From Academic Kids

Denazification (German: Entnazifizierung) was an Allied initiative to rid German and Austrian society, culture, press, economy, judiciary and politics of any remnants of the Nazi regime. It was carried out specifically by removing those involved from positions of influence and by disbanding or rendering impotent the organizations associated with it. In practice, denazification was not limited to Germany and Austria — in every European country with a vigorous Nazi or Fascist party, such as the ones in France, the Netherlands or Norway, effective measures of denazification were carried out. The program of denazification was launched after the end of the Second World War and solidified by the Potsdam Agreement.



Denazification was accomplished through a series of directives issued by the Allied Control Council, seated in Berlin, beginning in January 1946. "Denazification directives" identified specific people and groups and outlined judicial procedures and guidelines for handling them.

Though all the occupying forces had agreed on the initiative, the methods used for denazification and the intensity with which they were applied differed between the occupation zones.

Denazification also refers to the removal of the physical symbols of the Nazi regime. For example, in 1957 the German government re-issued World War II Iron Cross medals without the swastika in the centre.

Application in the Allied Occupation Zones

American zone

The United States initially pursued denazification in a committed though bureaucratic fashion. The military administration established 545 civilian courts to oversee 900,000 cases. By 1948, however, with the Cold War now clearly in progress, American attentions were directed increasingly to the threat of the Eastern Bloc; the remaining cases were tried through summary proceedings that left insufficient time to thoroughly investigate the accused, so that many of the judgments of this period have questionable judicial value. For example, by 1952 members of the SS like Otto Skorzeny could be declared formally "entnazifiziert" (denazified) in absentia by a German government arbitration board and without any proof that this was true.

Soviet zone

The most radical and rapid denazification occurred in the Soviet zone, as it was tied to a fundamental transformation of German society. Members of the Nazi Party and its daughter organizations were removed from their positions without right of appeal, and some were interned in camps. Oversight of the process was handled entirely by Soviet intelligence agencies.

French and British zones

The French and British took a more measured approach and focused primarily on a removal of the elite, rather than pursuit of all those who collaborated with the regime.

Implications for the future German states

The culture of denazification strongly influenced the Parliamentary Council charged with the responsibility of drawing up a constitution for the occupation zones. This constitution, called the Grundgesetz ("Basic Law"), was finalized on May 8, 1949, ratified on May 23, 1949, and came into effect on May 24th, 1949. This date effectively marks the foundation of the Federal Republic of Germany.

The radical left in Germany during the 1960–70s and Nazi allegations

Because the Cold War had curtailed the process of denazification in the West, in the late 1960s and 1970s the radical left who chose to use violence, e.g. Red Army Faction (RAF), against the West German government and society, used the argument that the West German establishment had benefited from the Nazi period and that it was still largely Nazi in outlook. They argued that "What did you do in the war, daddy?" was not a question that many of the leaders of the generation who fought World War II and prospered in the postwar "Wirtschaftswunder" (German Economic Miracle) encouraged their children to ask. For example, one of the major justifications that the RAF gave in 1977 for murdering Hanns-Martin Schleyer, who was the President of the German Employers' Association (and thus perceived as one of the most powerful industrialists in West Germany), was that as a former member of the SS, he was part of an informal network of ex-Nazis who still had great economic power and political influence in Germany.

Backlash effects

If the ideal of denazification was to restore humanity in countries warped by inhumane policies, Nazi children are still waiting to discover that ideal. In some countries, the winners' denazification program made no distinction between parents and offspring when distributing the guilt. Many Nazi descendants feel even today that they are criminalized if they start speaking about their family's past. There seem to be no signs of a reconciliation on the horizon. Instead of practicing Vergangenheitsbewältigung, or work with a person's traumatic history, recommended by all psychologists, many Nazi descendants repress their feelings and remain pl:Denazyfikacja sl:Denacifikacija


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