Department or Program

Political Science

Primary Wellesley Thesis Advisor

Stacie Goddard

Additional Advisor(s)

Paul MacDonald

Additional Advisor

Bill Joseph

Additional Advisor

Wes Watters


This thesis seeks to identify the circumstances in the postwar United States that allowed American foreign policymakers to pursue contradictory denazification programs in occupied Germany. On May 8, 1945, Germany transformed from a sovereign state to an occupied territory. The United States and its Allies were tasked with administering the agreed upon plans for occupation in Germany, predominantly focused on denazification and reconstruction. In the American zone, the Occupying Military Government’s plans for denazification and reconstruction affected segments of the population very differently. While low-ranking public officials were banned from public service due to their ties to the Nazi regime, powerful industrialists and governmental leaders were gradually welcomed back into positions of responsibility with the government. How did the US government justify its inconsistent enforcement of the Nazi purge and what enabled them to pursue these policies? I argue that the unsettled narrative landscape of postwar America made such contradictions tenable in a chaotic political climate. Through a cultural study of American popular media from 1939-1950, I identify the three dominant narratives of “the German” in the US during this time and show how each of these narratives were used to legitimate different reconstruction policies in US-occupied Germany.