Call for Papers

Call for papers for a conference on

The Allied Occupation of Germany Revisited: New Research on the Western Zones of Occupation, 1945-1949

29 – 30 September 2016, German Historical Institute, London

Organisers: Dr Christopher Knowles (King’s College London), Dr Camilo Erlichman (Edinburgh/Cologne)

The conference is supported by the Institute of Contemporary British History at Kings College London, the German Historical Institute London, the German History Society, the Society for the Study of French History, and the Beyond Enemy Lines project at Kings College London, funded by the European Research Council.


Download the CfP as a PDF

The Allied occupation of Western Germany after the Second World War has long constituted a classic component in academic histories of post-war Germany. Understood as an ‘interregnum’ period, which initiated a process of democratisation and denazification and thus laid the ground for the ‘success story’ of the Federal Republic in the subsequent decades, it has often been regarded as a crucial transitory period between the collapse of the Nazi state and the foundation of a democratic polity in Western Germany.

After having been the subject of sustained scholarly attention in the 1970s and 1980s, the subject has subsequently faced a decline in academic interest. The two-day conference is intended to showcase new research and provide a forum for the presentation of innovative approaches to the history of the three western zones of occupation. By stimulating dialogue between historians of the different zones of occupation, it will also seek to bring together hitherto almost entirely segregated historiographies. In doing so, we hope to contribute towards the creation of a new integrated history of occupation.

While previous work often focused on the implementation of ‘high politics’ and big reform projects in Germany (such as the Potsdam four ‘D’s), much less attention has been paid to the equally important quotidian policies and ruling practices of the occupiers on the ground in Germany. There has also been a significant lack of comparisons between the different zones of occupation. There is, in addition, a dearth of theoretical and methodological engagement with the period. Thus, the occupation of Germany has largely been explored in an intellectual vacuum and is seldom placed in a genuinely comparative context, such as the broader history of Western Europe in the immediate post-war era, or related to the history and theories of military occupations more generally.

There is therefore a need for a comprehensive re-assessment of the ideologies, the ruling strategies, the interactions between the occupiers and the occupied, and the long-term legacies of the occupation on post-war Germany. For this purpose, we are inviting papers from both emerging scholars and established specialists who have completed or are currently working on the Allied occupation of Germany. In particular, we would be interested in papers addressing the following themes and questions:

  • Ideologies and Strategies of Rule: In this conference section, we wish to redirect attention away from the ‘high politics’ of the occupation towards an analysis of the occupiers’ ruling strategies, understood as the quotidian techniques deployed by the occupiers to enforce their interests in Germany and maintain their rule on the ground. We therefore would like to invite papers which try to uncover the similarities and differences between US, British, and French occupation strategies, ruling philosophies and wider sets of beliefs invested in the occupation. Possible research questions may include: How did the occupiers seek to exercise control over the population? How did they attempt to enforce compliance with their policies? How did they manage, contain and punish dissent? Which techniques were used to control, police, and monitor the population? In how far did the three Military Governments compete against each other as occupiers? Connected to this exploration of the occupiers’ ruling strategies is the hitherto largely unexamined question of the origins of the occupiers’ techniques to rule a foreign population. In how far were the occupiers influenced by their experience of previous military occupations as well as by imperial ruling practices? A further related and neglected dimension is the different socio-biographical composition of the military government bureaucracies and its impact on the attitudes and policies of the occupiers. Concepts of class, gender, generation, social status, culture and race might help towards developing a clearer picture of the social and ideological make-up of the occupation authorities.
  • Interactions between the Occupiers and the Occupied: The interactions between the occupiers and the occupied have long constituted a classic research area in the study of military occupations. In this section, we would like to explore the relationships and interconnections between the occupiers and the German population and look at practical instances of ‘cooperation’, ‘accommodation’, ‘collaboration’, ‘friction’, and ‘conflict’. Possible questions include: How did responses to the occupation differ among German social and political groups? How were German perceptions of the occupiers formed and expressed throughout the zones? How was the occupation ‘experienced’ by the broader population in everyday life? How was the occupation presented in the discourses and symbols of both the occupiers and the occupied? Papers might further wish to discuss personal relationships and encounters between the occupiers and the occupied at work, in friendships, in love, and sexual relationships. On the other hand, we would like to explore the attitudes of the occupiers towards German social intermediaries such as representatives of German elites, returning exiles as well as political, social, religious, and cultural associations.
  • Legacies: The importance of the occupation for the subsequent history of the Federal Republic only becomes apparent when the long-term consequences of the period are assessed. We would welcome papers on the social outcomes of the occupation and would like to stimulate a discussion about the identity of the social ‘winners’ and ‘losers’ of the occupation period. Papers may for example address the impact of the occupation period on different German social classes, elites, social and political associations, religious institutions, and on gender relations. They may also consider how and for what purposes memories of the occupation period were articulated in the post-war era. Further interpretative questions could include: should the occupation period be regarded as part of the pre-history of the Federal Republic or as a distinctive period in its own right? When (if at all) did the occupation ceased to play a tangible role in Germany’s post-war history?  Did the British, French and US occupiers leave a lasting diverging legacy on their own zones?
  • The Occupation of Germany in Context: In this final section, we would like to seek out ways of integrating the occupation of Germany after the Second World War into the broader history and theory of military occupations in the 20th century. We propose to discuss if the occupation of Germany represented a ‘unique’ experience or whether it can be placed in a wider comparative framework of military occupations during the 20th century. In how far does it share structural characteristics and long-term consequences with other occupations, and what does this tell us about its broader significance? In this section, we would therefore like to host contributions which engage with broader comparative questions and discuss the significance of an understanding of the history of the post-war occupation of Germany for more general theories and histories of military occupations. Finally, and as a result of this greater theoretical reflection, we would like to invite speakers to think about the novel themes which could shape a future research agenda on the occupation period.

Papers should be no more than 20 minutes in length. Conference sessions will comprise three papers followed by half an hour of discussion. We are planning to publish a selection of the contributions, so applicants should be willing to submit a draft manuscript two months after the conference, drawing on the feedback they received during the group discussion of their paper.

Please send your proposal (title and abstract, max. 500 words) together with a short CV to Dr Camilo Erlichman (c.erlichman[at] and Dr Christopher Knowles (christopher.knowles[at] The deadline for submissions is 12 January 2016. Applicants will be notified of the outcome by the end of February 2016. Any enquiries should be directed at the conference organisers via e-mail.

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