GHDI logo

The Present Status of Denazification (December 31, 1950)

page 8 of 9    print version    return to list previous document      next document

Critics of the denazification program also point to the presence of former Nazis in important positions and in the public service generally. It is true that there are many former Nazis in public positions. Many are school teachers, mail carriers, policemen. Some few occupy higher positions, even in the state and Federal governments. Many business men holding important posts were once members of the Nazi party. Millions of former Nazis are re-employed, most of them in their former vocations. But these are, with few exceptions, persons who were found by the denazification tribunals to have been only nominal party members not personally implicated in the criminal activities of the party, or persons whose minor involvement in such activities has been expiated by legal process.

When exonerated Nazis with an active past seemed to have fared too well in getting cleared, and have been reinstated in responsible jobs, action has been taken. A case in point was that of the teachers reinstated in Wuerttemburg-Baden (U.S. Zone), who had held high positions during the Nazi régime. When the situation was disclosed earlier this year, U.S. officials urged the Minister of Education to re-examine it and to institute dismissals wherever the facts warranted. In the course of November, the U.S. High Commissioner emphasized the American position by declaring to the Ministers President of the U.S. Zone that enthusiastic propagandists of Nazi doctrines should not be permitted to teach the young generation of a democratic Germany. Although all the former Nazi functionaries who were re-appointed as teachers had been pardoned by the Minister President of Wuerttemburg-Baden, the High Commissioner continued to press for their ouster during the last quarter of the year. It remains, moreover, the prerogative of the Allied High Commission to intervene in cases of appointment to high office of persons dangerous to Allied objectives in Germany.

It was, in fact, one of the primary intentions of the Denazification Law to make possible the reassimilation of the great mass of nominal and minor Nazis into German society at the earliest possible moment. It would have been unthinkable and indefensible to try to keep almost 8 million former members of the Nazi party proper—together with their dependants probably close to 30 million people—outside the community or outcasts from it. With very few exceptions the former Nazis who now occupy posts of any significance have been ‘denazified’. In other words, they have been made eligible through legal procedure to hold their present offices. That it would be better if certain individuals were to remain out of public life cannot be denied. Many Germans would rather not see them in the positions they now occupy. Sections of the democratic German press have spoken out unequivocally against certain appointments to public office. However, once such persons have been duly appointed, and in the absence of legal grounds for their removal, there is generally nothing that can or should be done except to rely upon the democratic system which has been constructed in Germany to deal with the problem. No democracy is perfect; a new one may perhaps be allowed more than its normal share of mistakes. To interfere with it from the outside will in many cases do more harm than good. In all cases, intervention must be carefully weighed, being offset against the obvious danger of undermining the system in the confidence of the people it serves.

There have been widely publicized instances of the return of former Nazis to office. But the converse is likewise true, as is illustrated by the case of a former official of a Federal Ministry. The Nazi past of this official had been given wide publicity and was exposed in detail in a pamphlet circulated by the German Trade Union Federation dealing with the return of ex-Nazis to office. The official resigned his post in order to seek an injunction against the circulation of this pamphlet, but his request was denied by the court. In this case German opinion forced a former Nazi out of office, an action far more salutary than the expulsion of such persons at the insistence of the occupation authorities. In the final analysis, Nazism will stay out of German life only if the German people reject it and continue to ban it even when the occupying powers are gone.

first page < previous   |   next > last page