• Weapon of War, Tool of Peace: U.S. Food Diplomacy in Postwar Germany

      Goedde, Petra, 1964-; Immerman, Richard H.; Lockenour, Jay, 1966-; Sayward, Amy L., 1969- (Temple University. Libraries, 2019)
      This dissertation examines U.S. food diplomacy in occupied Germany. It argues that the origins of food aid as an anti-communist strategy are located in postwar Germany. Believing a punitive occupation was the best insurance against future conflict, Allied leadership agreed to enforce a lower standard of living on Germany and did not allow relief agencies to administer aid to German civilians. Facing a growing crisis in the U.S. Zone, President Truman authorized food imports and permitted voluntary agencies to operate in 1946. This decision changed the tenor of the occupation and provided the foundation to an improved U.S.-German relationship. It also underscored the value of American food power in the emerging contest with the Soviet Union. Food served as a source of soft power. It bridged cultures and fostered new relationships while reinforcing notions of American exceptionalism. Officials recognized that humanitarian aid complemented foreign policy objectives. American economic security was reflected in their abundance of food, and the dispersal of this food to war-torn Europe, especially a former enemy, made a strong statement about the future. As relations with the Soviet Union soured, policymakers increasingly relied on American food power to encourage German embrace of western values. Occupation officials portrayed food relief as an expression of democratic ideals, emphasizing the universality of Freedom from Want and focusing on well-nourished German children as the hope for future peace. American food fostered the spread of liberal democracy but its dispersal also contained communism. This work bridges diplomatic history and food studies to investigate the consequences and significance of the transnational food exchange. Food aid had layered political, cultural, and emotional implications. Adopting an interdisciplinary approach, this dissertation examines the role of compassion in diplomacy and the symbolism inherent in food to demonstrate the lasting political currency of humanitarian aid. Paying close attention to the food relationships that emerge between Germans and Americans allows one to better gauge the value of U.S. food aid as a propaganda tool. Food embodies American power; it offers a medium for understanding the experience and internalization of the occupation by Americans and Germans alike. Food aid began as emergency relief in 1946, reflecting the transition from a punitive to rehabilitative occupation policy. Recognizing Germany’s need for stability and self-sufficiency Military Government officials then urged economic recovery. Food aid was an important piece for German economic recovery, with supporters emphasizing Germany’s potential contribution toward European recovery. The positive press generated by the Marshall Plan and Allied airlift of Berlin contributed to the growing significance of propaganda in the emerging Cold War. Food relief was both good policy and good public relations, providing a narrative that cast the United States as a benevolent power in a rapidly changing world. Food aid to Germany underscored America’s humanitarian obligations, conscripted emotion into the Cold War, and swayed public opinion on the home front and with the former enemy.