Denazification policies were different at different points in time, and there were also major differences between policies in the four occupation zones.
In general terms, the most ‘intense’ denazification was conducted by the Americans, as these were the most wide-ranging and extended, and formally focused around particular roles rather than individual guilt. The policies of the British were less extensive, focusing on ‘high’ level offenders, and British policies in their zone moved more rapidly toward economic reconstruction given British economic problems and the nature of their occupation zone as it contained the major industrial area of Germany. French denazification was interesting as it was much more individually-focused – investigations and trials were largely on the basis of evidence against the individual rather than because they had a particular job between 1933-45. Soviet denazification was a mix of these approaches – much more politicized but also quite practical at times as Soviet authorities would overlook the past of someone if they were practically useful to them.
Overall, there was a general Allied commitment to denazification through the Potsdam agreements, and several pieces of Allied Control Council legislation dealt with the matter, but the actual implementation of it left up to zonal authorities.
For the United States, denazification was a key policy for the future Germany. Both major ‘sides’ in pre-surrender planning debates (Morgenthau and his harsh peace ideas, cf. Stimson et. al. more moderate plans) stressed the necessity of denazification in some form, as it was seen as necessary to remove the influence of Nazism and ‘German militarism’ from German society so that there would be no resurgence. The major American military policy document JCS 1067 set out quite stringent requirements [Directive to Commander-in-Chief of United States Forces of Occupation Regarding the Military Government of Germany; April 1945 (JCS 1067)]
“It should be brought home to the Germans that Germany’s ruthless warfare and the fanatical Nazi resistance have destroyed the German economy and made chaos and suffering inevitable and that Germans cannot escape responsibility for what they have brought upon themselves.”… “the principal Allied objective is to prevent Germany from ever again becoming a threat to the peace of the world. Essential steps in the accomplishment of this objective are the elimination of Nazism and militarism in all their forms, the immediate apprehension of war criminals for punishment…and the preparation for an eventual reconstruction of German political life on a democratic basis.”
Initially, the focus was on formal roles and positions – membership of the NSDAP or other related organizations, service in administrative and bureaucratic roles and so on. The first phase of denazification often favored ‘preventative’ arrest – better to arrest someone and have to let them go, than miss someone. Problems were created by somewhat arbitrary directives to military authorities – a distinction was made between those who joined the NSDAP before 1937, and those joining after. Those joining earlier were perceived as more ‘hard-core Nazis’, but this distinction was essentially arbitrary. Another unpopular procedure was the enforcement of ‘fragebogen’ – long and detailed questionnaires that individuals were required to fill out, and which created enormous amounts of paperwork to have to process. This was problematic given that rapid demobilization reduced the personnel numbers available to the military authorities, and there was a huge backlog.
This was exacerbated by the extension of the fragebogen program to cover anyone seeking public responsibility or business with occupation authorities (Allied Control Council Directive No. 24). This was coupled with the desire to hand over lower-level administration to the Germans – they wanted to check people, but in the meantime it meant there simply weren’t enough people to fill the jobs.
The more intensive denazification program moved to a less intensive program with the transfer of large parts of the process to the Germans. The Law of Liberation from National Socialism and Militarism (Befreiungsgesetz) was passed by local German authorities in the US zone in March 1946. This created 5 categories that an individual might be classed as, required every person over 18 in the Zone to fill out another questionnaire, but most importantly transferred the process to German-run committees. On the face of it, this was more intensive than the US-run program, but in reality became mired in corruption and incompetence. Of the 5 categories, the vast majority were found to be ‘followers’ or lower and comments were made that the committees were simply ‘followers-factories’. Another issue was the use of certificates from others as evidence – the idea being that if you got someone who was ‘anti-Nazi’ to vouch for you, it might help you be exonerated or mitigate the sentence. These certificates became colloquially known as ‘Persil-scheine’ and it was joked that they washed brownshirts clean.
The conclusion I guess is denazification was much more than simply removing the symbols and legally banning organizations, but the actual implementation of the program complicated. The reality was that once it was transferred to German administration, it became less stringent than it otherwise might have been. This was deemed acceptable largely because occupation priorities moved toward economic reconstruction by the middle of 1946, and the reality was that a honest confrontation with the past was something that simply did not occur anywhere in Europe in the immediate aftermath of the war – this didn’t really take shape until the 1960s and onwards.
Source: * Toby Thacker, The End of the Third Reich (Stroud, Tempus, 2006) * Jeffrey Olick, In the House of the Hangman: The Agonies of German Defeat 1943-1949 (Chicago, Chicago University Press, 2005) * Perry Biddiscombe, The Denazification of Germany (Stroud, Tempus, 2007) * Frederick Taylor, Exorcising Hitler (London, Bloomsbury, 2011) * Tony Judt, Postwar (New York, Basic Books, 2005) * Konrad Jarasuch, After Hitler: Recivilizing Germans (New York, OUP, 2006) * F. Roy Willis, The French in Germany 1945-1949 (Stanford, Stanford University Press, 1962) * Ian Turner, ‘Denazification in the British Zone’ in Reconstruction in Postwar Germany, I.D. Turner (ed.), (Berg Publishers, 1992) 239-270.
I read a really good history of the Southern Baptist Convention, a couple of years ago (sadly, I forget both author and title) that documented the conscious decision by which the national leadership of the SBC, during the Reconstruction, made a conscious decision to be the voice of moral authority on the Confederate revisionist side, to embrace and defend the religious and social complaints of the former slave-holding class in the old Confederacy. So by the time of the rise of the Religious Right as we know it, the Southern Baptist Church had already invested nearly 100 years in raising, training, and providing volunteers for pro-segregation candidates in both political parties. After Democratic President Lyndon Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act, that put the Southern Baptist Church firmly on the Republican side.
Also in 1964, at the presidential nominating convention (per the speeches and writings of Goldwater delegate and best-sellling conspiracy theory author John Stormer), was the meeting of the Republican Anti-Communist Caucus at which the leader of the top fundamentalist seminary in America, Dallas Theological Seminary, committed to revising the curriculum to persuade all future fundamentalist ministers that fighting Communism was Christian cause number one, and to teach that it was therefore a religious duty of all Christians to support politicians from what they saw as the only reliable anti-socialist, anti-communist party, the Republicans.
In 1968, the Pope of the Catholic Church issued the encyclical Humanae Vitae, which, among other things, banned the practice of contraception or abortion. By 1968, feminism was already seen as a left-wing political cause for long enough that it was being paid lip-service by even center-left politicians in the Democratic Party, which fairly rapidly coalesced into the current situation where observant Catholics feel forced into supporting the only anti-feminist political party, the Republicans.
In the second volume of his auto-biography, Francis Schaeffer, Jr., the son of the famous evangelist (and founder of the modern fundamentalist movement) Francis Schaeffer, documents that it was his personal revulsion to the idea of legal abortion, after 1973 Roe v Wade, that persuaded him to argue his father into telling wealthy Protestant fundamentalists that opposition to abortion was the most important Christian cause, and that they needed to donate money that funded the founding of Moral Majority. Schaeffer Junior says that he approached politicians in both parties, offering them the support of Moral Majority if they would denounce legal abortion, making the argument to Democrats that the traditional Catholic origins of organized labor and their traditional embrace of government regulation made anti-abortion a Democratic cause, only to find himself out-maneuvered by feminists on the platform committees and organizing committees. So, he says, he had no choice but, as their lead fund-raiser, to encourage early Moral Majority leaders to embrace Republicans, and their embrace of traditional rural values (see neo-Confederacy, above), as the only hope of seeing legal abortion overturned. (A decision he now says he regrets, but feels that the feminists left him with no alternative.)
(*Post-1964, the Southern Baptist Church embraced the Republican Party for segregationist reasons; post-1973, Moral Majority and the Catholic bishops both embraced the Republican Party for anti-feminism reasons.)