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United States. Office of the US High Commissioner for Germany / A program to foster citizen participation in government and politics in Germany

I. General statement: 2. The program,   pp. 5-6 PDF (1.3 MB)

Page 5

-The development by the German people of their
political independence in a federal structure and
along democratic lines, in close association with
the free peoples of Western Europe, has from the
outset been one of the basic objectives of the
occupation. Whether this objective can be realized
depends upon the German people. It cannot be
imposed by the occupation.
In respect of this objective there are in Germany
two trends which are diametrically opposed. On the
one hand there is evidence that the large majority
of the German people wish to live under a demo-
cratic governmental and social structure, to enjoy
the individual rights and freedoms which we asso-
ciate with democracy, and to exercise their rights as
citizens in shapink of governmental and political
policy. They have a record in German history to
support them. Over the century before the first
World War there was in many parts of Germany
a slow but steady increase in recognition of the
rights of the individual citizen to enjoy personal
liberty and to participate actively in government.
This movement lost ground when economic and
social difficulties led to increasing centralization
of power and the use of enabling acts under the
Weimar Republic, and disappeared completely dur-
ing the Nazi period. Since 1945 there has been an
encouraging revival of interest, reflected to some
extent in the political parties, but more especially
in the organization of citizens' groups for the dis-
cussion of public questions, to seek information on
governmental activities and policies, and for active
participation in public affairs, especially at the
local level.
On the other hand, the weight of the existing
German governmental and political system and
tradition stands against this development, as it
stood against the limited gains of the last century.
The larger part of the German people have long
lived under and been conditioned to authoritarian
forms and practices in government. There has been
a widely accepted concept that the state is not the
creature and embodiment of the people, but a supe-
rior entity of which the people are the servants
rather than the master. Adequate information up-
on public affairs is not readily available to the
ordinary citizen, and public opinion usually is of
little weight. Authoritarian forms and practices
have crept over into non-governmental organiza-
tions such as the political parties (even those with
a democratic philosophy), business and industry,
and to considerable extent the trade unions, and
directly affect a large part of the life of the in-
dividual German citizen today. As a result, the
German people generally lack an understanding
of and experience in the exercise of democratic
rights and duties. There has been too limited a
public and individual interest in political and gov-
ernmental affairs, partly because such interest ap-
pears to many Germans to be futile under existing
political conditions and partly because of a tradi-
tion that these are the: exclusive fields of those who
have been educated for the purpose.
It is evident that there are many individual Ger-
mans who are interested in public affairs and; who
are aware of these conditions and want' to change
them. As individuals they lack the influence to
overcome the entrenched system. The key to suc-
cess is to arouse public interest in the political and
governmental system and its problems, to make
the public conscious of those factors which operate
against its interests, and to find means by which
informed public opinion may be used effectively
to accomplish the necessary reforms.
Various groups and associations already organ-
ized offer a nucleus for such- a movement. Analysis
shows, however, that their present interests and
activities are too general and lack direction. They
need programs which will center their efforts and
their potential strength upon specific reforms and-
which will attract a much wider popular support
than those groups now enjoy.
Furthermore, it is vital' to interest German youth
and persuade them to become active participants.
Tcday the great majority dislike and distrust the
existing parties and political system. Very evi-
dently a liberal German political life will never
be realized through the older generations alone,
and at some stage the responsibility for German
public life must pass to the younger generation. If'
the existing vacuum is not filled' with democratic
ideals, it will be filled by principles alien to our'
objectives. Youth's disinterest exists because the
German political system appears to them to offer
no affirmative solution of the problems which con-
front them and to bar them from solution of these
problems by their own efforts. (See Part II, Pro-
gram Item 6, p. 19)
Any such programs must be German in character
and effectuation. Otherwise they will not attract
public support nor will the accomplishments be
permanent. Foreign domination of such' a move-
ment or the imposition of alien patterns of thought
or practice must be scrupulously avoided. But if
these limitations be kept always in mind, it is
proper to extend aid and advice to German in-;
dividuals and groups in their efforts to secure
A review of present German activity in 'the
fields of politics and government shows a very broad
range. These activities are undertaken by:
a. Local groups organized to discuss govern-
mental problems.
b. Bund- and Land-wide organizations to sup-
port specific programs.

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