The Fragebogen: Denazification Questionnaire

BY Vadzim Malatok

At the end of the World War II, the Allies implemented a program that was intended to cleanse Germany and all remaining elements of Nazism from its public life. The term ‘denazification’ was coined to reflect the program’s objective, which consisted of nine different policies that varied from holding the leaders of the NSDAP accountable for the regime’s atrocities to “changing names of parks, streets, and public ways.” In 1945, the Allies created a questionnaire, known as the ‘Fragebogen’, which consisted of 131 questions that the Western Germans were required to fill out. The questionnaire was a part of the denazification program and contained questions ranging from the individual’s pre-Nazi voting record to his or her weight and height. 

In addition, however, the questionnaire went as far as to inquire about the person’s implicated relatives – the maneuver that had been previously attempted by the NSDAP. When Adolf Hitler came to power, one of his main goals was to indoctrinate citizens into Nazism by modifying public opinions and beliefs. As a result, a notion of an ‘exemplary citizen’ was invented to depict one who reported on his or her neighbours or relatives for their supposed anti-Nazi actions. The number of reports was staggering, and evidently, the Allies decided to incorporate the same approach to help identify the remnants of the National Socialist Party. However, the drawback of the questionnaire was that it was to be completed ‘under oath of honesty’, which meant that the accuracy of answers was often questionable. The only available resources that the Allies had to investigate the factuality of answers were the NSDAP, SS, and SA documents that remained in their possession after the war. As a result, many answers could not be scrutinized and were thus accepted in the hope that the respondent answered the questions truthfully. However, according to Hannah Arendt, “Europeans do not always believe in telling the absolute truth when an official body asks embarrassing questions.”

Overall, the ‘Fragebogen’ was subjected to much criticism, for its “wide scope, uneven implementation, and emphasis on party membership rather than on individual criminal acts.” As a result, it is considered to be a failed project on the part of the Allies despite its massive circulation.

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