Perplexing as the problem was, the War Department decided the only way the six-day reeducation classes would work was to logically persuade the German prisoners of war about American ideals, philosophy, and the working of the government. Lectures, round-table discussions, and films showing the American way were the focus of the reeducation program.
Set up at Ft. Eustis, Virginia from January to April 1946, approximately 25,000 hand-picked POWs went through the reeducation classes. It was hoped these men would be the vanguard of Germans who would lead their country toward democracy. From the beginning, however, the Provost Marshall General’s Office (PMGO) realized very little could be done to change the minds of the men in six days. The thought was that if the program “democratized” but one prisoner who was then placed in a position of political influence in post-war Germany, that the project would be entirely justified.
An official PMGO poll of 22,153 POWs taken after the classes showed that:
- Approximately 74 percent of the German POWs who were interned in American left with an appreciation of the value of democracy and a friendly attitude toward their captors.
- About 33 percent of these prisoners were definitely anti-Nazi and pro-democratic.
- About 10 percent were still militantly Nazi.
- Approximately 15 percent, while not strictly Nazi, still were not favorably disposed toward America or democracy.*
*Quoted from Nazi Prisoners of War in America by Arnold Krammer.
Next time: Wendell Willkie’s Gospel of Internationalism
Copyright, Geraldine Birch. All rights reserved.