Nazism’s Lessons & Legacies

By: Nicole Beswitherick

The defendants in the dock at the International Military Tribunal at Nuremberg. ——US Holocaust Memorial Museum, courtesy of John W. Mosenthal

As someone who had great grandparents who either fought on the front lines of WW2, nursed the injured or yielded crops, the topic of West Germany and Nazism is not completely unfamiliar. The main question in regard to this week’s readings is “What did coming to terms in the past (Vergangenheitsbewältigung) look like in postwar Germany?” If we look at the reading from Fulbrook, “The Diffraction of Guilt”, we see that a West German judge could still appear to have more sympathy with former Nazis than with their victims, even more than 20 years after the end of the war. It was added that a long prison sentence for the accused, in their advanced stage of life, also destroys their economic existence; and this makes it difficult to build it up again after the sentence is done (Fulbrook 323). West German interpretations of the law offer the idea that killing was a less odious crime if the victim had no suspicion that it was going to happen. From what I’ve gathered from these readings, the Nazis and West Germans were simply coming up with excuses to make their crimes come off as justifiable – which they are not.

In Sollors’ work, I found the explanation of the title of the reading quite interesting. “Everybody gets fragebogened sooner or later”, was described to summarize the American literary responses of the period (Sollors 147). It is seeming that Sollors makes many connections to America and its involvement and perhaps progression toward Nazi Germany. In Salomon’s version of the questionnaire in the chapter,  it not surprising to Sollors that Americans are viewed as the true anti-semites (Sollors 150). He tries to expand on this, but I find this particular reading did not do fantastic in translating or explaining the quotes written in German. But in Moeller’s “How to Judge Stanley Kramer’s Judgement at Nuremberg” there is also a connection to Americans being that Mann asks: was postwar America inching toward Nazi Germany? (Which I will be asking in this week’s discussion for those who stumble upon my reflection). In this article, in particular, Moeller gathers the theory that Kramer and Mann used the film to reflect on what America had done, and America’s transgressions. They did this, according to Moeller, by focussing on the fatalities and presenting German fascism as a tool to measure the forms of injustice that permeated the daily life of Americans in 1961.

Works Cited:

Mary Fulbrook, “Diffraction of Guilt” and “Voices of the Victims” in Reckonings: Legacies of Nazi Persecution and the Quest for Justice (Oxford University Press, 2018), pp: 314-336, 361-377.

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

Robert Moeller, “How to Judge Stanley Kramer’s Judgement at Nuremberg” German History Vol. 31, Issue 4 (December 2013): 497-522.

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