With particular attention to the Political Warfare Executive (PWE), this paper will examine the way in which British propagandists approached the problem of undermining the morale of German servicemen and civilians during the Second World War. As a subsidiary of both the Ministry of Information and the Foreign Office, PWE's understanding of Germany played an integral role in the Anglo-German relationship during the war and into the occupation. Rather than analyse military strategy or tactics, the focus here is on the genesis of PWE’s ideas about Germany and the historical context in which these ideas were developed and deployed. PWE invoked mythology, history, psychology and sociology to conceive of an audience susceptible to morale subversion; their project produced some intriguing results and reveals as much about late-imperial Britain as it does Nazi Germany. After historicizing the PWE conception of Germany, this paper will argue that departmental politics, characterised by the influence of popular discourse, of strong personalities, and even the influence of an oblique kind of patronage, were brought to bear on the inconstant conceptualization of the Germany to which Britain spoke.
Kirk Robert Graham, University of Queensland, Australia
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