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1 This article was downloaded by: [ ] On: 07 July 2015, At: 22:56 Publisher: Routledge Informa Ltd Registered in England and Wales Registered Number: Registered office: 5 Howick Place, London, SW1P 1WG Women's History Review Publication details, including instructions for authors and subscription information: Language no obstacle : war brides in the German press, Raingard Esser a a University of the West of England, Bristol, United Kingdom Published online: 10 Sep To cite this article: Raingard Esser (2003) Language no obstacle : war brides in the German press, , Women's History Review, 12:4, To link to this article: PLEASE SCROLL DOWN FOR ARTICLE Taylor & Francis makes every effort to ensure the accuracy of all the information (the Content ) contained in the publications on our platform. However, Taylor & Francis, our agents, and our licensors make no representations or warranties whatsoever as to the accuracy, completeness, or suitability for any purpose of the Content. Any opinions and views expressed in this publication are the opinions and views of the authors, and are not the views of or endorsed by Taylor & Francis. The accuracy of the Content should not be relied upon and should be independently verified with primary sources of information. Taylor and Francis shall not be liable for any losses, actions, claims, proceedings, demands, costs, expenses, damages, and other liabilities whatsoever or howsoever caused arising directly or indirectly in connection with, in relation to or arising out of the use of the Content. This article may be used for research, teaching, and private study purposes. Any substantial or systematic reproduction, redistribution, reselling, loan, sub-licensing, systematic supply, or distribution in any form to anyone is expressly forbidden. Terms & Conditions of access and use can be found at

2 Women s History Review, Volume 12, Number 4, 2003 Language No Obstacle : war brides in the German press, RAINGARD ESSER University of the West of England, Bristol, United Kingdom Downloaded by [ ] at 22:56 07 July 2015 ABSTRACT German war brides are an essential part in the cultural memory of post-war West Germany. This study sheds some light on the representation of war brides in German newspapers and magazines published in the American and British zones between 1945/46 and It argues that German American marriages were utilised to demonstrate and to enhance the good relations between the former enemies and contributed to the popularisation of the American Dream. The war bride theme also promoted the image of the new German woman: She was stylish, modern and devoted to her husband. The presentation of German American couples ignored issues such as race, prostitution, or divorce, but painted a romantic picture of married life in the Land of the Free. For German women the immediate post-war years were times of great upheaval and dramatic change. The War had catapulted them from the adoring wife and self-sacrificing mother of Nazi ideology to the head of household and sole breadwinner while their fathers and husbands were fighting on battlefields all over the world. By the end of the War more than three million German soldiers had died and seven million German men were interned as prisoners of war.[1] Consequently, women continued to replace men in what were usually regarded as men s jobs in public transport, factories and government administration. The Trümmerfrau, with apron, headscarf and hammer, clearing away the rubble of devastated German cities and thus paving the way for a better future in the new Germany became one of the most powerful icons of West German post-war reconstruction.[2] The need to make a living often not only for themselves, but for dependants too, in a situation of extreme poverty and shortages also created another, less favourable image of post-war German women. Fräulein Veronika Dankeschön became the wayward sister of the Trümmerfrau. In American 577

3 Raingard Esser military circles Veronika Dankeschön was a euphemism for venereal diseases and their spread in almost epidemic proportions, particularly among the American occupation forces in post-war Germany. Prostitution was widespread and very welcome to ordinary soldiers.[3] For obvious reasons, army officers and American government officials were less pleased with these developments and launched an aggressive media campaign against prostitution and German American sexual relations in their zone. In countless cartoons and articles Veronika Dankeschön was depicted as a disease-ridden seductress. She was at best naively immoral and hungry for sex, at worst an Aryan siren who used her sexual powers to undermine the American victory through an attack on the soldiers morale and virility. The stereotype of the German woman as a prostitute was not restricted to discourse among Americans. It was also part of the strategy of German males in coming to terms not only with the harsh reality that their women sold their bodies for a living on which many German men depended. It also served as an excuse for the difficulty of these erstwhile Herrenmenschen and heads of household in coming to terms with their reduced status.[4] However, the new American policy in Europe after the War also had implications for perceptions of German women. It aimed to turn West Germany into a reliable Western ally in the increasingly hostile climate between the Western powers and the Soviet Union at the beginning of the Cold War. The reconstruction of Germany and the establishment of a German American alliance against a perceived communist threat required a shift in the gender relations of the early occupation: German women had to be transformed from the objects of illegitimate sexual relations to legitimate, loyal wives, deeply rooted in what were regarded as American virtues such as democracy and liberty. The American re-education programmes specifically targeted women, identified by American intelligence officers as the backbone of Hitler s success. Courses in democracy and support for the establishment of democratic women s organisations in Germany, therefore, ranked high on the American agenda for post-war Germany.[5] At the same time, the German press in the occupation zones was used to rehabilitate women who had liaisons with Americans and to encourage legitimate relationships as a powerful symbol of German American friendship. The present article aims to shed some light on the strategies employed to promote this agenda. It does so by analysing the portrayal of American war brides in German newspapers and magazines. The aim is to understand whether and how the phenomenon of the war bride still a prominent feature in West Germany s folk memory of the post-war era was presented and exploited so as to create a new, more positive image of German women, of America and of the good relations between the two. It therefore feeds into two historiographical discourses: the debate about Americanisation and 578

4 WAR BRIDES IN THE GERMAN PRESS Westernisation in Germany, and the study of gender roles in post-war German society. The influence of American culture on the development of West German society was and is regarded as the most important characteristic of post-war West Germany. Americanisation became the watchword in the analysis of cultural change in the young West German republic.[6] The importance and the degree of Americanisation as an element of this change and its relevance for the identity of the new West Germany is, however, still debated among historians.[7] The slogan itself is not an invention of post-war academics, but can be detected in writings on German American relations or, more specifically on German perceptions on these relations since the nineteenth century. Depending on the political outlook of the respective interpreter, America itself, meaning the United States of America, offered a whole set of differing connotations, stereotypes and ideals, which ranged from demonisation to glorification. These connotations had, however, remained remarkably stable since the days of German mass migration to the Promised Land in the mid-nineteenth century.[8] Technical and scientific progress, modernity and the spirit of everything is possible were as much a part of this perception as was the verdict that America was a society without culture, a society which was dominated by mass entertainment and mass production. This repertoire not only survived the anti-american propaganda of the National Socialists, it was, in part, even utilised by the Nazis for their own purposes.[9] German American relations, therefore, did not develop in an ideological and cultural no-man s-land after Long traditions and well-known stereotypes could be re-employed both in the American re-education programmes and by their German cultural agents. Besides these official measures taken to create a new Germany on the basis of American interpretations of freedom and democracy, Germans learned about their former enemies from informal contacts and lines of communication in the everyday life between occupied and occupiers. The daily routine of German American relations in occupied West Germany has been studied especially by oral historians in recent years.[10] German women, in particular, played a prominent part in the development of mutual relations. As one contemporary, Frau Marquart, remembered, Die ersten menschlichen Kontakte mit den Alliierten sind über uns Frauen gelaufen (The first human contacts with the allies were established by us women).[11] In many cases these relationships led to friendship, love and marriage between German women and American GIs. At the same time, the role of women in the new, post-war Germany was under discussion. In spite of the above-mentioned gender disparity, public discourse on women favoured a return to normality in the form of traditional family structures and family values. Notwithstanding the high proportion of independent, working women, marriage and motherhood were quickly enshrined again as the true 579

5 Raingard Esser female vocation both in newspaper articles and in public debates about the new Germany and its people. In what follows, the war bride theme and its presentation in the press will be analysed in the light of the promotion and re-establishment of traditional gender roles, based, on the part of the woman, on the image of the adoring housewife and spouse. At the same time, the new German woman was fitted into the concept of the American Dream, based on modernity, affluence and consumerism. The new German woman, as will appear, was refashioned as a stylish export commodity, for whom the American Dream would come true.[12] A selection of newspapers and magazines has been chosen for this analysis. In the American zone the Neue Zeitung, America s flagship in Germany, which was licensed by American officials and published in Munich, has been selected as the most influential and widely read newspaper during the occupation. The Neue Zeitung was immensely successful. It sold 1,328,000 copies during the first eight months after its appearance and reached about three times as many readers of both sexes.[13] The Süddeutsche Zeitung, likewise published in Munich, has also been included. The format and journalistic style of the Süddeutsche Zeitung were copied from the Neue Zeitung. It eventually replaced the Neue Zeitung as the most widely read paper in the American zone. Among the magazines issued under American auspices in the American zone, Heute, a publication which was designed as a German copy of America s successful Life magazine and published from 1946 onwards, reached the widest readership in Germany. Heute was issued as an illustrated complement to the Neue Zeitung and aimed specifically to reinforce the American re-education strategy for Germany. The magazine appeared twice a month and was specifically designed for a non-academic, female readership.[14] The Schwäbische Illustrierte, another magazine published under American auspices in Stuttgart from 1946, has also been chosen.[15] For publications issued under British licence in their zone, Die Welt, the leading newspaper in British-occupied Germany and strongly backed by British officials, has been analysed. The magazines Neue Illustrierte and Der Spiegel, issued in Cologne and in Hamburg respectively, have been included as a control so as to establish whether German American marriages were only featured in the American zone or whether the phenomenon was also acknowledged outside their zone. The Neue Illustrierte, issued from 1 January 1946 onwards, clearly tried to emulate the Munich Heute and aimed to attract a wide readership by multi-page picture features and short stories written by popular, mostly American, authors. Der Spiegel, issued regularly from 1 January 1947 onwards, fed its readership with similarly colourful stories. Lastly, the two most important regional newspapers of post-war Germany, the Frankfurter Rundschau, issued in the American zone, and the 580

6 WAR BRIDES IN THE GERMAN PRESS Aachener Nachrichten of the British zone, have been included so as to establish whether this kind of news could also be found in publications with a restricted circulation and with more limited resources and funding. Crucial for German American marriages were the years 1946 and 1947, which saw the introduction of a whole wave of new rules and regulations concerning relations between occupiers and occupied. The analysis will therefore focus on the press coverage of these years, but it will also be extended to cover the last two years of the allied occupation and the first years of the Federal Republic of Germany. At the onset, some preliminarly remarks are in order to outline the administrative process by which a war bride (or, more correctly, a post-war bride) became the legal spouse of an American GI and ultimately an American citizen herself. In some cases, it was men who followed their American fiancées across the Atlantic. But the great majority of transatlantic marriages were made by a German bride and an American bridegroom.[16] Initially, American planners of post-war politics in Europe had not considered the fact that their soldiers in occupied Germany might fall in love and want to marry German girls. As early as September 1944 the Americans had issued a decree which forbade any contact between American soldiers and German civilians in any form. Soon after the end of the War, however, the Joint Chiefs of Staff realised that it was impossible to prohibit all contact with Germans and, consequently, on 14 July 1945, General Eisenhower officially allowed conversations in public between Germans and Americans. On 1 October 1945 all other sanctions limiting relations between Germans and Americans were lifted by the Allied Control Council. With the exception of overnight stays in German households and marriages between Germans and Americans, the wartime-mission of Non-Fraternization was lifted. However, American officials were still ordered to discourage private American German relations. The policy of avoiding contact wherever possible with the occupied nation was only abandoned at the beginning of the Cold War in 1947 when it seemed more advisable to win the Germans over by friendship and cooperation. Now, American soldiers were officially expected to act as ambassadors of the Land of the Free and to set a positive example for Germans. Despite these restrictions, however, it seems that mutual interest in long-term relationships spread immediately after the War was over. According to US statistics, 15,028 German brides, bridegrooms, fiancées and fiancés entered the USA between 1946 and An even greater number of prospective marriage partners failed in their efforts to overcome the substantial bureaucratic hurdles posed by the American administration before the issue of marriage permits for their soldiers. The Frankfurter Rundschau highlighted the discrepancies between successful and unsuccessful marriage applications in an issue dated 29 May 1947: on page 581

7 Raingard Esser 3 under the headline Fast 200 Ehen genehmigt (Almost 200 marriages accepted) the paper wrote: Wie das amerikanische Hauptquartier bekanntgibt, wurden von 474 im Monat April eingereichten deutsch-amerikanischen Heiratsanträgen 199 genehmigt. Seit der Aufhebung des Heiratsverbots zwischen Amerikanern und Deutschen wurden bis Ende April 1200 Anträge von Amerikanern gestellt, von denen 355 bisher genehmigt wurden. Während im März nur 24 Ehen zwischen Amerikanern und Deutschen geschlossen worden waren, hat sich die Zahl der Eheschließungen im April auf 168 erhöht. Downloaded by [ ] at 22:56 07 July 2015 (As announced by American headquarters, 199 out of 474 applications for marriage permits between Germans and Americans have been accepted. Since the lifting of the marriage ban between Americans and Germans 1200 applications have been made by Americans up to the end of April. So far, 355 have been accepted. In March only 24 German American marriages were concluded. In April this figure has risen to 168.) German women (and men), in spite of all these difficulties, formed the second biggest group of marriage partners to GIs in the former war regions. They were only outnumbered by the 34,944 British war brides who followed their American spouses into the USA.[17] As a reaction to the flood of marriage applications which reached the American authorities from all parts of the former theatres of war from summer 1945 onwards, legal steps were taken to organise this unexpected American interest in their former allies and enemies. In December 1945 the American War Brides Act was issued. From then on spouses and children of American soldiers were allowed to enter the USA outside the respective quota of their country of origin.[18] Additions to this act were made in 1946, which then included alien fiancées and fiancés.[19] Germans, however, were excluded from these regulations until January Members of the American armed forces who were married to German women could then claim the same family allowances which their comrades from other non-american families received. However, they were still forbidden to live in a German household, even when run by their German wife. Within the first month of marriage, the GI had to leave Germany. Upon marriage German wives and the German American children were allowed to use American military hospitals in Germany. They could accompany their husbands to American clubs and cinemas. These privileges were regarded as very generous. They meant a lot in a society which was reduced to the basic medical standards provided by the allies and which certainly had little to offer in regard to entertainment, films and clubs. The importance of these new regulations was underlined in their detailed publication in the Neue Zeitung. The War Brides Act was reviewed for 582

8 WAR BRIDES IN THE GERMAN PRESS German brides on 30 June 1947, a few days before its initial expiry date.[20] Initially, the American bridegroom had to acquire a ninety-day visa for his bride. He was also expected to leave a deposit of $500 in case things went wrong. If the couple were not married within these ninety days, the American authorities kept the deposit and the German woman was forced to return home. These requirements were dropped in the new regulations. Now, before a visa was issued, both partners had to swear a formal oath that they would marry as soon as possible. Visas were now given under the new German immigration quota, which permitted 26,000 immigrants per year. The marriage permit remained an essential requirement for the issue of a visa. Before a permit was given the bride had to undergo an often painful and embarrassing medical test in the American base. She had to demonstrate a clean political and moral record. Members of any communist party or association or ex-members of any former Nazi organisation, including youth organisations such as the BDM (Bund Deutscher Mädchen), were excluded. These restrictions were also extended to the parents of the bride. The prospective bride needed the written testimony of a respected referee, usually a pastor or priest, who testified to her good moral conduct. All certificates had to be translated into English. Even when these hurdles had been overcome it still remained at the discretion of the respective American headquarters to accept or to refuse the application. If the application was successful, a race against time began. The bride had to leave Germany within the following two months, but it was difficult to organise a transatlantic passage. German shipping lines no longer existed, and often the women were expected to board one of the carriers of the American navy or an American aeroplane. After her marriage the German spouse lost her German passport, in accordance with a German law which was only altered in Yet she could only acquire American citizenship after two years in the country. A return to Germany was, therefore, rather difficult. Children from her marriage would automatically be American citizens, but sons and daughters from previous marriages had to acquire separate visas under the German quota. They often had to stay behind with relatives: sometimes they came later, sometimes never. There was a growing interest in German American marriages, despite all the bureaucratic hurdles. In 1988 two American academics, themselves daughters of GIs and foreign women, undertook a large-scale oral history project on the topic and interviewed hundreds of war brides from different nationalities. Amongst other things they wanted to know what made the American soldiers so attractive in the eyes of European or Japanese women. Here is one typical reply: Long before I met my husband-to-be I was fascinated by these young men: they seemed so carefree, happy, and well fed, friendly, gentle with children and animals. At an outdoor cafe, they would sit and drink their 583

9 Raingard Esser Coca-Cola from a straw, while reading Funny Books : I wish I could erase all the sad memories of the past years and act as young and spirited as they did. (Hilde Robichaud, 18 years old in 1945)[21] The German actress, Anneliese Uhlig, who married the American Lt. Douglas Tucker in 1948, remembered: When those GIs came, we thought they were gorgeous! They had beautiful teeth, they were so healthy, clean and well fed. Do you know how long it had been since we had seen a man who wasn t crippled in some way?[22] The attraction of these young men from America with chocolates, nylons, chewing gum and cigarettes and with their connections to the authorities in occupied Germany which outshone their German competitors on the marriage market is by now a well-researched fact of German post-war history.[23] German women often constructed stereotypes of the American soldiers as carefree and exotic. This in turn helped to legitimise their own poverty-driven activities. The then sixteen year-old Maria Reed summarised the advantages of an American contact in the ruins of Frankfurt am Main in 1946: We had little of anything. My mother s friend was doing laundry for the GIs and was paid with coffee, cigarettes, soap and other items we could not get. She had more customers than she could take care of, so my mother, who used to have her own laundry and ironing done, started doing laundry for the Americans also, for the same kind of pay. This way she could trade cigarettes for potatoes, etc., and our life was better. This way I met a few American men and could observe the difference between American and German men. It was obvious how much American men appreciated women. They were generous, complimentary and thoughtful in such a casual way, which was a totally different behavior pattern than that of German men. They always looked good in their uniforms and smelled good. I think all Americans used Old Spice After Shave.[24] In addition to the economic advantages which the Americans had to offer, demographic facts also played into their hands. After the War women by far outnumbered men in Germany, with seven million more women than men in the country. For every 100 men there were 171 women in the age group, and 153 in the age group.[25] At the same time, women were often confronted with German ex-servicemen who could not cope with a lost war or the extreme experiences they had encountered at the front.[26] Here again, the Americans, especially the forces which were sent to Germany after the War and which had not seen combat or the atrocities of the Nazi regime, were regarded as much more light-hearted, optimistic and easy-going partners. 584

10 WAR BRIDES IN THE GERMAN PRESS However, the enthusiasm that some of the interviewed women displayed for their American boyfriends was not shared unanimously in postwar Germany. Often women who were seen going out with Americans or other occupiers were ostracised in their German neighbourhood. Gia Hawthorne remembered: Boys cut German girls hair off to show they were Ami-whores, which is what they called us. The boys I knew wouldn t even look at me and a couple of my girlfriends would only talk to me when they were sure nobody was around to see them. People dumped garbage in front of our door. At the store they made you wait longer. [Shukert& Scibetta, War Brides, p. 126]] The label Ami-whore was applied indiscriminately to prostitutes and to women who merely worked in an American facility, even if the latter had no contact with GIs outside their job. The public perception of German women liaising with American soldiers was often negative and fuelled by Nazi sentiments. Public posters denounced women for sleeping with the enemy.[28] Public hostility concerning German American sexual relations is perhaps best epitomised in the radio speach of Karl Scharnagel, mayor of Munich, who, on 6 October 1946, expressed his disgust about the infamy, decay and corruption among the women of his city.[28] Criticism not only came from male members of German society. Other women were often also critical of these relationships. In an interview with the historian, Lutz Niethammer, Frau Koslowski remembered: Also ehrlich, wenn ich ein deutsches Mädchen gesehen habe, die mit so nem Ausländer ging, die hab ich richtig verabscheut. (Honestly, when I saw a German girl going out with such a foreigner, I really detested her.)[29] However, some women in interviews with Shukert & Scibetta vividly recalled the thoroughly ambivalent messages they got from friends and families when they were going out with Americans. Relatives were often critical, but would secretly support the relationship because in many cases it provided a necessary lifeline for basic physical survival.[30] Public discourse on German American liaisons was also fuelled from the American side. In the early years of the occupation, The Stars and Stripes, a magazine published regularly for American forces overseas, launched a strong campaign against German women, who were portrayed as disease-ridden seductresses. The stereotypical German woman in American magazines was a blond, beautiful Aryan, who was lascivious and lustful. Fragments of the Nazi ideology such as the patriotic baby programme fed into this image and added to the portrait of German women as willing and eager to have unrestricted sex. In America, Life magazine issued a series of 585

11 Raingard Esser similar reports on the sexual availability of German women. Their respectability was under constant attack.[31] The official German press, however, painted a completely different picture of the German Fräuleins, die ihren GIs... nachreisen (who went after their GIs).[32] In line with the American strategy to integrate former enemies into their alliance against communism, German American couples were quickly rebranded as symbols of successful reconciliation between old wartime enemies. Usually the German bride was portrayed as willingly and wholeheartedly embracing the American way of life offered by her husband and happy to leave Germany for a better country. She was young, optimistic and eager to abandon a grim and painful past. And she genuinely loved her husband and all that he represented. All the papers under review covered the war bride theme. Not surprisingly, the coverage was more extensive in the American zone, but papers issued under British licence also featured German American couples frequently. A closer look at the magazines and journals issued under American or British licence after the War shows that in these publications, the theme of German American love and romance played a greater part than in the newspapers. Background information on culture and society and human interest stories were the essential features. The two regional newspapers included in this study, the Frankfurter Rundschau and the Aachener Nachrichten, hardly ever covered the subject. In the Frankfurter Rundschau the topic only appeared in two brief notes (previously quoted) about the numbers of marriage licences issued and on the extension of the American War Brides Act on 1 July The Aachener Nachrichten covered the subject more tersely than its American equivalent. In only one issue, on 15 October 1946, did the paper announce the first German American marriage.[33] Regional papers such as the Frankfurter Rundschau and the Aachener Nachrichten were even more adversely affected by the prevailing shortages of all kinds. They were thinner and the Aachener Nachrichten in particular was unable for a long time to appear on a regular basis. Thus, its news coverage was generally restricted to the most important items of information and, clearly, this did not include German American romances. The coverage of the war bride theme in the publications under review falls into three chronological phases which correspond with official American policy and the general political climate of the post-war years. From 1946 to autumn 1947 German American couples were featured generously and positively. From mid- to late 1947 until late 1948 the tenor of the press coverage was to represent the war bride as part of German American everyday life and as a symbol of the successful reconciliation of former enemy nations. From late 1948 onwards reports became much more critical 586

12 WAR BRIDES IN THE GERMAN PRESS and touched on unpopular topics such as illegitimate children and single mothers. The Neue Zeitung published features on war brides from 1946 onwards. Changes in laws and regulations on German American marriages usually appeared on the front page of the respective edition.[34] New laws were printed along with detailed comments. Other forms of German American amorous or sexual relations such as prostitution, the rise of venereal diseases (recurring subjects in The Stars and Stripes) or the problem of illegitimate children were not discussed at this stage. German women and their American partners only appeared in the paper as prospective marriage partners. The rehabilitation of former enemies to faithful allies was carefully orchestrated: On the front page of the issue for 14 October 1946 the Neue Zeitung published a report about Anna Maria Heinke, who als erstes deutsches Mädchen vom Vereinigten Reise- und Sicherheitsausschuß die Einreisegenehmigung in die Vereinigten Staaten [erhielt], um einen Amerikaner zu heiraten (as the first German girl who got a visa from the Vereinigten Reise- und Sicherheitsausschuß for the United States to marry an American). Five weeks later, on 25 November, the paper printed on its last page a photograph of the happy and smiling couple on their arrival in the USA.[35] Anna Maria Heinke s father had died in a Nazi concentration camp. For the American public his daughter, although from a formerly hostile nation, could be presented as an acceptable partner for an American and her marriage to Robert Lauenstein raised no worries about Nazi contamination. Anna Maria Heinke and her story appeared in the Süddeutsche, in an article titled The First German War Bride, a day after the Neue Zeitung had covered the story.[36] The story included plans by the German American couple for their later life in the USA. It also offered detailed information on the legal position of Anna Heinke in the event that the marriage did not take place.[37] Photographs of smiling German girls departing from Germany or arriving in the USA became increasingly popular. On page 8 in the issue for 7 March 1947, the Neue Zeitung published a photograph of three laughing Berlin girls under its daily column Bilder vom Tage (Pictures of the Day). The picture was taken upon their arrival at New York s La Guardia airport, where the women were met by their American fiancés. Two weeks later, on 28 March, the paper published the picture of the first German American marriage celebrated in Munich in the same column and congratulated the happy and proud couple, Vernon and Anna Martens. The bride was shown in an elegant white bridal dress, her husband posed in uniform.[38] On 19 May 1947, the paper printed on page 1 the picture of a smiling young Sonja Kirchberger from Bremen, who had just arrived in New York als glückliche Braut eines Amerikaners (as the happy bride of an American). In its issue no. 25, 1947, the Schwäbische Illustrierte also published a picture of the 587

13 Raingard Esser youngest German war bride, die nach den Vereinigten Staaten flog, um dort einen ehemaligen Angehörigen der Besatzungstruppen zu heiraten (who travelled to the United States to marry a former member of the occupational forces). The sixteen year-old girl from Regensburg, who smiled confidently into the camera, was quoted as saying, Ich weiß, was ich will! Los! Start! (I know what I want! Come on! Let s go!)[39] Both the pictures and the captions display a powerful message: German women en route to America are young, optimistic, courageous and eager for a fresh start. They are well dressed and have stylish haircuts. Nothing in their outfit reminds the viewer of Germany s Nazi past or the deprivations of their present lives. America was, obviously, their dream destination. The most outspoken portrayal of this new woman is, perhaps, presented in the Neue Illustrierte. In its 15 November 1946 issue the magazine introduced a column called Jugend am Scheideweg (youth at the crossroads), which discusses the disillusioned German youth looking for new role models and ideals after the political lies of the Hitler-years.[40] Under this heading it presented the story of the transformation of the unscheinbare Maria S. in das Mädchen Mary, das sich aus ausländischen Zeitschriften Vorbilder sucht... und deren heimlicher Traum es ist, Deutschland den Rücken zu kehren, um mit Joe drüben ein neues Leben zu beginnen (mousy Maria S. to the girl Mary, who reads foreign magazines to find role models, and whose secret dream is to turn her back on Germany and start a new life over there with Joe).[41] Mary s story is accompanied by three pictures illustrating this mutation. She is first shown as Mariechen, thus the caption of the picture showing her in an apron peeling potatoes. The second picture shows her elegantly dressed and permed, with jewellery and cigarette, casually lying on a sofa while reading a magazine (certainly an issue of the Neue Illustrierte). The last photograph shows a set of props necessary to support the image of the New Mary: cigarette case, lighter, lipstick and a framed photograph of Joe, a young man in uniform. More than a month before the declaration of the new War Brides Act, the prospect of a marriage with a member of the Allied forces was presented as a very viable alternative to life in Germany. The portrait of Mary fits into one general trend of German magazines, which presented a new female role model based on the flapper of the 1920s. The new German girl was elegant, playful, young and sexy. She had completely dropped her former identity as a BDM-Mädel in uniform and plaits.[42] However, in contrast to the flapper, she was expected to marry rather than to lead an independent life, and this seemed to be the ideal for Mary as well.[43] On 13 June 1947 the Neue Zeitung featured on its front page a photograph taken at Frankfurt airport and showing 42 deutsche Mädchen und 5 Kinder (42 German girls and five children) boarding an aeroplane heading for their husbands and fiancés in America. The picture, headlined 588

14 WAR BRIDES IN THE GERMAN PRESS Mädchen fliegen über den Atlantik (Girls fly over the Atlantic), was obviously regarded as an eyecatcher for German readers. Dena, the photoagency responsible for the shot, sold it to almost all publications under review.[44] Here, the women s stylish outfits are juxtaposed with the shining modernity of an American overseas airliner (the label is clearly visible on the photograph). To the onlooker, the women s mounting of the gangway could and certainly did evoke associations of success and an elevation from a mere existence and struggle for survival to life itself. On 13 June 1947 the Neue Illustrierte commented on the picture, Drüben lockt eine neue Heimat, ohne Ruinen, Hunger, Frieren, ein leuchtendes Land, auf das Amerikaner, alte wie neue, stolz sind (over there lies a new home without ruins, without hunger, without cold, a shining country, the pride of Americans both old and new).[45] Here again, the caption portrayed the war brides as eager and willing to shake off their old identity and to become new Americans. This new American identity included their new roles as loving wives of American servicemen. The ascent to God s own country, Der Spiegel s caption under the picture on page 5 of its 7 June 1947 issue, is as clear as the road to this place: Es ist eine Kleinigkeit, eine weite Reise zu wagen, wenn man am Ende geheiratet wird (It is a small matter to make a long journey when you are married at the end).[46] The Neue Zeitung published the picture together with another photograph which showed a group of female Polish Displaced Persons women who had been forced to work in German factories and farms during the Nazi regime. They were boarding another aeroplane en route to Canada, where they had signed up for two years work in a textile factory. The close connection between former oppressors and their victims is somewhat stifling. Moreover, while the German girls are physically and, perhaps, symbolically in the ascendant, the Polish women are depicted on the ground and not, as their German counterparts, on the gangway. For the German reader this would seem to suggest that the choice for German girls was much better, since they would not end up as temporary textile workers in a foreign country, but as beloved wives of caring American husbands. In January 1947 the Neue Illustrierte extolled the advantages of the new War Brides Act and highlighted the story of yet another German American couple William H. Zettel and Elisabeth Buttner on the gangway of the American Overseas Airlines.[47] In the same issue the Neue Illustrierte covered an American opinion poll on the attitudes of GIs towards Germans which was organised and undertaken by the American Red Cross. According to this poll, the estimation of Germans by GIs rose with their length of stay in the country. Some 80% of all the soldiers who had been stationed in various European and non-european countries preferred to be based in Germany. They praised the friendliness of the Germans, ihren Lebensmut in einer zerstörten Welt, ihre Fähigkeit beim Wiederaufbau und 589

15 Raingard Esser ihr Organisationstalent (their courage in a devastated world, their capabilities in the reconstruction process and their organisational talents). These observations were commented on by the Neue Illustrierte: Es ist sehr gut, daß diese Eigenschaften der Deutschen so lebendig sind. Aber es ist noch besser, daß die Besatzungssoldaten diese Eigenschaften bemerken und danach ihre Haltung einstellen. Die Bösewichter, die den deutschen Namen in Verruf gebracht haben, sind heute tot oder hinter Schloß und Riegel. Es scheint so, als ob das neue Jahr uns eine neue Luft zum Atmen schenken möchte. Wir brauchen sie. Downloaded by [ ] at 22:56 07 July 2015 (It is splendid that these characteristics are so much alive among the Germans. But it is even better that the occupying soldiers recognise these features and reverse their attitudes towards us accordingly. The villains who have discredited the German reputation are either dead or behind bars these days. It seems as if the new year will give us fresh breathing space. We need it.) It was obvious, so the paper suggested, that the smiling couple in the photograph was light years away from the above-mentioned villains, clearly used here as a euphemism for the National Socialists.[48] Fraulein Elisabeth represented the new Germany looking optimistically into a bright and shiny future. It is only here, and indirectly, that German qualities are associated with war brides en route to America. Courage in a devastated world, capability in the reconstruction process and organisational talents were certainly attributes which were associated with the German women who crossed the Atlantic. In its 29 March 1947 edition, the Süddeutsche Zeitung appealed to the local pride of its readership. Under the picture of a smiling German American couple, the story of Frieda Schneider, Ein Münchner Kindl, was told. Miss Schneider was engaged to an American Sergeant, Charles Huard, and wanted to follow him to Vermont as soon as possible. She was currently learning English. The trained hairdresser had always dreamt of going to the USA. Then the War seemed to shatter these hopes. Now, after the couple had overcome all bureaucratic hurdles, they wanted to marry as soon as possible. On this rare occasion, the American fiancé was given the chance to comment about this important step to a new life. He promised that his new wife would be welcome in her new home: meine Familie freut sich schon seit Monaten auf den Tag, an dem ich meine bayerische Frau endlich nach Hause bringe. Wenn sie das Heimweh überwunden hat, wird sie bald eine glückliche Amerikanerin sein. (My family has been waiting for months for the day when I finally bring my Bavarian wife home. Once she has overcome her homesickness she will be a happy American.)[49] 590

16 WAR BRIDES IN THE GERMAN PRESS It certainly appealed to the Bavarian readership of the paper that Frieda Schneider was specifically called Bavarian rather than German. On a more subtle note, Bavarian would not have the same resonances in regard to German qualities, which for many Americans and Germans would still be associated with Nazi ideology. The description of Frieda Schneider as Bavarian would ease her integration into the new country. What was expected from Frieda was a quick adaptation to the American way of life. From her own perspective, her marriage was the realisation of a long-held dream. In Shukert & Scibetta s interviews, many German war brides tried to conceal their German identity either by identifying themselves according to the specific region from which they came, hoping that their new friends and relatives in the USA only had a limited knowledge of European geography. Others called themselves Austrian or Swiss to avoid animosities.[50] Some articles also covered unusual cases in which the bride was a member of the occupying forces and her bridegroom a German civilian. In May 1947 Der Spiegel presented the story of Wilhelm Müller, who married the American officer Thelma Damerian. The article started with the sentence, Nicht nur den Fräuleins, sondern auch den deutschen Männern steht auf dem Umweg über den Altar das gelobte Land Amerika offen (Not only for Fräuleins, but also for German men one road to the promised land America leads via the altar). In this case the promised land offered the forty year-old engineer not only a forty-two year-old bride, but, as the magazine pointed out, her brand new car and a modern house.[51] How much German American couples were seen as part and parcel of Germany s post-war society is apparent from a report on Nachkriegsehen in Deutschland (marriages in post-war Germany) included in the Neue Zeitung on 29 December The report set aside a column under the heading Sprache kein Hindernis (language no obstacle) for a series on German American couples. Their problems seemed to be in no way different from the difficulties which other couples faced in post-war Germany: housing shortages, problems of overcrowding and the integration of refugees. Generally speaking, the institution of marriage was regarded as being under serious threat due to the difficult circumstances of the time. However, the portrait of a young widow from Heidelberg, who had lost her first husband in the War and was now going to marry an American GI, supplied a positive outlook on the future. Asked about her expectations for life over the next couple of years, the twenty-two year-old woman, who had a four year-old son from her previous marriage, was carefully optimistic: Das Leben drüben muß großartig und schön sein. Ich hoffe, daß mich die Amerikaner, die nicht zur Familie meines Mannes gehören, nicht als Fremde betrachten. Ich will mich hineinfinden in meine neue Heimat. Vor allem weiß ich, daß man überall arbeiten muß, wenn man etwas erreichen und geachtet werden will. Ich mache mir keine Illusionen. Ich 591

17 Raingard Esser will arbeiten und hart arbeiten. Aber wir haben uns gern und dann wird es schon gehen. Downloaded by [ ] at 22:56 07 July 2015 (Life over there must be marvellous and wonderful. I hope that the Americans outside my husband s family do not regard me as a stranger. I want to fit into my new home. Above all, I know that you have to work if you want to achieve something in life and to be respected. I have no illusions. I want to work and work hard. But we are very fond of each other and so everything will be fine.)[52] This intense belief in the American attributes of adaptability and hard work, however, is in stark contrast to the expectations of a nineteen year-old Bavarian farmer s daughter who was also interviewed in the same column. This young woman, who wanted to marry a twenty-four year-old civilian member of the American forces, in February 1948 had very distinct ideas about her new home, which she expected to be jedenfalls bedeutend angenehmer als in Deutschland (certainly much more pleasant than Germany). Her commitment to her new country baulked already at the learning of a new language: Wenn sich jemand mit mir unterhalten will, muß er eben deutsch lernen (if somebody wants to talk to me, he just has to learn German).[53] Generally, however, the women presented in papers and magazines were willing to trade their Germanness for a new American identity. In a feature about Frankfurt am Main, Die Hauptstadt von Bizonia (the Capital of the Bizone), in the Neue Illustrierte on 22 October 1947, relations between occupiers and occupied are described as a natural part of the city s everyday life. Here, a picture showed a woman at the fence which separated the American quarters from the rest of the city. She was waiting for a soldier who approached her from the other side of that fence. The Neue Illustrierte commented, Ein Blick in das Stadtbild zeigt, daß zwischen Amerikanern und Deutschen als Menschen der Zaun längst gefallen ist (A look at the daily routine in the city shows that the fences between German and American men and women have long been pulled down).[54] In October 1948 the story of the former American soldier, Angelo LaSalle, made headlines in the Neue Zeitung and in Heute. LaSalle was looking for his wartime rescuer, Heinz Horst Kupski. The American fighter pilot had been saved by the then German prisoner of war in the French Cheval Blanc in 1944 when his aircraft had caught fire. After the War he looked for and found Kupski. The story of these two men, die sich ohne Worte verstanden haben und mitten im Krieg Freunde geworden sind (who understood each other without words and became friends in the middle of the War), found its happy end with the marriage of LaSalle and his German fiancée, Ursula Reinhard. Heinz Horst Kupski was their witness. In this story, the German American marriage was taken as given. The prominent 592

18 WAR BRIDES IN THE GERMAN PRESS feature here was not the love story between an American man and a German woman, but the friendship between two men from former enemy nations. Here again, fragments of the American Dream are added: as a farewell present LaSalle offered Kuspki his nearly-new car.[55] Just like the Neue Zeitung, Heute soon presented German American marriages as an integral part of West German post-war society. In a series of interviews taken randomly at the main railway station, Stuttgart and published in the issue for 25 October 1950, the German American couple William and Sophia Theresia Cameron were asked about their main concerns then and now. Both blurted out simultaneously, Endlich Hochzeit (marriage at last) and told their love story, which had begun in Leipzig in With hints at the especially difficult and hostile situation in the former Soviet zone, the underlying emphasis now shifted from the Second World War and its consequences to the Cold War, which fitted perfectly into the general political and cultural atmosphere of the new West German republic.[56] When films became important items in magazines, the Hollywood comedy I Was a Male War Bride starring Cary Grant and Ann Sheridan was covered extensively by Heute and by the Neue Illustrierte. The German film Hallo Fräulein, with the German star Hildegard Knef, which featured German American romance, also received extensive coverage.[57] Although the number of German American marriages rose constantly in the years following, public interest as exemplified by press coverage declined. Romances between Germans and members of the occupying forces became part of everyday life in West Germany and so featured only on special occasions. Thus, on 9 September 1949 the Neue Illustrierte supplied a rather drastic example of devotion the case of an American exserviceman, Charles Eller, who tried to sell his eye to a clinic in order to finance the overseas passage of his German bride. The story had a happy ending: Eller s former comrades offered a generous donation not only for the bride s transatlantic passage but also for the maintenance of their new household so that the couple could marry unhindered.[58] This episode is typical of the changing character of reports about German American romances.[59] Stories of dramatic devotion now also had a political undercurrent which addressed the growing issue of the Cold War. E.J. Lada, for instance, was championed by the Neue Illustrierte, with reference to the then ongoing Berlin blockade, as blockade-runner for love : he travelled incognito several times through the Soviet zone simply to see his Berlin sweetheart. He slipped through the Soviet border control in Helmstedt and was only caught when he tried to get a residence permit at the American consulate in Berlin.[60] In both stories, German women are presented as precious objects of desire, for whom Americans would risk their lives, their 593

19 Raingard Esser health (but no longer in the form of venereal disease!) and their freedom.[61] From mid-1948 onwards, reports on German American relationships became more critical. The Neue Illustrierte reported on echte (true) and wilde (unruly) war brides on 28 May Under the headline Müssen Mädchen so sein? (Do girls have to be like this?) were three pictures showing German girls near the American base in Grafenwöhr. The true war bride, who was waiting for her fiancé, is presented sitting on a stool reading a book, while her unruly sisters in the two other photographs were camped on the ground in the woods with nothing better to do than put on some make-up. On 22 January 1949 Der Spiegel published a report about a German woman who had committed suicide with her two children and her mother after she had discovered that her American fiancé had broken their engagement. In the same issue, American army priests warned against the unstable character of many German American marriages. That a marriage with an American was now no longer perceived as the passport to a better life was the message of the story of young Margret Tucholski, presented by Der Spiegel in its issue for 6 February Under the headline Jeden Tag ein anderer boy (every day another boy), Der Spiegel featured the journey of a fifteen year-old girl from Cologne to the USA. She had been invited by her much older suitor, Daniel MacDonard, who had fallen in love with Margret while based in Germany. Although the girl, who is depicted smiling into the camera, is overwhelmed and greatly impressed by the American way of life, she nonetheless spurned the advances of her admirer and returned to her native Cologne with the words Ich werd schon noch nen jüngeren mitkriegen (I will certainly catch a younger one).[62] A few months earlier, the Neue Illustrierte had featured a similar case: although offered a brand new car and a new home, nineteen year-old Irmgard Grüneberg from Münster declined the proposal of her thirty-eight year-old American suitor.[63] The new West German Republic now seemed to offer what Hilde Robichaud and Anneliese Uhlig had missed so dearly only a few years before. Marriages between German women and black Americans were never mentioned in the papers and magazines. All the happy couples featured in the photographs were white. It is not yet clear at present how many German American post-war marriages were racially mixed. Shukert & Scibetta s oral history project has, however, revealed that applications for marriage by black soldiers were refused more often than applications from their white comrades. Many of them also got lost in the American bureaucracy. In German public memory, black American soldiers played a prominent part.[64] The omission of these soldiers and their relations with the German population in press coverage corresponds to the dropping of their cases in American office. In the papers under review black GIs with 594

20 WAR BRIDES IN THE GERMAN PRESS German women were featured only once. Der Spiegel on page 4 of its 3 April 1947 issue commented on the American joie de vivre expressed in that inventive dance, the Jitterbug. This comment accompanied two pictures of German American dancers at a party in Berlin s Delphi-Palace. Here, the American dancing partner is black. The photograph of dancing girls with highly swinging skirts met with some criticism among the Spiegel s readership. In a letter to the editor printed in the magazine s 17 April issue the writer commented on the scene, Der liebe Gott bewahre ihre Schönheit und schütze sie vor Seekrankheit, aber schenke ihnen recht bald eine andere Staatsangehörigkeit (God keep them as beautiful as they are and he protect them from seasickness, but may he also confer on them a new passport as soon as possible).[65] For this German male commentator, the German girls enthusiasm for the American way of life had clearly overstepped the bounds of morality and good taste and their misbehaviour was fuelled by the less respectable, wild black GIs. In May 1949 the Neue Illustrierte touched on a sensitive topic: the fate of illegitimate children of black GIs. On two illustrated pages the journal introduced a black-and-white kindergarten in Wiesbaden.[66] The Negerbabys living here had been abandoned by their fathers. Their mothers were often under age and/or lived in sheltered homes. Both the pictures and the texts appealed for compassion for these unwanted children. However, the descriptions often have racist undercurrents, such as the emphasis on the sturdy and robust nature of these Mischlingskinder (mongrels). The note about the often unstable mental condition of their mothers also hints at an assumption that only women of weak character could fall for Negersoldaten (Negro soldiers). The topic was covered in great depth in Der Spiegel s edition of 14 July The paper described the work of Käthe Nicak, who had devoted her life to help the unwanted children of black GIs. In Gießen, a small town in Hesse, Frau Nicak had opened a Haven of Hope for these children, of whom about 700 had hitherto lived in Hessian orphanages. The project included bilingual education and contacts with possible foster parents in the USA. Der Spiegel, as well as the Neue Zeitung, which also featured Frau Nicak s initiative on 8 July, appealed to compassion. They emphasised that the kleinen Negerlein (little Negroes) were laughed at by other German children. At the same time, Frau Nicak tried to defend the mothers of these children who, according to her, often saw no way of bringing up their coloured babies alone. Two years later, however, Der Spiegel claimed that racism was no longer an issue in Germany. In its issue of 25 April 1951 Der Spiegel referred to a report in the African-American magazine Ebony, which had explored the growing interest of Germans in finding coloured marriage partners. German women in particular were portrayed as favouring black 595

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