Outpost of Freedom: A German-American Network’s Campaign to bring Cold War Democracy to West Berlin, 1933-66 Public Deposited

Downloadable Content

Download PDF
Last Modified
  • March 20, 2019
  • Krause, Scott
    • Affiliation: College of Arts and Sciences, Department of History
  • This study explores Berlin’s sudden transformation from the capital of Nazi Germany to bastion of democracy in the Cold War. This project has unearthed how this remarkable development resulted from a transatlantic campaign by liberal American occupation officials, and returned émigrés, or remigrés, of the Marxist Social Democratic Party (SPD). This informal network derived from members of “Neu Beginnen” in American exile. Concentrated in wartime Manhattan, their identity as German socialists remained remarkably durable despite the Nazi persecution they faced and their often-Jewish background. Through their experiences in New Deal America, these self-professed “revolutionary socialists” came to emphasize “anti-totalitarianism,” making them suspicious of Stalinism. Serving in the OSS, leftists such as Hans Hirschfeld forged friendships with American left-wing liberals. These experiences connected a wider network of remigrés and occupiers by forming an epistemic community in postwar Berlin. They recast Berlin’s ruins as “Outpost of Freedom” in the Cold War. Popularizing this narrative through access to the vast resources of American foreign policy and control of the city’s dominant party and radio RIAS made Ernst Reuter and Willy Brandt especially effective Mayors. Archival research uncovered how personal experiences in exile prefigured this surprising alliance between reformers of the SPD and US occupation officials within OMGUS and HICOG. By connecting the network that redefined West Berlin with its roots in wartime Manhattan, this study provides a new, transnational explanation for the alignment of Germany’s principal left-wing party with the Western camp in the Cold War. By unearthing substantial, yet covert American contributions, my research outlines how this network shaped an anti-Communist political left in postwar Germany. While standard accounts portray Berlin as a stage of Cold War dramatics, my research highlights how the city’s urban politics pioneered seminal developments in the Federal Republic of Germany, rendering it an alternative to the West German brand of democratization. For instance, the remigrés anticipated the national SPD’s 1959 turn that scrapped Marxist theory and endorsed NATO membership. Moreover, this network groomed Brandt for the Chancellorship, illustrating a route between the margins of exile and West Germany’s most prominent posts.
Date of publication
Resource type
Rights statement
  • In Copyright
  • Waterhouse, Benjamin
  • Browning, Christopher R.
  • Pennybacker, Susan
  • Jarausch, Konrad Hugo
  • Larres, Klaus
  • Reid, Donald
  • Doctor of Philosophy
Degree granting institution
  • University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Graduate School
Graduation year
  • 2016

This work has no parents.