Degree Year

1983

Document Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts

Department

History

Advisor(s)

Robert Neil

Keywords

George S. Messersmith, United States, German, Intelliguence, Reports

Abstract

On a day to day basis, Messersmith was considered to be the State Department's most reliable and informed observer. He was able to establish contacts with a number of high ranking Nazi officials and he used these contacts to substantiate his reports. Messersmith commented on almost every aspect of German life and these comments were read by most American policymakers, including Roosevelt. His reports were considered particularly valuable by two State Department officials, William Phillips and J. Pierrepont Moffat, who both worked in the Western European Division.

Some of Messersmith's analysis is skewed and, sometimes, incorrect. There were two faults with his reports of the German situation. Until 1937, Messersmith did not recognize the economic strength of Germany. Up to that point, he felt the German economy would fail and bring the Hitler Government down. Instead the Government became stronger due to economic successes. Messersmith's other area of failure was as a policy-maker.

In this essay I shall examine Messersmith's reports of the Nazi situation paying particular attention to these two problems as well as his analysis of the Night of Long Knives on June 30, 1934. As one of the earliest skeptics of Hitler and of the Nazi regime, Messersmith was largely responsible for shaping American policy towards Germany during the first two years of Nazi rule. As a reporter of German affairs, he was the most insightful observer in the Foreign Service.

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