Clausewitz’s Trinity

In Philosophy of War, I demonstrate an important element in Clausewitz’s trinity, “people.” The following is my review of Poiger’s book: Jazz, Rock, and Rebels. Clearly, during the Cold War, both sides realized the importance of winning and controlling the passions of people. Here is another example of Clausewitz’s theory being utilized during the Cold War.

In her book Jazz, Rock, and Rebels: Cold War Politics and American Culture in a Divided Germany, Uta G. Poiger connects politics with culture by examining the influence American imports had on East and West Germany after World War II. Poiger discloses the shift in attitudes as German officials initially skeptical and leery of American imports found a way to exploit them to engage and coax the youth toward their political views. Culture consumption played a key role in the German Cold War.[1]

After the War ended the nation was split into East Germany controlled by the Soviets and West Germany by the Allies. Germany had been devastated by the war and both Germanies worked to reconstruct their national identities. The allies began to reconstruct their zones political and economically; they built a democratic state with open markets. In East Germany, the Soviets nationalized industry, enacted land reform, and ensured the Socialist Union Party became the ruling party. The Allies restructured the currency of West Germany stabilizing the economy thereby affirming the division of Germany. The Soviets responded with a blockade on West Berlin.[2]

American troops fluctuated in Germany after the war leading to interaction between American soldiers and German women, that was discouraged by authorities. The Germans and the U.S. authorities were both concerned with miscegenation. The relationships created a supply of American imports given to German women by U.S. soldiers which confirmed the worries of German anti-Americanism—women were becoming oversexualized through the influence of American culture. However, along with the critical view of American culture came admiration for the U.S. efforts regarding alleviating Germany of deprivation through various economic acts.[3]

The propaganda the Germans inflicted on the people regarding Russian soldiers as being subhuman was solidified in German towns that experienced mass rape by the Red Army in 1945. Rape, according to Poiger, also occurred in West Germany by U.S. soldiers fraternizing with German women but not to the same extent. The author attributes this to part of the gender crisis created by the war and occupation—German men failed to rescue German women from the act.[4]

Reparations set by the Russians reduced industrial capacity in East Germany while the Marshal Plan fostered economic development in West Germany. The two contrasting economies did not go unnoticed and the West exploited it during the Cold War. Both sides attempted to influence German ideology through various media outlets and German tradition itself was promoted on both sides to counter Nazi ideas and fascism.[5]

The goal of the U.S. was to prevent the rise of German fascism; they addressed this through moral and culture reeducation programs. Care was taken not to allow former Nazis to hold positions in the bureaucracy. However, as the Cold War intensified it become pragmatic to employ former Nazis. Poiger contends government officials tried to control what cultural products entered postwar Germany and found themselves at odds with the American entertainment industry. Officials established libraries and cultural centers and provided educational movies in an effort to convince the German public that culture and democracy were not contradictory.[6]  The author also provides examples regarding jazz music to emphasize what she views as important regarding the debates on accepting and weaving the music into German culture. The author contends that jazz, rock n’ roll, and other popular American culture trends became crucial elements for the Cold War battle. The author supports her thesis with her narrative which demonstrates how both sides competed for the German people’s acceptance. The Soviets, Poiger contends, had a difficult task because of the German hostilities that persisted toward the Soviets after the war—originating through German propaganda during the war and substantiated by the actions of the Red Army’s engagement of mass rape. Nevertheless, the Soviets attempted to convince the German’s of the superiority of Russian culture by promoting opera, ballet, and poster art, achieving only limited success with Russian films. As the Cold War continued so did the propaganda; hoping to persuade East Germany that juvenile delinquency and political upheaval was a direct result of American culture, Soviet occupied newspapers reported alleged rapes among other negative repercussion by occupying American soldiers in West Germany linking it to the culture these occupiers brought with them from the U.S.[7]

The author discloses how the attacks on culture lead to the resurfacing of anti-modernism. Poiger discloses that one of the Soviet’s objectives was to win East Germany over by appealing to the intelligentsia.[8] West German officials, according to Poiger, searched for an alternative—a variation of the two doctrines of culture. The Christian religion filled the moral vacuum left by National Socialism. This impacted opposing sects within Germany; the Social Democrats, though outside the churches’ realm of influence, supported cultural conservatism.[9] The author links West Germany protection efforts with gender conservatism—protecting marriage and family was the primary purpose, holding the principles of male bread winners and female caretakers were the foundation of postwar West German stability.

Essentially, this part of the Cold War became a battle for the minds and hearts of the German people waged through campaigns of cultural promotions with propaganda becoming the choice weapon to undermine the enemy’s popular culture that created a two-front battle for both East and West Germany regarding outside cultural influences. The author discloses what effects these actions had on Germany’s youth by showing the disconnect adolescents had with political goals of each occupied Germanies. Poiger uses the oral histories of the German people to disclose their limited understanding of West Germany’s politics which may have prevented them from reorganizing their informal resistance to cultural norms that was key to political reconstruction to both Germanies. The author gives the example “rock n’ roll girls” may have not viewed their actions as political, but because of the influence they had on society they were political by definition.[10]


[1] Uta G. Poiger, Jazz, Rock, and Rebels: Cold War Politic and American Culture in a Divided Germany (University California Press, 2000) 1-4, 33.

[2][2] Ibid., 34.

[3] Ibid., 36.

[4] Ibid., 36.

[5] Ibid., 37.

[6] Ibid., 37-39.

[7] Ibid., 42-44.

[8] Ibid., 45.

[9] Ibid., 46-47.

[10] Ibid., 207-208.

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