GIs Enter Berlin: Summer 1945

The two groups of people — American and German — encounter each other for the first time, free of the filter of government propaganda. German women check out the newcomers. Actress Hildegard Knef makes note of GIs’ “tight buttocks.” LOL

Throughout the war, America had been portrayed as “the enemy” — greedy and rapacious. Concurrently, “the American military leadership had ordered their soldiers to maintain a strict but deliberately unfriendly relationship towards the Germans . . . the Americans had always stressed civilian mass sympathy for and participation in the Nazi regime. For Americans, most Germans were fanatical Nazis and incorrigible criminals. In view of this, the American military leadership had prepared their soldiers for a ruthless subjugation of the enemy and, in April 1944, forbidden any kind of fraternisation. No handshakes, no exchange of words, not the slightest approach of any kind was permitted. As they rolled in, the GIs were all the more surprised by the friendly reception they were given by pretty women and admiring youths, and they couldn’t get enough of the grateful reactions prompted by the cigarettes and chocolate that they handed out of the jeeps in spite of the prohibition.

With the Americans, an unfamiliar army entered the country. The locals admired everything about them as they passed: their relaxed sitting postures, the confident laughter, their casual way of smoking. “The GIs’ shoulders were as wide as wardrobes, their tight buttocks as narrow as cigarette boxes,” as Hildegard Knef put it in her memoirs. They were described as bursting with health, as unusually life-affirming and, we read repeatedly in numerous eyewitness reports, as being as “naive as children.”

Aftermath: Life in the Fallout of the Third Reich, 1945-1955, pp. 149 – 1950

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