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“National Socialism is not a cult-movement - a movement for worship; it is exclusively a 'volkic' political doctrine based upon racial principles. In its purpose there is no mystic cult, only the care and leadership of a people defined by a common blood-relationship.”1 The Fuhrer of Germany Adolf Hitler speaking highly of National Socialism in one of the September 1938 Nuremburg rallies. Although Hitler makes National Socialism appear noble, a problem is present in this ideology: racism. Where was Hitler’s conclusive proof that such a mighty Aryan race existed? It was this aspect that made Nazism despised throughout the west, especially with the horrifying discovery of the holocaust. Fascist Nazism reigned over Germany until May 1945 when, on the 8th day, Germany surrendered in the Second World War. With Hitler dead, the process of ridding Germany of his racist Nazi legacy – denazification – began. Germany was subsequently split into four different sections as agreed to at the Potsdam conference during July and August of 1945. Britain, the United States, the Soviet Union and France each gained a section of Germany to preside over. Berlin, despite being in the Soviet’s section, was also quartered. Although each nation had its own ideas on how to address Germany, they all placed denazification high up on their respective agendas. However, their methods of achieving this varied. Britain occupied the northwest region. Historian Constantine FitzGibbon states in his book Denazification that the Germans saw the British (as well as the Americans) as “liberators.”2 To address denazification, the Supreme Headquarters Allied Expeditionary Forces (SHAEF) created a Special Branch. This Branch was given a list of rules and regulations to use in the event of arresting or dismissing someone believed to be an active Nazi. They were also given questionnaires known as the Fragebogen for the suspects to fill in. However, the British forces were reluctant to carry out SHAEF policies in their region, preferring to remove Nazi activists from positions of authority rather than carry
<http://www.hitler.org/speeches/09-06-38.html> FitzGibbon, “Denazification”, Michael Joseph Ltd, London, 1969 p87
out a full scale National Socialist purge like the Americans. General Robertson, the British Military Governor, said “we wish the German administration…to be staffed with people who are not dangerous to the aims of the occupation.”3 Effectively, the British forces only wished to remove Nazis who opposed their objectives during the occupation process. The first execution of British denazification policy was by ordering town mayors to submit lists of officials highlighting their party affiliations. A Nazi discovered through this process was either dismissed or interned as dangerous. British Military Government officers would also base their denazification actions on an instruction that defined Nazi removals in two different ways: dismissal and suspension. Germans who were either members of the Nazi party before April 1933, held office in a Nazi organisation or were employed by the Gestapo fell into the first category of removal. Germans who were regarded as active Nazis or “convinced supporters of the regime”4 fell into the second category. Ian Turner states in the book Reconstruction of post-war Germany that Britain’s aim was to “remove the “big Nazis” whilst leaving mere followers in peace.”5 This tactic proved to be a double edged sword: on one hand, people who followed the Nazis as a result of intimidation and meant no harm to society were spared from removal. However, this approach gave serious Nazi officials the opportunity to lie low in less authoritative roles and re-emerge once the denazification process was over. Therefore, the British denazification process experienced limited success: it ensured a fair system of judging Germans on their roles in Nazi Germany rather than by mere association, however it provided a way for the serious Nazi officials to hide during the denazification process, thus not fully wiping out Nazi influence in the region. The Americans, predominantly situated in the southeast, carried out more elaborate methods of denazification compared to the British. Professor Volker Rolf Berghahn states in his book Modern Germany that the American officials were “convinced that Nazism
Turner, “Reconstruction in Post-War Germany”, Berg Publishers Ltd, Oxford, 1989 p244 Turner, “Reconstruction in Post-War Germany”, Berg Publishers Ltd, Oxford, 1989 p248 5 Turner, “Reconstruction in Post-War Germany”, Berg Publishers Ltd, Oxford, 1989 p249
had been deeply ingrained in German society”6. To address this problem, “a thorough purge followed by a re-education programme in liberal democracy”7 was required – without doubt the Americans meant business. A key issue was re-educating the German children with a new curriculum as “even subjects like arithmetic were infected with racist and militarist ideology”8 according to historian Manfred Malzahn. Teachers from allied countries along with new resources such as textbooks were brought in to ensure that Nazism was no longer being taught in the schools. The first implementation of denazification for adults came in the form of questionnaires issued out to all Germans aged 18 and over, requiring them to explain their political beliefs. The results would then determine which one of the five following categories the German was most suited to: exonerated, follower, lesser offender, offender or major offender. The questionnaire proved to be far more complex than anticipated: Germans categorised in the three most severe groups lost not only their jobs and property but also some of their civil rights in accordance to the programme. This led to criticism of the programme as well as a growing list of appeals waiting to be heard by the end of 1945. To address this, the Americans appointed a German-organised Lander government in March 1946. The Lander government was relied on to assist in sorting out the problems caused by the questionnaire. However, the government was rather ineffective in the handling of denazification policies. Problems came about as a result of the differing regulations between the Allied zones, leading to inequalities for the German people. For instance, a German living in Munich (in the American zone) may have been classified as a major offender whereas in Hamburg (in the British zone) a mere bystander. Inequalities also came about due to the stalling of the process. The longer it took for a German’s questionnaire to be scrutinised, the better his chances of getting a reprieve. Overall, this American denazification policy was largely a failure: “13 million people had returned their questionnaires of whom three-quarters were not even chargeable under the deNazification criteria.”9
Berghahn, “Modern Germany Second Edition: Society, economy and politics in the twentieth century”, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 1987 p185 7 Berghahn, “Modern Germany Second Edition: Society, economy and politics in the twentieth century”, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 1987 p185 8 Malzahn, “Germany 1945-1949: A sourcebook”, Routledge, London/New York, 1991 p88 9 Berghahn, “Modern Germany Second Edition: Society, economy and politics in the twentieth century”, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 1987 p186
However, the Americans had another denazification policy put in place: the introduction of German democratic elections. Of the three zones occupied by Allied forces, America was the first to implement this in January 1946. Britain and France followed suit soon after. Although the results of these elections would have pleased the Allied forces (the Christian Democratic Union (CDU) and the Social Democratic Party of Germany (SPD) gained the most votes – both left wing democratic parties) they still weren’t keen in endorsing radical policies put forward by the government. America in particular made obstructions such as limiting the influence of Antifa (Anti Fascist) committees and deleting clauses from constitutions which would have enabled the German government a more active role in the legislative process. To summarise this procedure, America made a decent attempt at promoting democratic political activity in her zone – the effects of denazification could be seen through the range of left wing political parties enjoying the majority of the peoples’ votes. However, this good work was dented through the mistrust and subsequent prevention of the German government to carry out effective policy which angered the German people. That may have occurred due to America changing her focus to a sterner, more serious threat in world politics: the communist Soviet Union. The Soviets adopted a “gradualist” approach to denazification, much to the surprise of the allied forces. Soviet General Secretary Joseph Stalin believed that a hard line approach would damage Soviet-German relations and, as a result, encourage them to feel more inclined with western-style ideals (particularly political). Therefore, in an order to his Red Army troops on the 20th April 1945, Stalin stated that they had to “change their attitudes toward the Germans…and treat them better.”10 This humanitarian approach was possibly because “the time for the Sovietisation of Germany was not yet ripe”11 according to Professor Perry Biddiscombe in his book The Denazification of Germany. The first Soviet execution of denazification came in the form of (like the British) appointing town mayors – providing that they held anti-fascist beliefs. This ensured that Nazis were no longer holding authoritative positions. To accompany this measure, the Red Army had
Biddiscombe, “The Denazification of Germany: A History 1945-1950”, Tempus Publishing Ltd, Chalford, 2007 p125 11 Biddiscombe, “The Denazification of Germany: A History 1945-1950”, Tempus Publishing Ltd, Chalford, 2007 p125
kommandaturas (town commanders) positioned in various cities and rural communities to keep an eye on the mayors’ activities. However, this policy inevitably presented the same problem that its British counterpart experienced: serious Nazi activists were able to hide in lower capacity jobs during the denazification process. To address this, some regions in the Soviet sector such as Thuringia were issued with a 1945 July decree. This decree ordered the removal of Nazis who joined the party before the 1st of April 1933. Of the Nazis who joined after this date, only those who held authoritative positions in the party were categorised in the “mandatory removals” bracket. However, this still led to a third of Nazi bureaucrats remaining in power at the end of 1945. Not only was this as a result of the stipulations of the decree, but also because some of the Soviets wished to “use the brains [administrative expertise] of the Nazis as much as possible” 12, according to a Soviet Military Administration (SMA) official. The Soviet swing from a gradualist denazification approach to hard line methods began in August 1945 when the SMA introduced a procedure similar to the Americans in regards to identifying Nazis. Germans ranging from party members to SS officers were ordered to sign up with their local Soviet commandments for interviews. However, this method produced little results and gained criticism from the Americans who believed that the Russians were not using a thorough-enough procedure to identify Nazis. The hard line methods surfaced in the subsequent hearings: Germans accused of being Nazis were not allowed to have lawyers in their defence. The outcome of the hearings affected the Germans’ employment status: a “nominal” Nazi had the opportunity of retaining his job if he was given an approval whereas those declared as a more serious Nazi were promptly sacked on the spot. However, the greatest injustice of this denazification procedure was the Soviet’s lenient stance towards those who worked in coal mining, the post office or the railways. Due to their perceived importance in promoting an economic recovery in the Soviet sector, Soviet officials were extremely reluctant to carry out denazification policies in those particular sectors. A study in February 1947 discovered that “in SaxonyAnhalt, nearly nineteen percent of post office personnel were still Nazis, and in Dresden and Cottbus, a third of all Reichsbahn [railway] officials were still partegenossen [Nazi
Biddiscombe, “The Denazification of Germany: A History 1945-1950”, Tempus Publishing Ltd, Chalford, 2007 p128
party follower]”13. Another problem was apparent: although some Nazis did lose their jobs, they were able to move to a different region, apply for a new job and lie in their application forms. Some Red Army officials took denazification policy into their own hands, ignoring SMA orders completely. These measures ranged from executions of Nazi officials to enabling the Communist Party of Germany (KPD) special powers to carry out their own unofficial Nazi purges. Landrats (local government officials) were appointed. They stated that “the Nazis will be handled the same way they handled us, that is: hard”14. Some Germans were ironically forced to perform hard labour at the Niemegher concentration camp. Overall, the Soviets operated eleven detainment camps in which an estimated 240,000 people were deposited. The poor treatment and harsh conditions of the camps resulted in at least a third of that figure dying in Soviet hands as a result of extreme denazification methods. The SMA themselves introduced a controversial policy against the Nazi followers. Order 124 concerned the confiscation of private property that a number of antifascists took advantage of for their personal gain rather than for ridding the region of Nazi influence. To show that the majority of the German people “supported” this policy, a referendum was drawn up by the Soviets for the region of Saxony which was coincidently the most left-wing region in the whole of the Soviet sector. Once the referendum was passed in July 1946, local German governments were able to execute Order 124 by themselves without the need of Soviet approval. The Soviet denazification procedures are generally regarded as the most thorough out of the four occupying forces despite the transition from being gradualist-minded to being very authoritative and hard-lined. Biddiscombe summarises that “the Soviet broom failed to find and sweep up most Nazis”15 – just like the Allied forces’ respective programmes.
Biddiscombe, “The Denazification of Germany: A History 1945-1950”, Tempus Publishing Ltd, Chalford, 2007 p142 14 Biddiscombe, “The Denazification of Germany: A History 1945-1950”, Tempus Publishing Ltd, Chalford, 2007 p129 15 Biddiscombe, “The Denazification of Germany: A History 1945-1950”, Tempus Publishing Ltd, Chalford, 2007 p152
The French had a more laid-back approach in their denazification plans compared to the other three forces. They did not believe in utilising questionnaires as this would, according to FitzGibbon, “pronounce a verdict on the “facts” rather than on the man.”16 The French believed that more emphasis should be placed on the individuality of the German rather than relying on mere association to make judgments. It was also believed that the educational aspect of Germany needed most attention as although Nazis could be punished for past crimes, the French realised this could only “deal with the past, while education can only concern the future.”17 The French had a number of factors in their favour for carrying out denazification. First, the small regions they were assigned to in the south-west allowed them to try out denazification procedures that the other occupying forces would struggle to implement in their largely populated regions. Second, they were absolved from subordination with the other two allied forces, thus enabling them more freedom to try out different denazification procedures of their own. The third and most important factor was the fact that France occupied the “traditional heartland of German liberalism”18, implying little Nazi influence in the region. Early methods of French denazification involved the rapid arrests of Nazi members near the end of 1945. 12,500 suspects were detained whereas another 800 were under surveillance. The arrests were based on their own discretion rather than on SHAEF policies (official French guidelines were not drawn up until January 1946). Although the French ordered Germans to fill Fragebogen papers later on that year, their method of categorising the German based on his answers was handled in a different way compared to their allies’. The Fragebogen papers were compared to recovered Nazi documents and ceremonial events to determine whether the German in question was active in Nazi events and activities. The comparison would then, at least in theory, lead to a more accurate categorisation for the German. As mentioned, the French targeted education as a main avenue for eliminating Nazi influence in their region. This method was known as kulturpolitik – cultural policy. Lieutenant Raymond Schmittlein, the head of the Gouvernement Militaire’s (GM) education branch, promptly suspended seventy five
FitzGibbon, “Denazification”, Michael Joseph Ltd, London, 1969 p102 FitzGibbon, “Denazification”, Michael Joseph Ltd, London, 1969 p107 18 Biddiscombe, “The Denazification of Germany: A History 1945-1950”, Tempus Publishing Ltd, Chalford, 2007 p156
percent of teachers in the French zone during the summer of 1945. However, as a result of a severe shortage of teaching staff, thirty nine percent of that proportion had to be recalled. The French also turned to old, retired teachers particularly those with no political leaning to ease the shortage of teachers. Teacher colleges were established to help develop fledging teachers, although some of the French officials according to Biddiscombe had concerns that the new generation of teachers “had been brought up in the National Socialist spirit.”19 Although these colleges provided 12 percent of the high school teachers by 1947, they were still 5000 teachers below the 1939 figure. Denazification of the universities was an easier task for the French - only thirty percent of lecturers were dismissed thus allowing them to rush their denazification programme in order for the universities to re-open by autumn 1945. By mid 1946, the GM had appointed 166 French lecturers and professors in German universities. Although the French began the ending of denazification programmes at the beginning of 1949, it took another year for the remaining cases to be heard and decided on. On the whole, the French appeared to have made a decent attempt at denazifying their region although the fact remained (as emphasised by FitzGibbon) that they “were not loved by the Germans in their zone. They were hardly even respected.”20 It can be concluded, therefore, that although the French implemented somewhat effective denazification policies, it came at a cost: the co-operation and respect of the majority of the German people. In hindsight, most people would assume that the major forces’ denazification programmes were successful in ending Nazi influence purely because of the democratic running of Germany today. However, the major forces’ denazification procedures were not as successful as they appeared. Although some policies did indeed contribute to the eradication of Nazi influence, such as the removal of Nazis holding authoritative
Biddiscombe, “The Denazification of Germany: A History 1945-1950”, Tempus Publishing Ltd, Chalford, 2007 p165 20 FitzGibbon, “Denazification”, Michael Joseph Ltd, London, 1969 p107
positions, there were a number of external factors that contributed to the downfall of Nazism. For instance, the economic recovery of the 1950s (often referred to as the “economic miracle”) promoted the idea of consumer culture: Germans cared less for National Socialism and preferred to associate themselves with pan-European identities. Also, a student revolt occurred in 1968, protesting the passing of a law that limited the rights of people in emergency circumstances. This revolt demonstrated that Germans themselves were trying to prevent Nazi-style legislation from being passed: denazification was occurring here, but not by the major forces in question. What also needs mentioned is that even before the end of the Second World War there were signs of denazification. The loss of husbands to war meant that women had to provide for themselves and their children - they were therefore violating their roles in the “proper” German family promoted by Nazi ideology. Also, war-time rationing led to a more level social class system which of course damaged the Nazi’s promotion of a mighty Aryan race being at the top of German society with minorities (such as foreigners and Jews) being at the bottom. Therefore, in conclusion, the major forces’ denazification policies contributed to the denazification of Germany but were not outstandingly successful. The unfair structure of some policies and the long, complicated procedures of others limited the major forces’ success in ridding Germany of her Nazi followers and ideals.
Bibliography Books Constantine FitzGibbon, 1969: Denazification, Michael Joseph Ltd, London Perry Biddiscombe, 2007: The Denazification of Germany: A History 1945-1950, Tempus Publishing Ltd, Chalford
Manfred Malzahn, 1991: Germany 1945-1949: A sourcebook, Routledge, London/New York Volker Rolf Berghahn, 1987: Modern Germany Second Edition: Society, economics and politics in the twentieth century, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge Ian Turner, 1989: Reconstruction in Post-War Germany, Berg Publishers Ltd, Oxford Websites http://www.hitler.org/speeches/09-06-38.html