“Since wars begin in the minds of men, it is in the minds of men that the defences of peace must be constructed.” (UNESCO, 1946)

“[…] no matter what rearrangements of an economic, political or geographical nature are made in an effort to eliminate the German menace to peace, no settlement will be permanent nor effective unless basic changes occur in the German culture.” (OMGUS, “A Report on Our Problem in Germany” (1946): p. 4)

In 1945 Britain and America sent occupation armies comprising thousands of soldiers to reconstruct the country they had just bombed. In both armies, there were writers and filmmakers sent in military uniform (some of them former Germans or Austrians) alongside professional civil servants and soldiers. In some cases, they were chosen because of their profession; it was clear to both governments that literature and film were going to be essential in converting the Germans to western democracy and in competing with Russia. In others, they were selected simply because they spoke German (often following visits in the 1920s and 30s when Germany was a favourite destination for young British liberals). These figures included the writers John Bayley, Peter de Mendelssohn, Goronwy Rees, Stephen Spender and Rex Warner and the filmmakers Alberto Cavalcanti and Humphrey Jennings from Britain, and the writers W.H. Auden, James Stern and Carl Zuckmayer and the filmmakers Erich Pommer and Billy Wilder from America.

This project investigates the cross-fertilisation of Anglo/American and German literature and film during the Allied Occupation of Germany between the end of the war and the creation of the Federal Republic of Germany in 1949. It is the first study to survey in detail the cultural landscape of the British and American zones of Germany, exploring in particular the British and American writers and filmmakers who worked in Germany during the Occupation, either as part of the Allied Control Commissions or as independent (although rarely neutral) participants. By doing so it aims to offer a new interpretative framework for postwar culture, in particular in three areas: the history of the Allied Occupation of Germany; the history of postwar Anglophone and Germanophone literature (arguing the two were more intertwined than has previously been suggested); and the history of the relationship between postwar and Cold War and of the creation of a united Europe.

We are supported by the European Research Council with a generous five year Starting Grant. This enables the work of the research team at King’s (funding the Principal Investigator Dr Lara Feigel, two postdoctoral researchers Dr Elaine Morley and Dr Emily Oliver and two PhD students (Julia Vossen and Hanja Dämon) as well as our administrator Helena Metslang). It also enables us to draw on the expertise of a wider network of experts from the UK, the US and Germany.