Tomislav Sunic: Brainwashing the Germans
Brainwashing the Germans
In the aftermath of World War II, the role of the American-based Frankfurt School scholars and European Marxist intellectuals was decisive in shaping the new European cultural scene. Scores of American left-leaning psychoanalysts - under the auspices of the Truman government - swarmed over Germany in an attempt to rectify not just the German mind but also to change the brains of all Europeans. Frankfurt School activists were mostly of German-Jewish extraction who had been expelled by the German authorities during National Socialist rule and who, after the Second World War, came back to Europe and began laying the foundations for a new approach in the study of the humanities. But there were also a considerable number of WASP Puritan-minded scholars and military men active in post-war Germany, such as Major General McClure, the poet Archibald MacLeish, the political scientist Harold Laswell, the jurist Robert Jackson and the philosopher John Dewey, who had envisaged copying the American way of democracy into the European public scene. They thought of themselves as divinely chosen people called to preach American democracy - a procedure which would be used by American elites in the decades to come on each occasion and in every spot of the world.
Most of the new American educators, however, were former disciples of Freud and Marx, who considered that the best approach in curing defeated Germany was by treating Germans as a nation of “clinical patients” in need of a hefty dose of liberal and socialist therapy. The Frankfurt School, during its days of American exile, had already drafted various social theories as to how to cure Germany of its “authoritarian character.” Accordingly, its major spokesmen argued that “the German petite bourgeoisie has always demonstrated a sado-masochistic character, branded by veneration for the strong man, hatred against the weak, narrow-mindedness, pettiness, hostility, thriftiness, often bordering on miserliness (both in terms of their feelings and money).” In the decades to come it sufficed to be labeled a “Neo-Nazi” or a “radical right winger” in order to lose the right of free speech and become an intellectual pariah. Although the American provisional military government in Germany pursued the hunt for National Socialist dignitaries and brought many to justice, it used the same tactics in the realm of German education and the media. It never crossed the mind of American post-war educators that their actions would facilitate the rise of Marxist cultural hegemony in Europe and lead to the prolongation of the Cold War.
As a result of Frankfurt School reeducational endeavors in Germany, thousands of book titles in the fields of genetics and anthropology were removed from library shelves and thousands of museum artifacts were, if not destroyed in the preceding Allied fire bombing, shipped to the USA and the Soviet Union. The liberal and communist tenets of free speech and freedom of expression did not apply at all to the defeated side which had earlier been branded as “the enemy of humanity.”
Particularly harsh was the Allied treatment of German teachers and academics. Since National Socialist Germany had significant support among German teachers and university professors, it was to be expected that the US reeducational authorities would start screening German intellectuals, writers, journalists and film makers. Having destroyed dozens of major libraries in Germany, with millions of volumes gone up in flames, the American occupying powers resorted to improvising measures in order to give some semblance of normalcy in what later became “the democratic Germany.” The occupying powers realized that universities and other places of higher learning could always turn into centers of civil unrest, and therefore, their attempts at denazifaction were first focused on German teachers and academics.
From the Allied viewpoint, and particularly from the viewpoint of the American military government, the universities, despite their undoubtedly great academic achievements in the past, were the breeding ground of reactionary nationalism conducted by the conservative oligarchy of professors. The focus of the universities was overspecialization by means of sharp delimitation between students as a unique elite versus the rest of the society. Moreover, education at the universities transmitted technical competence while neglecting social responsibility.