success of the Federal Republic without discussing other influences.
  • UCSB Hist 133c review by Gregory Klippness (2008).

Related Books and Articles

  • David Pike, The Politics of Culture in Soviet-Occupied Germany, 1945-1949. (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1992), 691 pages. UCSB: DD 285 P55.
    This book is useful because it provides a detailed description of the Soviet East, an area that Rogers' has been criticized for not discussing in depth. The book defines the ideological and cultural policies in the Soviet zone. More connections can be made with the Allied West and Soviet East because Pike connects party politics with cultural policies.
  • Douglas Botting, From the Ruins of the Reich: Germany 1945-1949. (New York: Crown Publishing, INC., 1985), 341 pages. UCSB: D 757 B67.
    Douglas Botting's book serves as a good supplement to the topic of Allied presence in occupied Germany. Botting's main goal in his book is to highlight how, for the first time in history, four separate industrialized nations governed a densely populated country in the post-war years. The book looks at how the United States, Britain, France, and the Soviet Union occupied Germany in the aftermath of an extremely destructive war. Unlike Rogers, Botting explores how the resulting outcomes of battles asserted influence on developing post-war policies.
  • Lothar Kettenacker, Germany Since 1945. (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1997), 332 pages. UCSB: DD 257.4 K45.
    Kettenacker does not make the same conclusions made by Rogers. Instead, he draws conclusions from studying social and cultural factors. The book goes far beyond the years of 1945-1949, but it gives a useful description of Allied planning and the realities they faced with emerging political parties.
  • Partch, Richard D. (Niagara University). “The Transformation of the West German Party System: Patterns of Electoral Change and Consistency.” German Studies Review, Vol. 3, No. 1 (Feb., 1980) pp. 85-120. Published by: German Studies Association.
    This article explores the different political parties that emerged from Allied intervention from 1945-1949. Partch argues that the West German political system developed in 1949, because it was in this year that federal elections were held. The article is a strong supplement to Rogers' book because it explores the influence of Allied intervention after 1949.

Web Sites

  • World History at KMLA, “Germany Occupied, 1945-1948: the Western Zones” (2000/January 3, 2007), <http://www.zum.de/whkmla/region/germany/ger4548west.html>.
    The website provides a chart that marks the separate zones of occupied Germany. Population, economics, and food production are all discussed in this article. It places importance on the role that food, or lack there of, played in determining German recovery.
  • Ruth Easingwood, “Our Daily Bread: Food, Culture and Power in Occupied 1945-1949” The School of Historical Studies Postgraduate Forum E-Journal Edition 6, 2007/08.
    < http://www.ncl.ac.uk/historical/postgrad_forum/Ed_5/Easingwood.pdf>.
    Ruth Easingwood's essay looks at the importance of providing nourishment from day to day in the lives of Germans after WWII. The western Allies involvement in providing resources affected the support of their policies. This essay discusses the importance of economics in establishing support for parties that were guided by Allied influence.
  • SMSO, “Allied Occupation Zones in Germany” (Revised 2007),
    < http://www.smso.net/Allied_Occupation_Zones_in_Germany>.
    This website has a detailed table of contents that separates the different zones of Allied and Soviet occupation. It not only looks at the American, British, and French zones, but also explores the communication between the Soviets and the Allies. It shows early cooperation in regards to dividing Berlin, and then describes the events that created two German states. Two separate German states were formed because of the differing political strategies used in the West and East.

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Any student tempted to use this paper for an assignment in another course or school should be aware of the serious consequences for plagiarism. Here is what I write in my syllabi:

Plagiarism—presenting someone else's work as your own, or deliberately failing to credit or attribute the work of others on whom you draw (including materials found on the web)—is a serious academic offense, punishable by dismissal from the university. It hurts the one who commits it most of all, by cheating them out of an education. I report offenses to the Office of the Dean of Students for disciplinary action.

prepared for web by Harold Marcuse on 12/16/08; last updated:
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