Veterans' associations and political radicalism in West Germany, 1951-1954: A case study of the Traditionsgemeinschaft Grossdeutschland

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Searle, DA
  • Publisher: Cambridge : Bell & Howell Information and Learning Company
  • Subject: mem_text_and_place

Research on veterans' associations in the Federal Republic of Germany in the early 1950s has so far concentrated on the activities of groups lobbying for improved welfare provision and the efforts to establish a unified soldiers' organization. The latter project led to the founding of the Verband deutscher Soldaten (VdS) in September 1951. As fears of a possible repeat of the Weimar experience with organized veterans were at their height in 1951, research deaing with political radicalism has focussed on events leading to the establishment of the VdS, but has not extended beyond it, either in terms of other associations or the period in which they were active. This paper takes one tradition association as a case study, that of the Traditionsgemeinschaft Großdeutschland, to examine how far prominent tradition associations became involved in radical politics and what attitude they developed towards the new democratic system and the politically charged question of West German rearmament. Despite a number of early indicators that suggested an anti-democratic, anti-state attitude might take root within the ranks of Großdeutschland veterans, the history of the association in the period 1951-54 shows that there was in actual fact a surprising rejection of National Socialist and radical, nationalist values. In addition to the varied and complex effects of the lost war and Allied occupation, one of the reasons for the over-estimation of the radical potential of not only this group of veterans, but also those in other tradition associations, was the erroneous assumption that the views of leading generals represented those of the rank-and-file.
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    106 references, page 1 of 11

    2 Cf. J. Luvaas, The Mearsheimer Critique: A Pupil's Retrospective', Parameters XX (Mar. 1990), pp. 12f£; J. Keegan, 'Mounting an Offensive on a Scientist of War', Dai4y Telegraph 2 Mar. 1989. In the early 1950s Liddell Hart was criticized more generally for 'being lenient and too forgiving [towards the Germans]' (Col. RJ. Icks, 'Liddell Hart: One View', Armor LXI (Nov./Dec. 1952), p. 26).

    3 B. Bond, Liddell Hart: A Study of His Milita?y Thought (London, 1977), pp. 180-90, 215-37.

    4 JJ. Mearsheimer, Liddell Hart and the Weight of Histony (London, 1988), pp. 184-201.

    5 For further details on the extent of archive material available in Germany, see D. Krulger and D. Ganser, 'Quellen zur Planung des Verteidigungsbeitrages der Bundesrepublik Deutschland 1950 bis 1955 in westdeutschen Archiven', Militdrgeschichtliche Mitteilungen 49 (1991), pp. 121-46.

    6 The number of m onographs on rearmament is limited. Cf. MJ. Lowry, The Forge of West C.rman Rearmament: Theodor Blank and the Amt Blank (New York, 1990); D. Abenheim, Reforging the Iron Cross: The Search for Tradition in the West Gsrman Armed Forces (Princeton, NJ, 1988); G.D. Drummond, The C.rman Social Dermocrats in Opposition 1949-1960: The Case Agaimt RearmaTmet (Norman, OK, 1982); J. Diehi, The Thanks of the Fatherland: C.rman Vetkram after the Second World War (Chapel Hill, NC, 1993). Of these works, Diehl's subject-matter is only very generally related to rearmament, Abenheim merely deals with the subject in the opening sections of his monograph, while Lowry and Drummond base their analyses on published sources alone. It is only with the recent publication of D.C. Large, Gemam to the Front: West C.rman Rearmament in the Adenauer Era (Chapel Hill, NC, 1996) that the Englishspeaking reader can consult a volume which integrates the social and political aspects of the question into the foreign policy picture.

    7 A recent work is S. Dockrill, Britains Poliqy for West Gsrman Rearmamet 1950-1 955 (London, 1991). A similar approach can be found in R. McGeehan, The Gsrman RearmaTmet Question: American Diplomacy and Europsan Defense after World War H (Urbana, IL, 1971), and, to a slightly lesser extent, in Col. S.M. Kanarowski, The G.rman Army and NATO Stratgy (Washington, DC, 1982), pp. 1-40. It would be inappropriate to provide a full list of German monographs here, but the following works are particularly noteworthy: D. Wagner, FDP und Wiederbewaffinung: Die weArpolitische Orientierung der Liberalen in der Bundesepuhlik Deutschland 1949-1955 (Boppard, 1979); A. Doering-Manteuffel, Katholizismus und Wederbewaffinung (Mainz, 1981); MGFA [MilitUrgeschichtliches Forschungsamt], ed., Anfdnge westdeutsclwr Sicherheitspolitik 1945-1956, I: Von der Kapitulation bAs zum PletnsPlan (Munich, 1982); II: Die EVG'PAse (Munich, 1990); III: Die NATO-Gption (Munich, 1993); H. Brill, Bogislaw von Bonin im Spannungsfeld zwischen Wiederbewaffinung - Westintegration - Wiedewereinigung: Ein Beitrag zur EntsteAungsgescAicAte der BundesweAr 1952-1955 (Baden-Baden, 1987).

    9 M.B. Sullivan, Thresholds of Peace: Four Hundred Thomand German Prsoners of War and the People of Britain 1944-1948 (London, 1977), pp. 231 f

    10 Liddell Hart Centre for Military Archives, King's College London (hereafter LHCMA), Liddell Hart Papers (hereafter LHP) 9/24/90, Wing-Commander N. Roffey (PID, Foreign Office) to Liddell Hart, 31 Jan. 1946.

    1 LHCMA, LHP 9/24/90, Liddell Hart to Wing-Commander N. Roffey, 9 Feb. 1946.

    12 LHCMA, LHP 9/24/90, Barry S. Sullivan to Liddell Hart, 9 Jan. 1946. Sullivan puts the number of visits at 16 (Thresholds of Peace, p. 233). However, after a thorough search of all the relevant files in the Liddell Hart Papers (9/24/90-154), it has only been possible to establish evidence of 15 visits.

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