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Jazz, Rock, and RebelsCold War Politics and American Culture in a Divided Germany$

Uta Poiger

Print publication date: 2000

Print ISBN-13: 9780520211384

Published to California Scholarship Online: March 2012

DOI: 10.1525/california/9780520211384.001.0001

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American Culture in East and West German Reconstruction

American Culture in East and West German Reconstruction

Chapter:
(p.31) 1 American Culture in East and West German Reconstruction
Source:
Jazz, Rock, and Rebels
Author(s):

Uta G. Poiger

Publisher:
University of California Press
DOI:10.1525/california/9780520211384.003.0002

Abstract and Keywords

A decade after World War II, many East and West Germans came to believe that American popular culture was shaping young Germans and especially young German men. From the late 1940s through the first half of the 1950s, debates over westerns, gangster stories, and jazz became vehicles through which Germans on both sides of the descending Iron Curtain discussed American influences and changing German identities. Ideas about America that Germans had developed during the Weimar and Nazi years, the experiences of U.S. and Soviet occupation, including fraternization, rape, denazification, and economic policies, were important in shaping unsure and often hostile East and West German attitudes toward American influences.

Keywords:   America, Germany, identity, German attitudes, American influences, west

In 1953 Karl Bednarik published a book, which was widely read and reviewed in West Germany, on what he called a “new type” of young male workers. According to Bednarik these young men were characterized by two things above all: their love for westerns and other sensationalist films and their enthusiasm for jazz.1 That same year East German officials and newspapers drew a similar image of male adolescents. In the aftermath of the June 1953, uprising in East Germany, they accused “Tangojunglinge” (Tango-boys) and other young males in “Texas shirts” and cowboy pants of having caused “provocations.”2

In the decade following World War II, many East and West Germans came once again to believe, and fear, that American popular culture was shaping young Germans and especially young German men. From the late 1940s through the first half of the 1950s, debates over westerns, gangster stories, and jazz became vehicles through which Germans on both sides of the descending Iron Curtain discussed American influences and changing German identities. How to make German boys into men who were neither too weak nor too aggressive and how to make German girls into respectable women became one of the major challenges for East and West German authorities, as they were seeking to separate themselves from National Socialism and to rebuild their societies-and soon also their armies-in the face of the Cold War. The conflicts over American popular culture between East and West German authorities and adolescents became a central component in the cultural and political dynamics that shaped the growing division between the two Germanies.

Along with the ideas about America that Germans had developed during the Weimar and Nazi years, the experiences of U.S. and Soviet occupation, including fraternization, rape, denazification, and economic policies, (p.32) were important in shaping ambivalent and often hostile East and West German attitudes toward American influences. In the midst of poverty and ruins, the Allies, and the newly appointed German authorities, began to ask how Germans should educate and entertain themselves. Because of censorship and economic constraints, Germans had relatively little access to American westerns and gangster movies in the immediate postwar years and adolescents instead avidly consumed dime novels. By the early 1950s, however, the U.S. film industry was delivering plenty of movies, including westerns and gangster films, to West Germany. Throughout the 1950s American films made up the majority of movies released in West Germany, and Germans flooded to see them.3

Even with the division of Germany, American influences could still be felt in the Soviet Zone and later in the GDR. Authorities there increasingly tried to prevent their population's exposure to American culture, but they could not control access. In East Germany, no American movies were released in the 1940s and only six American films were shown in the course of the 1950s, but East German authorities were well aware that every day thousands of East Germans, especially young people, crossed the borders to the Western sectors of Berlin where they watched West European and American movies.4 East German papers even reviewed many American films as soon as they opened in West Berlin. By contrast, Soviet productions, which made up at least 50 percent of the movies released in the Soviet Zone, were “too heavy,” too serious, or too militaristic for German audiences who complained that such movies provided little enjoyment. As one Soviet cultural officer concluded, Germans were interested only in films about adventure and romance.5 American movies thus quickly proved more popular than Soviet productions. Also, Germans in all zones could listen to jazz on the radio and in clubs in the late 1940s, and many of them adopted American dance styles such as the boogie.

While many U.S. government programs in the 1940s and 1950s sought to prove to Germans that the United States was a land of high culture, East and West German officials, like authorities in the Weimar Republic and the Third Reich, grew increasingly worried about the impact that American movies, jazz, and boogie-woogie had on German youth. In the new German states, youth protection efforts varied, but both sides often drew on prewar discourses in their efforts to contain the impact of American-style consumer culture. At the same time, East German authorities made highly publicized efforts to exploit hostilities toward American culture that existed in East and West Germany. During the 1950 trial of Werner Gladow, whose gang had engaged in a crime spree across East and West Berlin, and (p.33) the 1953 East German uprising, East German officials and the press linked American culture directly to juvenile delinquency and political deviance. This put West Germans, who were forging an alliance with the United States and who had plenty of Americans in their territory, into an awkward position. However, in both Germanies some officials also tried to use American or American-influenced cultural products, such as movies or jazz, to attract adolescents to their respective political causes. Under the conditions of the Cold War and in the context of diverging political and economic systems, such voices gained some, if always embattled, force in West Germany.

Occupation and Fraternization

In 1945, neither Germans nor the Allies who had defeated Germany had a clear vision of what the future would hold for the country. Most German cities lay in ruins, many people lived in cellars and destroyed buildings, often separated from their families. Millions of Displaced Persons (former concentration camp inmates and forced laborers) were awaiting repatriation or immigration visas. Moreover, millions of “ethnic Germans” who had fled or were expelled from the Eastern parts of the former Reich and the German-occupied territories were searching for new homes. Geographically and politically, Germany was divided into four occupation zones: American, British, French, and Russian, each with its military government. The Allies also divided Berlin into four sectors, although the city had a common administration.

During the following years, the four Allies shaped the political and economic reconstruction within their zones, even as they increasingly transferred control to German authorities. With the intensification of the Cold War, the Western Allies-the United States, Britain, and France-agreed to cooperate as they built a democratic state with a market economy in their three zones, which covered the Western two thirds of Germany and held over 70 percent of its population. In 1947 the United States and Britain formed “Bizonia.” A year later “Trizonia,” which also included the French zone of occupation, followed. In the Eastern zone, the Soviets, together with German communists, pursued the nationalization of industries, introduced land reform, and insured that the SED, the Socialist Unity Party, became the ruling party.

Even as the Allies repeatedly exchanged notes and held conferences about building a united Germany, the Cold War division of the country took shape. In 1947, the Soviets rejected the economic aid offered by the (p.34) United States through the Marshall Plan. The following year, in June 1948, the Western Allies reformed the currency in the Western zones, thus stabilizing economic activity there and also affirming the division of Germany. In response, the Soviet Union imposed a blockade on West Berlin, which lasted until May 1949.

Berlin would not remain unified in this climate. In November 1948, Soviet and East German authorities put an end to the united German local administration for all of Berlin and formed a separate Berlin government in their sector. Germans (and the world) came to think of the Soviet sector as East Berlin and of the three Western sectors as West Berlin.

The Allies continued to formalize the division of Germany over the next year. In May 1949, the Federal Republic was founded on the territory of the three Western zones, and in October the founding of the German Democratic Republic on the territory of the Soviet Zone followed. By 1955, both German states became formally sovereign while firmly tied to the two emerging political and military blocs: NATO in the West and the Warsaw Pact in the East.6

In the second half of the 1940s, Allies and Germans were very concerned with the provision of food and housing, but they were also trying to figure out how to reconstruct and reeducate a nation that had waged a terrible war and committed horrific crimes in an effort to forge a racial Utopia. Many Germans were anxious and feared retribution; others hoped for radical change.

The experiences of occupation shaped German reactions to American culture in important ways. The American military presence in Germany changed with the developments of the Cold War. When Germany signed the declaration of unconditional surrender in May 1945, 2.6 million U.S. troops were deployed in Europe. The vast majority of them was quickly deactivated and replaced with a much smaller force necessary for the occupation of the American zones in Austria and in Germany (including Bavaria, Hesse, northern sections of Baden and Wurttemberg, and the city of Bremen). In 1950 American troop strength in Europe dropped to a mere eighty thousand. With the outbreak of the Korean War that same year, however, the U.S. government reversed this trend and by 1951 a quarter million American soldiers were again stationed in Germany, most of them in the West German state of Rhineland-Palatinate, which had originally been part of the French zone of occupation. Until the end of the Cold War in the early 1990s, the United States would retain similar or higher troop strength in West Germany as its central contribution to the NATO forces in western Europe.7 (p.35)

Fraternization of German women and American soldiers accompanied the American military presence and worried many Germans. In the West German press of the late 1940s, stories critical of female divorcees and “fraternizers” replaced laudatory reports about the brave Trummerfrauen (women who were clearing the rubble of destroyed cities). Fraternizers were depicted as selfish and seemed to further weaken German male authority. In the West perhaps more so than in the East, the disruption and guilt of these years were thus frequently displaced onto women.8

West German commentators focused especially on those women who had relations with American soldiers. In spite of an initial U.S. ban on fraternization, aimed at reinforcing the notion of collective German guilt for war atrocities, many GIs struck up relationships with German women almost as soon as they entered German territory. American posters and literature gave dire warnings to U.S. troops about contracting venereal diseases from German women. Billboards showed a woman in a trench coat with “VD” stamped across her chest, and this acronym was further popularized with the song “Veronika, Danke Schon.”

Nevertheless, more positive American views of German women soon prevailed, and in the minds of U.S. soldiers and politicians, the “rubble woman” replaced the male Nazi storm trooper as the dominant German image. Americans, like postwar Germans, did not view women as ardent followers of National Socialism and thus ignored women's contributions to the Nazi regime and the war effort. The apparently rapid rise of this view may have been aided by the fact that by December 1945, most U.S. troops who had seen combat were replaced by young men who had not fought the war in Europe. Official U.S. representations at home increasingly sought to desexualize relations between American GIs and German women in order to make German women and American behavior abroad appear respectable to domestic audiences. Popular German representations, in turn, did just the opposite. Germans used “Veronika” to label all women who entered relationships with GIs as prostitutes. Other derogatory expressions included “Amiliebchen” (Ami-lover) and “soldiers' brides.” Drawing on the German stereotypes of powerful American women, called Amazons by some Weimar commentators, and playing with the term American zone, critics also referred to the German female fraternizers as “Amizonen.” Particularly disturbing to these critics were no doubt the relationships between African American soldiers and white German women, who were often called “Negerliebchen” (Negro lovers). In the minds of Germans and of U.S. military authorities alike, such relationships once again raised fears about miscegenation, and after the fraternization ban was lifted, mixedrace (p.36) couples found it much harder to receive marriage licenses from U.S. military commanders than their all-white counterparts.9

During the 1940s, many of the relationships between German women and U.S. soldiers were based on a need for food, consumer goods, and protection. That is not to say that mutual affection could not play a role; certainly numerous relationships ended in marriage. But in the minds of many Germans, the food or nylon stockings that German women received from their American lovers, or the dances they danced with them, confirmed a link that had a long history in German anti-Americanism: the link between consumption and the oversexualization of women. And even more so than in the interwar years, Germans now related these phenomena to the weakness of German men. Such concerns and the derogatory labels for German women who entered relationships with U.S. soldiers would continue well beyond the period of occupation. Over the next decades, reporting about American soldiers and their predilections for drinking, dancing, and/or German women would cement the link that most Germans made between America, consumption, and materialism.10

Overall, West German views of the United States continued to be deeply ambivalent. For many Germans, female “fraternizers” came to stand in for what they experienced as an emasculation and victimization first at the hands of the U.S. occupation force and then at the hands of the American military superpower. But alongside the criticisms of fraternizers and materialism existed a strong admiration for U.S. efforts to alleviate German deprivation, especially through the Berlin Airlift, the Marshall Plan, and CARE (Cooperative for American Relief to Everywhere) packages.

The images of fraternizers, wealth, and materialism, associated with one superpower, the United States, contrasted sharply with the images of the other superpower, the Soviet Union. Although hard to quantify, responses first to Soviet occupation and then to continuing Soviet influence in East Germany were more negative. Nazi propaganda that had portrayed Soviet soldiers as brutal subhumans appeared to be confirmed in the minds of many Germans when soldiers of the Red Army pillaged German towns and engaged in a campaign of mass rapes in 1945. In the Eastern Zone, the threat of rape continued for women until Soviet troops were confined to their barracks in the winter of 1947–48. To be sure, rapes also occurred in the West in 1945, but to a much lesser degree.11 As with fraternization in West Germany, mass rapes in East Germany were part of the gender crisis caused by war and occupation. But ironically, mass rapes also facilitated a resolution of this crisis in East Germany. In 1945 many German men failed (p.37) to come to the aid of women, but over the following years, their role as protectors against a (diminishing) threat of rape became part of a “remas-culinization” that happened perhaps more speedily in East than in West Germany.12 While Soviet authorities and the leadership of the SED successfully suppressed public discussions of looting and rape, these events undoubtedly contributed to hostility toward the Soviet Union. Likely they also led to lower rates of fraternization, although the Soviets initially did not impose a fraternization ban, and fraternization between German women and Soviet soldiers happened for much the same reasons as in the West. Reparations set by the Soviets, which sharply reduced industrial capacity in the Eastern Zone, and the Marshall Plan, which soon spurred economic development in the Western zones, exacerbated this contrast between a Soviet Union associated with deprivation and a United States associated with prosperity-a contrast that Western propaganda would certainly exploit as the Cold War picked up.13

The seeds of this contrast were already planted during the early occupation when Allied cultural visions still shared many similarities. In occupied Germany the four Allies determined cultural policies, although they began to return control to the Germans in 1946. Each in their own zone, the Allies seized and denazified the mass media; they licensed newspapers and radio stations and controlled movie programs. In the Eastern zone, Soviet and German communists tried to foster a classical German tradition (for example, the works of Goethe, Schiller, and Beethoven) and opted for some variety in cultural life, in order to effect an “antifascist democratic” transformation of Germany. Their programs featured folk dances, films, and public ceremonies, and included Soviet music and film, but in 1945 and 1946, they agreed that it was not yet time to adopt a Soviet model in Germany.14 The Western Allies also hoped to counter Nazi ideas, which they believed were deeply ingrained in German society, through reeducation programs. As part of these efforts to turn Germans into democrats, they, too, sought to foster a classical German tradition, supplemented with modernist art.15

A major goal of the Office of Military Government of the United States (OMGUS) in occupied Germany, led by General Lucius Clay, was to prevent the renewed rise of German fascism through the establishment of democratic institutions and the “moral and cultural reeducation” of the German population. Although the U.S. government soon realized that full implementation of the “four D's”-denazification, demilitarization, de-cartelization, and democratization-was impractical, reeducation remained important. Reeducation measures concentrated in particular on educa (p.38) tional policies, the media, and cultural policies; they included the reform of schools and universities (which quickly failed due to German opposition) and translations of American scholarship and literature as well as the establishment of American cultural centers. From 1946 to 1954, an ambitious exchange program brought about eleven thousand German politicians, bureaucrats, journalists, judges, clergy, trade union members, and functionaries of youth associations to the United States. Initially OMGUS officials watched carefully that they appointed no former Nazis to positions in the new bureaucracies. With the worsening of the Cold War, however, and with increasing efforts to integrate West Germany into a Western alliance, it soon became expedient to employ former Nazis. This contributed to the cynicism many Germans felt toward reeducation.

With the founding of the Federal Republic of Germany (FRG) in 1949, OMGUS was transformed into its civilian successor, the Office of the High Commissioner for Germany (HICOG), comprising representatives from the three Western Allies and led until 1952 by American John McCloy. West Germany remained under the Occupation Statute that made the new state into a self-governing dominion under Allied supervision. HICOG could theoretically intervene in any political issue in the new FRG, but McCloy pursued a cautious policy designed to bolster the authority of the newly elected government under Christian Democrat Konrad Adenauer. Under HICOG, some American educational and cultural programs, now geared toward “positive reorientation” were stepped up and extended to all of Germany. These efforts, including the exchange program and the American cultural centers, clearly focused on educating a new, democracy-minded West German elite. Almost half of the exchanges under HICOG involved elite groups of young people, including university and high school students, and youth leaders, among them numerous future West German leaders of the 1960s and 1970s. HICOG scaled back its activities in 1952 and was disbanded completely in May 1955 when the Occupation Statute formally ended and West Germany received full sovereignty.16

As they were seeking to liberate Germans into a Western-style capitalist democracy in the postwar years, American leaders themselves were ambivalent about the use of American popular culture in Germany. Hostilities toward American popular culture persisted in both Germany and the United States after World War II. In this context, the U.S. government did not include American popular culture in the reeducation programs for German prisoners of war and tried to control what cultural products entered postwar Germany. Often government officials found themselves at odds with the American entertainment industry. In the decade from 1946 (p.39) to 1955, the American cultural centers, so-called Amerikahduser, which opened in major West German cities with support from the American government, did little to spread American popular culture-be it popular movies or jazz-in Germany. The first of the “America Houses” grew out of a U.S. information center in Frankfurt in 1946; by 1950 their numbers had grown to twenty in the U.S. occupation zone including West Berlin, and by 1951 to twenty-seven in all of West Germany. Officials in the cultural centers established libraries with open stacks, organized lectures, offered concerts of “serious” music, and showed educational movies. Until the mid-1950s, they rarely sponsored jazz events, because most American elites themselves considered jazz low culture.17 U.S. officials were busy convincing the German public that democracy and “culture” were not contradictions and that the democratic United States was indeed a haven of high culture. With their programs, they consciously catered to an audience they considered influential in German politics and society. In several reports, American officials expressed their satisfaction that those who visited American cultural centers were predominantly male and from the middle and upper socioeconomic strata.18

But American popular culture found its way into East and West Germany through other channels: American soldiers; Allied radio stations, especially the American and British Forces Networks; the increasing efforts of the American movie industry to gain access to the West German market; and German musicians and music fans who now shared their enthusiasm for American music publicly. At the same time German-produced visions of America circulated, especially in dime novels. All of these sources contributed to shaping German images of America.

Initially, the direct interactions between West Germans and American GIs were the primary source of cultural contact. In the American Zone, members of the American military began to provide adolescents with opportunities for sports and entertainment at the end of 1945. Formalized in 1946, the offerings of the army-sponsored German Youth Activities (GYA) ranged from baseball to lessons on how to behave as a democratic citizen. The activities differed depending on local conditions, but in many cases they exposed German adolescents to American music and movies-and consequently met with the resistance of local church officials who feared an “Americanization” of youth through these coeducational and cross-denominational activities.19

By the 1950s the channels of the American and West German entertainment industries became more important than direct contact with American troops in transmitting American popular culture to West Ger (p.40) many. In the 1940s, the influence of the U.S. film industry, and along with it the selection of American movies, was still quite limited. When, at the end of July 1945, U.S. military authorities allowed movie theaters to reopen in the American Zone, they showed American movies that were licensed to the Psychological Warfare Division and the Office of War Information. But since these movies could not meet the high demand for films, U.S. officials soon permitted theaters to show German features that American authorities deemed harmless. Film policy was originally organized on a zonal basis. By 1948, however, British and French authorities were following American policies.

In February 1948, the American Military Government authorized the Motion Picture Export Association (MPEA)-founded by major producers and distributors in the United States-to distribute movies commercially in the U.S. Zone. Until mid-1948, only eighty-three U.S. feature films were released in the three Western zones, and authorities and distributors could not meet the demand for copies. The MPEA delivered U.S. movies to Germany, but since most of the MPEA's German earnings remained frozen, it mostly distributed copies of old releases. Such movies included few westerns or other thrillers.20

While Germans still found it somewhat difficult to see American movies in the second half of the 1940s, a market for dime novels blossomed. Most of these were produced in the Western zones, but were also available in the Soviet Zone. In fact, along the border of the Western sectors in Berlin, “exchange” shops catered specifically to an East German pulp-fiction audience. Many of the most popular and most discussed dime novels were gangster or western stories set in the United States. Printed westerns actually ranged from the novels that the German author Karl May had written in the early part of the century to more recently produced dime novels. Adolescents, especially boys from the middle classes, avidly consumed May's novels, which were widely available in West Germany. Perhaps because these were book length, perhaps because they featured lengthy nature descriptions, or perhaps because they championed manly fictional heroes like the white man of the American West, Old Shatterhand and the chief of the Apaches, Winnetou (who both embodied the Christian maxim of love thy neighbor and fought bad American Indians and money-hungry whites alike), the May novels were absent from public discussions of westerns in the 1940s and 1950s.21 Instead commentators-sociologists, church film leagues, policymakers, and the press in the West, and party and state officials and the press in the East-focused on dime novel and movies. The fact that most of the dime novels were German produced did not prevent Germans from debating and (p.41)

American Culture in East and West German Reconstruction

Fig. 2.Reading puplp fiction in postwar Germany, 1950. Photo: Gerd Mingram, courtesy Bildarchiv Preußischer Kulturbesitz.

(p.42) rejecting them as American. In the late 1940s and early 1950s, these booklets worried East and West German authorities at least as much as the movies.22

Like dime novels, jazz, too, was widely available in all four zones. After years of facing possible persecution by the Nazis, German jazz fans brought out their jazz records, and German jazz musicians played in the midst of ruins. In 1945 and 1946 fans who had not given up their enthusiasm for the music during the Nazi years founded so-called “Hot Clubs” in several East and West German cities, including Leipzig, Berlin, and Frankfurt. They took their name from similar clubs that had existed in the United States since the 1930s. The American and British occupying forces also brought American popular music with them. Given the attacks on jazz music and jazz fans during the Third Reich, many Germans found it exhilarating after May 1945 to listen to jazz music on AFN or BFN. They saw the American tunes that could be heard in all occupation zones as a symbol of a more general liberation from Nazi oppression.23

In these years of flux, jazz music and fans crossed easily back and forth between the Western and the Soviet occupation zones. In July 1948, during the Berlin Blockade, Rex Stewart became the first American jazz musician to play in front of German audiences after the war. East and West German jazz fans welcomed him enthusiastically during his concerts in West Berlin. That same year, the East German state-owned label Amiga issued a recording of one of his performances with German musicians. Indeed, between 1946 and 1948, Amiga made more jazz recordings than all West German companies combined. And the activities of the East German state youth organization Free German Youth (FDJ), founded under communist leadership and with participation of confessional and bourgeois groups in 1946, included dancing to the music of Glenn Miller and Benny Goodman as well as to American boogie-woogie.24

The relative isolation of the war and postwar years meant that German musicians and fans had missed the latest musical developments in the United States. Picking up where they left off, they listened mostly to music inspired by the swing bands of the 1930s. In the postwar years, German fans defined jazz very broadly and many considered everything AFN broadcast-from bebop to country music-to be jazz. The same was true for most German bands: they also did not distinguish between jazz and other hits and played both. As one jazz aficionado remembered, these bands frequently encountered very noisy audiences, mostly of young people, who used the concerts to romp around.25

Not surprisingly, given the German history of attacks on jazz dating back to the Weimar years, German hostilities toward jazz music and its (p.43) fans did not disappear with the defeat of National Socialism. In the cultural monthly Aufbau, published in the Soviet Zone, music critic Paul Hofer defended jazz against its critics: “Even today, in 1946,” criticized Hofer, “there still exist in our society those who, still believing firmly in German superiority, dismiss jazz as ‘Negermusik.’”26 When German musician Kurt Wege and his big band played jazz rhythms in 1947, the popular West German magazine Horzu received petitions that contained hundreds of signatures complaining about the band's performances. In response, jazz fans collected even more signatures in favor of Wege.

In order to answer the question whether jazz was a “disgrace to civilization” (Kulturschande), Horzu published an article by the culture editor of the respected West German weekly Die Zeit. The author briefly criticized the prohibition of jazz during the Third Reich, and then responded explicitly to some of the accusations leveled against jazz before and after 1945. The objection that jazz was Negro music was both true and false, he explained. While its existence depended on the Negro bands of New Orleans, these “black-skinned musicians” had in fact reworked the European chorales that Christian missionaries had taught them. Negroes, “unmusical, as they are, and at the same time deeply naive,” intended their music to be pious. The author claimed that Negroes had added improvisation to European-based music. Whether jazz was a disgrace to civilization, the author concluded, depended on how it was played: He criticized musicians who overused syncopation and thus achieved a “disturbing overheating” that was “often correctly reproved as ‘squeaking, tearing, grunting, howling.’ “But played in a somewhat calmer style, with much individual freedom, while stressing commonality, jazz “was almost a theme song for democracy.” This defense of jazz thus depended on stressing the European roots of the music, while making clear that classical European music was superior. At the same time the author affirmed long-standing stereotypes of blacks as naive and as unmusical.27 Other promoters of jazz, who were responding to continuing hostilities against the music, would often use similar, problematic arguments in the course of the 1950s.

Escalating Cold War Tensions

In 1947 and 1948, when the West reformed the currency and the Soviets imposed the blockade of West Berlin (which both represented and intensified the increasingly deep lines in the Cold War), political and cultural relations between the Soviet and the Western zones soured. East and West Germans defined Germanness more and more not just in relation to the (p.44) Weimar and Nazi past, but also in relation to one another. In this context uneasiness about the impact of (American) popular culture in postwar Germany took on new meaning. Concerns over jazz music and the effect of gangster and western stories told in movies and pulp fiction quickly became an important part of the Cold War battle.

After 1947 the Soviet military authorities and East German communists made concerted efforts to convince the Germans of the superiority of Soviet culture. While Soviet opera, ballet, and poster art were certainly successful-more so than Soviet films-the promotion of Soviet culture ran up against obstacles. For one, in spite of official pronouncements, German anti-Bolshevism and hostilities toward Soviet culture persisted, and second, the bureaucracy of the Soviet Union proved consistently too inefficient to even fill the requests for Soviet materials that officials from the military government or East German functionaries made.28

As the Cold War heated up, the press of the Soviet Zone began a campaign against the United States and the U.S. presence in Germany. In 1947 and 1948, for example, the Soviet occupation newspaper for Germans, Tagliche Rundschau, repeatedly reported alleged rape and pillage committed by U.S. occupiers and contrasted it with the cultured and generous Russians.29 By 1950 posters produced for the East German government declared: “American High Commissioner McCloy on 4 July 1950: ‘I feel at home in Germany’ Germany replies: ‘Yankee, go home!’” That same year other propaganda claimed that “Yankee Beetles [a potato pest allegedly planted by U.S. planes] Are Set to Destroy Our Livelihood.”30

As the communists strengthened their hold on power, they lashed out against American influences both in East and West Germany. The official newspaper of the East German SED, Neues Deutschland, asserted in 1948 that the cultural level of the West was sinking rapidly.31 Also in 1948, the SED declared itself to be a “Party of the New Type,” thus affirming its commitment to Moscow and to socialism. The way the SED defined its relationship to the Soviet Union appeared somewhat contradictory. On the one hand the SED gave out the slogan “To Learn from the Soviet Union Is to Learn to Be Victorious,” but on the other hand the Soviet military administration encouraged the SED to pursue a “German road to socialism.”32

Both impulses coexisted in the SED and in East German cultural policies. One East German official, Anton Ackermann, claimed in May 1948 that socialism did not mean a liquidation of national cultural forms. Drawing on Stalin, he further explained that the cultural forms of one country should and could not be exported into another.33 Thus he stressed the necessity of a German national culture, and he implicitly criticized American (p.45) influences increasingly visible in West Germany and West Berlin. At the same time, the “East German road to socialism” did not entail questioning Soviet policies or culture. Rather, East German officials reformulated their earlier policies and attacked American popular culture both inside and outside their borders as part of a campaign that was modeled on Andrei Zhdanov's efforts in the Soviet Union. Zhdanov had launched his attacks against American and other foreign influences and the forces of “decadence” and “cosmopolitanism” in 1946, and two years later East German officials adopted his arguments. This cultural campaign directed against both modernism and mass culture was part of accelerated Stalinization throughout the Communist Bloc. Neither East German officials nor their Soviet supervisors any longer supported the notion of cultural diversity.34 The vocabulary of “decadence” and “degeneration” was not the invention of Soviet or East German authorities. Rather, as we have seen, European and American writers and thinkers across the political spectrum had leveled such attacks against various forms of art as well as mass culture since the nineteenth century. “Decadence” had connoted deviations from civilization, from respectable manhood and womanhood, and critics had often used it along with “degeneration” to fight products or behavior they perceived as racial transgressions. This language had gained special significance in the 1930s and 1940s when National Socialists strove to exclude and extinguish what they perceived as different from a Germanic ideal by invoking “decadence” and “degeneration” as signifiers for gender disarray and racial decline. Both German and Soviet Communists had likewise used “decadence” and “degeneration” in order to attack American culture, especially most forms of jazz, as expressions of bourgeois decline. The term “cosmopolitanism” had a similarly problematic history; in both Nazi Germany and Stalin's Soviet Union it had clear anti-Semitic and xenophobic undertones.35

In postwar Soviet and East German attacks on mass culture and modernism, this vocabulary resurfaced. East German officials now used it to repudiate the National Socialist past and to attack their Cold War enemies. One of their intentions was to win East Germans over to their cause by appealing to what one might ironically call “bourgeois sensibilities.” The attacks on mass culture and modernism once again established links to eugenics at a time when eugenic thinking was still prevalent, for example among members of the medical profession in East Germany This language likely allowed East German officials to attract some conservative and bourgeois elements in society, especially among the intelligentsia, which had for the most part remained at a distance from the regime.36 (p.46)

On the other side of the Iron Curtain, West German authorities, in spite of their commitment to a Western military and political alliance, were trying to find a fourth “German” way, between the threat of Bolshevism, the self-destructive, sexualizing, and emasculating powers emanating from American-style consumer culture, and finally the dangerous secularism and materialism that according to many contemporary commentators had led to National Socialism. To separate themselves from all three, conservatives from the governing Christian Democrats (CDU/CSU) were promoting the notion of a “Christian Occident” (Christliches Abendland) in the late 1940s and early 1950s. Both the Protestant and Catholic churches seized the moral vacuum left by National Socialism and were able to influence public discourse as well as social and cultural policies of the national and local governments with their conservative visions. The churches founded film leagues and publicized their views of specific films. Representatives of church charities shaped the work of the influential Federal Working Group on Youth Protection (Bundesarbeitsgemeinschaft Aktion Jugendschutz), which also included representatives from government and nonconfessional charities. It operated as a pressure group and organizer of events at both the federal and the state level. The opposition Social Democrats (SPD) remained mostly outside the churches' realm of influence, but they, too, largely supported the national government's cultural conservatism. Concerns about respectability were apparently shared by large sections of the West German population, who bought a great number of manuals on “proper behavior.”37

With mounting fears about consumption and American popular culture, West German cultural conservatives tried to fight, as one of them, Robert Brüntrop, put it in a welfare journal, “two epidemics that were mutually dependent and drove each other” and that were characteristic of all Western cultures: “the growing sexualization of our cultural life” and “the addictive love of pleasure.”38 Consumption and entertainment were once again associated with dangerous sexuality. Such postwar commentary used the language that Weimar conservatives, especially those influenced by Catholic social theory, had leveled against “materialism” in both its Bolshevist and American manifestations. Now such accusations were also directed against the Third Reich, which conservatives interpreted as an expression of the excess of the “mass age.”39 Brüntrop and others also worried about the present biological state of the nation. In the midst of continuing hunger and hardship, they urged a state policy of youth protection to mobilize against the alleged “self-destruction of the German people” through consumer culture.40 Placing such a vision firmly in the Cold War context, officials from the West German Ministry of the Interior (p.47) linked the need for youth protection, and the dangers of materialism, to the threats of socialism and National Socialism. “To protect the young person from drowning in a collective being is the purpose of youth protection,” they announced.41 Yet, another statement made by the chief administrator of Aktion Jugendschutz and released by the West German government made it clear that Western-style capitalism was just as dangerous, since it exposed adolescents to the “unrestrained drive for profit on the part of an entertainment industry that is extremely rich in capital.”42

In 1951 and 1953, the West German parliament passed two youth protection laws. Unlike the Nazi laws of the 1940s, these did not threaten adolescents, but rather adults, and especially the entertainment industry, with punishment, although the police could pick up adolescents from “improper places” and take them back to their parents. All major West German parties supported the first law, which primarily regulated adolescents' access to dances, movies, and alcohol. The Social Democrats did not vote for the second, which provided for restrictions on printed matter, including pornography and pulp fiction, because they feared that the law could be used as a tool of political censorship. Nonetheless, the SPD, too, agreed that pulp fiction was dangerous. Officials in all West German states, including those governed by the SPD, sponsored events against pulp fiction throughout the 1950s, where children and adolescents literally buried their dime novels in a Schmokergrab (a pulp-fiction grave) or exchanged them for “better” literature43

In these West German youth protection efforts, cultural conservatism was interlinked with gender conservatism. The 1951 law, for example, made the protection of marriage and family its explicit purpose. Believing that the West German family had survived National Socialism unscathed, the mainstream parties agreed that families of male breadwinners/protectors and female caretakers were central to postwar West German stability. Healthy families with traditional gender roles distinguished West Germany from its Cold War enemies to the East and from the dangers of American-style consumer culture arriving from the West. While the wording of the youth protection laws was gender neutral, the intentions and enforcement of the laws were in fact gender specific. Measures against violent gangster and western stories, in films or fiction, were geared toward curtailing male overaggres-sion, and the restrictions on dancing were supposed to prevent the oversex-ualization of women.44 As local officials made clear when promoting the law, dance events led girls into sexual delinquency and the dance provisions provided especially for the “protection” of girls45

West German politicians thus constructed and asserted their views of proper femininity and masculinity not only in social policies, but also in (p.48) their efforts to regulate cultural consumption. In fact, given their own misgivings about mass culture, West German authorities proved sensitive to East German charges that West Germany was being overrun by American popular culture.

“Berlin is not Chicago”: The Gladow Trial

In 1950, increasing East German hostilities toward American influences found a focal point in the trial of Werner Gladow. In the late 1940s, Gladow's gang, made up of adolescent and adult men, had committed armed robberies in stores and private homes all across East and West Berlin; in the course of their crime spree, they had even killed some of their victims. The East Berlin police finally arrested the so-called “Gladow-gang.” Gladow and nine of the gang members were put on trial in East Berlin in March and April of 1950. Although Gladow had not yet been eighteen when he committed most of his crimes, the court sentenced him to death and he was executed in December 1950.46 Papers in East and West Berlin closely followed the proceedings of the trial, and East German officials and the East German press used the publicity for an all-out attack on American popular culture, especially on westerns and gangster movies and pulp fiction.

The East German press and some West Berlin papers put images of the Wild West and of American gangsters at the center of Gladow's story. As witnesses offered testimony, papers treated Gladow as a ruthless western hero and/or American style-gangster. One East Berlin article referred to Gladow's crimes as “Wild West adventures”47 Other East German authors stressed that Gladow had modeled his crimes on stories about America told in dime novels. Gladow indeed seemed to be the perfect proof of East German accusations against the American “cultural barbarism” that allegedly led to overly aggressive German men. The East German press used images of an “uncivilized” America for a more general indictment of American culture and policies in postwar Germany.

The Gladow trial was marked by the oddities, and permeability, of the early Cold War division. Although it took place in East Germany, the court called a West Berlin psychiatrist to assess Gladow's behavior. Perhaps East German officials hoped to highlight that Germans on both sides of the Iron Curtain had misgivings about American popular culture.

The West Berlin psychiatrist testified that the legendary American gangster Al Capone had been Gladow's ideal. Gladow, who had consumed adventure dime novels from an early age, supposedly identified with the Al Capone presented in this literature: “a go-getter, despiser of mankind, and (p.49) chivalrous adventurer in one person.” According to the psychiatrist, a biography of Al Capone that had been published recently had strongly influenced Gladow. The accused himself confirmed this notion and declared that dime novels and movies had had a deep impact on him. He had modeled his crimes after them, while avoiding his heroes' mistakes.48

Showing Gladow's deviance involved associating him with “bad” women as well as with ruthless and untamed aggression. Papers focused on Gladow's “inadequate” mother with whom he had lived on the East side of the city and who was put on trial for misleading authorities about her son's whereabouts. Throughout the trial, East and West German papers portrayed her as hysteric and held her, rather than his father, who had been absent from the family for extended periods, responsible for Gladow's crimes.49 Moreover, by focusing on what Gladow read (besides stories about Al Capone), East German papers linked him to pornography and women who lacked respectability, especially prostitutes. The East Berlin Tagliche Rundschau gave a sample of his readings, which ranged from “The Erotic Question Mark,” to “Adventure of a Whore” to “Robbery in Chicago” and “A Colt in Each Hand.” West German papers, on the other hand, rarely reported about such readings.50

East German papers linked the detrimental impact of American cultural influences to fascism. According to the West Berlin psychiatrist, whose testimony East German papers recounted, the combined impact of fascism and American popular culture had led Gladow to his crimes. The Tagliche Rundschau quoted the psychiatrist: “His fascist education, the deep impressions that the war left washed him down into the sluttish kitchen of American gangster movies, of crime stories, of murder and [other] sensational trials, to whose influence he succumbed.”51 A headline in the same paper went further: “Gladow's ideals: Wild West and Gestapo.” Gladow supposedly had learned how to rob from gangster movies, how to gag his victim from American westerns, and how to torture them from the Gestapo.52 This alleged connection between fascism and American popular culture defined a central position in both East and West German discourses on American influences.

However, stressing the manipulative influence of American popular culture put East German papers in a difficult position as they evaluated Gladow's guilt: the West Berlin psychiatrist proved how easily Gladow could be influenced, and consequently demanded that he be treated as a juvenile offender, rather than as an adult criminal. In that case Gladow could not have been sentenced to death according to GDR law.53

In spite of their hostility to American westerns and mysteries, East German papers resolved this problem by casting Gladow's story itself as a (p.50) combination of western and crime narrative-one in which, however, the good guys won. Commentators imagined Gladow as a combination of the urban criminal Al Capone and western hero. One article described how “he races the asphalt of Chicago, as he leads his devoted gang with cowboy hat and revolver to one crime after the other.”54 However this western, unlike many of the dime novels and adventure movies, had what East German authorities regarded as a proper ending: in Gladow's case the authority of the state had prevailed. Papers stressed the testimony of high ranking police officer Schladicke, who described Gladow as “society's deadly enemy.”55 Schladicke claimed that he had put his own life on the line during Gladow's arrest, discounted the testimony of the psychiatrist, and demanded that Gladow be treated as an adult. While one West Berlin paper maintained that Schladicke had not even been at the forefront of Gladow's arrest, East German reports stressed that he was “a man of action.”56

The mixing of images drawn from two genres, the western and the gangster narrative, may seem surprising at first. The two genres represented two poles of negative images of America, the modern urban setting in the gangster film and the rural wilderness in the western. But often the audiences for both types of stories were young men, and East German commentators read them as promoting lawlessness and violence. A subgenre of American westerns of the late 1930s and 1940s, which celebrated the careers of famous outlaws such as Jesse James (1939) (and which Richard Slotkin has called the “outlaw” western), probably reinforced such associations. These westerns were just being released in West Germany around 1950. In their intense anti-Americanism, East German commentators failed to recognize that these outlaw westerns often located the source of social injustice in powerful capitalist institutions, such as railroads and banks.57

In his final statement, the East German prosecutor concurred with Schladicke and demanded the death sentence for Gladow. He announced that “Berlin is not Chicago,” a statement echoed in many papers.58 Gladow had to die to set the GDR apart from the anarchism associated with capitalist urbanization. As the prosecutor explained, in the United States the “gangster king” Al Capone had been allowed to die of natural causes in bed. Although the psychiatrist recommended that Gladow not be tried as an adult, the court ruled in favor of capital punishment, and a few months later, Gladow was executed.

In summarizing the trial, East German papers leveled ever stronger attacks on American popular culture and American politics. As one East German paper put it, the sentencing of Gladow merely tackled the symptoms of the dangerous American way of life, but judicial measures alone would not suffice in rooting out this evil. The American imports and the American (p.51) way of life posed a danger not just to German youth but to all German people. The paper demanded a unified democratic cultural policy for all of Berlin and asserted that the fight for the unity of Berlin and for Germany's unity was also the most effective fight against the “murderous economic, social and ‘cultural’ influences of the American imperialists.”59

The East German press drew alleged parallels between German fascism and U.S. imperialism and made both responsible for past and present crime. “Dr. Goebbel's total war and Dean Acheson's total diplomacy are complemented by the total crimes of Al Capone and Werner Gladow.”60 Another paper suspected a conspiracy between Wall Street and Hollywood designed to educate millions of West German and West Berlin youths to brutality and killing. Preparation for war was the real objective of this American manipulation of youth.61 Fighting the United States thus became a way for East German authorities to distance East Germany from the National Socialist past as well as from the West German state.

East German officials and the East German press tried to mobilize their vision of a unified German culture against American influences. As one commentator urged, a German Volkskultur (people's culture) needed to be pitted against the barbarizing influences of American mass culture.62 In the context of a divided Germany, their focus on American cultural influences allowed East German authorities to stress what was evil about capitalism and Western imperialism, while leaving the door open for German rapprochement. This attitude was in tune with the official East German ideology that called for German unification. East German officials portrayed American politicians as manipulators and driving forces behind American popular culture. They probably appealed to anti-Semites by claiming that Washington officials promoted Wall Street and “Hollywood politics.” Given these accusations, the West German government appeared as a mere puppet of the United States. In exposing American popular culture as an ideological tool of the U.S. and West German governments, East German authorities tried to alert Germans to the existence of a “true” popular German identity that could breach the Iron Curtain and connect people in East and West Germany.

West Germans and Westerns

Such East German pronouncements were fueled by the increasing availability and impact of American popular culture in West Germany. With the Currency Reform in 1948 and the strengthening of West Germany's economy, U.S. motion picture distributors developed a greater interest in full access to the German market. The numbers of American films exported to (p.52) West Germany jumped up dramatically from 64 in the twelve months from mid-1948 to mid-1949 to 226 in 1951–52, where they remained throughout the 1950s. Despite some disputes between U.S. distributors and West German authorities who wanted to reduce that number, an average of 225 U.S. films per year were released until 1959. In these same years, the number of German releases rose from sixty-five to over a hundred per year, but remained consistently well below American imports.63

With the growth of imports, the types of American movies released in West Germany also changed. Much to the concern of many Germans, westerns became particularly popular and appeared in great numbers in West German movie theaters. According to a report by the Catholic Film Commission for Germany, the number of westerns released in West Germany rose from two at the beginning of 1948 to one hundred by November 1951. Eighteen months later the Commission reported with some concern that this number had doubled.64

West German papers in 1950 had treated Gladow's actions mostly as the result of growing up in the poverty and disorientation of the postwar years. Yet in West Germany, too, strong voices existed that saw westerns as a cause of male juvenile misbehavior and juvenile delinquency. West Germans were increasingly convinced that westerns played an important role in forming male adolescent identities. One sociological study found in 1952, that 33 percent of twelve- to fourteen-year-olds had the western hero as their ideal.65 The West German press occasionally reported on crimes that boys had allegedly modeled on western or gangster narratives. In 1951, a survey asked juvenile court judges about the effects of movies. Numerous judges gave examples of delinquents who had frequented “cowboy” and “gangster” films, but most judges felt that it was unclear whether the movies had led adolescents into delinquency. When they published these findings in 1954, the authors of the survey warned that adolescents themselves made this connection to excuse their crimes.66 Nonetheless many articles in the West German press and numerous film reception experts and educators claimed that westerns and gangster films were a direct cause of juvenile delinquency.

West German attacks on westerns were often more insidious than East German indictments, because they identified Native American Indians directly with the evil effects of westerns. In East and West German newspaper reports, Gladow was usually cast in the role of a white bandit, but in at least one instance a West Berlin paper identified him directly with the faceless Indians besieging whites who were so common to westerns in this period. To describe Gladow's way of torturing his victims, the paper employed (p.53)

American Culture in East and West German Reconstruction

Fig. 3. West German boys in front of a movie theater, 1948. Photo: Gerd Mingram, courtesy Bildarchiv Preußischer Kulturbesitz.

(p.54) the word “martern” which Germans used mostly when they described American Indian behavior. Thus, readers could actually place Gladow in the role of the savage Indian. Similarly, Fritz Stückrath, one of West Germany's foremost film reception experts, published his critique of westerns under a headline that suggested that Indians were dangerous: “The Attack of the Ogallala on the Youth.” With these images, these West Germans in fact racialized the alleged dangers of westerns.67

Stückrath reiterated criticisms of westerns that the East German press had highlighted during the Gladow trial. Westerns convinced children that the adult world was a mix of “deceit, maliciousness, fights, racketeering, and shallow eroticism.” Moreover they made children think that the roughest behavior was also the “manliest and most appropriate.” Stückrath stressed that these adverse effects were by no means offset by the fact that in most of these films the good hero won out over the bad. Linking westerns directly to male criminal behavior, Stückrath told the story of a young man who had shot his friend during a game of cards. Like the East German press and authorities, he complained that, by glorifying violence and mixing it with eroticism, westerns prepared humanity for war.68

Stückrath placed his critique of westerns in the context of the recent German past. He disagreed with those critics who had made German fairy tales responsible for the brutalization of the German people. Rather, he argued, these fairy tales paled in comparison to the “uninterrupted attacks of the Ogallala from the Wild West.” In this outrageous move, Stückrath thus implied that American westerns, rather than indigenous German culture, could be responsible for Nazi crimes.69

In 1952 a West German Cold War propaganda pamphlet on movies in the GDR clearly revealed West German hostilities against both Stalinism in the East and consumer culture in the West. The pamphlet explained that “the exaggerated wealth of Hollywood stars and producers-for decades symbolic of an overheated and overpaid cult of banality-had its equally monstrous counterpart in the Stalinist Filmkultura.” Even as the author indicted both Hollywood and Stalinist cinema, he implied that Hollywood's influence was even more dangerous. For, refugees from the Soviet Union, the satellite states, and the “Soviet Zone” were still able “to distinguish between Filmkitsch and film art.” Like “every person of taste” they rejected “gangster, sex, revue, and mawkish Heimatfilme.”70 In the face of the onslaught of American-style consumer culture, it appeared in the first half of the 1950s that West German authorities felt politically even more vulnerable than their East German counterparts.

The American movie imports became a contentious issue between East and West German authorities, especially so in Berlin. Westerns, along with gangster films, increasingly constituted the main offerings of the so-called border theaters in West Berlin, which catered specifically to East German visitors. An American official urged in 1950 that theaters along the border with East Berlin should get special tax breaks to offer low-priced movies for East Germans. Following this suggestion, West Berlin officials supported ten theaters by February 1951 and twenty-three by 1954. In 1951, West Berlin and HICOG officials inaugurated the Berlin Film Festival that brought international movies and stars to Berlin and was designed to be a “Western cultural showcase.” As one American cultural officer explained to West Berlin officials, it was scheduled to be “the necessary counterweight” to the “International Youth Festival” that the official East German youth organization FDJ, under firm leadership of the SED, was sponsoring for the same summer in East Berlin.71 In fact American and West German officials hoped to draw youth from the Eastern people's democracies to West Berlin and HICOG even sponsored outdoor border screenings at the Potsdamer Platz. To downplay U.S. government involvement and to demonstrate West German independence, the West Berlin city government (p.55) was listed as the sole sponsor for the festival, even though HICOG officials participated in the planning and made financial contributions. The presence of American movie stars during the festival, by contrast, was publicly celebrated by the press and by the German organizers. They could be used to demonstrate the greater openness of West German democracy.72

Nonetheless many West German government officials and cultural leaders remained hostile or at least ambivalent about the power of American movies. Beginning in the fall of 1952, East German citizens complained to West Berlin authorities in a letter-writing campaign about the low quality of the movies shown there. West Berlin authorities took these complaints to be the genuine opinion of the East German population and not just of East German authorities. Consequently they were concerned enough to try and persuade theater owners to improve the programs. In 1952, for example, they put together a list of “desirable” movies; however, these efforts were largely unsuccessful.73

Worrying that West German state authorities might restrict the import of American films, U.S. movie distributors saw such hostility as a threat to their profits. In 1951, they were so concerned about the anti-American bias of “religious and educational bodies” in West Germany that they sent a special emissary “to clear away presently existing misunderstandings regarding American pictures.” West Germans never brought any economic sanctions against American movies, but the hostilities continued.74

East German officials tried to play on West German fears of cultural Americanization. When the two hundredth western opened in West Germany in May 1953, the West German Catholic Film Commission, which had its own ranking system, found that of the 200,153 were unsuitable for adolescents. On this occasion, one East German paper stressed that in the previous year more than 50 percent of all movies shown, in Hamburg for example, had been American productions. A full quarter of the four hundred American movies the West German market “had to swallow” were westerns. In East Germany, the first American western would not be shown until 1963, and throughout the 1950s, East German authorities continued to attack West German and American authorities for exposing East and West German youth to westerns and gangster stories.75

Jazz, Boogie-Woogie, and German Weakness

American movies were not the only object of concern for East and West German authorities. American music was likewise a contested issue. In the late 1940s, East and West German Hot-Clubs, founded in big cities, became (p.56) notorious for jam sessions where musicians improvised and played long solos, while the audience danced and clapped. Although only a minority of Germans went to the Hot-Clubs, many people looked with suspicion at the jam sessions, where according to jazz expert Horst Lange, adolescents showed their enthusiasm for jazz without understanding that the music they listened to was often inferior.76 While East and West German discourses on westerns centered on fears of male overaggression, debates around jazz and American dances evolved around worries about weak men and overly sexual women. Westerns, gangster movies, and jazz were the crucial parts in a cluster of cultural images that East and West Germans associated with the dangers of Americanization.

In 1949 one West Berlin commentator reported about a jazz event in the West Berlin club Badewanne, which featured a jam session every Monday. German musicians and American guests from the army broadcasting network AFN played mostly “hot American numbers, whose melody was overshadowed by exaggerated rhythms.” The reporter complained, “only brass could be heard and none of the soft strings, which please the hearts of the friends of German dance music.” He thus adopted the logic of the Nazis who had replaced brass sections with strings, when they adapted American swing for German audiences.

Even more than the musicians, jazz fans raised fears among cultural conservatives about a lack of respectability in postwar Germany. Critics of jazz employed vocabulary drawn directly from the Weimar and Nazi years. According to the West Berlin commentary on the Badewanne, the jam session led by German jazz musician Fredy Brocksieper satisfied the “jungle instincts” (Urwaldinstinkte) of the audience. The author thus reiterated the link between jazz and the African jungle that dated from the 1920s. Using language that the Nazis had employed to attack swing youths of the first half of the 1940s, he also derided the listeners as “Swing-Heinis.” They jumped onto tables and chairs and let fly colorful balloons. The author marked the males in the audience as lacking in respectability not just in their behavior but also in their fashions: they were allegedly a mixture of members of the intelligentsia and blackmarketeers wearing rollneck sweaters and striped socks.77 Along with short “brushhead” (bouffant) haircuts, and ankle-length pants, striped socks became the distinguishing signs of many jazz fans in East and West.78 The dancing of some jazz fans also came under attack from many West German commentators. In the Hot-Clubs and other bars many of them danced boogie and jitterbug, which worried commentators because the dancers seemed to “dislocate their limbs,” as they were moving their bodies and throwing each other through the air.79 Some West (p.57) Germans clearly hoped that youth protection laws would curtail adolescent dancing of the boogie. Die Zeit recommended in 1952 that the owner of the Badewanne be prosecuted for organizing dance contests “among fourteen-to sixteen-year-olds.” According to the article, the dances “drove the adolescent couples near physical breakdown, made the ‘bourgeois’ audience shudder, and brought the club excellent business.”80 While postwar attacks thus connected jazz to lower-class culture, they did not claim that the jazz fans themselves were primarily from the working class. Some reports about jam sessions, in fact, referred to jazz fans as “bohemians,” thus indicating that they perhaps were bourgeois nonconformists.81

The jazz fans' fashions and dances ran counter to West German visions of male and female respectability. With their focus on fashions and expressive dancing, the young men appeared feminine. Along these lines, a West German education manual pointed to the emasculating and feminizing effect of “sultry Negro songs” for boys; it warned, that boys had to restrain themselves, sexually and otherwise, in order to reach full manhood.82 Such concerns were further exacerbated by commentators who worried about an addiction to jazz among fans.83 Using expressions like “jungle instincts” and “sultry Negro songs,” West German critics, like earlier critics of mass culture, associated male jazz fans with racial as well as with gender transgressions.

To some West German commentators, the respectability of female jazz fans was even more questionable than that of males. One West German official described the new dances as “intoxicating” and therefore as especially detrimental to young women.84 Contemporaries criticized girls who hung out on streets and who danced boogie as potential sexual delinquents. The article on the jam session in the Badewanne described female jazz fans merely as “live dolls.”85 While male jazz fans were portrayed as rambunctious, female jazz fans appeared in this assessment as highly manipulated, passive beings.

Those who wanted to make jazz acceptable in the West German context tried to divorce it from an unmanly focus on fashions and from female sexual expressiveness. When one journalist reported about the opening of a Hamburg jazz club, he maintained that the male participants were all “obedient boys,” whereas one could not be so sure about the girls who made up one third of the membership. In the end, however, he stressed that while some girls ended up on the laps of their Dixiegalans, everything was honorable, for “German jazz did not know eroticism.” He went on to claim that the “ecstasy that German jazz caused has something abstract about it.”86 Ideally, jazz was to be an intellectual rather than a sensual experience. (p.58)

American Culture in East and West German Reconstruction

Fig. 4. Dancing in the West Berlin club Badewanne in 1952. The dancing couple may have been African Americans. Some of the men wore “striped” socks. Courtesy Ullstein Bilderdienst.

East German indictments of jazz and American dances used images very similar to those employed by West German critics. In September 1949 the East German daily Neues Deutschland criticized the club Badewanne as an expression of dire living conditions in West Berlin: those who frequented the club were artists without money, rich businessmen, crooks, “boogie-woogie-boys, who were wearing their shirts over their pants,” and grinning Americans.87 The United States had allegedly dumped “a mudslide of (p.59) boogie-woogie” on Germans.88 The American music industry, East German authorities claimed, produced swing and bebop as part of an imperialist strategy. The same was apparently true for bouffant (brushhead) hairstyles. As one East German culture official, Kurt Hager, explained in 1950, “The hair is styled in such a manner that it rises from the base of the neck like the mushroom cloud of an atomic bomb.”89 With such music and fashions, as with westerns, Americans were preparing people for war.90

Within East German borders, authorities began to repress jazz and American dances, following the Soviet example where authorities even prohibited the word dzhaz. By the early 1950s, East Germans were describing imports, like boogie-woogie, jazz, and samba as “decadent” or “degenerate” parts of “American cultural barbarism,” which they saw at the root of American and West German imperialism.91 One official declared in 1950 that East Germans were defending their “national cultural tradition” against “American imperialist ideologies” and against “barbarization by the boogie-woogie ‘culture.’ “92 In March 1951 the SED's Central Committee announced a fight against formalism and called for a search for an authentic German national culture. East German officials defined as formalist all cultural expressions that put more stress on form than content; such art allegedly lost its humanist and democratic character and was characteristic of the imperialism of late capitalist systems, particularly the United States. Officials leveled accusations of “decadence,” “cosmopolitanism,” “naturalism,” “modernism,” and “formalism” against, for example, the literature of Kafka, abstract painting, and also undesirable music, like jazz.93

Hostile words were accompanied by administrative action. By 1950 the Radio Berlin Dance Orchestra was disbanded, along with other bands and informal groups that some avid jazz fans had founded. Authorities banned jazz from the East German radio waves, stopped jazz recordings, and even destroyed the Amiga originals of the Rex Stewart releases. The border police confiscated jazz records that fans tried to bring into East Germany. In 1952 authorities prohibited American names for bands. As a result of such repression many East German jazz musicians left for West Germany.94

Nonetheless jazz and boogie fans continued to ask for their favorite music at public events, and many bands continued to play it. Also East German jazz fans listened to the music on AFN, which they could receive particularly well in East Germany, and they even formed some illegal circles to discuss the music. These circles would play an important role when fans tried to promote jazz in times of greater leniency during the following years.95

Because of the anxieties about the allegedly negative impact of jam sessions and boogie dancing, authorities in both states used ballroom dancing in (p.60) their efforts to transform adolescents into respectable heterosexual adults, who would be strong enough to forego premarital and extramarital sex.96 In the 1950s, East and West Berlin youth agencies went out of their way to make dance lessons available to girls and boys from low-income families. The agencies sponsored folk dance groups and dance events where young people were to move “in a civilized fashion,”97 and where education in social dancing was combined with instruction on how to behave toward the opposite sex.98 Moving in a civilized fashion meant of course that the man was to lead the woman and that excessive movements of hips, arms, and legs-with possible sexual connotations-were avoided. Social dances were a means of “positive” youth protection designed to civilize asocial sexual drives that seemed to emasculate men while making women loose. As one West German social worker put it, delinquent youths would find life partners, “if they did not enter the ‘neutral’ dance floor, where they would disappear anonymously into the masses, but could choose good establishments, good company, and nice families.”99 One West Berlin social worker stated with some satisfaction in 1954, that not all adolescents were interested in boogie-woogie or jitterbug.100 In West Berlin some commercial dance halls also furthered the establishing of a carefully monitored heterosocial world. In the club Resi young men and women invited each other for a dance via table telephones, as operators made sure that “nothing indecent” entered the lines.101

The similarities between East and West German assumptions about what constituted a viable civilization, and what role it should play in the construction of East and West German identities, led to a curious constellation. East German criticisms put West Germans on the defensive; even as the West German government was trying to forge a political and military alliance with the United States, many West Germans continued to be hostile toward American cultural influences and the transformation of West Germany into a consumer society. Neither the alliance with the United States nor American cultural influences were uncontested. The connections with the United States were indeed under attack from several directions. The leader of the SPD called Adenauer “the chancellor of the Allies.” And on several occasions, West German church authorities, especially Catholics, pointed to the East, where, they claimed, adolescents were better protected from the dangers of consumer culture and from American imports. The authors of a West German Catholic church message worried in 1951 that the “unbroken youths of the Soviet Union” would “someday become the masters of the lustful boys in the West.”102 Perhaps even more dramatic was the remark of a politician who said: “The East wants to conquer the world, the West just wants to enjoy it.”103 Conservative West (p.61) German politicians echoed such charges to fight the supposedly damaging effects of consumer culture within West Germany. Family Minister Franz-Josef Wuermeling announced in 1953: “Millions of spiritually healthy families with well-trained children are at least as important for security against the peoples of the East with their numerous children as are all military installations.”104 The right sort of culture was crucial for preparing children to defend the “Christian West.”

American government officials were likewise ambivalent about the development of a consumer culture and the impact of American popular culture in postwar Germany. In 1951 U.S. High Commissioner of Germany McCloy asked for an evaluation of existing American-sponsored youth programs. One official recommended that all programs focusing purely on entertainment should be discontinued. The efforts of the East German youth organization FDJ, who had staged mass rallies in East Berlin, needed to be countered with fewer “entertainment programs and less Americanization.” This official suggested instead events highly compatible with the conservative vision of German government officials, such as “demonstrations for the mental and spiritual defense of the Christian West.”105

“Texas Shirts” and the 1953 Uprising in East Germany

It was in the context of these shared hostilities toward American popular culture that East German authorities tried to use images of Americanization in their propaganda after the June 1953 uprising in East Germany. On June 16 and 17, thousands of people demonstrated across the GDR. The roots of these events were manifold, but demonstrators were clearly spurred on by the strikes of East Berlin workers who were protesting higher work quotas. The demonstrations were spontaneous and demands ranged from lowering quotas, to free elections, and even removal of the government. In Berlin demonstrators removed the red Soviet flag from the Brandenburg Gate and in many cities people tore down the party slogans plastered on walls and billboards. In some cases demonstrators freed prison inmates, in others they beat up members of the notorious secret service, the Stasi.106 On the morning of June 17, Soviet tanks rolled into the center of East Berlin and by the afternoon troops opened fire, while demonstrators threw stones. At the same time the Soviet Military commander declared martial law over the radio waves, prohibited further demonstrations, and instituted a curfew. By 9 P.M. the Soviet army and East German paramilitary troops had gained control of East Berlin. Similar scenes repeated themselves in other East German cities.107 (p.62)

In the days (and years) after the uprising, East and West German officials were busy remaking its meaning for their own political purposes. Whereas East German officials were trying to redirect attention from the workers' demands for lower work quotas, a better standard of living, and democratic reform, most West German politicians were interpreting the uprising as a demonstration for national unity.108

Just two days after the Soviet army had brought the uprising to an end, the newspaper of the East German FDJ, junge Welt, reported about adolescent “saviors of the culture of the Christian West,” who, dressed in striped socks and half-long pants, had roamed through East Berlin streets. On June 21,1953, the major SED daily Neues Deutschland published the picture of a “member of a group of West Berlin provocateurs” charged with disturbing the public order in Erfurt. Under the headline “This Is How the Fascist Spawn of [the West German politicians] Adenauer, Ollenhauer, Kaiser, and Reuter Looks,” the paper described his attributes: “Texas shirt with cowboy [a T-shirt with a cowboy printed on it], Texas tie with a picture of nude women, Texas haircut, a criminal's face-these are the knights of the ‘Christian West,’ the typical representatives of the American way of life.”109

American Culture in East and West German Reconstruction

Fig. 5.“Fascist spawn, knight of the ‘Christian West,’ typical representative of the American way of life.” Photo of an alleged provocateur of the East German uprising in June 1953. The picture was reprinted in East German newspapers and brochures. Reprinted from Wer zog die Drahte?, Berlin, 1954. Courtesy Bun-desarchiv Berlin.

(p.63)

On June 26, 1953, the East German prime minister, Otto Grotewohl, echoed these statements when he assessed the uprising. As he put it, “The Western provocateurs with the colorful plaid striped socks [!], with cowboy pants and Texas shirts wanted to cause a large-scale political provocation” and thus attempted to prevent negotiations between the four big powers for a German peace treaty. Grotewohl's speech was part of an outright campaign in the East German press that put West German or West German-influenced youths who sported Americanized fashions at the center of the June events.110

The picture and the texts marked these alleged provocateurs as effeminate by stressing their interest in (unmanly) fashions. East German authorities drew on the discourses concerning westerns and jazz that had emerged in East and West Germany by the early 1950s: they associated the “provocateurs” with cowboys and with the striped socks that jazz fans wore. American culture had led Gladow to commit crimes against individuals. These rebels were even worse, committing crimes against the state.

The picture that showed the Western provocateur was reprinted on numerous occasions.111 It is disturbingly similar to Nazi depictions of “inferior humans”: the young man stood slumped over with an unfriendly expression on his face. Ironically, even as this East German propaganda in its aesthetic choices seemed to appeal to values of the Nazi period, East German officials were establishing a close connection between allegedly “Americanized” demonstrators and fascism and were in fact labeling the whole uprising an attempted fascist coup d'etat.

In their propaganda campaign, East German authorities linked American popular culture, deviations from gender mores, and fascism. The list of alleged provocateurs was augmented in the following days. The “American imperialists” had recruited “SS-Kommandeusen” (female SS commanders), Tangojünglinge, and prostitutes.112 Officials also alleged that the adolescent provocateurs had sung the Nazi Horst Wessel song.113

East German propaganda connected the “fascist provocateurs” to sexual deviance. For one, it portrayed female prostitutes as instigators of rebellion. Second, the expression Tango jünglinge was very similar to the “lustful boys” about whom West Germans worried. Both terms carried homosexual connotations. Thus East German officials, in their efforts to discredit the workers' rebellion, clearly hoped to place the rebellion within parameters of the discourses around juvenile delinquency that had developed in the two German states. With their allegations, they played on bourgeois fears of male delinquency and female prostitution associated with the streets and thus they catered to gender mores that East and West German (p.64) officials shared. East German propagandists also hearkened back to a connection between homosexuality and fascism, that the SPD and KPD had employed during the Weimar years in its attacks on Nazis.114

The East German propaganda effort was in clear contradiction to the police reports about the roots and the events of the uprising. East Berlin police reports, for example, did not refer to adolescents as major participants in the uprising, but rather focused on the workers' mood. In fact there is no evidence that adolescents or West Berliners participated in the demonstrations in large numbers.115

While East German papers and police reports initially saw strikes by East German workers as one, if not the major, facet of the events around June 17, this view increasingly disappeared from public statements. The propaganda had some effect in rewriting the history of the uprising in East Germany. When policemen wounded on June 17 wrote home from their hospital beds around June 20, some of them boasted about the male youths in “half-long pants, striped socks, and Texas shirts” whom they had cornered.116 Police reports in July likewise stressed that “fascist rowdies,” many of them in “Texas clothes” had shaped the uprising.117 At mass meetings held in all major East German cities at the end of June, officials emphasized that the “Day X” had been exclusively the work of Western provocateurs. Those party leaders who showed sympathy for the workers' demands were subsequently removed from their posts. And although thousands of GDR citizens were arrested in the aftermath of June 17, the press referred only vaguely to the work of fascist gangs, and with few exceptions did not report about trials or sentences.118

While East Germans put male youths in cowboy pants, that is jeans, at the center of the uprising, West German officials largely chose to ignore these allegations. A1953 report published shortly after the uprising in the American-financed West German monthly Der Monat suggested a reason for this silence; “West Germans, too, would have been disturbed by the looks of the youth depicted in the picture [of the alleged provocateurs].”119 West German politicians also mostly ignored the worker base of the uprising and instead remade it into a demonstration for German unity. Nonetheless, one picture reprinted over the following decades in the West showed two young men throwing stones at Soviet tanks. Since these young men were actively defying Soviet oppression, allegedly in the name of German unity, nobody in the West commented on their clothes which included shorter pants (possibly jeans) and short jackets-fashions that East and West Germans had identified as symbols of improper masculinity.120 (p.65)

American Culture in East and West German Reconstruction

Fig. 6. Youths throwing stones at Soviet tanks during the East German uprising on June 17,1953. This photo was frequently reprinted in West Germany Courtesy Bildarchiv Preußischer Kulturbe sitz.

A “New Line” in East Germany?

While East German authorities made an indictment of American cultural and political influences part of their efforts to contain the 1953 uprising, they changed their economic and cultural policies as part of the “new line” that they promoted beginning in 1953. Officials saw to it that more money was invested in the provision of consumer goods; they also allowed more space to maneuver in the cultural sphere and put a greater emphasis on entertaining their population.121

Nonetheless, hostilities toward American popular culture continued. In November 1953, for example, one East Berlin official sought to take measures to fight the American driven Entartung (degeneration) of social dancing and even wanted to purge the radio archives of Western “Hott-Music.”122 The FDJ tried to use “modern” entertainment to fight such American influences. Its magazine Junge Generation, for example, explained in the aftermath of the uprising that the FDJ had failed to provide sufficient opportunities for entertainment and relaxation and especially for dancing. Instead, criticized the magazine, young people resorted to hanging (p.66) out on park benches and to reproducing the imported “Ami-Kultur” with their guitars. As an alternative, Junge Generation proposed dance events where adolescents would dance the waltz, the fox-trot, and folk dances of the Soviet Union and the other people's republics. Given such offerings, nobody would even want to dance the boogie, a dance that was proof of the evils of “the culture of the Christian West.”123

Junge Generation soon celebrated the alleged success of such measures and printed a report from one local FDJ unit that, beginning in July 1953, offered dances three times per week. Apparently some young East German males showed up who, as the magazine put it, resembled the “exotic birds from West Berlin” in their fashionable “brushhead” haircuts and “Texas shirts.” When reliable FDJ members saw them dancing boogie (“as if they had tooth pain”), they told the band to play a flourish and then asked the dancers to show that they were just as good at dancing the fox-trot. In other cases, FDJ “commandos” were emptying dance halls of Texashem-dentrager (those wearing “Texas” shirts).124

Apparently such public ridicule and retrenchment led to a steep decline in FDJ popularity and membership, and the organization, under the leadership of Erich Honecker, came under attack from leading SED functionaries and government officials who saw the FDJ as a crucial tool to foster loyalty among youth to the new socialist state. An internal memo emphasized in late 1953 that by no means were the majority of adolescents “enthusiastic Ami-Junglinge.” The author asserted that “the adoration of the Ami-Kultur” resulted often from “a lack of other opportunities.” He also concluded, probably incorrectly, that Western influences were strongest among the bourgeois youth. Ironically, the memo announced that “the Western influence in its ugly deviation” could be contained not just by offering dances, but also hikes such as those organized by confessional youth groups. The Protestant youth groups were according to this memo successfully warning adolescents “against all kinds of excesses.”125 In the year or so after the June uprising, the SED tended to leave the confessional groups alone, and indeed tried to learn from them but failed to attract a larger following.

While some East German officials tried to use entertainment to fight American influences, others found that some American imports could be part of East German entertainment. By 1954 the FDJ clearly tried once again to attract a broader membership by including American culture in its offerings. The youth magazine Neues Leben, for example, featured pictures of jazz bands. One photograph showed a percussionist surrounded by blurbs including exclamations like “boogie!”, “rhythm!”, “syncopations! “, and “temperament!”. They culminated in the pronouncement that (p.67) one could recognize good, cool music in the percussion section: “Dufte Musik man am Schlagzeug erkennt!”,126 Moreover, in 1954 and 1955, some jazz fans were able to promote the music all over the GDR.127

The flip-flopping continued. In 1955 East German authorities geared their youth protection efforts explicitly against the American Unkultur, resurrecting a German expression that altogether denied American imports the status of “culture.” The East German youth protection law of that year made the containment of American influences its explicit purpose. The preamble of the law announced that East Germans were protecting their youth against the “American way of life” propagated in the “Adenauer-state,” that is, in West Germany.128

While East German functionaries, at least in internal memos, saw the bourgeoisie as particularly susceptible to U.S. influences, West German social scientists and commentators viewed adolescent consumption of American popular culture increasingly as a working-class phenomenon. In 1953 the sociologist Bednarik linked the identity of the young male worker-“a new type”-closely to consumption and specifically to the consumption of American imports. Bednarik argued that nothing was more indicative of this generation than its relationship to film and jazz. Likely underestimating the attraction for middle- and upper-class adolescents, other researchers confirmed that westerns and gangster films were particularly popular among male working-class youth.129

Bednarik clearly had the outlaw westerns in mind when he claimed that after consuming westerns and gangster films, young male workers tried to relive “Wild West,” “gangster,” and “desperado” feelings for such an extended time and so intensely that they became their “basic outlook on life.” Also, according to Bednarik, most young male workers liked jazz better than all other music. Bednarik saw jazz as the proper cultural expression of an industrial society and maintained it was not by chance that jazz came from highly industrialized America. Dancing to jazz music, including swing, and enjoying jam sessions, the young worker was able to overcome the functionalism of modern technology In an attempt to experience adventures that would counter the atmosphere of boredom in the workplace, the “new type” was likely to engage in criminal activities. However, according to Bednarik, these young male workers were not trying to understand or even change their work conditions and, unlike earlier youth movements, they did not engage in political activities nor did they have revolutionary zeal.

Bednarik's evaluations of these young workers were somewhat contradictory He recounted that fascism “and the successor powers” had fought (p.68) such young men and the jazz music they preferred, and thus he was one of very few commentators who acknowledged that the Nazis had persecuted such adolescents. He acknowledged an antitotalitarian and antimilitarist impulse in these young men, but he also concluded that, “socially, the new type had to be seen rather negatively.” In the end, Bednarik powerfully confirmed West German worries about male working-class youths made overly aggressive and manipulated by American popular culture.

At the same time, Bednarik was one of the first to suggest that this youth did not really pose a political threat. It would, however, take several years until this second part of his argument would be widely accepted in West Germany. When the West German weekly Der Spiegel reviewed Bednarik's book, it concluded the lack of a Weltbild, that is, a unified ideology, among these workers was dangerous; as before 1933, a state that offered them something they enjoyed, like motorbikes or shooting, could all too easily seduce them. In such judgments, adolescent male consumers of American popular culture posed totalitarian threats.130

West German authorities, like their East German counterparts, certainly attempted to contain American influences in the first half of the 1950s. In reaction to heavy East German complaints about the western, gangster, and pornographic movies shown there, one West Berlin official visited border theaters in October 1954 and found that East German allegations were correct. The programs of the specially priced screenings for East German visitors attracted an audience, complained the official, that was undesirable for West Berlin “for political and moral reasons.” Eighty percent were allegedly adolescents who avoided work and “other do-nothings,” while the “working population and the broad middle strata” of East Germany were appalled by their bad behavior and, in any case, did not want to see westerns or gangster movies. Improving the programs in the border theaters was especially important, urged the West Berlin official, since East German authorities had imported more West European movies in the aftermath of the June 1953 uprising.131 The number of French and West German movies released in the GDR had indeed gone up in 1953 and 1954.132

In March 1955, West Berlin city officials tried again to pressure the owners of border theaters to improve their programs. One official drafted a letter explaining the political significance of the theaters: the border theaters were “responsible for providing the people behind the Tron Curtain' with cultural goods of the Christian West.” According to the official this goal could hardly be reached with gangster movies and westerns. As he emphasized, “Screenings of such inferior-quality films had made the intended (p.69) cultural policy into a boomerang against our interests and thus into a serious political issue”133 Even though West Berlin officials threatened to withdraw the tax exemptions for the special screenings for East Germans, theater owners simply ignored official pressure. By the end of 1955, however, one West Berlin official report found that things had improved somewhat, if only for material reasons: since American distributors had increased their rental fees, theaters were screening fewer “American shooting and gangster movies” and had to offer more German films. Nonetheless, West Berlin officials remained dissatisfied with the situation.134

In first half of the 1950s, an alliance of local government officials, church groups, educators, and associations with links to the federal government and the churches (such as the Aktion Jugendschutz) discouraged and sometimes even prevented adolescents from reading pulp fiction, seeing certain movies, or dancing certain dances. Measures included government-sponsored dance lessons or letters to movie theater owners written by government officials. Not infrequently, the German entertainment industry and radio stations bowed to such pressures.135 But unlike in the GDR, outright prohibition of American imports was rarely an option in the emerging West German capitalist democracy. Moreover, West Germans, sometimes under pressure from American government officials, also began to make popular culture, including American imports into a weapon against the Cold War enemy.

Already in 1949, one West German film company offered a movie that tried to come to terms with American influences in postwar Germany. Hallo Fraulein featured singer and actress Margot Hielscher, who had begun her career with some obstacles under the Nazis. After she had rejected the sexual advances of Propaganda Minister Goebbels, he had told her that her mouth was “too American” and her performances had been blacklisted as “too hot.”136 In Hallo Fraulein, which had the American occupation as its theme, Hielscher was a singer who gave concerts with a jazz band conducted by a white U.S. officer and made up of Displaced Persons, that is, of former concentration camp inmates and forced laborers. West German reviewers applauded the band as a symbol of speedy reconciliation between former enemies, ignoring the question of who had been the aggressors. The movie helped make jazz music, though as one reviewer complained only in its more tame version,137 into a symbol of a new West German beginning, in which Germans, DPs, and Americans alike had been victims of National Socialism.138 At the same time the movie resolved the challenges to gender mores that West Germans experienced in the postwar years, and that both fraternizers and jazz symbolized for many. For some West German reviewers, (p.70) the film found its appropriate ending when Hielscher preferred the stiff German architect/mayor/former POW who called jazz “rhythmic epilepsy” over the nice American conductor with casual manners who put his feet on the table. As one West Berlin paper explained, perhaps not without irony, the successful German suitor was “pleasantly masculine,” “er-freulich mannlich.”139 Jazz might be a good means of reconciliation in extraordinary times, but in the end it was incompatible with German masculinity.

Several East and West German papers found the ending and the self-confident resurgence of German masculinity over American men and music unrealistic. The East German National-Zeitung saw it as a worthy project to remind German women not to throw themselves at American soldiers, but did not believe in the happy end. And Neues Deutschland was even more critical: the movie “degenerated with jazz music, hits, and much love into banality.” Not surprisingly this West German attempt both to validate and contain American influences was not entirely convincing, either for West or for East German commentators.140

In the decade after 1945, American culture once again had a powerful grip on East and West German imaginations. Cultural relations between the two states and their superpowers were hardly symmetrical. To be sure, Soviet military officials, the SED leadership and cultural functionaries in East Germany frequently praised Soviet culture, but it lacked the pervasiveness of American imports and their power to excite and repel-in short to raise controversy. Critics in East and West Germany feared that American popular culture contributed to the overaggression of men and the over-sexualization of women, and thus ran counter to the values at the heart of both East and West German reconstruction. At the same time, East and West German debates over American popular culture in the postwar years foreshadowed how racial and class politics continued to be troublesome in these two opposing states, which, each in its own way, tried to define itself as classless and raceless in the aftermath of the Third Reich and in the midst of the Cold War.