By: Hannah Long
It was never in my mind to draw such a strange comparison, but history is indeed like playdough. As anyone can alter the frame of the events, key figures, and ultimate outcome. It possesses the unique quality of being adaptable, for better or worse people of the past and present still use it today to come to terms, most often with prominent events in world history.
A week like this wouldn’t be complete without a discussion of Nazism, more specifically the aftermath of it all. Each author from this week focuses on some aspect of Germany having to figure out how to deal with the resulting consequences of the war on top of the sheer number of atrocities committed by their regime on a global stage. Arguably this was the first major time in which a single country in the aftermath of the war became the center of the world’s attention, with the major on everyone’s mind being what now? Author Werner Sollors describes the ensuing response by Germany to be both “a bureaucratic nightmare” and a “a site of German cultural memory… And denazification” (Sollors, 139).
On one part of history there is the political side of Germany, pushing the narrative of denazification on all of its citizens, wanting to instill into the minds the dangers of this ideological sphere and muting any remaining members of the Nazi Party/Nazi affiliation (Sollors, 141). Sollors goes on to describe the lengthy measures made to ensure the group would never rise again and also how the public was made to go through a re-education and lengthy process themselves to become a part of this “new Germany” (Sollors 142).
While the state wanted to refocus German society the media seemingly wanted to counter that idea by staying on the topic of Nazism by deconstructing it to its very core. The media of which I speak of is that of global media of the time, as Author Robert Moeller discusses in his work, “How to Judge Stanley Kramer’s Judgement at Nuremberg” (Moeller, 497). 1961 seemed to be rife with a global re-examination on the Second World War, with Adolf Eichmann’s trial bringing about much public discourse and reflection of the past sixteen years (Moeller, 498). Kramer himself was inspired to release the film in Berlin as he felt it was a testament to “how far Germany has come” (Moeller, 498). Personally I have always found the post-war media’s fascination of the fallout of the War to be interesting in itself as it almost demonstrates how different people come to terms with something so monumental.
History became a useful tool for the rebuilding of Germany post-war, as for them it became an opportunity to reflect and formulate a plan to reform their fractured society. Vergangenheitsbewältigung was never about re-imagining their own history but rather process of coming to terms with it all.
Robert Moeller, “How to Judge Stanley Kramer’s Judgement at Nuremberg” German History Vol. 31, Issue 4 (December 2013): 497-522.
W. Sollors, “Everybody Gets Fragebogened Sooner or Later’: The Denazification Questionnaire as Cultural Text.” German Life & Letters. Vol 71, Issue 2 (2018): 139-153.