De-Radicalizing and Remembering: Coming to Grips with the Nazi Past and Collective Violence in the Present

By Austin Pellizzer

Since the end of the Second World War in 1945, historians have been in constant debate about how a nation should remember horrific events of war, especially the Holocaust. However, before looking at a more contemporary vision, one should look at the earliest steps used to combat the evil ideology of nazism at the end of the war.

In Werner Sollor’s article “Everybody Gets Fragebogened Sooner or Later’: The Denazification Questionnaire as Cultural Text.”, Sollor describes how allied forces tried to de-radicalize and rehabilitate German society in the forms of questionnaires (139). These 131 question documents were used by the American forces to screen citizens for future employment in the new German state (142). However, this calls into question how effective it is for foreign actors to impose particular methods of de-radicalization onto groups (149). While it is true that Sollor discusses that it was, in fact, the German Marxists who coined this term of “denazification” (153), it was still used on mass by the allies. This article also points out a lack of oversight, trustworthiness, and resentment towards the Americans for demonstrating grandstanding gestures on a defeated enemy (149). Because of this, Sollor believes this action was a failed attempt at trying to change a society’s ideology through these particular means (140). 

In the same breath, Dan Snow’s podcast with Professor Mary Fulbrook addresses the idea of contemporary remembrance of these tragedies. In this talk, the topic of how one can become complacent and a critical actor in a killing machine was of great interest. However, one question which was brought up and in need of an explanation is as follows. What can be done in the contemporary age to try and deter society from adopting radical ideologies, becoming radicalized, and complacent in mass murder?

Works Cited

Mary Fulbrook, Reckonings: Legacies of Nazi Persecution and the Quest for Justice podcast, 2019.

W. Sollors,“Everybody Gets Fragebogened Sooner or Later’: The Denazification Questionnaire as Cultural Text.” German Life & Letters. Vol 71, Issue 2 (2018): 139-153.

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