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The denazification policies in Germany

Info: 2559 words (10 pages) Essay
Published: 3rd May 2017 in History

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Analyse the Denazification policies in Germany after WWII and the extent of their success.

After the Second World War, the Postdam Conference which took place between 17 July and 2 August 1945 saw the victorious allied forces divide Germany up into American, British, French and Soviet Union zones, with a view to reconstructing Germany. The Soviet Union was to control the newly formed German Democratic Republic (GDR) and the West was to be controlled by the Allied American, French and British forces. The Soviets, alongside the allies, faced the task of economic and social reconstruction, demilitarization, democratization and perhaps equally as important, the denazification of Germany. This process was more than the removal of Nazi insignia and the renunciation of Hitler and the Nazi governments misdemeanour’s. Rather, it would require a real transformation of the collective thought, both socially and politically. One could suggest that the program intended to not necessarily remove Nazi features from society and instil a pro-western mindset, but rather to direct Germany on a path of self-sufficiency. Indeed, as Timothy Vogt notes, it was always argued that during the period of denazification in the GDR, the Soviets were not imposing their political ideologies on the East Germans. Instead, they were helping the Germans find a “progressive road to self-determination”. Of course this is somewhat contentious, as the constitution of the GDR in 1974 states that the “German Democratic Republic is for ever and irrevocably allied with the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics”. Denazification, as Perry Biscombe asserts “arose from a synthesis of trends that influenced American policy makers and then radiated outwards to shape the policies of the other occupying powers as well”.What were the directives in the policy of denazification and more importantly, to what extent were they successful? A variation of strategies and techniques were employed, including the creation of an international military tribunal in August 1945, and a Control Council headed by four figures, each from one of the occupied zones and also non-fraternization policies early on in the occupation. Certainly one could assert that a vast majority of policies implemented, (particularly in the Ally occupied zones), had a denazification theme running through them. The techniques and methods varied depending on the zone. In order to comprehend the varying successes of this policy, we must look at each zone individually, and how effectively their programmes were implemented. (If you go back and look at the intro you should at this point really lay out what the Potsdam Conference was – whatever points you make in the intro must be discussed and debated – e.g how it came about, what the policies were, evidence for and against whatever treaty was put in place – I get that it came about after Gemany was defeated by the allies etc but you have to discuss this in main body of text not just in intro, You’ve just jumped ahead to denazification, which I’m assuming was a by product of an initial intent to restructure Germany first and foremost socially and economically)

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The British took, what Perry Biddiscombe calls a “modest” approach to denazification. Biddiscombe asserts that this modesty lay in the Britishunwillingness to forcibly displace centres of authority, mainly because their “long history as an imperial power had taught conservative lessons”. The British, unlike their American counterparts had the experience of knowing that drastic societal change in other countries and cultures had negative results. (You could give a specific example here, and its pitfalls, which would show that you have read around the subject)The British force’s initial efforts thus lay in ‘political re-education’. Certainly as Nicholas Pronoy suggests, unlike the US and Soviet Forces, who strived to deprive Germany of power, “the British alternative…was to go for the mind instead of the body”. Ultimately, Britain intended to win Germans over, rather than forcefully and radically change them. There was therefore an initial concentration on reforming the Universities. This was done through the purging of a number of German professors, with the aim to prevent radical political thought early on in a German’s life. Nevertheless, under the influence of T.H. Marshall, head of the German section of the Foreign Office Research Department (FORD), the British understood that it was impossible to remove all Nazi’s from positions of power and indeed, there was even a case to make use of those with exceptional technical and administrative skills. It was in this area that British policy most differed from that of their American counterparts. Perry Biddiscombe asserts that this was because there was no unrelenting desire for ‘vengeance’ on the part of the British public as there was in the United States. Although there were attempts by the British to remove ‘lower-end’ Nazis from administration mainly through trials (the majority of which took place after Nuremburg), ultimately, as Henry Ashby Turner Jr. posits “some tainted individuals managed to secure positions in the new post-war institutions”. This ‘modesty’ approach certainly tainted the view of the British policy abroad, particularly amongst the Americans who attempted to follow a zero-tolerance policy. Ultimately, the success of the British denazification policy can be seen in two parts. One could argue that the British ultimately failed to denazify private enterprise and although they banned Nazi groups, they certainly left a window of opportunity for the restoration of Nazism. Conversely, the British could be perceived to have succeeded in ‘their goals’, since to some extent they upheld the pre-existing economic structure and utilized former Nazis for their talents. As has been noted before, it was not in the tradition of the British to totally displace a ruling government. The Americans attempted a slightly more hardened approach to their denazification policy.

Denazification undoubtedly arose from American politics, it was of course the U.S occupied zone initially faced great difficulty in implementing their programmes. The main problem lay in the sheer number of potential initiatives. As Biddiscombe notes, there were in fact several that had a measure of approval between 1944/45: The ‘Handbook’ leaflet; the November SHAEF directive; and an early draft of Joint Chiefs of Staff 1067. Undoubtedly the disbandment of the Supreme Headquarters Allied Expeditionary Force (SHAEF) on July 14th 1945 left the allied forces bereft of a “unified command structure”. Moreover, the newly formed Control Council seemed somewhat ineffective with diminishing Allied-Soviet relations (why were relations diminishing???). This made the implementation of universal programmes far more difficult. This incapability was evident as early as spring 1945, where “one Allied army group was ordering the arrest of all Nazis while another had largely suspended the programme…”. The most elaborate methods of denazification undoubtedly lay within the U.S zone. One such method concentrated on the lower-end Nazi purge where extensive questionnaires or ‘Frageboden‘ were introduced, after which, there was a judicial proceeding before a denazification board. As Fitzgibbon notes, more copies of the these huge American ‘Frageboden’ were distributed than their were Germans living in the zone, and only 25% of these were ever processed. This fact exemplifies the break down of the denazification process – that to screen the entire population was simply not feasible due to the lack of personnel and resources. The American initiative like the British ultimately involved the removal of the Nazi party and the seizure of high-ranking Nazi officials and members of the SS. The US’s fairly bureaucratic methods categorized German’s into five categories ‘Major Offenders, Offenders, Lesser Offenders, Followers and Exonerated Persons’, a process that arguably alienated the German public from the US troops. Further estrangement was created with the initial non-fraternization policy. This restricted relationships between Allied officers and German citizens. Unsurprisingly, this policy was a failure and in September 1945, the matter was raised in the Control Council and it was agreed that the policy be scrapped altogether. The lack of success of the American denazification policy rested perhaps just as much with the outbreak of and preoccupation with the cold war against the Soviet Union, as it did with the infeasibility of their methods. The language barrier between US soldiers and the Germans alongside a general lack of unified direction also meant that “the vast majority of GI’s could barely understand the fine differences between fanatics, opportunists and nominal adherents” .

The climax of the reckoning that was denazification, as Peter Pulzer states, came in 1946 at the International Military Tribunal at Nuremberg. This saw the trial and sentencing of major Nazi officials including Goering, Hess and Keitel. One could posit that this trial, held within the auspices of an Allied Military Court, had the greatest impact on the denazification process. The international exposure that it achieved undoubtedly aided to discredit Nazism among the German people. (is that the only reason? Are there any more you can think of??)

There is a common belief amongst historians that the Soviet denazification policy was vastly different from that of the Allies disguised their true intentions for Germany, namely the communization of East Germany, indeed Fitzgibbon asserts that within the Russian zone, “denazification played a subordinate role to the destruction of capitalism”. This view largely grew out of the lack of knowledge of Soviet Policy because of their policies of isolation. With more contemporary knowledge, one would tend to follow Biddiscombe’s idea that the Soviet Policies, methods and indeed results were not that different to the western allies, as we will discuss. The Soviet’s long-term goals for the GDR are still indeed largely unclear, due in part to the restricted access to Russian archives, although one could speculate that it was always their intention to absorb East Germany into the Soviet Bloc. Their short-term goals, as Gareth Pritchard has noted, are far clearer. The Soviets, of course wanted to exploit the East German lands, not only for resources, but also for their scientific and military knowledge. This alongside the heavy reparations that were induced (example), aided in their aim to prevent Germany from being a threat to the Soviet Union. In reality, the Soviet approach to denazification was not unlike that of their Allied counter-parts. They aimed to bring former Nazi’s to justice and to remove them from the political engine. Unlike the British or the Americans however, the Russians attempted to make the distinction between those who had been a member of the Nazi party and those who had been an active Nazi and whether they had participated in the crimes of the former Third Reich. Walter Ulbricht, the leader of the Socialist Unity Party argued in 1948, that the denazification process had been a success in that it had allowed the formation of a democratic government in the Soviet Occupied Zone, yet as Timothy Vogt notes, many western historians argued at the time that the Soviet’s denazification policies only succeeded in paving the way for a dictatorship .

This argument which of course was the result of a cold-war mentality, ignores the fact that, the results of the Soviet Zone differed very little to that of the American zone. Certainly as Perry Biddiscombe has noted, even the “Soviet broom failed to find and sweep up most Nazis”A feature of all the occupied zones. The Soviets undoubtedly saw denazification as a necessity, whether it was to aid in the dismantling of capitalism, or the creation of an autonomous antifascist democracy.

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When speaking of the Allied Occupied Territory, Pulzer suggests that apart from “a few spectacularly guilty war criminals and a fairly effective purge of schools – the personnel of the bureaucracy, the judiciary, universities, and the private economy differed little in 1949 from 1945”.This, one could also suggest, was true of the Russian zone. Yet, one must also note with the ability of hind site, although many Nazi followers and supporters were not punished, and despite the intentions of the occupying forces, Naziism as a political force may be viewed as being successfully eradicated within the mainstream German political arena, although this was not necessarily as a result of the policies introduced by the occupying powers. Ultimately, one must come to the conclusion that ‘denazification’ was an impossible task to be carried out through bureaucratic non-organic means as the Americans tried and tested to their ultimate failure. Golo Mann has suggested that while the need for a Nazi -free democratic Germany country was unquestionable, “roughly half the nation could not sit in judgment over roughly the other half, nor could the majority of those with special qualifications be excluded from their sphere of occupation”. Denazification was reached, if one may come to such a conclusion, by the German people. Positively, the total denazification of Germany could only be fully reached if Nazism was rejected by the German people. It appears that the policies implemented by the occupying powers somewhat aided in this process, and the experience and exposure to the spectacle of the Nuremburg trials ultimately discredited Nazism and was henceforth largely rejected from many social circles in Germany.

I’m not really sure what your argument has been throughout the essay. To me it reads like you are laying out how the Allies implemented their policies but I don’t see that many specific examples or theories proposed. Your argument has to be clear throughout the essay, so if you think denazification was successful you must say as you go to what extent (as in the question) so that when you get to the end the reader knows exactly where you stand. There must also be theories to support you view too. When you’ve done that go back to your intro and review so that what you say in it is reflected in the body of the essay (each sentence in the intro should be a summary of each paragraph of the essay). Look at the feedback you have been given so far. Once you get how to lay out these kinds of essays it will be a doddle for you Callum then you can use it as a template. Look at an essay you got a high mark for and the feedback.


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