In the years after the Second World War, the older tradition of visiting Europe or the ‘Old World’ as an act for North Americans to re-discover, re-connect with and re-possess one’s heritage became a mode of cultural justification for the political alliance between Europe and the United States. As legitimate ... (Show more)
In the years after the Second World War, the older tradition of visiting Europe or the ‘Old World’ as an act for North Americans to re-discover, re-connect with and re-possess one’s heritage became a mode of cultural justification for the political alliance between Europe and the United States. As legitimate heirs and caretakers of a particular form of ‘Western civilization’, North-Americans consciously combined elements of European culture and history with US models of consumerism and production into what they started to perceive and practice as shared common identity: that of ‘the West’.
In this process of defining ‘the West’, US policy-makers recognized the potential of tourism as an instrument to promote the construction of ‘Western civilization’ to strengthen the relation between Europe and the United States in the context of the Cold War. Tourism development was also a key component of the Marshall Plan (officially European Recovery Program, 1948-1952), to aid in the recovery of war-torn Europe. The Marshall Plan explicitly stimulated US tourists to bring dollars to Europe and encouraged European partners to adapt their tourist infrastructure to the needs of US tourists. This way, the Marshall Plan employed tourism as a way to propagate US ideals of modernization, the consumer citizen, technological progress and capitalist internationalism. Besides its economic benefits, tourism thus functioned as an important diplomatic tool in American policy.
This paper discusses how US tourism to Europe contributed to the postwar idea of ‘the West’ in relation to the Cold War politics of enforcing an alliance between the US and Western Europe. My paper zooms in on Berlin as postwar tourist destination for North American tourists, predominantly through a detailed analysis of a propagandistic photobook. It will highlight the symbolic and political importance of Berlin as tourist destination and beyond, especially in relation to the idea of ‘The West’. (Show less)