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The Catholic Conundrum: The Role of the German and American Catholic Communities in Creating the Cold War World, 1945-1955

Makin, Stephanie (2018) The Catholic Conundrum: The Role of the German and American Catholic Communities in Creating the Cold War World, 1945-1955. Doctoral Dissertation, University of Pittsburgh. (Unpublished)

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In the decade following the Second World War, Central Europe was fast becoming an ideological battleground of the emerging Cold War, and Germany was the focal point. American officials at home and abroad wanted West Germany firmly situated in the American-led camp, and for West Germans to identify with the budding western transatlantic community. Long-standing anti-Americanism and lingering resentments from the war, however, made it unclear if West Germans would align their country with the emerging western world. It was during this moment of ambivalence that Catholic organizations in the United States and Germany began to build alliances with one another, providing crucial scaffolding for forging the postwar transatlantic community. A partnership between the United States and German Catholics in the 1940s and early 1950s, however, was far from a predetermined or obvious development. Many German Catholics tended to perceive the United States as a dangerous cultural influence and the epitome of materialism, a value system fundamentally at odds with church teachings.

My dissertation argues that Catholic institutions in the U.S. and West Germany played a key role in forging a transatlantic community during the transformative period from 1945 to 1955. Encouraged by the American occupation officials, American and German Catholic labor leaders, youth leaders, and publishers embarked on a mission – sometimes cooperating, sometimes acting independently – to foster transatlantic Catholic solidarity. Through conferences, workshops, and print media, they countered negative perceptions of excessive consumerism, exploitative capitalism, delinquent youth, and extreme secularism that Germans often projected onto the U.S. With their activities, they hoped to foster personal connections among Catholics from American and western European countries and to cultivate a Catholic front that could deter what they saw as the dangerous influence of atheistic communism from the East. This “West” was both created by and catered to the more religious and conservative segments of the German population, and served an important building block in what would become the West in the emerging Cold War.


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Item Type: University of Pittsburgh ETD
Status: Unpublished
CreatorsEmailPitt UsernameORCID
Makin, Stephaniesrm85@pitt.edusrm850000-0003-2733-6295
ETD Committee:
TitleMemberEmail AddressPitt UsernameORCID
Committee ChairThum,
Committee MemberHolstein,
Committee MemberLivezeanu,
Committee MemberStelzel,
Date: 28 June 2018
Date Type: Publication
Defense Date: 30 March 2018
Approval Date: 28 June 2018
Submission Date: 4 May 2018
Access Restriction: 5 year -- Restrict access to University of Pittsburgh for a period of 5 years.
Number of Pages: 253
Institution: University of Pittsburgh
Schools and Programs: Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences > History
Degree: PhD - Doctor of Philosophy
Thesis Type: Doctoral Dissertation
Refereed: Yes
Uncontrolled Keywords: German History, American and German Relations, German Catholics, American Catholics, Occupation of Germany
Date Deposited: 28 Jun 2018 16:10
Last Modified: 28 Jun 2023 05:15


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