In what way were the citizens of the Third Reich different from the citizens of other regimes, such that they were subject to reeducation? Specifically, what were the specific reasons cited by the Allies at the time such programs were being proposed?

It is clear that the Nazi regime promoted values that conflict with modern, Western values - genocide being the most blatant among them. However, the re-education programs were aimed not only at the government employees but rather at the entire citizenship. What justification was stated for that? I fully understand the desire to not have a nation which promotes violent, genocidal values in the heart of Europe. But why did the Allied forces see fit to reeducate the public as well? Were the public complicit in the atrocities of their state? If so, in what way? Did the public agree with the actions of the Nazi state? Was there credible threat that the citizens would enable another German government to perform the same atrocities again? Did the population or any large institutions oppose this reeducation? Was it forced upon the population? I would prefer to avoid opinions and focus only on statements or other facts that the Allies themselves stated as justification for such programs that were aimed at the citizens.

Note that I asked earlier a similar question but the comments on that question explained why the question was inappropriate for Politics.SE. Here's my attempt at rewording the question to better fit the site guidelines.

  • as per the above, immediately postwar, the US found that after more than a decade under the best (ie most effective, not most correct in content) propaganda program the world had yet seen at that point, the German population stuck to many of the ideas they were taught by Goebbels. The call to reverse this via a focused program was made by the US in West Germany, and by the USSR in East Germany.
    – Pete W
    Commented Mar 3 at 2:52
  • @PeteW Thank you. I've read the Wikipedia page, but it does not address the specific questions that I've asked here. Such as, how were these citizens different than e.g. the citizens of Italy, or Japan? And were there any organizations that opposed the re-education? Did the citizens themselves oppose the re-education? The PDF also fails to address these questions.
    – dotancohen
    Commented Mar 3 at 3:00
  • 4
    79 years ago. Like the previous question, what makes this not for SE.History rather SE.Politics? Commented Mar 3 at 4:15
  • 2

1 Answer 1


how were these citizens different than e.g. the citizens of Italy, or Japan?

Japan was not different, according to the US at the time. The re-education soon renamed re-orientation (in both countries) program was active in Japan as well; the latter is just less well known.

And the US was actually more successful at reforming the Japanese education system than it was at doing that [themselves] in Germany.

Italy is a different story. It was treated differently in part because it overthrew Mussolini itself, albeit belatedly. So the AMGOT lasted much less in Italy (end of the war.) The job of re-education was left much more the Italians themselves in that case.

If you need a more comparative (and much less optimistic) view

Although Germany was the crucible of Allied re-educative ambitions, the American-led military government in Tokyo also strove to de-Shinto-ize, de-militarize and de-cartelize Japan, while simultaneously effecting a thorough reorganization of Japan’s educational system. ‘Freedom of speech, of religion, and of thought, as well as respect for the fundamental human rights shall be established,’ the Potsdam declaration averred.

Historians of postwar Germany and Japan have thoroughly examined both of these ventures. Noting a terminological shift in favour of ‘reorientation’ towards the end of the 1940s, the German term ‘Umerziehung’ always freighted with Nazi connotations, scholars have located the western allies’ transformative ambitions within the larger matrix of postwar geopolitics. As tensions with the USSR hardened into a state of permanent cold war by 1948, Washington’s overarching goal increasingly appeared less punitive than strategic: an attempt to anchor the liberal-capitalist system in Western Europe and East Asia through reoriented former foes turned allies.

And the British tried to re-educate even more peoples, in nastier fashion, at around the same time:

In parallel, scholars have dissected the various projects termed re-educative or rehabilitative by British administrators of colonies roiled by anti-colonial violence in the 1940s and 1950s, as National Servicemen swept Malayan ‘insurgents’ and Mau Mau ‘terrorists’ (among others) into camps that purported to remodel their inhabitants as pacific and pliable subjects. With approximately one third of the adult male Kikuyu population incarcerated, Britain’s ‘re-educational’ ventures reached their apogee in Kenya during the colony’s prolonged Emergency (1952 to 1960). These and other colonial carceral exercises have been subjected to substantial historical scrutiny.

To say nothing of the Soviets' re-education efforts, but you only seem interested in Western allies.


Over time, scholars and policymakers have increasingly come to locate the re-education of Germany and Japan along a continuum of US-led modernization schemes, stretching from the fin-de-siècle Philippines to twenty-first century Iraq and Afghanistan – rolling manifestations of the ‘redeemer nation’ at work. [...]

By the early 1960s, re-education and rehabilitation seemed to vanish as descriptors that British and American policymakers and military commanders applied to their own actions. Along with a parallel language of ‘brainwashing’ and ‘thought control’ – terms that first emerged from the fledgling People’s Republic of China (PRC) and then Chinese-run POW camps during the Korean War – re-education (in Western European and North American parlance) increasingly became something ‘they’ did on the far side of the so-called Iron and Bamboo curtains.

TLDR for the latter part of that paper: it's not that the US (and Westerners more broadly) didn't try to re-educate Afghans or Iraqis, they just didn't call it that anymore. (Even the ‘O-word’--occupation--became somewhat taboo in this century.)

  • And yeah, one of the effects of the different treatment of Italy is all the fascist monuments they still have ideastream.org/2023-02-25/… Commented Mar 3 at 6:35
  • Thank you, this is a good answer but it addresses a peripherally incorrect statement of mine but not the actual question. I see that I was incorrect in stating that the Japanese and Italians did not have re-education programs. But why was re-education necessary in that conflict and not other conflicts? That is the real important question here. Why couldn't the civilian population be left alone, no matter what opinions they hold?
    – dotancohen
    Commented Mar 3 at 11:57
  • @dotancohen: 'does a bear poo in the woods'? If you really want quotes from documents from 80 years ago, ask on H.SE. More drastic measures were in fact held necessary wrt to Germany at the time. Ibid: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Four_Ds Commented Mar 3 at 19:36
  • Thank you. I'll see if I can reword this question to be appropriate for that site. I can certainly see that it's not quite a good fit for this site. Thank you. For what it's worth, I am accepting this answer as it does address some of the smaller questions that I asked. I'll be sure to keep further questions far more focused. Thank you.
    – dotancohen
    Commented Mar 3 at 20:37

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