In the decade after World War I, German-American relations improved swiftly. While resentment and bitterness ran high on both sides in 1919, Weimar Germany and the United States managed to forge a strong transatlantic partnership by 1929. But how did Weimar Germany overcome its post-war isolation so rapidly? How did it regain the trust of its former adversary? And how did it secure U.S. support for the revision of the Versailles Treaty? Elisabeth Piller, winner of the Franz Steiner Preis für Transatlantische Geschichte 2019, explores these questions not from an economic, but from a cultural perspective.
In Selling Weimar: German Public Diplomacy and the United States, 1918-1933 (Franz Steiner Verlag/German Historical Institute, 2020), she illustrates how German state and non-state actors drew heavily on cultural ties - with German Americans, U.S. universities and American tourists - to re-win American trust, and even affection, at a time when traditional foreign policy tools had failed to achieve similar successes. Contrary to common assumptions, Weimar Germany was never incapable of selling itself abroad. In fact, it pursued an innovative public diplomacy campaign to not only normalize relations with the powerful United States, but to build a politically advantageous transatlantic friendship.
Dr. Elisabeth Piller is Assistant Professor of Transatlantic and North American History at the University of Freiburg in Germany. Her Ph.D. dissertation on which the book is based won three prestigious prizes: the Ifa-Forschungspreis Auswärtige Kulturpolitik (2018), the Franz Steiner Preis für Transatlantische Geschichte (2019), and the Friedrich-Ebert-Preis (2020). She works on U.S. and German foreign policy, the history of diplomacy and modern humanitarianism, and transatlantic relations in the 19th and 20th century.
Steven Seegel is Professor of Slavic and Eurasian Studies at The University of Texas at Austin.