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My Term Paper On German Nationalism


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On a historic night on November 9th, 1989, thousands of German citizens crowded around the broken barriers of the former Berlin Wall and chanted over and over, “We are one people. We are one people.” Stunned and amazed, the world watched as the seemingly impossible unfolded before their eyes: the instant transformation of an oppressed, imprisoned society into a free one. Yet just days before this event East Germans were and had been for 40 years, perceived and defined as an extension of the greatest threat to the free world. Suddenly, the “iron curtain” melted away and after four long tense decades of separation, the Cold War was over. East and West Germans were once again free to interact.

Ironically the event, potentially an opportunity for the strong expression of German nationalism, did not produce any overt displays of nationalism. This begs the question, how do the German people perceive and express their national identity? Since for the prior 40 years the definition of German nationalism had developed as a byproduct of The Cold War. In other words, East and West Germany defined themselves against each other. When the Cold War restraints and tensions were eliminated, there were some who worried that this would result in a German nationalism that would once again be aggressive and militaristic.

It is the purpose of this paper to show that for 40 years after WWII, German identity was largely defined by the Cold War alignment of West Germany with the U.S. and East Germany with the Soviet Union.

As punishment for the chaos of WWII, Germany was occupied by the Soviet Union, the United States, France and England. Each country was in charge of a separate zone. After this occupation period, the U.S., France and England allowed the German people to resume self-government. The Soviet Union however, decided to maintain control over its zone. Thus, Germany was divided into two countries. The East Germans, under the control of the Soviet Union, were taught that the West Germans were greedy, selfish, materialistic capitalists who were in many ways responsible for the Third Reich. At the same time this was happening, the West Germans were taught that the East Germans were hapless victims of Communist oppression who wanted only to escape. Thus, as the only divided country in Europe, Germany found itself at the center of the Cold War. While both East and West Germans where being taught about the other’s evil government they were also being taught about the virtues of their own. The West promoted capitalism, materialism and consumerism while the East focused on the virtues of socialism. Both sides in the Cold War tried to make Germany into an example of what their respective systems could achieve.




The problems surrounding German national identity have been the topic of research since the end of the war. The earliest studies focused on the psycho-social consequences on the country as a result of the Third Reich’s reign. A leading author in this field was Hannah Arendt who wrote about the inability of Germans to discuss what happened. She says this was a natural result of their experience under totalitarian rule. After the destruction and devastation of Germany its inhabitants were in a type of social shock, which prevented them from confronting their recent history.1 Her work was followed by other studies that also underscored Germany’s failure to face the past. One important study, by Margarete and Alexander Mitscherlich, also took a psychoanalytic approach. They said that the repression of memory was an unconscious defense mechanism. They said that for Germans to have fixated on the Nazi period would have produced a shock to their cultural self-esteem. So instead they focused on economic and industrial recovery efforts. 2

A later scholar, Eric Santner, asserted that parents passed their psychological defense mechanisms on to their children, so that this inability to face the past persisted into the generations that grew up in the 1970’s and 80’s. 3

Still later scholars have assumed that Germans must remember more than they will readily acknowledge. They have tried to ascertain who remembers what, and why. A number of films were made in Germany in the late 1940’s and early 50’s that did attempt to confront the Nazi past. Jaimey Fisher says these films were “highly directed and often diversionary.” They represent a selective way of remembering. A study by Norbert Frei

suggests that the legal proceedings against certain individuals in the Nazi leadership allowed for a “localizing of guilt.” Fisher says that the work of numerous historians has revealed a German collective memory that is “directed, selective, and even self-serving.” He says that Germans try to narrate the past in a way that minimizes their culpability. Fisher emphasizes what he feels is a conscious, deliberate attempt to divert attention from the horrors of the past. He concentrates on the debate over reeducation of the young after the war. He points out that the Nazi youth organizations, which were created to indoctrinate the young, were deliberately dismantled after the war, and that this represents an attempt to confront the past and remedy it. 4

The strengths of these projects are that they are convincingly effective in interpreting society from the psychoanalytical approach. I find the Mitscherlich’s work particularly commendable because it involved individuals so closely connected to the war. Also, the fact that the Mitscherlichs were German means they were intimately familiar with the society they were studying. And the fact that they were challenging their countrymen to accept more responsibility for the horrors of the Nazi era is admirable.

These projects were primarily concerned with trying to ascertain what allowed the Nazis to rise to power, and why the German people were willing to support such a radical, aggressive, and brutal regime.

Given that the world was eager to know what was going on inside the German mind, it is only reasonable that this approach was popular. However, there are breakdowns and limits to this method. A question that comes to mind is, how adequately can a whole society be analyzed using the same methods normally used to analyze individuals?


My Research


My research on the topic of German nationalism is a practical approach that examines German self-identity by looking at how German culture was influenced within the dynamics of The Cold War by occupiers in the East and West.

The use of National Geographic magazine is the perfect medium to observe chronologically the development of East and West German identity over the fifty year period following the end of WWII. These articles offer insights into what the writers and the host culture thinks of itself, and how it wants to be perceived by other cultures, societies and nations. It is also useful in identifying what the writer and culture is neglecting or denying. I will be identifying the impact of the occupying forces and I will be seeking to determine the influences at work on both sides of the wall. These articles are a very good source for information in that National Geographic has a reputation for being relatively unbiased and objective. These articles include the occupation of Germany by allied forces just after the unconditional surrender, beginning of the Cold War and the building of the Berlin Wall, the economic recovery of the West during the 1960’s and the economic recovery of the East in the 1970’s, the fall of the Berlin Wall during the late 1980’s and finally a look at Germany after the reunification.

The methodological approach I will use will be to look at the cultural and social aspects of Germany through the literature I have described. I will borrow partly from the methods found in Benedict Anderson’s “Imagined Communities.” As I analyze the journal articles I will be seeking to identify how the editors of National Geographic and the German people are defining German nationalism. The conclusion of my paper will show how the American writers of the articles, who were affected by the political tensions of the Cold War, projected to the world largely an Americanized version of West-German national identity.

I will begin by briefly describing each article going in chronological order of publication.

What I saw Across the Rhine by J. Frank Dobie

January 1947


The author presents an eyewitness account of Germany just months after the war. The article has one theme running through it, The occupying forces (especially the U.S.A) are graciously, benevolently, condescendingly extending themselves to save this nation that has so recently self destructed. A minor theme of the article depicts the German people as in many ways oblivious and ignorant to their own responsibility for the devastation of their country. The author is surprised to find that Germans are “whining” to him about their own losses and expecting him to be sympathetic.

An examination of the article reveals very little that could be interpreted as a dignified expression of German nationalism. Even a photograph of a statue of the “Bismarck” (A patriarch ruler of Germany has him “…surveying …ruins”.) 5 The article’s focus is not to present an established nationalism but rather a devastated country that is being given the opportunity to redefine itself. Along with the devastation of Germany the article makes numerous references to The Third Reich, The Nazis and Adolph Hitler. Throughout the essay German suffering is being displayed in the context of their own responsibility for what they have done. The occupying forces are there to clean up the mess.


Modern Miracle: Made in Germany by Robert Leslie Conly

June 1959


This article is a complete turnaround from its predecessor. It has been twelve years since the war and there is a much more defined contrast between East and West Germany. West Germany is now referred to as “…A young Republic that throbs and bustles with energy and prosperity…” 6while the East is only mentioned in derogatory terms. While the previous article found very little if anything to be commended towards German nationalism this article leaves no stone unturned in its attempt to justify every aspect of its being. Yet this is only in regards for West Germany. Not only does the author’s work describe the revival of the West German culture, he goes to great lengths to imply the United States of America as ideologically and fundamentally responsible for their return. At one point he refers to the countries as synonymous in that both posses a social capital that makes America the greatest industrial power on earth. The article also goes out of its way through interviews and photographs to recognize American culture in West Germany. Whereas the first article could find nothing as praiseworthy this article finds little not to be enthusiastic about.


Life in Walled-Off West Berlin by Nathanial T. Kenney and Volkmar Wentzel

December 1961


This article was written only a year and a half after the previous article and just a few months after the Berlin Wall went up. It is in many ways the beginning of The Cold War. The Berlin Wall is a barrier erected to stop the exodus of communist ruled East-Berliners from flowing into the West. The wall is described as “Shandmauer” or “wall of shame” 7 by West Berliners. The author tells of desperate, sometimes fatal attempts by East Berliners to escape to the West. He describes his own eyewitness account of someone jumping to their death in order to get to the West side of the wall. The main idea of this article is the East is a prison and the West is an escape route. This essay emphasizes the ingenuity and determination of the West Berliners and the brutality and hostility of the communist regime in the East. It ends with a quote by Ernst Reuter, West Berlin’s mayor. When he was asked if Germany could survive “half slave and half free,” he replied, “In the long run the Soviets know they cannot digest these Germans. Military strength is not everything. Moral, political, economic strength is of greatest importance.”8 In saying this he is implying that German nationalism will outlast the division of Germany – that national character is, in the long run, stronger than politics. This article, though biased, is an understandable reaction to the brutality surrounding the building of the Berlin Wall. Interestingly, this article makes no mention of the Holocaust, Nazi Germany or Hitler. The article reflects the determination of the West to present itself as the legitimate Germany against the communist controlled East.


Berlin on Both Sides of the Wall by Howard Sochurek

January 1970


This article is notable for its analysis of German nationalism and its relationship to German economic success. The author states that West Germany is the economic leader of Western Europe, and similarly East Germany leads Eastern Europe. He says of German nationalism that it is “western and democratic on one side, and eastern and communistic on the other; yet it is also distinctly and uniquely German.” 9He reveals that the East German government is rational and pragmatic, and willing to engage constructively with the West. The author meets businessmen from western countries who are doing business with East Germany, supplying them with components for their factories. He also notes that the government allows a certain amount of capitalistic activity – companies with fewer than 200 employees can remain in private hands. One factory owner, Helmuth Wegwerth, when asked to account for the economic success of East Germany, said, “We are Germans. This boom can be attributed to the German mentality and to the indestructible optimism of the German spirit. We have had to accommodate to many kinds of government, but the only measure of merit is accomplishment.”10


East Germany: The Struggle to Succeed by John J Putman

September, 1974


This article appears balanced and objective. The author interviews East Germans who are content as well as those who are merely resigned to their fate. He says most East Germans are proud of having built their economy “from the ground up,” after having half of their industrial equipment carted off by the Russians.

The author also reveals problems in West Berlin. He says young people are leaving in droves, and that 30,000 foreign workers have been brought in to ease the resulting labor shortage. He also reveals that the West German government subsidizes West Berlin to the tune of $1 billion per year, in order to entice companies to locate there.11 He talks about the difficulties of living as an isolated city within hostile territory, and how the East German government makes it hard for West Berliners to move about, charging them $5 million annually in taxes on traffic moving to and from their city.

The author relates that he was arrested for taking pictures and accused of having forged travel documents, but he was not mistreated and was released – with an apology - after four hours of bureaucratic delays.12

West Germany Continuing Miracle by John J. Putman


August 1977



This article seems to be a tourism advertisement. It is filled with pictures that show Germans having a good time much in the fashion of the California culture. This article, more than any other, seeks to depict West Germany apart from its past. The only connection to the Third Reich is relegated to a keepsake, a candlestick, owned by one of the financial leaders. The West Germany being presented to us is one that is “ a new Germany”. (Free from the past) The new Germany is referred to as the, “New financial Reich”.13 It is a leader in European industry, economy and technology, As the author interviews a leading financial minister he gestures through the window of his high-rise office to the landscape of Frankfurt, “look at it,” he says, “ a sort of Houston or Osaka…a new city.” 14The article continues to detail the accomplishments of the West German government as it has maneuvered through the changing economy and world market. This article illustrates a Germany, in contrast to previous articles, that seems completely ideal, free from any stigmatism of its history. The photographs in the article show us a modern free thinking country, a country that windsurfs, practices nudism and drinks lots of beer. Who could argue against this?

Two Berlins: A Generation Apart Prit J. Vesilind


January 1982



Mr. Vesilind gives us his opinion of German life on both sides of the wall. He is critical of both sides but doubly critical of the West. The title refers to the East and West cultural gap. The author depicts the East, although behind in the technological and economical advances of the West, still maintaining its pre-war German culture. Yet the West seems to be a carnival of decadence and liberalism. The author seems to suggest that the East having maintained their culture as a small consolation for the standard criticisms of communism: inefficiency, the lack of the freedom to travel or openly oppose the government. However, he is more critical of the West for its own brand of welfare, its decadence, shallowness and, he points out, West Berlin is not a reflection of the country but rather it is “kept solvent by transfusions of West German funds that pay more than half its budget.” 15Yet he also gives some credit to each side for its accomplishments: to the East mostly for its youth athletic programs, to the West for its

capitalism and entrepreneurial spirit.


Ode to Joy Prit J. Vesilind

April 1990


This article was written spontaneously at the time the wall came down, September of 1989. It has one main theme and three minor themes. The main theme is celebration. The people of East and West Germany are celebrating that the Cold War is over and Germany is one country again. It is a time of joy and elation. Crowds of Germans are gathering at broken sections of the Berlin Wall, singing, dancing and popping open bottles of champagne. The first minor theme is the stunned amazement everyone is experiencing because of what has happened. Secondly, the author states that this signifies the end of WWII and finally, the East Germans are now free. The author also includes a brief history of Germany and the Berlin Wall. Although this article seems to have been written as a simple attempt to describe the moment, it is completely absent of the communist demonstrators who were also there at the time.


The Morning After: Germany Reunited by William S. Ellis


September 1991


“Amid the jubilation uncertainty over where will Germany go from here.”


This article has a theme of “The Morning After” now that the celebration is over West Germans have to face the responsibilities/consequences of what has taken place. They have to face the cost of absorbing the underdeveloped industries that have been run inefficiently by the communitst. They have to absorb the undereducated, un-modernized employees who have not kept up with the world’s technologies into their economy. At the same time the East must adjust to the anxiety of unemployment, lack of healthcare, dental care and other social programs that used to be provided for them. Also there is the reemergence of the Neo-Nazi party. Within the article there is a sub-article that contrasts the lives of two families. Although they have lived their lives 20 minutes apart, they are a living example of the more affluent West and the struggling East.


Guardians of the Fairy Tale, The Brothers Grimm by Thomas O’Neill

December 1999


This article describes how, in the early 1800’s, Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm began a project to save German culture during a period of French rule. They began to study medieval manuscripts and also to write down stories that had previously been shared only by word of mouth. Their work has become known worldwide and has been translated into numerous languages, but during their lifetimes it was only moderately successful. The Grimm Brothers museum in Germany is now a tourist attraction. The fairy tales have been edited by many people, including the Grimms themselves. Most people today only know of sanitized versions, the originals being frequently cruel and violent. The Nazis turned one of the tales to their own purposes. They made Little Red Riding Hood into a symbol of the German people saved from the Jewish wolf. After WWII, allied commanders banned the publication of Grimm fairy tales in Germany, believing that they “had contributed to Nazi savagery.”14 Although the Grimms were trying to save German culture, the author of this article reveals that some of the tales had French or Italian origins. Still, the fairy tales are an example of the Germans’ determination to preserve what they believed to be their distinct culture. The fairy tales might have been lost without their efforts.




A number of overall themes emerge from these articles. It is clear that the articles written during the Cold War have a different perspective than the ones written before and after it. Those written during the Cold War seek to portray West Germany as a staunch anti-communist ally of the United States.




Although National Geographic has a reputation for being balanced and objective, throughout the articles written during the late 1950’s and the 1960’s I found an exaggerated bias against communism. Most of these articles focused on the brutality surrounding the Berlin Wall. Throughout the Cold War both East and West Germany experienced an economic, social and cultural renewal, yet in most articles it is the West that is given recognition for its accomplishments. In the opening of the 1959 article, Modern Miracle, the author devotes 95% to the ceaseless praises of the economic and social recovery of the West. Yet in the opening pages he describes the East in terms like “darkness …hopeless…grim…no future”. 15 The rest of the article is devoted to the “miraculous” recovery of the West but mentions very little about the recovery of the communist East. In the very next article, “Life in Walled off West Berlin” The author begins by giving an eyewitness account of a person jumping to his death in their attempt to leap over the Berlin Wall. As its predecessors, the majority of the article is devoted to the praise of the West and while this essay does devote about 25% to East Germany, there is nothing that could be interpreted as complimentary. The East is still filled with rubble and land goes undeveloped. Buildings along the border are vacant and boarded up. Pictures of the East depict citizens standing in lines or stopped at border crossings. Also pictured are East German soldiers against a backdrop of a Russian war memorial.16 Another form of anti-communism is evident in that many of the articles give evidence to the fact that West Berlin was used as a showcase of the pleasures of capitalism. In the January 1970 article, “Berlin: On Both sides of the Wall” The author discusses the annual infusion of $1 billion in capital from West Germany into West Berlin. This is done because “West Berlin is not self sufficient.” 17These subsidies are offered to college students and young couples who choose to live in Berlin, also to businesses who decide to locate in Berlin. Although West Berlin was not paying its own way, still the government wanted it to display a high standard of living. The purpose behind this was that on the other side of the wall, the communists were seeing, hearing, and smelling all the temptations capitalism had to offer. West Berlin was a display case to the East, an island of capitalism surrounded by a sea of communism.

The articles written from the beginning of the Cold War until the late 1960’s show a clear anticommunist bias in that while they are incessant in the recognition of West Germany’s post WWII recovery they completely ignore East Germany’s role as also recovering from the devastations of the war. They fail to address the fact that during the 1960’s the East was well on its way to also becoming a leader on the European industrial market, to rebuilding East Berlin as a modern avant-garde city and cultural center. It was not until the 1970’s that the National Geographic acknowledged this.


What Was Said Before and After the Wall


In the January 1947 article What I saw Across the Rhine by J. Frank Dobie, The author describes the devastation of Germany and describes it as a consequence of “what the Germans sowed.” 18 He makes numerous references to Hitler, and the Nazi government. However nothing about the Holocaust. Also in the last article mentioned April 1990 Ode to Joy by Priit J. Vesilind the elephant in the room is acknowledged. The context of the article is just after the Wall has come down. The author states, “Ulbrich had pinned down the core of German anxiety, nationalism versus guilt. Every Frenchman, every Pole is proud of his fatherland, I know what they say about a United Germany, that it would again pose a danger to Europe….” 19




National Geographic journalists document that the East German government was promoting a fierce anti-capitalist bias amongst their own citizens. In the September 1974 article, East Germany: The Struggle to Succeed, The author John J. Putman writes, “The U.S. is depicted as bogeyman.” “Wherever I traveled-hospitals waiting rooms, factories, tourist offices-anti American posters were ever present.” “The posters…depicted American Pirates bombing in Viet Nam.” 20 Anti-capitalism is taught to young children. The author also relates watching a performance of Hansel and Gretel where the chief villain was an evil landlord “the vestige of capitalism.” Also the author discusses the East German explanation of the Holocaust. At the Buchenwald concentration camp, which serves as a memorial site, “The GDR through picture displays and lectures teaches …that only in a capitalist society could such horrors flourish.” 21 While West Germans were embracing everything American on their side of the Berlin Wall, the East German government was hard at work spreading an anti-capitalist anti-American propaganda.


West Germans are American Germans


Many National Geographic articles written during The Cold War are trying to convince Americans that West Germans are just like them. The author of Miracle: Made in Germany makes every mention of Americana in German culture. He discusses the German work ethic in comparative terms to “American social capital”22 he also goes to lengths to mention how West Germans enjoy American Westerns, T.V. shows and how German children love to play at cowboys and Indians.23 Germans enjoy listening to the American Folk music of Burl Ives. Photographs in the article include a young German couple enjoying Coca Cola24 In a 1977 article titled, “West Germany: The Continuing Miracle.” A number of photographs could easily be interpreted as taken in Southern California or Houston Texas. Germans are pictured at “Baden-Baden.” This horse-racing event photograph looks just like it was taken at Hollywood Park.25 Another photograph depicts a tanned muscular German windsurfer “skimming the waves” 26while the facing page depicts a family enjoying their day at the beach. The most obvious photographs are on the last pages of this article. These are titled, “Dudes in Deutschland” and depict the “love for things American in German fascination of the old Wild West.” “At the Texas Cowboy Club” in West Berlin members remember the Alamo with cannon salvos and the raising of the Texas flag. 27Another two-page picture is an “Old West Saloon” where members can “mosey on down after the ceremonies”. On the very last page of a 1982 article titled “Two Berlins” a Wells Fargo Stagecoach is clip-clopping down a German street, flying a Texas flag on one side and a Confederate flag on the other.

These articles demonstrate that in the most flagrant manner, the editors of National Geographic where trying to depict West Germans as Americans. Given the backdrop of the Cold War it is easy to conclude their reasoning behind these articles and photographs.


What’s Not Being Said in West Germany


While national Geographic articles written on West Germany during the Cold War are filled with allusions to Americana, capitalism and anti-communist sentiment they are glaringly devoid of condemning references to Adolph Hitler, the Holocaust and Nazi Germany. This is in contrast to an article written just before the Cold War and just after, also they are in contrast to articles written by the journal on East Germany. The January 1947 article What I saw Across the Rhone by J. Frank Dobie has a main theme of German responsibility for the catastrophe of their devastated country, and makes continuous references to Hitler and Nazi Germany. The articles beginning with 1959 Modern Miracle through to January 1982 Two Berlins A Generation Apart by Prit j. Vesilind are relatively free of any discussion of Nazism. Then, the 1990 article Ode to Joy by Prit J. Vesilind pivots on a statement about Hitler and Nazi Germany.


In the articles written on West Germany during the Cold War, the references to WWII are devoid of the condemnation or alarm found in articles before and after the Cold War. In the 1959 article there is a reference to The Eagle’s Nest, a retreat built by the Nazis for the Fuhrer, yet rather than condemning the structure or its intended occupant the writer’s emphasis is more on the architectural achievement and the fact that it is available for everyone as a tourist attraction. In the article written in 1961 Life in Walled off West Berlin there is a reference to the bombed out church that has been left as a memorial to the war. Yet its used in contrast to the fact that everything else has been rebuilt and looks like new!28 In the 1970 article Berlin on both Sides of the Wall there is a reference to, “…Hitler’s bunker where the Fuhrer’s dream ended in suicide” Yet there is no commentary. It is purely referred to as matter of fact. In the August 1977 article West Germany Continuing Miracle there are no references to Hitler, or the Nazis except for the testimony of a camp survivor. This is in context to the whole of the article with its theme of “getting beyond the past.” 29 In the January 1982 Two Berlins A Generation Apart nothing is said concerning Hitler, Nazis and the Holocaust. Finally in the article, Ode to Joy there is a complete absence of the Pro-communist voice. Although there were numerous pro-communist demonstrations happening while the celebrations were going on, nothing in the article was said about or devoted to them.


What is Being Said in East Germany


While the National Geographic articles on West Germany during the Cold War said very little about Hitler, the Nazi government and the Holocaust, the articles on the East did. In the midst of the article January 1970 Berlin on Both Sides of the wall the author, Howard Sochurek, describes the success of the play, The Resistible Rise of Arturo Ui “a powerful indictment of the Nazi era.” 30 Also on the same page he mentions, “a stronger indictment of the Nazi era….the concentration camp called Sachsenhausen …”31 He goes on to say that, “On Sundays East Berliners flock there, along with tourists from the Soviet Union, Hungary and Czechoslovakia and Poland.” At this point he gives statistics of Nazis who “herded…hundreds of thousands of people to their deaths.” In the 1974 article, “East Germany the Struggle to Succeed” it is the Buchenwald concentration camp that is discussed. The author relates how it, “…was built by the Nazi’s in 1937 but today serves as a national memorial.” He discusses some of the atrocities that took place at the camp and relates how the camp is used by the government to promote their socialist government. Those who run the tours say that “only in a capitalist country could such horrors flourish.”32


What’s Not Being said in East Germany


In the opening of his article, East Germany’s Struggle to Succeed, John J. Putnam discusses the difficulty he had in getting answers to questions from East Germans. He says because, “…western journalists, frequently described by the East German government as likely spies and provocateurs,” had something to do with the fact that many officials refused to see him at all.33 Mr. Putnam also points out that party members who he interviewed deflected conversation about the shooting of people who tried to cross the wall with that of the accomplishments of the GDR. In the article, The author also discusses his frustration in being unable to interview the German athletes. “Once I was told they were in Cuba. Another time they were busy with their studies and duties. The author also seems to take in stride the fact that thorough-out his journey he only encounters people who say nothing directly against the government. Although many of the people he interviews seem to address points of social and political conflict they always qualify them with phrases like, “In the end we all agree” or “We have come to the conclusion its best for everyone…” 34




In conclusion, the examination of the National Geographic articles written just prior to, through, an after the Cold War reveal German identity has been largely defined by the Cold War alignment. As tensions between the world superpowers of the U.S.A. and the U.S.S.R. were escalating, East and West Germany found themselves a sort of microcosm of the conflict.

After the surrender of Germany at the conclusion of WWII occupying powers divided the nation up into governments of their own liking. After it became clear that the Soviet Union was not going to allow a free government to develop in the East, the United States increased its efforts to revitalize the West through infusions of capital and increased U.S. military presence. In contrast to its condemning and condescending attitudes towards the country just after the war, articles about the miraculous transformation of West Germany began to appear in the journal. Likewise, after years of the Soviet occupied East Germans watching their capitalist neighbors grow wealthy and prosperous, they also began a campaign of economic revitalization and modernization.

Throughout the Cold War, a number of insights into German identity can be observed in the National Geographic articles. These are anticommunist and pro-American sentiments in the West. Along with an anti-capitalist sentiment in the East there were acknowledgements of the atrocities of Adolph Hitler, the Nazi government and the Holocaust, which were absent in the West. Also, just as the issues surrounding the horrors of WWII were absent in the West so also there was an absence of self- criticisms in the East when it came to the brutalities surrounding the Berlin Wall.

After forty years of Cold War tensions being played out between East and West Germany, images of the Berlin Wall or “iron curtain” being breached November 9th 1989 produced stunned amazement to an audience that listened to the chants, “We are one people”.

Although the reunification was touted as a victory for capitalism, one can’t ignore the fact that for over forty years the world viewed this wall as a dividing line between good and evil. Now that the wall was gone the question at hand is, who are these “one people”?

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