The Person Behind the Soldier

Emma C

With the topic of, “coming to terms in postwar Germany,” I can say that I learned quite a bit. What I took away from Fulbrook’s reading was how their actions truly affected some former Nazi’s. We are taught and see them as these ruthless killing machines, but Fulbrook’s reading brought the human aspect back. In particular in Zimmermann’s case we can see how after the war ended, he turned his life around and became an outstanding citizen. He got married and had four children, while working in a uranium mine and even earning the accolade, “activist of service (Verdienter Aktivist), someone who had met even more demanding criteria of sustained productivity, service and commitment.” As demonstrated throughout the trial Zimmermann truly felt remorse for the crimes he had committed and the lives he had taken. Reading about these trials allows us to see the person behind the soldier and see how truly remorseful they are and how they are trying to atone for their crimes.

What also stood out was the lengths that were taken to ensure the “denazification” of Germany. There was such a frenzy of wanting to rid Germany of any lingering Nazi’s or affects of the party in order to bring Germany back into the world’s good graces once again. There was such a fear around the resurgence of the Nazi ideals that after the war people filled out a survey where they were asked what party they voted for in 1932 and 1933, which could incriminate themselves. Everyday people who voted for the party could potentially be incriminated without having committed any true crime because people were so fearful or a resurgence.

Mary Fulbrook, “Discomfort Zones” and “Voices of the Victims” in Reckonings: Legacies of Nazi Persecution and the Quest for Justice (Oxford University Press, 2018), pp: 314-336.

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

2 Replies to “The Person Behind the Soldier”

  1. I really appreciated reading your perspective on this week’s question of coming to terms with the postwar state. While my response didn’t focus on this aspect as much, I feel like it is important to remember that these individuals were in fact humans, not killing machines as you aptly put it – and that there’s nuance to be added to this conversation. Part of the reasoning as to why some of these individuals did not speak out about their experiences was likely a trauma response, rather than a defense against social/legal responses.

  2. Hi Emma, I think your perspective in the readings this week is quite interesting. What I primarily took away from the Fulbrook reading in regards to those who were active members of the Nazi state was the ways in which they aimed to distance themselves from the horrors of the regime. The could be a Wehrmacht soldier or the school teacher in Auschwitz he mentions. I found that instead of humanizing those in the face of the atrocities that it showed the indifference and hatred of those ascribing the Nazi ideology. It was bone-chilling to read how the “good doctor,” Dr. Hans Münch distanced himself post-war and lived relatively peacefully after committing war crimes.

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