How has post-WWII Germany distanced itself from its dark past?

6/5/2012 • Ask Mr. History, Outlaws

Hello. Avid reader here. Hopefully, my question hasn’t been answered before.

Since the fall of the Third Reich, what has been some of post-war Germany’s achievements in effectively distancing itself from its dark past?



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Dear Mr. Demesa:

In the immediate wake of World War II, Germany was subjected to de-Nazification laws imposed by the Allies, which involved the prosecution of war criminals and barring Nazi party members from office, as well as prohibiting the public expression of Nazi beliefs and the displaying of the swastika, which carried a one-year prison term. Holocaust denial is also outlawed—something that one would think would be unnecessary, since the Germans have unearthed the meticulously kept death camp records and have them available for public perusal (leading to countless people being able to ascertain the fates of relatives "missing" during the genocide program.) In 1951, Konrad Adenauer’s government lifted much of the de-Nazification laws, allowing many former Nazis to return to political life, with the exception of Group I "Major Offenders" and Group II "Offenders." The participation of German armed forces in peace-keeping duties and NATO activities in Afghanistan have done much to change their international image, but racist neo-Nazi organizations remain active, with as many as 5,600 neo-Nazis reported in Germany as of 2010, among some 25,000 right wing extremists, their anti-Semitism largely superseded by anti-Slavic and anti-Muslim sentiments against recent waves of immigrant workers.



Jon Guttman
Research Director
World History Group
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