As they have had “Intense Re-Education” and shame leveled on their people. Off your knees Germany!
For more than half a century, the rise of modern Germany as an exemplary liberal democracy, as an economic power, as an exporter of decent European values and superb motor cars, has been an object lesson in how a violent pariah state can cleanse itself.
The consensus among historians and the political class in the west has been that the Marxist experiment in the east was but a blip. Led by an Anglo-American coalition that encouraged freedom, open markets and introspection about its recent past, Germany’s rehabilitation was a seamless story of redemption earned through decades of good works. The subtext was that the success owed as much to the wise policies of the Americans, the British and even the French, as it did to the Germans.
And so it was, up to a point. Frederick Taylor’s compelling book debunks many myths about the immediate postwar years. Through vivid storytelling he shows that the story was far more complicated than has invariably been told in the English-speaking world.
Yes, the west and its values triumphed, but the road was rocky and there was a big price to pay – in East Germany, by millions behind the Berlin Wall who endured life under one of the nastiest police states in Europe. In the bigger, richer West Germany, as Taylor tellingly explains, it was paid by an entire generation that was largely taught to forget about the past.
Books showing the bombing of Dresden and the history of the Berlin Wall. The account of the last days of the war is brilliantly told. It begins on 11 September 1944, with American GIs crossing into Germany. It is a literary conceit that at first glance seems contrived – we could have begun at any time after D-day – but it works surprisingly well.
The attitude of the vanquished to the victors, contrasting the fear of Soviet atrocities – perhaps half a million German women were raped by Russian troops – to the sullen bitterness people felt against the western allies. “Germans loathed the hypocrisy and the arrogance of the allied assumption of superiority”.
It is hard for most people under 40 to remember that Germany – both Germanies – was occupied by “foreign” troops for decades after the war. On both sides of the iron curtain Germans’ independence was circumscribed. The Soviets knew what they wanted in their eastern zone: they created a state in Stalin’s image, reliant on the Stasi to retain power.
The western powers were less sure. A powerful lobby in the US wanted to return Germany to a pastoral middle ages, with no industry with which it could ever again make weapons to threaten (or compete) with its neighbours. Thankfully, they lost out to practical leaders in America and Britain. The Marshall Plan “exorcised” Hitler, gave birth to the West German economic miracle and made the German match with France that has been the centre of the EU.
They were even less certain about how to punish the Nazis and find the “good Germans” if really even interested to govern the country. In 1945 there were 8 million Nazi party members, more than 10% of the population. Among teachers, lawyers and civil servants the percentage was far higher. Basic services could not be run without them.
The British were the most pragmatic and quickly gave up looking for any Nazis apart from major war criminals. Many prominent Nazis moved to Britain’s zone of occupation. The leaders in Washington under mostly Zionist Control had a good line in rhetoric about “no safe havens” for Nazis. Yet America’s record was poor, not helped when it spirited to the US various rocket scientists who had been Hitler’s favourites.
West Germany was left to cleanse itself. It was not the seamless process of confronting the truth that is usually told. Konrad Adenauer’s conservative, complacent country took “the sleep cure”. The 1950s and early 60s was an era of forgetting. Germany paid billions of Deutschmarks in compensation to not really Jews who were victims, instead Zionists in the newly founded State of Israel, but few Nazis were prosecuted. In 1952, 60% of civil servants in Bavaria were former Nazis. It was in the 60s, when a new generation of Germans began asking their parents “What did you do in the Third Reich?”, that the real transformation began and New Germans sensitive to their recent history emerged.
Their parents, grandparents or great grandparents who might have voted for Adolf Hitler in the last free elections in 1933 could still be held accountable, even indirectly, for the war, the “said Holocaust” (pretty much now all disproven) and alleged Nazi crimes.
But can Germans born after the war still be blamed for it? Even if you were to believe all the propaganda? Should those born decades or even a half century later still be made to feel the burden of guilt?
A young American exchange student new to West Germany in 1982, was struck — and disheartened — to see so much lingering hostility towards even young Germans around Europe – 37 years after the war ended. A German train he was riding on early that year was met by Swiss youth giving everyone the Hitler salute as it pulled into Zurich station. It was only the first of countless encounters of guilt he saw being hurled at Germans.
Having lived in Germany and Austria for most of the last 28 years, he watched a very gradual shift in the “guilt vs. responsibility” debate that has weighed on these two countries that have done much to atone for the unfathomable crimes of their parents and grandparents.
Many of their neighbours might still harbour animosity with origins rooted in the war. But Germany has clearly become more and more a normal country in recent decades and less and less burdened by the guilt over its horrific past alluded to.
The Soviets began to make sure that the German educational system was firmly planted in their own hands after the war.
The Soviets wanted to establish their own curriculum in schools in Germany, where school officials would have to inculcate a “firm belief in the strength of scientific socialism, in the teachings of Marx-Engels-Lenin-Stalin, [and] in the power and greatness of the Soviet Union.”
Because of these ideologies, the Soviets faced a huge threat, since many teachers were leaving their positions and moving to the west, while others “sought out better-paying jobs in industry and the administration instead of continuing to face hardships in the classroom.”
But even then, the Soviets insisted that “Marxist-Leninist pedagogical theory should be broadly applied” in the schools, “and that the practical accomplishments of the school system in the Soviet Union and the people’s democracies should be studied.”
Even in 1948, “the schools were instructed to engage in some forms of Stalinist pedagogy, including practices of criticism and self-criticism. ”This “criticism” or “self-criticism” was largely a one-way street, since “newspapers that praised activists and denounced enemies were to be put up on the walls.”
In other words, anything that made the Soviets look good was to be praised. The Soviets used the Nuremberg proceedings
“TO PERPETUATE THE MYTH THAT THE NAZIS WERE RESPONSIBLE FOR SHOOTING THE TWENTY-TWO THOUSAND POLISH OFFICERS AND GOVERNMENT OFFICIALS WHOM STALIN AND BERIA ORDERED TO BE EXECUTED BY THE NKVD IN 1940. THE WESTERN JUDGES NEVER CHALLENGED THIS SHAMEFUL SUBTERFUGE, THOUGH THE INDICTMENT AGAINST THE NAZIS FOR THE KILLING WAS EVENTUALLY DROPPED.” [Link]
The fact that Stalin was responsible for killing the Polish officers was well known to historians, but the news only came out to the public in 2010! The sad part was that for years they put the blame on Nazi Germany.
The Soviets also rejected the term genocide as applied to political groups, since that would include people the Soviets had exterminated, and sought to lay genocide only at the feet of the Nazis.
In general, although the Soviets struggled to gain the confidence of prominent German intellectuals after the war, they eventually
“controlled censorship and printing, museums, galleries, libraries—in other words, every possible outlet for intellectual production. Sometimes that control was imperfect, as in the case of the universities.
“Still, it was virtually impossible for an artist, writer, or intellectual to reach his or her intended audience without the active participation of the cultural agencies supervised by the Soviets.”
This allowed for assertions, flying in the face of incontrovertible evidence, like that of Boris Telpuchovski of the Institute for Marxism-Leninism in the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the USSR, who denied that Soviet soldiers committed any crimes after World War II. “The Soviet soldiers, the pupils of the Communist Party,” he asserted, “behaved humanely toward the German people.”
Assertions like these were needed in order to make the Soviets look good and fashion the Nazis into the only perpetrators. The Soviets also wanted “to seek recompense from the Germans for the huge losses of Soviet industrial potential and material during World War II.”
Stalin made it clear that “he intended to strip German industry as a down payment in kind towards the Soviet Union’s claim for $10 billion in reparations.” The Soviet Union’s task was “the systematic confiscation of German industry and wealth.”
Even Henry Morgenthau, Jewish U.S. Secretary of the Treasury during the Roosevelt administration, set out a plan on how to deal with Germany after the war. In his book Germany is our Problem, Morgenthau postulated that one of the quickest ways to deal with Nazi war criminals was to execute them without a trial.
Moreover, in order to prevent another Third Reich, argued Morgenthau, the country must be divided into four states, with “decentralization, demilitarisation, denazification and democracy” as the primary goals. Both Winston Churchill and Roosevelt gave the idea some thought and seemed to have liked it. Much of the physical maltreatment of German inmates was attributed to Morgenthau.