Western Expectations of de-Nazification

Aleksander Bracken

One of the aspects of de-Nazification that stood out to me was the degree to which American and Allied expectations and needs of the time affected it. Moeller’s piece on the Judgement of Nuremberg highlights that the American bought into the “dream” of Janning’s confession as the embodiment of the enormity of the crimes committed by Germany and as a confession of guilt that provided the possibility for forgiveness, despite the fact that this confession was not actually something that happened historically. There was also the idea of the Fragebogen as a “bureaucratic process of revolution by decree,” since it was expected that a 131 question questionnaire could alone “de-nazify” West Germany. Thus, the West leaned heavily into the perception that Germany was quickly heading down the path towards de-Nazification.

But these two articles highlight several instances where Germans were not on the same page as their Western allies/occupiers. While Willy Brandt somewhat embraced a critical view of his country’s past and the need for reconciliation, German film critics harked on the films historical inaccuracies and were less critical of their nation’s wrongdoings. Some respondents of the Fragebogen also scoffed at the questionnaire, feeling that some aspects of it were reminiscent of Nazi scrutiny (i.e. physical characteristics and ancestry certificates). Furthermore, Americans were boasting a 92% denazification rate in areas like Bad Weisse (147). But as Moeller highlights, radical neo-Nazi antisemitic acts – like attacks on synagogues and Jewish cemeteries – occurred in major cities, like Cologne in 1959. Thus, the American dream of de-Nazification was built on a shaky foundation at best.

These texts demonstrate that German discourse and perspectives did not echo the dreams put forward by Americans, suggesting that West Germans’ relationship with their past in the first two post-war decades was not sufficiently critical to purge Nazism from the body politic and prevent the rise of new Nazi-inspired movements.

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: