This introductory chapter discusses Germany's transition from a racist dictatorship into a liberal democracy. Having fought for the Nazi regime with ferocity throughout the war, Germans performed a volte-face and, within just a few years, embraced democracy. With astonishing speed, this previously polarized and violent society developed democratic institutions, electoral organs, the rule of law, vibrant democratic norms, and an active participatory public. Two explanations have been given for Germany's rapid change. One credits the decisive role of the United States and its heavy investment in the postwar reconstruction of Germany's political institutions, economy, and educational system. In contrast, a second interpretation of Germany's transformation sees it primarily as the work of Germans. Many historians argue that Germans embraced democracy primarily because of postwar domestic conditions and experiences.
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