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Enemies to Allies: Cold War Germany and American Memory

by Brian C. Etheridge

Availablecloth$45.00s 978-0-8131-6640-7
Studies in Conflict, Diplomacy, and Peace
382 pages  Pubdate: 01/26/2016  6 x 9  11 b&w photos

At the close of World War II, the United States went from being allied with the Soviet Union against Germany to alignment with the Germans against the Soviet Union—almost overnight. While many Americans came to perceive the German people as democrats standing firm with their Western allies on the front lines of the Cold War, others were wary of a renewed Third Reich and viewed all Germans as nascent Nazis bent on world domination. These adversarial perspectives added measurably to the atmosphere of fear and distrust that defined the Cold War.

In Enemies to Allies, Brian C. Etheridge examines more than one hundred years of American interpretations and representations of Germany. With a particular focus on the postwar period, he demonstrates how a wide array of actors—including special interest groups and US and West German policymakers—employed powerful narratives to influence public opinion and achieve their foreign policy objectives. Etheridge also analyses bestselling books, popular television shows such as Hogan’s Heroes, and award-winning movies such as Schindler’s List to reveal how narratives about the Third Reich and Cold War Germany were manufactured, contested, and co-opted as rival viewpoints competed for legitimacy.

From the Holocaust to the Berlin Wall, Etheridge explores the contingent nature of some of the most potent moral symbols and images of the second half of the twentieth century. This groundbreaking study draws from theories of public memory and public diplomacy to demonstrate how conflicting US accounts of German history serve as a window for understanding not only American identity, but international relations and state power.

Brian C. Etheridge is professor of history and director of the Center for Teaching Excellence at Georgia Gwinnett College. A past recipient of the Stuart L. Bernath Scholarly Article Prize from the Society for Historians of American Foreign Relations, he is a coeditor of The United States and Public Diplomacy: The New International History Meets the New Cultural History.

A very impressive piece of scholarship. Etheridge clearly establishes the significance of memory politics, and in a valuable twist to the normally US-centric literature, the book establishes the importance of examining both American and non-American actors. -- Steven Casey, author of Cautious Crusade: Franklin D. Roosevelt, American Public Opinion, and the War against Nazi Germany

Etheridge’s book Enemies to Allies is a very convincing and informative study that offers a fascinating insight into the American perception of West Germans as well as the construction of an American identity during the 1950s and 1960s. . . . His study is an excellent starting point for scholars exploring other aspects of German postwar history, German-American relations, and the role of public perception in the shaping of foreign policy. -- H-Net

This book addresses a compelling and fascinating feature of the Cold War Era, namely the rapid reversal of America’s alliance relationships after World War II. It is an excellent account of this change, highly readable and clear in its exploration of a complex subject. -- Thomas A. Schwartz, coeditor of The Strained Alliance: US-European Relations from Nixon to Carter

This excellent book will be of interest to those studying war and memory, the history of recent German-American relations, and the origins of the postwar Western alliance. -- Journal of Military History

Well written and accessible, it provides a fascinating perspective on the ”politics of memory” and how public perceptions are influenced by myriad sources of information. -- Military Review