A new book tells the story of a unique experiment to transform postwar Germany amid the ashes of defeat.

February 16, 2017 15:32
Beny Steinmetz

Once used by the Nazis as a party symbol, Berlin’s Brandenburg Gate remained intact after the war, though heavily damaged. (photo credit: JERUSALEM POST ARCHIVE)


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“TO HELL with those bastards! They burned most of my family in their damned ovens! I hope they burn in hell!” The Austrian-born Jewish film director Billy Wilder had no doubt whatsoever as to what he thought of the Germans he saw in the postwar shattered Reich. No notions of redemption or rehabilitation crossed his mind.

Wilder, together with many prominent artists and writers, had been drawn to Germany after the Nazi defeat in 1945 either officially as serving servicemen and journalists or on their own initiative. The Allies had decided, in lieu of permanently subjugating Germany, to call up the Western culture brigade in the service of the cause, hoping its teachings of democracy, decency, and civilized intellectual endeavor could transform the German character and divert it into more peaceful channels.


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