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OMGUS Survey of Trends in German Public Opinion (1945-47)

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Nuremberg Trials. A heavy majority of about eight in ten persons felt that the trials were conducted justly. Readership of newspaper reports concerning the trials declined from a high of eight in ten persons in January 1946 to 65 per cent in March 1946, and then rose once again to the original figure on the day following publication of the verdicts. As the trials progressed, waning confidence in the completeness and trustworthiness in the newspaper reports was displayed; nonetheless, even at the lowest point, seven in ten people were satisfied with the integrity and detail of the reports.

Media. The number of regular newspaper readers among AMZON residents declined 13 percentage points between January and October 1946, when it reached 63 per cent. Three surveys conducted between January and December 1946 revealed that slightly more than one-half of the population were radio listeners.

Politics. Claimed political interest rose gradually between October 1945 and June 1946 and then dropped off sharply, following the conclusion of general elections. The proportion of people considering political meetings to be worthwhile rose from 60 to 72 per cent between November 1945 and March 1946. In AMZON, until mid-summer 1946, the CDU/CSU enjoyed about 40 per cent plurality of membership or preference over other parties, with the SPD in second place, favored by about 30 per cent. Later studies revealed that while the SPD did not make any substantial gain, the CDU/CSU suffered a loss of about ten per cent of its following, with most of the defectors saying that they no longer favored any party. Less than one in ten supported the LDP/DVP and between two and three per cent favored the KPD. In Bavaria, the CSU was the foremost party (about 40 per cent); the SPD was second with about three in ten; about one-fourth of the people preferred no party; the KPD and the LDP each held about five per cent of the population; and the WAV claimed three to four per cent. In Berlin, from a low point of 36 per cent in the spring of 1946, the SPD increased its following to 68 per cent by December 1946; less than two in ten expressed a preference for the CDU; and very few people indicated that they had no party preference.

Reorientation. Although about 35 per cent of the population felt that the occupation was a humiliation, about 55 per cent did not think so. In the course of eleven surveys made between November 1945 and December 1946, an average of 47 per cent of the people thought that National Socialism was a good idea, badly carried out; 41 per cent said that it was a bad idea; 12 per cent held no opinion. The percentage of persons indicating satisfaction with the denazification process decreased from 57 per cent in March 1946 to 34 per cent in December 1946. The proportion of the German population indicating a preference for neither communism nor National Socialism rose from 22 per cent to 66 per cent between November 1945 and November 1946. Those favoring communism decreased in number, those favoring National Socialism remained constant, and a considerable decrease was noted in the number of those holding no opinion. About seven in ten said that the Germans were not responsible for the war. Approximately one in three people indicated that they were troubled by rumors, with the most frequently heard rumor being that of an impending war with the Soviet Union. Only half the respondents said that they considered themselves sufficiently well informed about political events. A majority of AMZON residents felt that the best way to achieve the reconstruction of Germany was through "hard work." Between ten and 15 per cent hoped for a new strong Fuehrer and/or the rebirth of the old national spirit.

Source: A. J. and R. L. Merritt, Public Opinion in Occupied Germany. The OMGUS Surveys. Urbana, IL, 1970, pp. 160-63.

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