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5.0 out of 5 stars From Defeat to Democracy, 31 May 2012
This review is from: Exorcising Hitler: The Occupation and Denazification of Germany (Hardcover)
At Casablanca in January 1943 President Roosevelt determined the Allies' war aims to be the "unconditional surrender" of their enemies. Neither Churchill nor Stalin liked the idea and, in practice, it prolonged the war by up to two years as Nazi propaganda presented the demand as wanting to wipe Germany off the map. At Potsdam in July 1945 Churchill, Truman and Stalin agreed on the "five Ds" (demilitarisation, denazification, democratisation, decentralisation and decartelisation) as the means of preventing Germany from returning to war in the future. However, they went further and agreed to the expulsion of Germans from territories assigned to Poland. What followed was the ethnic cleansing of Germans from Poland and Czechoslovakia involving forced exile in some cases and murder in others, the latter being justified as a response to German atrocities committed during the war.

The Allies' invasion of Germany reinforced the resistance of those who knew only Nazi propaganda. In addition, the Soviet army established a reputation for atrocities, rape and pillage which frightened Germans into believing the regime's constant warnings against the sub-species of the Soviet Union were true. German officials and civilians committed suicide rather than wait for the enemy to arrive. That was one of several factors which made the task of administering captured German cities difficult. As an American army major, Hugh Jones, said, "where would you find competent people who are not Nazis?". Non-Nazis - and even low level Nazis - were recruited into administrative posts. Although the Americans remained suspicious of all Germans they had to employ some such as Franz Oppenhoff, a conservative businessman, who became Burgomaster of Aachen. Oppenhoff had been a member of the Centre Party, the majority of whom had voted for the 1933 Enabling Act which gave Hitler dictatorial powers.

The Nazi regime continued to deny Germany was losing the war notwithstanding the desperation implicit in the founding of the Volkssturm as a party militia "to defend the National Socialist peple's state with all fanaticism". The Werwolf was set up in 1944 and was formally under Himmler's authority. It was a guerilla outfit initially meant to swing into action after hostilities had ceased but did so earlier. One of its first operations was to assassinate Franz Oppenhoff. However, most of the Werwolf action took place in foreign occupied areas of Silesia, East Prussia and the Czech borderlands. "The continuing guerilla struggle was symptomatic not just of Nazi fanaticism but of a desperate resistance against rape, massacre and forced resettlement." In time guerilla tactics were replaced by an acceptance of defeat and sense of disillusion with the Nazi regime whose leader had betrayed them by commiting suicide and leaving the German people to face their fate alone. Thirteen days after Germany surrendered the Allies formally assumed full authority for the exercise of power in Germany. Germany had not been liberated but conquered.

The defeated Germans suffered immensely after the war and, while this was understandable given the revelations about the true nature of the Nazi regime, much of what occurred was a denial of the values of Western liberalism. Noel Coward considered feeding displaced Germans was too tolerant and wrote, "Let's not be beastly to the Germans". It was an attitude which many in ration book Britain shared. American policy-makers were divided between idealists like Henry Morgenthau who wanted to reduce the German population to subsistence level and realists, headed by Henry J Stimson, who argued such a policy was a recipe for future conflict. Roosevelt, whose health was failing rapidly, temporised. The situation was exacerbated by the existence of five million German POWs who, under the Geneva Convention, had to be fed and paid. The cost of doing so was reduced by America categorising soldiers as "disabled enemy forces" while Britain designated them "surrendered enemy personnel" thus providing less food and wages. The bulk of the German population survived on their wits, ignoring the non-fraternisation policy while soldiers were soon contributing to a flourishing black market economy.

Although Germany was physically defeated it was impossible immediately to destroy the culture it had created and the Allies established the denazification programme "to purfiy Germany" and "make its beaten, hungry population ready for a future in which the country would not be a threat to the world." The anti-Nazi owner of a paper mill managed to preserve fifty tons of information which consisted of the entire membership of the Nazi Party. This enabled Nazi Party members to be identified according to their level of criminal involvement. The process was laborious, although by the end of 1945, "more than 42 percent of public officials had been summarily dismissed". Owing to the numbers and time involved many others escaped punishment. In the French zone three quarters of all teachers were sacked in the weeks after victory only to be re-employed when the schools opened in September.

In Soviet occupied territories exiled communist leaders quickly took control. Walter Ulbrich set out the pattern for the communist take over of Eastern Europe saying "It has to look democratic but we have to hold everything in our hands." As the division between the Allies and the Soviets became more pronounced America stated its intention to stay in Germany for the long term. Early in 1947 Secretary of State, George Marshall, said America was "opposed to policies which will continue Germany as a congested slum or an economic poorhouse in the centre of Europe." America, Britain and France created a single economic unit and in 1949 Konrad Adenaur became Chancellor of the newly established Federal Republic of Germany. He immediately called for an end to denazification and the abolition of the distinction between "the politically flawless and the politically flawed". It was after the reunification of Germany that Germans were able to discuss their Nazi legacy. Taylor has written an excellent account, although there is less about the denazification process than might be expected. Five stars.
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