Denazification  

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This page Denazification is part of the Nazism portal.  Illustration: Cover of the catalogue of the Nazi "Degenerate Art Exhibition" (1937). The exhibition was held to defame modern and Jewish artists. On the cover is Der Neue Mensch sculpture by Otto Freundlich.
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This page Denazification is part of the Nazism portal.
Illustration: Cover of the catalogue of the Nazi "Degenerate Art Exhibition" (1937). The exhibition was held to defame modern and Jewish artists. On the cover is Der Neue Mensch sculpture by Otto Freundlich.

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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.

Denazification (Template:Lang-de) was an Allied initiative to rid German and Austrian society, culture, press, economy, judiciary, and politics of any remnants of the National Socialist (Nazi) ideology. It was carried out specifically by removing those involved from positions of influence and by disbanding or rendering impotent the organizations associated with it. The program of denazification was launched after the end of the Second World War and was solidified by the Potsdam Agreement.

Responsibility and collective guilt

The ideas of collective guilt and collective punishment originated not with the US and British people, but on higher policy levels. Not until late in the war did the U.S. public assign collective responsibility to the German people. The most notable policy document containing elements of collective guilt and collective punishment is JCS 1067 from early 1945. Eventually horrific footage from the concentration camps would serve to harden public opinion and bring it more in line with that of policymakers.

Already in 1944 prominent U.S. opinion makers had initiated a domestic propaganda campaign (which was to continue until 1948) arguing for a harsh peace for Germany, with a particular aim to end the apparent habit in the U.S. of viewing the Nazis and the German people as separate entities.

Statements made by the British and U.S. governments, both before and immediately after Germany's surrender, indicate that the German nation as a whole was to be held responsible for the actions of the Nazi regime, often using the terms "collective guilt" and "collective responsibility".

To that end, as the Allies began their post-war denazification efforts, the Psychological Warfare Division (PWD) of SHAEF (Supreme Headquarters Allied Expeditionary Force) undertook a psychological propaganda campaign for the purpose of developing a German sense of collective responsibility.

The Public Relations and Information Services Control Group of the British Element (CCG/BE) of the Allied Control Commission for Germany began in 1945 to issue directives to officers in charge of producing newspapers and radio broadcasts for the German population to emphasize "the moral responsibility of all Germans for Nazi crimes." Similarly, among U.S. authorities, such a sense of collective guilt was "considered a prerequisite to any long-term education of the German people."

Using the German press, which was under Allied control, as well as posters and pamphlets, a program was conducted to acquaint ordinary Germans with what had taken place in the concentration camps. For example using posters with images of concentration camp victims coupled to text such as "YOU ARE GUILTY OF THIS!" or "These atrocities: Your Guilt!!"

A number of films showing the concentration camps were made and screened to the German public, such as Die Todesmühlen, released in the U.S. zone in January 1946, and Welt im Film No. 5 in June 1945. A film that was never finished due partly to delays and the existence of the other films was Memory of the Camps. According to Sidney Bernstein, chief of PWD, the object of the film was to:

...shake and humiliate the Germans and prove to them beyond any possible challenge that these German crimes against humanity were committed and that the German people – and not just the Nazis and SS – bore responsibility.

English writer James Stern recounted an example in a German town soon after the German surrender.

[a] crowd is gathered around a series of photographs which though initially seeming to depict garbage instead reveal dead human bodies. Each photograph has a heading 'WHO IS GUILTY?'. The spectators are silent, appearing hypnotised and eventually retreat one by one. The placards are later replaced with clearer photographs and placards proclaiming 'THIS TOWN IS GUILTY! YOU ARE GUILTY!'

Immediately upon the liberation of the concentration camps many German civilians were forced to see the conditions in the camps, bury rotting corpses and exhume mass graves. In some instances, civilians were also made to provide items for former concentration camp inmates.


See also




Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Denazification" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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