In This Review

Democracy Imposed: U.S. Occupation Policy and the German Public, 1945-1949
Democracy Imposed: U.S. Occupation Policy and the German Public, 1945-1949
By Richard L. Merritt
Yale University Press, 1996, 452 pp

This comprehensive study is in part a survey of the policies the American military government pursued in the American zone of occupation in order to deNazify it, to punish the guilty, and to inculcate democratic practices into the German body politic (Merritt rightly emphasizes the importance of the press in this respect). But the most interesting part of the book is the analysis of the German reaction to these policies. Using a large number of surveys, Merritt finds American efforts were on the whole remarkably successful, even though the Germans polled did not reject every aspect of the Nazi regime, a minority remained dubious about Jews, and many questioned the fairness of the war trials. Merritt shows that in the American zone, "Masses and leaders were . . . willing to accept tutelage in democratic governance from the Allies, especially during the early occupation years," and that in the Cold War climate the legitimacy of the occupation increased and the dream of reunification receded. He also shows that the effort to democratize the system of education did not fully succeed until the 1970s. He concludes that the changes introduced into German politics and society could not have been carried out as effectively by a post-Nazi German regime, and that the success of these policies is something of a paradox, given the confusion and shifts that characterized them.