Denazifying Germany

edited July 2013 in Root
I am relatively new to Bernie and his adventures I really appreciate how Herr Gunther uses is cynical, sardonic humor to poke fun at the ever so earnest National Socialists and their ever present ideology. It is great to see that all throughout these stories we have 'real Aryan' Germans who were not to a man and woman enamored with the Nazi poison. Of course i I knew this before I started reading, but as someone who has studied the period for may years it is really refreshing to see it in print. Go Bernie!


  • I couldn't agree more! The view in the Gunther books is always balanced and reflects my own research of the period as well. It's one of the best features of the books, I find, though as a whole they make great reads.
  • Yes it is refreshing to have characters who are trapped by the situation forced on them by the Nazi nut-cases...
    My bride of many years comes from a small northern Bavarian farming town where half the adult men including the local Catholic priest were dragged off by Nazi thugs because they hid the resident Jews. The locals also maintained the old Jewish cemetery hidden in the trees so it was never destroyed or vandalized. ( I have been there) Being a German did not mean you were a Nazi by any stretch of the imagination.
  • The shades of grey in the novels are great and add a lot of atmosphere. It's also more realistic and accurate. Kerr's done his homework and it pays off in spades.
  • I love the Bernie Gunther series there are not many novels that I have read more than once but for this series I make an exception. I first read all of the books from my local libraries but then I realized I wanted to collect and save the series.
  • Somewhat closer to home, life in a nazified Britain during the early 1950s is described in (un-)loving detail by C. J. Sansom in DOMINION. His alternative history which has Chamberlain's resignation as its point of departure (with Halifax taking over instead of Churchill) garnered a rabid denunciation by Peter Hitchens, immediately followed by a stout defence from Allan Massie. A close shave ... there but for fortune go we?
  • Just imagine you happened to live in Mosul, Iraq ... now the largest city in the "Islamic State". You'd simply have to adapt to the changed circumstances, especially if you are part of an established family. 'Joining the resistance' sounds exciting when you are a teenager in the West, but it sure as hell isn't fun in Mosul.
  • I have always been fascinated by power tipping points when the populace, state infrastructure and its key personnel suddenly faced a radical change in sovereignty and/or beliefs; examples include the Roman conquest of Britain, the Crusades, the Mongol conquests, Tudors under Henry VIII/Edward V/Mary/Elizabeth (several violent swings of the power and religious beliefs pendulum) as well as the coming of Protestantism in Continental Europe, The rise and fall of Fascism, the rise and fall of Communism, decolonialisation, power transition in South Africa, governance in Iraq and Afghanistan since 2003. Below is some info gathered mostly from Wikipedia:

    What do you do after vanquishing a powerful foe in a hugely costly struggle taking many years? Attila and Genghis Khan may have had a brutal though simple solution, but today's ethical perogatives require that the surviving population must be fed and clothed while the worst exponents of the old regime are put on (fair) trial. Usually the conquering power simply does not have sufficient spare administrators and familiarity with the foreign state, language and systems to be able to do this - so elements of the previous administration will have to be co-opted, and if these are tainted by their acts under the old regime then this may become a secondary consideration. If the old regime had been in power for a long time, the population could be expected to have been 'brain washed' into complete acceptance of its tenets (Fascist Italy, Nazi Germany, Japan). About 8.5 million Germans, or 10% of the population, had been members of the Nazi Party while up to half of the population had been members in other party-associated organisations. At the end of 1945, 42% of public officials had been dismissed while 3.5 million former Nazis awaited classification, many of them barred from work in the meantime.

    It is interesting that alongside Nuremberg (208) and Tokyo (70) the Western Allies only tried a total of around 5,700 Japanese for War Crimes, the vast majority of whom were released on MacArthur's orders in 1947. China held 13 tribunals of its own, resulting in 504 convictions and 149 executions. In 1951 High Commissioner John McCloy substantially reduced many of the longer Nuremberg prison sentences, converted 10 outstanding death sentences to prison terms, and amnestied many of those who had received prison sentences. Nobusuke Kishi, Minister of Munitions in the Tojo cabinet and a Class A war crimes suspect, went on to became Prime Minister of Japan 10 years after his release.

    The allied powers were of course also aware that German scientists had made major advances in several fields, and desperately wanted access to their research (and keep it from falling into future adversaries' hands) - hence Project Paperclip which eventually saw von Braun become the star turn at NASA, and General Gehlen's CIA-facilitated smooth transition from head of Hitler's Eastern military intelligence to head of the Bundesnachrichtendienst (BND, or West Germany's MI6).

    In April 1946 545 civilian tribunals under German administration with a staff of 22,000 mostly lay judges were established with a case load of 900,000 - enough to start the work but too many for all the staff themselves to be thoroughly investigated and cleared. Unless their crimes were serious, members of the Nazi Party born after 1919 were exempted on the grounds that they had been brainwashed. Disabled veterans were also exempted. To avoid the necessity of a slow trial in open court, more than 90% of cases were judged not to belong to the serious categories. In Bavaria the Denazification Minister, Anton Pfeiffer, presided over a system that reinstated 75% of officials the Americans had dismissed and reclassified 60% of senior Nazis (as seen in The One From The Other). The denazification process lost a great deal of credibility, and there was often local hostility against Germans who helped administer the tribunals. In view of the rapidly developing Cold War mindset (the Soviet Berlin blockade had already necessitated the 1948 airlift and the Korean War had started in 1950), American critics denounced Denazification as a "counterproductive witch hunt" and a failure; in 1951 the provisional West German government granted amnesties to lesser offenders and ended the program.
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