Restoring Faith in Capitalism and Democracy after WWII: Up from the Rubble

Thursday, January 23, 2014
7:00 pm - 8:30 pm (EST) Enter Classroom Enter Forum
Marshall Plan poster


Sheryl Kroen
Associate Professor of History, University of Florida
National Humanities Center Fellow

About the Seminar

In September of 1947, the red, white, and blue-bedecked "Freedom Train," began its 16-month tour to over 300 cities to "resell America to the Americans." Initially conceived by the U.S. Justice Department to underscore the contrast between American freedom and Nazi tyranny, the "Freedom Train" quickly became a vehicle for explaining a new anti-communist conception of freedom, associated with free enterprise and the defense of the social and economic status quo. In 1949 the Socialist Labor Government of Britain launched its traveling exhibit, "On Our Way," to celebrate its country's progress in the struggle to re-establish its leading role in the world and to assure "fair shares for all" at home.

In October of 1950 West Berlin hosted the "Berlin Industries Fair", a world-fair-style spectacle that offered up Germany as a show window on the West; just months after the Berlin airlift, from the very heart of the fallen Third Reich, the occupying Americans joined with representatives of the fledgling Federal Republic of German to broadcast the story of Germany's miraculous economic recovery and political regeneration. In October of 1951 the French government presided over the Parisian launch of "The Europe Train," a seven-car exhibit that would travel until 1953 all over Western continental Europe explaining how "Two Continents" (North America and Europe) represented "One Civilization," defined by its commitment to freedom, prosperity and peace. In this seminar we will study events like "The Freedom Train," "On Our Way," "The Berlin Industries Fair," and "The Europe Train" to explore the complicated process by which governments on both sides of the Atlantic sifted through the rubble produced by WWII to find the building blocks for a postwar world based on a unified Europe, an Atlantic alliance, and a renewed faith in the promise of capitalism and democracy.

Presentation PDF

Download the presentation PDF.

Technical Help

Visit our technical specifications page for information about the seminar forum and classroom.

View a brief introduction to AIC online seminars.

Assigned Readings

  1. The original plan for Freedom Train, 1947.
  2. Lecture, President of Advertising Council, 1951.
  3. Marshall's speech announcing Marshall Plan, 1947.
  4. Berlin Industries Fair exhibit inside Marshall House, 1950.
  5. "Gateway to Germany," Brochure from Marshall Plan Ministry, 1953. (Read pages: 1-13; p. 19; 21-27; p. 30; 32-37; 44-46; 51-53; 58-60; 62-72)
  6. "On Our Way," speech at opening, 1949.
  7. "The Europe Train," script for inside exhibition, 1951.
  8. "The Air of Freedom," a film.

Suggested Additional Resources

  1. Freedom Train press book, sent out for advance preparations as the train traveled around the US.
  2. On Our Way storyboard for traveling exhibit.
  3. On Our Way "press book" sent out for advance preparations as the exhibit traveled around the UK.
  4. Robinson Charley script, a film shown at On Our Way.
  5. "Robinson Charley: The Ideological Underpinnings of Atlantic History," Chapter 3 in Biography and the Black Atlantic, 2013.

Online Evaluation

Online evaluation for seminar participants.

Seminar Recording