Germany Post WWII: Reactions and Avenues of Rehabilitation

Created by: Francesco Sacca

Hello everyone!

It is an absolute pleasure to welcome you to another week of interesting material surrounding the “lessons and legacies of fascism”. In this week I will be mentioning four scholars and their sources (which will be posted at the bottom of this article) so with no more delay let us discuss the material.

This weeks material and sources were specifically challagening, not in their length but in their substance and effect. these authors particularly focus on the reactions of the GDR (or East Germany) and FRG ( or West Germany) and their sources review the different responses by Germany to the development and the eventual failure of the Nazi fascist government in 1945. Each source aids the reader in laying the foundations for the aftermath and how the GDR and FRG operated very differently in their responses to such things as judicial process, governmental adaptation, and legislation. However, out of all of these sources, one struck me as being particularly (while also gruesome in its details) fascinating, this was Mary Fulbrook and her articles titled, “Discomfort Zones” and “Voices of the Victims”, in the text Reckonings: Legacies of Nazi Persecution and the Quest for Justice. In these articles, Fulbrook describes results of certain cases of German SS officers and their commanders. These accounts were not only shocking due to the the recounting of the atrocities committed during World War 2 but also in how the GDR and FRG had tried the SS soldiers that had been located years after the war in court differently. Her accounts of Holocaust survivors was also very revealing as the validity of their claims were often challenged and the borders of who could claim the position of a “survivor” were also (originally) quite thin.

In essence, these materials were truly an eye opener when it came to understanding the fallout of Nazism in Germany (and elsewhere) and the solutions that were made to ensure that the fascist class were not to return.

Image of a mandatory 1945 Fragebogen.


Mary Fulbrook, “Discomfort Zones” 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.

Joachim Häberlen, “(Not) Narrating the History of the Federal Republic: Reflections on the Place of the New Left in West German History and Historiography” Central European History Vol. 52, Issue 1 (March 2019): 107-124.

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


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.

A poster for the film Trial of Nuremberg.  Stanley Kramer, Judgement at Nuremberg (1961: United Artists).
Image courtesy of


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.

The Survivor

Megan MacRae

I feel that much of my knowledge about Nazi Germany, the Holocaust, the struggles of Jewish people etc. comes from studying these experiences as they occurred during and leading up to World War II. Therefore, I enjoyed this week’s discussion as it centered around what the treatment and experiences of Jewish people were like during the postwar era. 

Specifically, I enjoyed Mary Fulbrook’s take on how the postwar era transformed from a time which scrutinized the testimonies of Holocaust survivors, into a period that saw widespread empathy towards these individuals who survived Nazi Concentration Camps, Jewish Ghettos etc. Apart of me finds it difficult to understand why, after so much destruction, postwar Germany continued to view the voices of Holocaust survivors in a doubtful manner. There was evident loss, death, and devastation during the Holocaust so I would have assumed that during any Nazi trial, the word of the victim would be held with the most importance and respect. However, then I reflect on the position of a victim, who is a part of a minority group, in any justice system and it becomes clear that these individuals are often met with skepticism solely because of their identity. We see this with racialized groups, women, those apart of the 2SLGBTQ+ community etc. 

Therefore, although Germany’s postwar era eventually does transform into one that values the oral testimonies of survivors, it can be understood that there was skepticism surrounding the testimony of Jewish survivors due to the historical and contemporary treatment of victims within the justice system.

The Road To Hell Is Paved With Good Intentions, The Fragebogen

By Blaise Rego

A copy of part of the Fragebogen, this section is about Nazi affiliation

I’d like to hope that everyone reading this post would agree with the idea that after WW2 Germany needed less Nazi and even less in positions of power. This idea was the basis of the allied task following the end of the war. Germany had to be rebuilt, institutions must be reconstructed and Nazi must be punished but figuring out who would be able to help on this task and who would hinder progress being made was the primary task before much could be accomplished. The American military government created what became a 131 question questionnaire most commonly know by its German name, Fragebogen, the German word for questionnaire. This questionnaire asked everything from eduction history to voting history to questions of ones height and weight. This was deemed to be a necessity as there were millions of germans living in allied occupied areas and it was deemed inefficient to interview and investigate very single person in the country. So this bureaucratic form was made to root out who needed to be sought out and investigated deeper.

This is were the crux of the issue lies, this questionnaire is good on face value, if people are honest, at determining who was or was not a collaborator with a Nazi regime. However it lacks the nuance necessary to root out deeper reasons why people join the party. Some as the reading state joined out of fear, in one particular example from the book Small Victory a man joins the party in an attempt to save his implied jewish daughter. Stories such as these, fictional as they may be place the idea in our brains that maybe individuals might’ve had deeper reasonings for joining the party than just antisemitism and hate.

This leads to the deepest issue with the Fragebogen the hypocrisy of the American state. In the “everybody gets Fragebogened sooner or later” reading there is a story of American officers being openly antisemitic in post war interment camps. This story demonstrates an idea that the Americans were doing this less to root out those with hatefully beliefs but more to push their enemy even in defeat. When speaking of American hypocrisy on hate, it must be mentioned that at this time segregation was still alive and well and wouldn’t be made illegal for another 20 years. The idea of the Fragebogen was well intentioned as a way to root out those who may have participated in heinous acts during the war but it turned into a bureaucratic nightmare that exemplified American hypocrisy and insensitivity to what those in Germany may have truly believed.

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.

Malleability and Imagined Possibilities

By Lauren McCoy

An interesting theme from this week’s readings was the malleability of history, where shifting cultural/political contexts and individual interpretations can heavily shape how we represent the recent past. Added to the pliability of memory, it seems impossible for us to create a stable view of the past, especially when the subject is as complex and morally-charged as the Holocaust.

An interesting pattern across the readings was how the past was employed or re-invented to meet the needs of present actors – ranging from Nazis trying to reconcile their involvement in the Third Reich to American directors trying to take the moral lessons of German history and connect it to his own national challenges. Though for different purposes, both cases forward a plausible but ultimately inaccurate version of the past, deviating from “historical fact” to better fit a simplified narrative or to serve their needs in the present.

 While I think it’s easy for us to be suspicious of representations of the past that aren’t “accurate”, I think there is an interesting space here for “imagined possibilities” of the past. I’m not trying to suggest that representations or understandings shouldn’t be grounded on factual evidence or to encourage people to falsify the past for their own benefit (which, as previous classes have shown, is common in fascist regimes). However, I think it may be useful considering the complexity of Holocaust experiences to use “imagined possibilities”, where perhaps an event didn’t occur exactly how it is represented but is grounded in real history or combines several historical experiences for a more “complete” narrative. The film Judgment at Nuremberg showcases this, straying from official trial transcripts to create a plausible situation that spoke more to the American context. I think this is common within the history of slavery, where the lack of resources by enslaved peoples has forced historians to use what evidence is available and “fictionalize” historical experience.

I’d be interested to hear what you guys think!

Post-Nazism in the Federal Republic of Germany

After the tremendous destruction that was brought upon all of Germany during the last years of the second World war, reality was hammered in the German conscientiousness. With the creation of the Federal Republic of Germany, they would have to go back to square one, a more liberal and democratic regime, a post Great war repeat of the Republic of Weimar in the 1920-30s. But instead of instead of seeing it fail once again due to disastrous economic and political reasons, West Germany was able to make it work by deconstructing the ideology of Nazism as it was argued by Joachim C. Häberlen. One of the ways to do so was trough the popular culture and it was very interesting to see that things such as the Allies denazification questionnaire was introduced to change the population’s perception of it. The answers highlighted by Werner Sollors were confirming a point that was foreseeable, that Nazism after the war was already getting rejected as an ideology. Still, it shows that no one was really sure of what would actually happen in the late 1940s and 1950s as political instability was omnipresent since the start of the 20th century. Americans while trying to help the German society radically change as fast as possible may have also slowed the process a bit because of initiative like the questionnaire that was perceived as a bit much. It is also shown in the German culture that they were ready to move on from this period of Nazism when Stanley Kramer, an American cineaste, was able to present a movie which dove in the trial of Nuremberg that left no stone unturned.

  • Louis Lacroix

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.

Creative Liberties and their Implications

By Felix Nicol

In this week’s readings, a question stayed with me, shaping my interpretation of the readings. I wondered: to what extent is the reinterpretation and narrative-shaping present in recounting the past useful or perhaps instead counterproductive in molding our understanding of the past. As underlined in Fulbrook’s chapter Bearing the Voices of Victims, first-person accounts were often accompanied with information added by professionals to add context and perhaps give a more unbiased and “accurate” view of victims (371). It is understandable that some form of editing is necessary, as these accounts, usually recounted years after the fact, are likely to contain information warped through a post-war perception. However, on the other hand, the amazement of readers surprised by the objectivity of a victim whose work had been intertwined with a ghost-writer’s analysis as explored by Fulbrook provides problematic interpretation in the other direction (373). In this regard, there is a danger to be seen in the views of a general public who may have false understanding of the past due to objective information of a third party placed in the recountings of a primary source.

Moeller’s analysis of Kramer’s Judgment at Nuremberg underlines similar problems with the creative liberties taken in improving storytelling. Moeller explores this problem through the perspective of the American and German critics, the former of which glossed over the false recountings of the past, rather interpreting German criticism as proof that the German public was not willing to accept its past (510.) Without going into details, the use of Salomon’s work as a primary work of understanding Fragebogen explored by Sollors looks at the irony of his criticism of the survey without having submitted one himself (149). In both of these examples, though I do see merit in using creative liberties to ensure interesting work which allows a work to gain popularity, I feel we need to be careful not to create false perspectives of the past, especially towards readers and watchers who may not have the means and or the interest to inform themselves further on the subject.


Mary Fulbrook, “Discomfort Zones” 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.

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.

Experimentation in Popular Culture

By Kaileigh La Belle

Concerning major political shifts, I had often thought of them through institutionalized (often linear) processes. However, the source material consistently used in these articles was predominately popular culture, from Trial At Nuremberg (1961), analyzed in Moller’s work, to the numerous popular autobiography and novels highlighted in Sollor’s work. As such, I found Häberlen’s argument that popular portrayals of politics were a form of experimentation intriguing and it prompted me to consider how this theory might be relevant to this week’s other readings. 

In considering the qualities of this experimentation, Häberlen drew heavily on the idea of non-temporal narratives. I saw a similarity in Fullbrook’s chapter “Discomfort Zones” that highlights how these narratives, while certainly not severed from temporal contexts, are defined by personal experimentations with moral self-distancing and composure that ebbs and flows. Throughout “Discomfort Zones” Fullbrook provides numerous examples of how individuals played with the line between guilt and ignorance and that addressing their Nazi past was not a linear path. Furthermore, in considering what makes popular culture such an attractive space for experimentation, the idea that fiction can simplify the discussion and simultaneously can have a dramatic impact on how people see themselves and the world around them seems central. In his analysis of Trial at Nuremberg, Moeller examines how the directors and producers paid particular attention to what was applicable to their (mostly American) context and perspective and highlighted certain themes that they felt needed to be digested, namely how to address and avoid Nazi violence. As such, the fictional elements allow for experimentation in conceptualizing and measuring hatred, making parallels between American state oppression and Nazi violence. 

Ultimately, Häberlen introduces a very valuable concept which highlighted the various ways in which political shifts can be studied. In placing greater emphasis on intense emotions and lack of structure, we can see how people tried to conceptualize denazification on a more personal level. In applying Häberlen’s argument to this week’s other readings, it became obvious to me that denazification was a complicated and broad process, and, perhaps, one with no definitive end. 

Work cited: 

Fulbrook, Mary. “Discomfort Zones” and “Voices of the Victims.” In Reckonings: Legacies of Nazi Persecution and the Quest for Justice, 314-336, 361-377. Oxford University Press, 2018.

Häberlen, Joachim. “(Not) Narrating the History of the Federal Republic: Reflections on the Place of the New Left in West German History and Historiography.” Central European History Vol. 52, Issue 1 (March 2019): 107-124.

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