The Allied Thought Police

As soon as the U.S. Army entered Germany at war’s end, the U.S. Army and the Office of Military Government shut down German newspapers, journals, and radio stations in the American zone and installed brainwashing experts from the Psychological Warfare Division of the Supreme Headquarters Allied Expeditionary Force (PWD/ SHAEF) to control the German minds. This force later became the Information Control Division (ICD). They immediately banned German “politically tainted” journalists, and prohibited any proud or nationalistic messages that could encourage resistance to their project. They hand picked and licensed German editors from various left wing organizations to run the media, newspapers and journals and by mid-1946, they had given press licenses to 73 mostly left-leaning Germans whose job it was to create a “new, democratic Germany.” The ICD defined and limited what was acceptable in both political and cultural fields, and monitored and regulated all information that reached Germans in the American zone and sector. By July, 1946, the ICD had taken control of 37 German newspapers, 6 radio stations, 314 theatres, 642 cinemas, 101 magazines, 237 book publishers, 7,384 book dealers and printers and one of its main criteria was to strictly prohibit any criticism of the Allied forces of occupation and stifle any criticism of Allied war time actions such as the lethal civilian bombing campaigns. In addition, on May 13, 1946 the Allied Control council issued a directive for the confiscation on all media that could contribute to anything loosely defined as militaristic, nationalistic or any material which glorified German history.

The Allies immediately banned all German film-making in their “re-education” zeal, brutally subjecting existing German films to a process of “denazification,” destroying thousands of films in the process and subjecting others to cuts and changes to ensure that German society and its media broke with its past and “with historical traditions upon which Nazism was built, such as militarism and authoritarianism,” which loosely meant anything that spoke of pride in their history. German film makers were arrested and “de-Nazified,” some until 1948. Their studios were ransacked and purged of any materials deemed un-American in value. Most never resumed production. Typical of the entire “re-education” campaign, the American military put bitter left-leaning German expatriates in charge of their Motion Picture Division in September 1949.

During the first two years of occupation, American press policy reflected the ideological profile of the ICD press officers, many of whom were recent and sometimes spitefully bitter German emigres with leftist agendas they were eager to spread and these press officers collaborated with the German communists to create a “democratic German press and culture” in their own image. By early 1947, as cold war loomed, the original ICD press officers were replaced by anti-Communists and most publications that did not follow the OMGUS’s new anti-communist directives ceased or had their editors replaced. The German mind was pulled one way then stretched another. The Soviet counterpart to OMGUS was the Sowjetische Militaradministration in Deutschland who spread Moscow’s messages to the Germans.

“Re-education” had its critics. General George S. Patton was one figure who was outspoken in his disagreement with the severity of the Allied “re-education” programs instituted to “detoxify” the German people. On September 22, 1945, while speaking to reporters, Patton compared the “denazification thing” and the controversy over Nazism to a “Democratic and Republican election fight.” Eisenhower consequently removed him as U.S. commander in Bavaria and transferred him to the 15th Army Group. Three months later, in December 1945, Patten suffered a broken neck in a car accident and died less than two weeks later at the age of 60. Eisenhower went on to implement these oppressive policies emanating from Washington, and he strictly censored any vocal or written opposition to any part of the anti-Nazi program by the military. The program, left without any brave watchdogs, soon became even more severe. A huge chunk of German history was lost forever.