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Professor lends expertise to Marshall Plan documentary
By Luis Mocete - June 20, 1997
Cities in ruin. People amongst the rubble. Those are some images Imanuel Wexler believes people will remember after watching "The Marshall Plan: Against The Odds." The documentary, narrated by Roger Mudd, premiered June 6 on public television stations nationwide.
"It is the only documentary that combines both American and European views on the plan," said Wexler, a professor emeritus of economics. "It captures the mood of both European and American policy makers and ordinary people."
As one of seven academic advisors to the film, Wexler was responsible for providing information about the plan to co-executive producers Linda and Eric Christenson.
"We would make suggestions and corrections about the scripts," Wexler said. "Part of our role was to educate Linda by providing her with written materials on the objectives of the plan and whether they were accomplished. Also we had to identify people who could be interviewed for the project ... primarily people who were involved with the plan."
One of those people was Wexler, author of The Marshall Plan Revisited. In his book, Wexler addresses the economic impact the plan had on the United States and Europe.
"A lot of people talked about the plan as a foreign policy measure, but nobody ever asked what exactly it was supposed to accomplish as an economic program," he said. "There were no books
that dealt with the plan by taking an economic view, so that is why I decided to write the book."
America offered relief, but only if European nations got together to draw up a rational plan on how they would use the aid. The goals were to increase production, expand foreign trade and restore monetary stability.
Even with assistance from the American government from 1948-1951, western Europe still was not able to achieve economic independence by the time the plan ended.
Despite not meeting all its goals, the plan was successful over the long run because "it helped Europe establish a basis for continuing economic growth and development," Wexler said. "Less than 10 years after the Marshall Plan ended, western Europe was the second-biggest industrial and trading center in the world behind the United States. And also in terms of European integration it was the idea that started out as economic cooperation and joint action which led to the forming of a European community and then a European Union."
Marshall's vision in the documentary is shown through archival photographs, films, newsreels and contemporary interviews. Marshall Plan officials, scholars and ordinary citizens in the United States and Europe recall the mission, as well as the obstacles, that made the European Recovery Program a formidable effort.