Nazism’s Lessons and Legacies


This week’s readings once again come to complicate our idea of fascism. Once thing I noticed while reading was how the postwar process was not uniform. Germany’s confrontation with its past was not the ‘obvious’ path I had imagined: there were several stages. The early phase saw a willingness to move on quickly from what happened, only to have a international community later one that wished to spend more time on it. When one does think about it a little more it does make sense. It is expected to have many ideas on how to process something so huge. The second thing was, which I guess was inevitable in an increasingly globalized world (and in this case a world shaped by Cold War dynamics), how this process affected not just Germany alone, but other countries like the US and the USSR to name only them. 

I was also able to make several connections with past readings. Reading about how former Nazis were able to reintegrate into the highest echelons of German society after the war reminded of fascism’s capacity to adapt itself according to the world it lives in. I am here thinking of the Crumbaugh article on prosperity and freedom under Franco. There are several differences between the two of course but both articles present a world that is supposedly “over” fascism, and so the remnants of this movement must be able to disguise themselves. This again re-emphasizes what we talked about in the previous weeks: namely how the military victory in 1945 was not enough in eradicating fascism, but an ideological and intellectual victory is needed as well. 

About the Moeller article, one important thing to keep in mind was how the movie Judgement at Nuremberg was intended to an American audience with a specific goal in mind. Indeed, Moeller states that the movie was about what the United States “should not become”. In order to serve this particular goal, he carefully chose which cases from the actual trials he was gonna put on screen. I also thought the choice of setting the trials in 1935 and not 1941 was very interesting. As Moeller points out, this was done with the goal of illustrating a Germany that was not that different than the United States, highlighting the idea that what happened in Germany could just as well happen to America if we were not careful enough. The White House’s attempt to block the broadcast of the movie only reinforced this idea for me.

This connects with another idea seen in previous weeks: how history can sometimes be used to pick and choose certain episodes that fits an agenda, whatever it may be. Once again the circumstances here are different, but the process remains the same regardless of the purpose or the outcome. 

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