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The Present Status of Denazification (December 31, 1950)

At the end of 1950, U.S. High Commissioner for Germany John J. McCloy wrote a positive review of the denazification process in the American zone. He pointed out that the initial goal had been to remove National Socialists from positions of leadership in society and to replace them with democrats. When it became clear, however, that continuing to discriminate against millions of people was not in the interest of stabilizing German society, the Americans initiated the second stage of denazification. This involved calling all adult Germans before German denazification courts [Spruchkammern]. McCloy conceded that these court proceedings suffered from numerous problems, but he assessed their results as positive overall. The chief goal of the denazification courts was two-fold: to force Germans to confront their conduct during the Third Reich and to reintegrate lesser offenders into German society.

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The Present Status of Denazification

From the outset the four Allied Powers responsible for the occupation and peaceful development of defeated Germany were determined that Germany should be purged of Nazism. To this end it was agreed that former Nazi party members and collaborators ‘who were more than nominal participants in its activities’ should be excluded from public and other influential posts and made subject to sanctions under law. To achieve these purposes the Allied Control Council issued two basic enactments: Directive No. 24 of January 12, 1946, concerning ‘Removal from Office and from Positions of Responsibility of Nazis and of Persons Hostile to Allied Purposes’, and Directive No. 38 of October 12, 1946, concerning ‘The Arrest and Punishment of War Criminals, Nazis and Militarists and the Internment, Control and Surveillance of Potentially Dangerous Germans’. These directives were without legal effect until implemented by zonal laws or other enactments.

Responsibility for the implementation of the agreements and directives on denazification was assumed by the military and later by the Allied civilian authorities in their respective zones of Germany. In the U.S., British and French Zones procedures differed somewhat but in general kept closely to the spirit of the agreed directives. In the Soviet Zone the course of denazification was strongly influenced by the drive to communize the population. Many former Nazis, even though seriously incriminated, were acquitted of the charges against them and restored to influence on condition that they engage in active support of the Communist régime. However, the Soviets have never ceased to assert their continued determination to root Nazism out of the German system.

The objective of denazification was not the attainment of a final goal within a specified time, when it could be said: ‘The job is done; Germany is now denazified.’ It was rather to safeguard the new German democracy from Nazi influence and to make it possible for anti-Nazi, non-Nazi and outspoken democratic individuals to enter public life and replace the Nazi elements which had dominated all life in Germany from 1933 to 1945.

To accomplish this objective the Occupying Powers abolished the Nazi Party and its formations and affiliated organizations, outlawed them and removed the individuals who had been responsible for their operation from positions of influence in both public and private life. It was then possible for non-Nazi Germans to come into the many fields of communal, economic and political activities to rebuild German life on democratic lines. The initial steps in this program had been attained substantially by the summer of 1946.

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