Post-war Germany was certainly a mess to say the least. It was a country that was torn apart by the great powers, with new governments established on both sides. The economy was in shambles, and reconciling with its past actions during the war would not prove to be an easy task. As mentioned by Fulbrook regarding the Zimmerman trial, Zimmerman was very upfront regarding his actions and tasks he was assigned pertaining to the liquidation of the Jews. He did not bear any concern with incriminating himself, and clearly wanted to no longer bear the weight of those actions. (Fulbrook, 316) What is interesting here is that we look at this situation and many of the other situations faced by other Germans involved in the killings, and see how complex these situations really are. While he was indeed directly involved in the carrying out of the killings, evidence points to him potentially enjoying the authority early on, but then slowly becoming uncomfortable with the more serious actions carried out later on. On top of this he made it clear that he did not drink alcohol to make the killings easier on him due to it being forbidden by superiors. The fear of being punished took precedence over the suffering of others. (Fulbrook, 317) Protecting ourselves from punishment is a natural human instinct, If we have to make others suffer in order to prevent ourselves from suffering, more often than not we will take that trade off. It’s sad to say but humans are a sad bunch. On a separate note, I would like to highlight a point made by Moeller regarding the film Judgement at Nuremburg. “When in the closing courtroom scene, Haywood reflects on the crimes the defendants have committed—‘The sterilization of men because of their political beliefs . . . A mockery made out of friendship and faith’—he is quick to admit ‘how easily it can happen’ and to add that ‘there are those in our own country today, too, who speak of the protection of country. Of survival’. But, he goes on, ‘Survival as what?’” (Moeller, 520) This quote causes me to beg the question, how can someone reconcile with the fact that they are “sterilizing” an entire religion, race, etc. What are the reasons for why anyone can believe in something like “its a matter of survival for the Arian race”?
Mary Fulbrook, “Discomfort Zones” and “Voices of the Victims” in Reckonings: Legacies of Nazi Persecution and the Quest for Justice (Oxford University Press, 2018), p. 316.
Robert Moeller, “How to Judge Stanley Kramer’s Judgement at Nuremberg” German History Vol. 31, Issue 4 (December 2013): p. 520.