Officially it was called ""reeducation"" and presented to the POWs as ""intellectual diversion""; actually it was...


M. STALAG: U.S.A.: The Untold Story of German POW's in America

Officially it was called ""reeducation"" and presented to the POWs as ""intellectual diversion""; actually it was indoctrination for democracy and, Gansberg admits, a clear violation of the Geneva Convention's prohibition against ""denationalization."" Leaving the intriguing legal and moral issues aside, Gansberg delves into previously unmined archives of the Prisoner of War Special Projects Division (POWSPD), to trace the story of the men--German and American--who put together a blitzkrieg of books, films, English-language courses, and lessons in German and American history to inculcate the values of democracy in some 372,000 Germans held in American POW camps. The magnitude of the task can be gauged from the POW's reaction to American rubber-soled shoes: they wouldn't wear them because you can't click the heels. The democratic arsenal of friendly persuasion which Gansberg details ranged from Mendelssohn and Gershwin (banned by Hitler)--to soften up the music-loving Germans--to the story of the TVA, Abe Lincoln in Illinois, and lectures on ""Why the Weimar Republic Failed."" Assessing the program is difficult; those who administered it were aware of ""democracy forced down [the Germans'] throats,"" the dangers of overselling the American experience, and the possibility that the newly sprouting liberal tendencies represented simple opportunism. Another problem of the book itself--which one wishes Gansberg had explored--was the noncooperation she encountered among German veterans groups. However, self-critiques of those who ran the program show humor and great esprit de corps, and it's easy enough to believe that once the hard-core Nazis were rooted out, POWs responded favorably to American radio, paperback books, and the good food at the camps. Despite limitations, this is an absorbing chapter in the history of the Allies' WW II propaganda machine and its simultaneously sincere and manipulative battle for hearts and minds.

Pub Date: July 1, 1977


Page Count: -

Publisher: T. Y. Crowell

Review Posted Online: N/A

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 1977