Denazification, East and West

One of the standard lines you hear trotted out these days is that East Germany never went through a proper process of ‘denazification’ (Entnazifizierung), unlike the good people in the West. Instead, goes the narrative, nearly all the ex-nazis in the east simply joined the new communist government, which explains the ‘totalitarian regime’, the dreaded Stasi and now the supposed burgeoning of neo-nazi groups in the east. This dodgy narrative indicates that the struggle of the two Germanies is far from over.

To begin with, it ignores a rather inconvenient fact: communism was and is implacably anti-fascist. Stalin’s singe-handed victory over Hitler’s Germany (for which the western front was a diversionary tactic of limited success) was explicitly celebrated as a victory over fascism. As soon as the war over, virtually all the nazis in the east were arrested, banned from any involvement whatsoever and put in ‘re-education camps’. And in good old Stalinist fashion, a goodly number of them were granted an early funeral.

Meanwhile in the western occupation zones, the Americans made a show of denazification, with a massive censorship program that spent most of its time censoring criticism of the occupation. At the same time, the Americans shipped out most of the Third Reich’s leading nuclear scientists, ‘intelligence’ officers and whatnot, in order to bolster their anti-communist struggle. Not a few of them were awarded prestigious US medals. The British and French didn’t even bother with the show of denazification. They wanted people to run the civil service and since a significant number of the intelligentsia and the civil service had been nazis not long before, they were simply reappointed. The British and French made a few token arrests of a few elite members of the Nazi party.

But even the Americans gave up on their efforts by the early 1950s, under pressure from Chancellor Konrad Adenauer. In one measure after another, ‘former’ Nazis were released from prisons and pardoned. These included those responsible for dragging people off to prison, for shootings, executions, causing bodily injury and so on. Above all, ‘article 31‘ removed restrictions on persons ‘incriminated’ with the Third Reich, since they had suffered so much since the end of the war. In an early example of anti-discrimination laws, they were given favoured treatment for government, educational, medical and many other positions. Why? The new enemy was communism and who better to help in the fight against communism than unreconstructed fascists.

So maybe there was some truth in the East German decision to call the wall they built the Antifaschistischer Schutzwall, the Anti-Facist Security Wall.


32 thoughts on “Denazification, East and West

  1. I knew someone who was a field security officer for the CCG (Control Commission Germany, the organisation that ran the British zone). His job was to investigate key personel for their links to the NSDAP. He found that pretty we all the local officials the British were using had been committed nazies (as opposed to casual memnbers).

    Eventually he resigned because all his carefully researched reports were ignored.

    1. It’s like when the publishers decided to reissue Theologische Worterbuch zum Alten Testament (“TWAT”) without the Nazi bits. Allegedly, the publishers pulled out of the plan when they realised that all they had left was one expurgated entry on “haemmorhoids”. And even that was suspect.

    2. And once the ‘anti-discrimination’ legislation went through, not only would unreconstructed nazis ensure jobs for their buddies, but it became unacceptable to refer to someone’s past in the Third Reich.

  2. “communism was and is implacably anti-fascist”

    Some people very conveniently blur the difference between Hitler’s National Socialism and Stalin’s national socialism. It’s just like the other day at the supermarket checkout, when the the bag-packing woman referred to the “nice” biscuits I had bought. This is what happens when upper and lower cases get confused. Chaos reigns!

    So I think I understand Lars von Trier when he says he understands Hitler.

    1. The last time I heard that spurious argument re National Socialism was when it was spouted by a dim-witted Danish colonialist who had managed to swindle his way into a job in Greenland, where he spent his time buggering young Greenlandic men.

      1. Your godless science tells us that no one man alone can win the greatest war the world has ever seen. Your godless science tells us that no one man alone can will the creation of a mighty Proletarian war machine. Your godless science tells us “the Lend-Lease program, the Lend-Lease program”. Your godless science, etc., your godless science….

    2. Comrade Deane is, as always, playing the role of head clown in the carnival of reaction that is petty bourgeois intellectual folly. He is apparently incapable of qualitative distinction between, for example, objectively progressive and anti-fascist Proletarian liquidations of eastern European peasants who stood in the way of the glory and power of the Workers’ State, and objectively reactionary and petty bourgeois liquidations. Next he will claim there one can blur progressive Stalinist antisemitism and reactionary petty bourgeois antisemitism, without being an intellectual renegade and liberal hand-wringer! Such is the sorry and diseased state of the petty bourgeois intellect.

      What has your cosmopolitan cynicism and lack of scientific rigor ever done for the workers and farmers of New Zealand, Comrade? What will you have to say for yourself when the unstoppable march of the Communist League of New Zealand reaches the point that you are called to account for your petty bourgeois clowning?

    3. No, comrade! We must ENGAGE with the diseased petty bourgeois mind to HEAL it! The Carnival of Reaction that is Comrade Deane will be HEALED!! The name of JOSEF STALIN is POWERFUL! We can make him a productive comrade, once he has been healed of his afflictions! We must NAME THEM AND CAST THEM OUT! Cynicism! Cosmopolitanism! Liberal Unthought! BE HEALED!!

  3. Would the Reverend care to elaborate on his argument for “Stalin’s singe-handed victory” in WW2?

    Is this a theological metaphor, reminding us that we must not seek to undermine the unique status of the Event that was Comrade Marshall Stalin’s brilliant tank battle tactics in the narrative of humanity’s redemption, or has the Reverend decided to embrace the self-parody this blog has slowly become, such that this is a objective fact he will defend through the application of not just the Proletarian sciences, but the bourgeois ones as well?

    1. Bunga, bunga, if you have a moment from procuring underage hookers and manipulating media coverage, you may wish to read Geoffrey Roberts’ eminently bourgeois work (one with which you would closely identify), ‘Stalin’s Wars’.

      Merely from the blurb: ‘Stalin was both the greatest military leader of the twentieth century and a remarkable politician who sought to avoid the Cold War and establish a long-term detente with the capitalist world … Roberts depicts a despot who helped save the world for democracy, a personal charmer who disciplined mercilessly, a utopian ideologue who could be a practical realist, and a warlord who undertook the role of architect of post-war peace’.

      1. But single-handed victory, Reverend? It would hardly be a great leap for you to actually begin claiming such a thing, given the theological (sorry, objective scientific) bent of your thinking and the nature of the Stalinist personality cult, is where the confusion lies I believe…

      2. I merely refer to those who know more on these matters rather than engaging in ‘pompous, high-blown phrases … that are the product of mean-spirited boors’: ‘The victory of World War II was undoubtedly Stalin’s’ (in aforesaid piece of bourgeois historical science).

      3. Not quite. But still, it is interesting that I can scarcely imagine even the most unambiguously Tory retelling of World War 2 claiming that Churchill achieved victory “single-handed”. There’s a recognition of the mass nature of the anti-fascist front in petty bourgeois English culture. I guess they just do not understand that it is great individual men who shape History according to their singular Will.

      4. “We prefer to believe that the story with which Geoffrey delighted the fiction-loving Europe of the twelfth century is not all fancy. If we could see exactly what happened we should find ourselves in the presence of a theme as well founded, as inspired, and as inalienable from the inheritance of mankind as the Odyssey or the Old Testament. It is all true, or it ought to be”

        – Winston Churchill, A History of the English-Speaking Peoples; Vol 1: The Birth of Britain (London: Cassell and Company Ltd, 1956), 46.

      5. It’s “sheer pedantry” to argue whether the claim that Stalin won WW2 single-handed? Is this because there is such little light between victory being achieved by one man and the collective struggle of tens of millions? Comrade, can I remind you that Stalinism is not merely some affective disposition like Nigerian Pentecostalism. It rests on firm, historical claims of divine intervention into mundane reality. To establish the truth, or otherwise, of these historical truths can hardly “sheer pedantry”. Communist felicitations to you, sir.

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