Military history



For the vast majority of Germans, 8 May 1945 did not come as a liberation, however much it might have appeared as such in retrospect. Germany’s defeat was unambiguous. People were struggling to adjust their minds to the new situation, and to free themselves from the moral and mental burden of Nazism. Many had already taken the first steps along this road. The end of the war for the Germans was not a single event but a process, affecting different people at different times, over a period of months, as the Allied armies advanced slowly across the Reich. Wherever and whenever they were overrun by the Allied armies, however, the German people submitted meekly to their conquerors. The partisan organization which Himmler and Bormann had hoped to organize against the Allied occupation, in imitation of the Soviet partisans who had caused so much havoc in the German rear during the previous years, was set up too late for any real momentum to develop. Known as the ‘Werewolf’ movement, it tried to recruit fanatics of the Hitler Youth generation for continuing resistance behind the lines. A few units were formed, and on 25 March 1945 one of them managed to assassinate Franz Oppenhoff, who had been installed as mayor of Aachen by the invading Allies.238 In the Bavarian mining town of Penzberg, the workers deposed the Nazi mayor in order to open the way for the advancing American troops to enter the area peacefully, but a local army unit arrested them and executed them on the orders of the Munich Regional Party Leader, and further executions took place when a Werewolf unit arrived on the scene.239 But such actions were isolated and without wider-reaching consequences. For this, there were many reasons.

To begin with, the Nazi Party, like the SS, the armed forces and virtually every other organization in the Third Reich, was in a state of complete disintegration and collapse. Large numbers of people who might in other circumstances have been able to provide leadership for a resistance movement were dead or captured. Communication was difficult if not impossible. The death of Hitler had in any case destroyed the factor that had cemented many people’s loyalty to the Nazi cause. Many people had believed they were fighting for Hitler as much as for Germany; there seemed little reason to go on fighting now he was gone. More generally, Nazi dogma, repeated on innumerable occasions throughout the history of the Third Reich, proclaimed that ‘might is right’, that success carried its own justification with it. Germany’s total defeat seemed therefore to confirm that the Allies after all had right on their side, a belief strengthened by the strong feelings of guilt for the extermination of the Jews that had begun to haunt the consciences of many Germans well before the end of the war. So complete was the defeat, so all-encompassing the devastation of Germany, that many patriots in any case blamed Hitler and the Nazis for it. Nobody could argue it away. Moreover, the Allied presence in Germany was pervasive, and the Allied occupying forces were very much alert to the threat of a partisan or resistance movement thanks to the propaganda pumped out by Goebbels’s media urging young Germans to join it. On the other hand, the Allied forces, including even after the first few weeks the Russians and the French, proved less vengeful and more sympathetic than ordinary Germans had feared. Goebbels’s prophecy that millions of Germans would be taken off to Siberia proved unfounded, even in the east. Resistance movements had indeed emerged to the German occupation of other European countries, but (with the exception of Yugoslavia) only after an initial period of two or three years when the vast majority of people were waiting to see which way the war would go, resigned to occupation at least for the time being. The same was the case in Germany. And finally, the Nazis had never won more than 37.4 per cent of the votes in a free national election. At times, notably following the victories of 1940, their popularity had been far greater. But popular opinion in Germany as elsewhere was commonly fickle and volatile, and by early 1945 support for the Nazis, as we have seen, had sunk to depths not plumbed since the middle of the 1920s.

Nevertheless, there were, of course, large numbers of committed Nazis still at large in Germany at the end of the war despite all the suicides and deaths. To deal with them, and in particular to settle accounts with the remaining Nazi leaders, the Allies established an International Military Tribunal at Nuremberg. In a series of trials, beginning with the major war criminals (November 1945 to October 1946), Allied prosecutors presented a wealth of evidence of Nazi criminality, accusing Göring, Ribbentrop and others of waging an aggressive war of conquest, committing the mass murder of innocent civilians and carrying out a wide variety of atrocities and crimes against humanity and in violation of internationally agreed laws of war. The legitimacy of the proceedings was undermined to a degree by the participation of Soviet judges and by the Western Allies’ carpet-bombing of German cities. It proved difficult to make some of the charges stick, notably the charge of conspiracy. Nevertheless, the Tribunal established a crucial precedent for the future. It was also widely publicized. The reporters present included William L. Shirer, who had left Germany in December 1940, possibly because he was told the Gestapo were compiling a dossier on his activities. Shirer subsequently used the documentary evidence compiled for the trial as an important source for his best-selling history of Nazi Germany, The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich, which he published in 1960 and which was still in print at the time of his death thirty-three years later. For the mass of ordinary Germans, however - some at least of whom had been made by Allied troops to help clear up the dead bodies of prisoners in concentration camps at the end of the war - the trials were further evidence, along with the bombing and the expulsions of ethnic Germans from Eastern Europe, that they were being singled out as victims in a war where justice was inevitably being meted out by the victors. 240

23. Post War Arrangements in Central Europe

The Nuremberg trial of the major war criminals resulted in a number of death sentences being handed out, one of them (Bormann) in absentia. Hans Frank (General Governor of Poland), Wilhelm Frick (Reich Interior Minister and Reich Protector of Bohemia and Moravia since 1943), Hermann Göring, General Alfred Jodl (head of operations at the Combined Armed Forces Supreme Command), Ernst Kaltenbrunner (head of the Security Service of the SS from 1943), Wilhelm Keitel (Jodl’s superior), Joachim von Ribbentrop, Alfred Rosenberg, Fritz Sauckel, Arthur Seyss-Inquart and Julius Streicher were all sentenced to death; all were executed apart from G̈ring, who, as we have seen, committed suicide the night before he was due to be hanged. Rudolf Hess was sentenced to life imprisonment. He spent his last years as a solitary prisoner in Spandau jail and hanged himself in 1987 at the age of ninety-three, the last of the Nazi suicides. Hans Fritzsche, head of the news division in the Propaganda Ministry and a well-known radio commentator, was tried as a substitute for Goebbels, but it was clear that his crimes were in no way comparable to those of his boss, and he was acquitted. Hjalmar Schacht, the economics supremo in the 1930s, who had largely provided the funding for rearmament before the war, was also acquitted; he had after all retired some time before the war began. He wrote his memoirs and died in 1970 at the age of ninety-three. Walther Funk, his successor, received a life term but was released on health grounds in 1957, dying three years later. Karl Dönitz was sentenced to ten years’ imprisonment, served his full term and died in 1980; his predecessor as head of the navy, Erich Raeder, was sentenced to life imprisonment but was released on health grounds in 1955, dying in 1960. Konstantin von Neurath received a fifteen-year sentence but was freed because of ill-health in 1954; he died two years later. His fellow aristocrat Franz von Papen, Hitler’s Vice-Chancellor in 1933-4 and subsequently Ambassador to Austria and then Turkey, was acquitted, but rearrested and sentenced to eight years in prison for war crimes by a German court in 1947; he was released on appeal two years later and died in 1969. Baldur von Schirach, leader of the Hitler Youth and subsequently Regional Leader of Vienna, was sentenced to twenty years in jail; released on 1 October 1966, he died on 8 August 1974.241

Albert Speer was also sentenced to twenty years in jail at Nuremberg. He escaped a death sentence by presenting a subtle and sophisticated mixture of self-exculpation and self-blame. He had not known about Auschwitz, he said - a palpable untruth - but he should have done. Some thought his smooth, professional middle-class demeanour had won over the judges, and that he was as much to blame for the murderous exploitation of forced labour as was Fritz Sauckel, whose rough image earned him the noose instead. During his time at Spandau prison, Speer fought boredom and lassitude by measuring out during his daily constitutional an imaginary walk round the globe, and wrote a secret diary (on lavatory paper), as well as more than 25,000 letters, smuggled out by sympathetic visitors. He was released in 1966, and published a widely acclaimed set of memoirs. The book was remarkable for its frank appraisal of his relationship with Hitler, and for its shrewd judgements on the Nazi system of rule. But as time went on, it also became clear that the memoirs were less than honest. Speer embellished or edited many incidents, usually to his own credit, and concealed his knowledge of the extermination of the Jews. Towards the end of his life, in a remarkable series of interviews with the journalist Gitta Sereny, Speer was forced to retreat from the position he had adopted in his memoirs on many issues of detail, but, despite Sereny’s claim to the contrary, he admitted no more to her about his knowledge of Auschwitz than he had to the court at Nuremberg. He died of a stroke during a visit to London in August 1981.242

There were other trials apart from those held at Nuremberg. Many of them were held in Poland, among them the trial of Rudolf Ḧss, former commandant of Auschwitz. At the end of the war, Ḧss went to the holiday island of Sylt, entering the Naval Intelligence School under a false identity. He managed to find work on a farm under an assumed name, but was finally tracked down and arrested on 11 March 1946. He had accidentally broken his little phial of poison two days before. He was harshly treated and complained of being beaten and he signed confessions that were not wholly accurate. The interrogators, he claimed, were all Jews. Ḧss did not abandon his Nazi convictions. Before the war, he thought, the concentration camps had been necessary and served a valuable purpose as re-education centres. But the extermination of the Jews had been ‘fundamentally wrong’ because it had not only drawn down on Germany ‘the hatred of the entire world’ but also ‘in no way served the cause of antisemitism, but on the contrary brought the Jews far closer to their ultimate objective’.243 Ḧss was brought to the Nuremberg War Crimes Tribunal on a number of occasions as a witness, most notably for the defence of Ernst Kaltenbrunner, but most of the time he was imprisoned in Cracow, where he wrote a lengthy autobiography, inaccurate in many details but unconsciously revealing the attitudes and beliefs that had made him the commandant of the largest murder factory in history. On 11 March 1947 Höss was brought into the dock in a trial attended by numerous foreign observers; he was found guilty of murder, sentenced to death and hanged in the main camp at Auschwitz, next to the SS camp administration building, on 16 April 1947.244

Later in the year, in November 1947, the Cracow Supreme Court tried forty SS officers and guards from the camp. Twenty-three were sentenced to death, including the camp leader, Hans Aumeier, and another former commandant, Arthur Liebehenschel. Others received prison sentences of varying length; one, the SS doctor Hans M̈nch, who had researched malnutrition among prisoners, was acquitted because of many testimonials on his behalf from former inmates. The engineer Kurt Pr̈fer, who had designed the gas chambers, was arrested in Erfurt in 1946 and sent to a Soviet labour camp, where he died in 1952. Ludwig Topf, co-owner of the firm Pr̈fer had worked for, Topf & Sons, committed suicide, but his brother, Ernst Wolfgang Topf, escaped unscathed and set up a new business in Wiesbaden making ovens for crematoria. Of the manufacturers of the poison gas Zyklon-B, two, the owner and chief executive of the Hamburg firm Tesch and Stabenow, were executed by a British military court, but others, including the general director of Degesch, Gerhard Peters, were acquitted.245 Those executed after being tried for their crimes in various European countries included Friedrich Jeckeln, the SS commander who had been responsible for massacres of Jews in Riga and elsewhere; Otto Ohlendorf and Werner Naumann, who had led the murderous SS Task Forces in the east; the police chief Kurt Daluege; the SS commander who had destroyed the Warsaw ghetto uprising, J̈rgen Stroop; the head of the concentration camp organization, Oswald Pohl; and the Nazi Party Regional Leaders Arthur Greiser and Albert Forster, who had ruled over the incorporated territories in Poland. Erich Koch, Regional Leader of East Prussia, was condemned to death by the Poles, but his sentence was commuted to life imprisonment on grounds of ill-health. Many others were condemned to lengthy terms of imprisonment.246 The diarist Felix Landau, an Austrian SS man responsible for mass shootings as part of a Task Unit in occupied eastern Poland in 1941, and further murders carried out in his capacity as organizer of Jewish forced labour in the Lemberg district, was recognized in Linz by one of his former workers in 1946 and put in a prison camp by the Americans, but the following year he escaped. He lived as an interior decorator under a false name near N̈rdlingen until his arrest in 1959, followed by his trial and sentence to life imprisonment in 1962; he died in 1983.247


Apart from the trial of the ‘major war criminals’, twelve other trials at Nuremberg, involving 184 defendants, were held by the American occupying authorities to deal with a variety of lesser offenders. At the first of them, senior medical men were arraigned for carrying out cruel experiments on human beings without their consent, for killing the mentally ill and handicapped in the ‘euthanasia’ action, and other crimes. Among them were Viktor Brack and Karl Brandt: both were convinced they had done nothing wrong in ordering the killing of the handicapped; both were sentenced to death. In other trials, members of staff at the ‘euthanasia’ centres were tried for their crimes. Hermann Pfannmüller was sentenced to five years’ imprisonment in 1951, and Friedrich Mennecke killed himself while under sentence of death.248 The two medical scientists who had deliberately infected the Pontine marshes with malaria in 1943, causing in all probability 100,000 Italians to catch the disease and an unknown number to die of it, had mixed fortunes after the war. Ernst Rodenwaldt, denounced by his students for his Nazi affiliations, lost his chair, but he had the backing of a number of his colleagues, and was commissioned by the Allies to compile a report on hygiene in the Third Reich (from which he tactfully omitted his own special area of racial hygiene). He published an epidemiological atlas of the world and some works of medical history and issued a suitably discreet volume of memoirs. The Institute of War Medicine and Hygiene of the West German Army, located in Koblenz, was named after him in 1967.249 Martini continued to publish as well, though he was not able to return to his post in Hamburg. In 1952 he published a fourth edition of his standard textbook on medical entomology. He died in 1960.250

Dr Josef Mengele, whose selections on the ramp at Auschwitz had sent so many to their deaths, left the camp before its dissolution, and worked briefly at Gross-Rosen, before joining an army unit headed by a former colleague. He was captured by the Americans but gave a false name and was released in July 1945, when he began working as a farmhand near Rosenheim in Bavaria. Fearing discovery, he obtained help from another former colleague to flee via Switzerland and northern Italy to Argentina, where he re-established himself, buying a half-share in a pharmaceutical company in 1955. In 1959 he moved to a German colony in Paraguay, but left for Brazil the following year. In the meantime he had divorced and remarried, both legal acts that drew attention for the first time to the fact that he was still alive. His flight and concealment owed a great deal to the help of clandestine networks of former Nazis. He continued to elude capture, and died in 1979 after suffering a heart attack while swimming. It was only in 1985 that his grave was located, and the body exhumed and identified from dental records.251 By contrast, Mengele’s mentor, Otmar von Verschuer, resumed his career after the war. He was elected President of the German Society for Anthropology in 1952 and two years later he became Dean of the Medical Faculty at M̈nster University, where he had been Professor of Genetics since 1951. In 1954 he published his book Human Genetics, which built on his Hereditary Pathology, published twenty years before. He eventually died in a car crash in 1969.252

Not only Josef Mengele but also Franz Stangl and Adolf Eichmann escaped to Latin America. Stangl was transferred to northern Italy when the death camp at Treblinka, where he had been commandant, was closed. His orders were to oversee the construction of defensive fortifications and the suppression of partisan movements. At the end of the war, he escaped to Austria but was arrested by American troops and interned. As war crimes investigations proceeded, his role in the euthanasia action was discovered, and the Americans appear to have discovered at some point that he had been commandant of a death camp. By this time, however, most Allied war crimes tribunals had ceased operation, and he was transferred to the Austrian authorities, who put him in an open prison in Linz. On 30 May 1948 he absconded and, using false identity papers he had acquired in jail, managed to cross the Alps into Italy, where he had made many useful contacts. Reaching Rome, he made contact at the Vatican with Bishop Alois Hudal, a priest and part of the circle of German and Austrian clerics with whom Pope Pius XII surrounded himself. Hudal was in charge of the German Catholic community in the Italian capital. An Austrian, he did a great deal to help his compatriot escape justice. He found him somewhere to stay, gave him money and kitted him out with a Red Cross passport before buying him a ticket for the sea passage to Syria. Stangl’s family joined him there, and in 1951 they emigrated to Brazil. Many other former Nazis and SS men found the same route to safety. In Brazil, the Stangls, making no mention of Franz’s past, found work and a social life in the expatriate German community. The Stangls kept their name and made no attempt to hide, but, though Franz was on the official wanted list of the Austrian and German governments, he was only tracked down by the efforts of Simon Wiesenthal, who had established an information centre dedicated to locating and securing the arrest of former leading Nazis still at large. On 28 February 1967 Stangl was arrested by Brazilian police and deported to Germany, where he was tried for the 900,000 murders he had ordered at Treblinka. It was apparently only at this point that his wife, who travelled over from Brazil to attend the trial, learned of what he had really been doing in the camp. He was sentenced to life imprisonment on 22 December 1970 and died in prison on 28 June the following year.253

Towards the end of the war, Adolf Eichmann had formed a small partisan resistance movement in the Austrian Alps on the orders of Ernst Kaltenbrunner, with the assistance of Otto Skorzeny and the former Romanian Iron Guard leader Horia Sima. But Himmler soon put a stop to the enterprise, and Eichmann went underground, using forged identity papers. Fearing discovery, he too took advantage of the Vatican’s policy of helping ‘anti-Communist fighters’ to escape to Latin America and arrived in Argentina, where the quasi-fascist dictatorship of Juan Peron provided a refuge for a variety of former Nazis and SS men. One of them was Otto Skorzeny, who had escaped from a prison camp in Germany in 1948 and lived in a variety of locations, including Spain and Ireland (he died in Germany in 1975). Eichmann’s identity and location were discovered by the anti-Nazi state prosecutor in Hesse, Fritz Bauer, a Jewish German who had spent the war in exile in Sweden. At his prompting, the Israeli secret service kidnapped Eichmann in Buenos Aires in May 1960 and smuggled him to Jerusalem, where he stood trial for mass murder the following year amidst a blaze of publicity. He was sentenced to death and hanged at midnight on 31 May 1962.254


From the late 1940s to the late 1950s, the political climate of the Cold War militated against any major war crimes trials in West Germany. It was widely felt, both by the NATO Allies and by the West German government, that such trials would fuel East German charges that the country was rife with Nazi criminals, and perhaps also destabilize the Federal Republic’s fledgling democracy by alienating large numbers of ex-Nazis who feared that they too might be brought before a court. By 1958, however, there were signs that the situation was beginning to change. The foundation of a Central Office of the Provincial Justice Administrations in Ludwigsburg laid the basis for the nationwide co-ordination of prosecutions. But it was the Eichmann trial that really put pressure on the West Germans to act. Once more, Fritz Bauer was the driving force behind the investigations. These culminated in the trial of a number of SS officers and guards in Frankfurt am Main in 1964. The last commandant of Auschwitz, Richard Baer, who was arrested in 1960 after having lived for many years as a forestry worker under a false name, was to have been a defendant, but he died before the trial began. In the dock were twenty-two men including block leaders, SS camp guards and others who were accused of specific acts of individual, physical violence against prisoners. More than 350 former inmates travelled to the court to give evidence. In August 1965, seventeen of the defendants were given mostly lengthy prison sentences. The trial proved a crucial turning-point in bringing the attention of the younger generation of West Germans to the crimes of the Third Reich; it was followed by four smaller trials in West Germany, in which more Auschwitz guards and block leaders were sentenced to imprisonment. The East Germans riposted with a trial of their own, arresting and executing the camp doctor Horst Fischer in 1966. He had been practising medicine openly in the communist state, under his own name, without hindrance, for more than twenty years before his arrest.255

The survival in positions of responsibility in postwar Germany of men like Fischer suggested strongly to many observers that the process of ‘denazification’ carried out by the Allies had been less than thorough. In the years immediately following the end of the war, millions of Germans were required to fill in and submit lengthy forms on their activities and beliefs under the Third Reich. They were then brought before tribunals, which heard evidence from interested parties and categorized the individual concerned as a Nazi, implicated in Nazism, a fellow traveller, or uninvolved. The process was vast in scope. More than 3,600,000 people in the western zones were affected, of whom 1,667 were classified as ‘chief culprits’, just over 23,000 as ‘incriminated’, and slightly more than 150,000 as ‘less incriminated’. Thus under 5 per cent were judged to have been hard-core Nazis. 996,000 were categorized as merely nominal members of the Nazi Party (27 per cent), and 1,214,000 were exonerated (33 per cent). By the time the process was wound up, in 1948, 783,000 remained uncharged, 358,000 were amnestied, and 125,000 remained unclassified. In a similar process carried out in the Soviet Zone, more than 300,000 people were dismissed from their jobs, and 83,000 were banned from further employment altogether. Denazification could not, of course, ban all 6.5 million members of the Party from employment in positions of responsibility. The need for the expertise of judges, doctors, lawyers, scientists, engineers, bankers and many others was too great. Many of those who had condemned political offenders to death in the courts, taken part in ‘euthanasia’ killings in the hospitals, preached Nazi doctrines in the schools and universities, or participated in ‘desk-top murders’ in the civil service resumed their posts. The professions closed ranks and deflected criticism of their behaviour in the Third Reich, and a veil of silence descended over their complicity, not to be lifted until after the leading participants retired, towards the end of the century.256

The intrusiveness of the action alienated Germans, who wanted above all to forget, and popular approval of denazification as revealed in opinion polls fell from 57 per cent in March 1946 to 17 per cent in May 1949. The superficiality of the denazification process failed to change many of the Nazi views held by those it affected. And yet, overall, despite everything, the action was a success. The open expression of Nazi opinions became a taboo, and those who revealed them were generally forced to resign their posts. The internment, screening and trial before denazification tribunals of tens of thousands of hard-core Nazis opened the way for the re-emergence of anti-Nazis - Social Democrat, Catholic, liberal - and others who had taken no part in the regime, to occupy leading positions in politics, administration, culture and the media. Attempts to revive Nazism in the form of neo-Nazi political movements like the Socialist Reich Party or, later, the National Democratic Party never won more than marginal popular support; if they were too blatant, like the former, then they were legally suppressed. A postwar career like that of Werner Best, who survived more than one trial and condemnation to spend the rest of his long life - he died in 1989 - organizing help for former Nazis and campaigning for a general amnesty, was unusual. All the same, public opinion polls revealed that a majority continued well into the 1950s to regard Nazism as ‘a good idea, badly carried out’, and a worryingly large proportion of the population considered that Germany was better off without the Jews. It was not until the arrival of a new generation on the scene, symbolized by the year 1968, that a real confrontation with the past began. Nevertheless, the political culture of both East and West Germany was from the outset based on a vigorous repudiation of Nazi ideology and values, including the long tradition of German nationalism and militarism that had persuaded so many people to support it. The realities of the total defeat and, in the 1950s and 1960s, the prosperity generated by the ‘economic miracle’ persuaded the overwhelming majority of Germans to embrace the political culture of parliamentary democracy, European integration and international peace with growing enthusiasm and commitment.257

Few Germans found adjusting to this new world easy. Many still regretted the failure of the Third Reich. When Hitler’s former military commanders came to write their memoirs, they took the opportunity to put forward the unrealistic but for many years widely accepted view that, if only Hitler had let them get on with the job, they could have won the war. The conduct of the German army on the Eastern Front went uncriticized in these works, and for decades, therefore, unquestioned. General Gotthard Heinrici was eventually captured on 28 May 1945 and did not get back to Germany until 1948. For the rest of his life he remained convinced that he had fought in a good cause - the German cause. He died peacefully on 13 December 1971.258 Field Marshal Fedor von Bock was not so lucky. On 3 May 1945, in compulsory retirement since the summer of 1942, he was being driven with his wife, his stepdaughter and a friend through the countryside towards Oldenburg, hoping to meet his friend Field Marshal Manstein to discuss the end of the war. The car was spotted by a British fighter plane, which swooped low over it and strafed it with bullets. The car burst into flames; Bock staggered out, the only survivor; he was picked up and taken to hospital, but died of his injuries the following day.259Among other senior military commanders, Walther von Brauchitsch died in a British prison in 1948, Gerd von Rundstedt was captured and interrogated by the British but never faced trial because of his heart condition, and died in 1953; Friedrich Paulus, who had surrendered at Stalingrad, lived in East Germany until his death in 1957, still outwardly committed to the Communist cause he had embraced in captivity; Erich von Manstein was sentenced to fifteen years’ imprisonment by a British military court in 1949 for crimes against non-combatants, was released in 1953 and became a military adviser to the West German government, dying in 1973. Like the tank commander Heinz Guderian, who was briefly imprisoned after the war and died in 1954, Manstein was widely respected for his generalship; questions about his involvement in Nazism and its crimes went largely unanswered.

Lower down the military hierarchy, the diarist and letter-writer Wilm Hosenfeld was taken prisoner by a Red Army unit as he retreated from Warsaw on 17 January 1945 and put into a prison camp. His health deteriorated, and he suffered a stroke on 27 July 1947. By this time he was able to write letters to friends and family, and he desperately listed as many as he could remember of the Poles and Jews whom he had rescued, trying to get them to petition for his release. Some did. But it was to no avail. As a member of the German military administration during the Warsaw uprising of 1944, he was accused of war crimes, put on trial and sentenced to twenty-five years’ imprisonment. On 13 August 1952 he suffered another stroke, this time fatal.260 Many other German prisoners of war were kept in Soviet labour camps for a full decade after the war, until their final release in the mid-1950s. Civilian life proved difficult to adjust to for many of them. The soldier and long-time stormtrooper Gerhard M. found that the hardest thing to bear about the new political world he entered on 8 May 1945 was the fact that he was no longer able to wear a uniform. ‘I have always liked wearing a uniform,’ he confided to his diary, ‘and indeed not just because of the many silver insignia . . . but mainly because of the forceful appearance of the breech-trousers and the better way the clothes fitted.’261 He could not understand why he was not allowed to resume his prewar duties as a fireman. ‘Yeah,’ the new head of the fire service told him, ‘you Nazis risked a very loud tone up to now, but now it’s all over with that.’ Gerhard M. found his dismissal incomprehensible. ‘I absolutely couldn’t pull myself together.’ Bitterly he reflected on the war ‘that our leaders, who had built Germany up in such exemplary fashion, unleashed a war of the strength of the world and thereby allowed the destruction of what not only they but also previous generations had created, merely because they wanted to go down in history as great military leaders’.262 It took another nine years before he was able to resume his career in the fire service.263

Others found it equally difficult to come to terms with their new situation and achieve a self-critical distance to their Nazi past. As a former leading member of the League of German Girls, Melita Maschmann, afraid like many of Allied retribution, hid in Alpine valleys in Austria, using forged papers and living off bartered or stolen food, until mid-June 1945, when she was finally arrested and identified. Imprisonment finally brought home to her the fact that the Third Reich was over. The best thing about prison, she later recalled, was the enforced idleness, which gave her time to reflect and recuperate from the years of hard and unremitting effort she had put into the Nazi cause. The limited amount of ‘re-education’ to which she was subjected was, she said, lamentable, and the re-educators were often less educated than middle-class women such as herself, who frequently bettered them in argument. She refused to believe the stories of the extermination camps and dismissed the photographs she was shown as fakes. When she listened to a radio relay of the closing speech of the head of the Hitler Youth, Baldur von Schirach, at the Nuremberg trial in 1946, she felt betrayed by his admission of guilt and put it down to the stress of imprisonment. She remained convinced, as she wrote in her notes at the time, ‘that National Socialism as the idea of racial renewal, the Greater German Reich and a united Europe . . . was one of the greatest political conceptions of modern times’. She thought it more honourable to undergo the process of denazification as a convinced Nazi than to be written off as a fellow traveller. And for some years afterwards, idealistic as ever, she devoted herself to helping former Nazis in distress, giving away much of her earnings in the process. It took a dozen years for her to achieve a degree of distance to the Nazi past, helped by religion, and in particular by her friendship with an Evangelical pastor. She enrolled as a university student and actively sought out the acquaintance of foreign students from other races. The final stage in her liberation from the ideology which had consumed her for much of her earlier life was her acceptance that the reports she began to read about the fate of individual Jews in Warsaw and the camps were true. Nazism, she concluded, had possessed the ability to attract many good, idealistic young people who were so carried away by their enthusiasm and dedication to the cause that they blinded themselves to what was really happening. She herself, however, remained susceptible to the appeal of ideologies, and later in her life became seriously interested in Indian spirituality.264


German cultural life resumed relatively quickly after the war, encouraged by the Allies. But those who had been too closely involved in Nazi propaganda were unable to resume their careers. In the film world, Emil Jannings was forced to retire to his farm in Austria, dying in 1950; Leni Riefenstahl found it impossible to make films any more, and devoted her time to photography, celebrating the life of Nubian tribes and filming underwater life on coral reefs; she died in 2003, aged 101. Riefenstahl always claimed that she had been entirely unpolitical, but few who had seen Triumph of the Will were able to believe her. By contrast, Veit Harlan successfully defended his record in a denazification trial on the grounds that he was an artist, and the propaganda content of his films had been imposed on him by Goebbels. He made a few more films before he died in 1964.265 Werner Egk, the leading modernist composer of the Third Reich, was able to resume his career, becoming a conservatory director and playing a central part in the reconstruction of musical life in West Germany; he died in 1983, laden with honours, a year after Carl Orff, whose postwar career was similarly successful. The former head of Goebbels’s Chamber of Music, composer Richard Strauss, was perhaps too eminent to be disturbed by denazification proceedings; living quietly in Vienna, he survived the war to produce a final sequence of limpid, Mozartian works that count among his best, from the Metamorphoses for string orchestra to the oboe concerto; he died in 1949 before he could hear the first performance of his final masterpiece, the Four Last Songs.266

The postwar career of the conductor Wilhelm Furtwängler was longer, but also more controversial. A denazification tribunal cleared him of all charges, and he continued to conduct and make recordings as a freelance up to his death in 1954, but the offer of an appointment as principal conductor of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra was rescinded in 1949 after protests by eminent Jewish musicians including Vladimir Horowitz and Artur Rubinstein. His fellow-conductor Bruno Walter, forced into exile under the Nazis because of his Jewish ancestry, told him forcefully that throughout the Nazi years

your art was used as a conspicuously effective means of propaganda for the Regime of the Devil, that you performed high service to this regime through your prominent image and great talent, that the presence and performance of an artist of your stature abetted every horrible crime against culture and morality, or at least, gave considerable support to them.267

Furtwängler claimed to have intervened on behalf of Jewish victims of the regime, as he had indeed done in a few individual cases early on in the Third Reich. But, Walter pointed out, he had never been in danger, and he had carried on his career as Germany’s leading conductor throughout the whole period. ‘In light of all that,’ he concluded, ‘of what significance is your assistance in the isolated cases of a few Jews?’268

Hitler’s favourite sculptor, Arno Breker, was also brought before a denazification tribunal, but he could point in mitigation of his close association with Hitler to a number of instances in which he had helped people in distress, including a Jewish woman who modelled for Maillol, Dina Vierny. Breker had visited Heinrich M̈ller, head of the Gestapo, and secured her release from the French transit camp from which she was due to be deported to Auschwitz. He had also helped Picasso evade the attentions of the Gestapo in Paris. Breker’s sculptures were popular not only with Hitler but also with Stalin, who offered him a commission in 1946 (Breker declined, saying: ‘one dictatorship is sufficient for me’). All of this, bolstered by 160 affidavits testifying to the probity of his conduct during the Third Reich, succeeded in having him classified merely as a ‘fellow traveller’, with a fine of 100 Deutschmarks plus the costs of the trial (which he never paid). He subsequently rebuilt his career, partly with the help of architects from Speer’s old office, and his admirers organized exhibitions of his work, but his campaign for rehabilitation did not succeed with the mainstream art world, which continued to regard him primarily as the state sculptor of the Third Reich all the way up to his death in 1991. A commentary in a leading conservative German newspaper on his ninetieth birthday the year before described him as ‘the classic example of a seduced, deluded and also overbearing talent’.269

Of more immediate interest to the Allies after the war than artists and composers were the scientists and engineers who had worked so expertly, and to such little effect, on wonder-weapons like the V-1 and V-2. Special teams were put together by the Soviet and American authorities to locate and take key military technological equipment back home for further development. The inventors of the nerve gases Sarin and Tabun were arrested and interrogated; jet engines, advanced submarines, rocket planes and much more besides were dismantled and taken away for study. The Soviets removed several thousand scientists and engineers to work on updating their military technology and equipment, while the British and Americans turned their attention to the V-2 rocket team, Together with Wernher von Braun and some of his staff, they oversaw the launch of three V-2 missiles from the German North Sea coast in October 1945. 120 of the rocket programme staff, including von Braun, were taken off to a new base near El Paso, in Texas, to work on rocket development; they were not made available for the trial of those responsible for the crimes committed at Camp Dora. By 1950 the programme had been relocated to Huntsville, Alabama, where it became the leading missile development centre in the USA, eclipsing previous institutions like the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California. Ten years later, building on the experience of the V-2, von Braun and the Huntsville team constructed the mighty Saturn rocket, which was used to launch men into space and within a decade to send them to the moon. Not only the Americans but also the Soviets, the British and the French used the expertise of members of the Peenemünde team wherever they could find them, in developing and building a new generation of intercontinental ballistic missiles, rendered infinitely more dangerous than their German predecessor by the invention of the atomic bomb.270

Other scientists, notably the pioneers of atom bomb research Otto Hahn and Werner Heisenberg, remained in Germany and resumed their careers. Hahn took over the directorship of the Kaiser Wilhelm Society in 1946, unsuccessfully opposing its renaming as the Max Planck Society at the behest of the British occupation authorities in the wake of the great scientist’s death in 1947. What Hahn did succeed in doing, however, was to distance the Society successfully from its close involvement in Nazi research, a topic that remained undiscussed until almost the very end of the twentieth century. Hahn went to Stockholm to get his Nobel Prize for the discovery of nuclear fission, and died in G̈ttingen in 1968. Werner Heisenberg became director of the Max Planck Institute for Physics and rejoined the international scientific community, dying in 1971. His rivals, the champions of ‘German Physics’, did not prosper. Heisenberg had the pleasure of testifying against Johannes Stark at the latter’s trial in 1947. Stark’s sentence of four years’ imprisonment was in the end not implemented, and he died, largely forgotten, in 1957. Ten years before, his mentor Philipp Lenard had died at the age of 85. Other, more minor figures in the German Physics movement were systematically shut out of academic life when it resumed again after the war.271


The ordinary, unassuming citizens whose voluminous and conscientiously kept diaries form such a vital record of everyday life under the Nazis suffered a variety of fates after the war. Dr Zygmunt Klukowski published a five-volume work on German war crimes and the underground resistance in the Zamos’c’ area. This led to his being called as a witness in one of the Nuremberg War Crimes Trials. Klukowski soon found himself living under another dictatorship, however, as the Soviet occupying power suppressed the Polish nationalist movement and installed a Communist regime in power. Klukowski now helped the Polish underground resistance to the Communists and kept a diary of the Communist terror, just as he had done of the Nazi. He was arrested by the Soviet political police twice, and, though he was not imprisoned, he was demoted from his long-held post of head of hospital to the status of a humble ward physician. In 1952 he was arrested again, while trying - unsuccessfully - to prevent his son Tadeusz from being executed for resistance activities, and spent four years in Wronki prison. In the thaw of 1956 he was pardoned and rehabilitated, and moved to Lublin, where he published his war diaries two years later. These made him famous: the book was quickly reprinted, and won a major literary prize, to go along with numerous other Polish national awards. By this time, however, Klukoswki was already suffering from cancer. He died on 23 November 1959, and was buried in Szczebrzeszyn, along with other soldiers of the Home Army: in 1986 the town erected a monument to him in the main square. His diaries reached a wider readership with their publication in English in 1993 on the initiative of his surviving son and grandson and remain the most vivid and detailed record we have of life in Poland under German occupation.272

Victor Klemperer and his wife Eva moved back into the house in the Dresden suburb of D̈lzschen from which they had been evicted in 1939, and gradually put it back in order. At sixty-three, he had no intention of sinking into a quiet retirement. His ex-colleagues from the Technical University at Dresden, who had avoided him during the Nazi period because he was Jewish, now spoke to him again as if nothing had happened in the intervening years. Former friends and neighbours, acquaintances and even complete strangers approached him for support in their claim that they were innocent of the Third Reich’s crimes. Klemperer enjoyed his new-found status as one of the persecuted of the Third Reich. He was restored to his Professorship at the University, though he did not return to teach there, and then was appointed in rapid succession to more prestigious chairs at Greifswald, Halle and Berlin. He retrieved his manuscripts from his non-Jewish friend Annemarie K̈hler, and published his study of Nazi language, LTI, which was immediately recognized as a classic. He resumed work on his study of eighteenth-century French literature, and this was published too. Dresden lay in the Soviet Zone of Occupation, and after some hesitation Klemperer joined the Communist Party, which he saw as the only convincing vehicle of retribution and reconstruction; for him, nothing else could give any assurance that the break with Nazism was complete. His membership opened up a wide range of cultural and educational work for him, and after the German Democratic Republic was founded in 1949 he became a deputy in the country’s parliament, a position for which he was no more obliged to campaign or stand against an opponent than any other member was. The growing Stalinization of East Germany made him more sceptical; he ran into political criticism of his work, and he privately concluded that at bottom he was a liberal after all.273

In 1951 Klemperer’s wife Eva, whose steadfast love had kept him alive during the Third Reich, died of a heart attack in her sleep shortly before her sixty-ninth birthday. ‘I am quite alone,’ he wrote in his diary, ‘everything is valueless for me now.’274 Initially, he took solace in work, but within a few months he began a relationship with the twenty-five-year-old Hadwig Kirchner, one of his students; despite feeling that he might be making a fool of himself, he fell in love, his sentiments were reciprocated, and the couple were married on 23 May 1952. He continued to teach French literature well into his seventies. In 1959 he fell seriously ill, and died on 11 February 1960 at the age of seventy-eight. There could be no question of publishing his voluminous diaries under the East German dictatorship, given their complete failure to follow the Communist Party line on either the Weimar Republic, the Third Reich or the postwar era; but after the fall of the Berlin Wall his widow made them available for publication, and they appeared in instalments through the 1990s, immediately establishing themselves as the most meticulous, vivid and honest account of the life of a Jew in Germany during the first six decades of the twentieth century.275

Luise Solmitz and her Jewish husband Friedrich also survived the war unscathed. They lived in quiet retirement in Hamburg. Luise continued to keep a daily record of her life, as she had done ever since 1905, filling one 700-page notebook with closely spaced lines of tiny, crabbed handwriting every year. In December 1953 she donated her diaries to the Hamburg State Archive as a historical record, but a year later, she found that she could not bear to be without them and retrieved them for her private use. She donated them again in 1967, but took them back home once more three months later, keeping them until her death in 1973 at the age of eighty-four. In the 1960s the Research Centre for the History of National Socialism in Hamburg secured her agreement to come in every day and dictate from the diaries for 1918-45 to a shorthand typist. As she went through them, she occasionally wondered at the views she had expressed in the early 1930s, views that had changed so radically by 1945. Coming across her description from January 1933 of Nazis singing about Jewish blood spurting from the knife, she added a comment: ‘Who took that seriously then?’276


Luise Solmitz’s failure in the 1930s to recognize the violence that lay at the heart of Nazism was shared by many. As late as 1939 the great majority of Germans were hoping against hope that there would not be a general European war; and a large part of the euphoria that swept the country in the wake of the victory over France the following year expressed the relief that the traditional enemy had been defeated, and the humiliation of the 1919 Peace Settlement avenged, with what seemed to be a minimum of bloodshed. Yet Nazism was from the very beginning a creed based on violence and hatred, born of bitterness and despair. The depth and radicalism of the political, social and economic crises that assailed Germany under the Weimar Republic spawned a correspondingly deep and radical response. Germany’s enemies within and without were to be utterly destroyed in order that Germany should rise again, this time to unprecedented heights of power and domination. Even the promises of economic reconstruction and social cohesion that won over so many Germans to the Nazi cause in the 1930s were subordinated in the end to the drive to war. In seeking to re-create the atmosphere of August 1914 - or what the Nazis imagined it to have been - internal conflict was to be banished and social and political divisions subsumed in the all-encompassing myth of the organic national and racial community of all Germans. The subversion that had supposedly led to the German army being stabbed in the back by Jewish revolutionaries feeding on domestic discontent in 1918 was to be prevented by ensuring that the Jews were removed from Germany by any means possible and that Germans themselves were well fed, racially pure and politically committed. These were aims that could only be achieved by the application of violence at its most ruthless and extreme.

The war that began in September 1939 unleashed it with a force that had so far only been apparent on specific occasions such as the maltreatment of the Jews of Vienna after the annexation of Austria in March 1938, or the nationwide pogrom of the ‘Night of Broken Glass’ the following November. The policies that unfolded in Poland in the opening months of the war set the tone for the Nazi occupation of other parts of Eastern Europe from the middle of 1941 onwards: expropriation, forcible deportation, imprisonment, mass shootings, murder on a hitherto unimaginable scale. These policies were applied to all the people who lived in the region apart from ethnic Germans, but they were applied with particular venom to the Jews, who were subjected to sadistic and systematic humiliation and torture, ghettoization and extermination by poison gas in facilities specially built for the purpose. Other groups, mainly though in many cases not exclusively German, were also killed in large numbers: the mentally ill and handicapped, Gypsies, homosexuals, Jehovah’s Witnesses, ‘asocials’, petty criminals, the politically refractory and the socially marginal. Soviet prisoners of war were murdered in their millions, and people of many nationalities were taken forcibly to Germany and made to work and live under conditions that proved fatal for a large number of them. Some people who belonged to these other groups were, like many Jews, gassed to death; but only the Jews were singled out as the ‘world enemy’, a global threat to Germany’s existence that had to be exterminated wherever it was found.

These policies were put into action to one degree or another by hundreds of thousands, even millions, of Germans, who were committed to the Nazi cause, or who - especially if they belonged to the younger generation - had been indoctrinated since 1933 with the belief that Slavs were subhuman, Jews were evil, Gypsies, criminals, the marginal and the deviant were at best a nuisance, at worst a threat. Nazism’s encouragement of murderous violence, theft, looting and wanton destruction was not without its effect on the behaviour of German troops in Poland, the Soviet Union, Serbia and other parts of Europe. Only a very few, mostly impelled by a strong Christian conscience, raised their voices in criticism. Yet the majority of Germans felt uneasy at the mass murder of Jews and Slavs, and guilty that they were too afraid to do anything to stop it. In the case of the mentally ill and handicapped, who belonged in many cases to their own families and communities, they were upset enough to protest, at first indirectly and then, channelling their anger and despair through the Christian Churches, openly and to some effect.

In launching a war to be fought on a European scale with the goal of world domination as the long-term aim, Hitler and the Nazis were living out the fantasies that had impelled them into politics in the first place: fantasies of a great and resurgent Germany, expunging the stain of defeat in 1918 by establishing an imperial domination on a scale the world had never seen before. These fantasies were shared to a significant degree by key parts of the German Establishment, including the civil service, the professions and the top generals in the army. Despite their doubts, they all went along with it in the end. But Germany’s economic resources were never adequate to turn these fantasies into reality, not even when the resources of a large part of the rest of Europe were added to them. No amount of ‘mobilization for total war’, no degree of economic rationalization, could alter this fundamental fact of life. Initially, the German armed forces managed to score a series of quick victories using tactics that defeated their enemies as much by surprise as by anything else. But they were unable to defeat Britain in 1940, and a stalemate ensued. This was the first major turning-point of the war.

The invasion of the Soviet Union the following year was in part an attempt to break this stalemate. But it was also the accelerated implementation of a desire long held by Hitler and the leading Nazis: the conquest of Eastern Europe, the acquisition of its notionally vast natural resources, and the racial subjugation and extermination of a large proportion of its inhabitants in order to make way for a new and permanent German hegemony. Operation Barbarossa inaugurated a war of attrition that the Third Reich could not win. The drive across North Africa to secure the prize of Middle Eastern oil could not succeed, for all Rommel’s brilliance; the attempt to cut off the supplies sent to Britain and the Soviet Union in growing quantities from the United States failed because there were not enough U-boats to sustain it. A second turning-point in the war came at the end of 1941, when the German armies failed to take Moscow, and the United States brought their immense resources into the conflict on the Allied side. A third turning-point came a year later, in the catastrophic German defeat at Stalingrad.

Increasingly, the war came home to Germany, as Allied bombing fleets gained domination of the skies and brought devastation to Germany’s cities. Until things began to go badly wrong in the war, the Nazis managed to pull the great mass of the German people along with them. German nationalism, belief in the greatness of Germany and resentment at the Peace Settlement of 1919 were present in every part of the population. They were behind the mass and undoubtedly genuine euphoria that greeted Germany’s stunning military successes in 1939-40 and in a grimmer mood they sustained a large part of the German resistance to the Soviet invasion in 1944-5. Until the summer of 1944 cultural institutions and the mass media continued to offer a mixture of morale-boosting encouragement and soul-soothing escapism to the Germans at home, while food supplies and the basics of everyday life were sustained almost to the end. But the mass destruction of Germany’s towns and cities that began in earnest in 1943 turned people against the Nazi regime even more than the realization after Stalingrad that the war was lost. The Nazi regime responded to disillusion at home and the decline of morale in the armed forces by intensifying the repression and terror that had always been a central part of its rule. The element of martyrdom and self-sacrifice in Nazi ideology was intensified too. Small numbers of Germans began to resist, but the only group capable of overthrowing Hitler, the military resistance, failed in the attempt in July 1944, inaugurating a further intensification of terror and destruction that ended in the downfall of the Third Reich just over nine months later.

The violence at the core of Nazism had in the end been turned back on Germany itself. As the German people - above all, German women - cleared away the last of the rubble, they began to experience something like a return to normality, reflected in the political and social atmosphere of the 1950s, with its emphasis on family values, material prosperity, social order, political stability and selective amnesia about the Nazi past. For many middle-aged and older Germans, there had been no real normality since before the First World War. Military conflict and material privation had been succeeded by revolution, hyperinflation, political violence, economic depression, dictatorship and war all over again. But the normality of the 1950s was also a new kind of normality. The Third Reich and the war it unleashed had changed many things. Nazism’s promise of social equality was implemented, in ways it had not foreseen, during and after the war: the ferocious attack it launched on the German aristocracy after 20 July 1944, coupled with the breakup of the larger landed estates by the Allies after 1945 and the suppression of the Prussian military tradition at the same time, broke what remained of the social and political power of the titled nobility.

At the other end of the social scale, Nazism had destroyed the long-established traditions of the labour movement, already severely weakened by the Depression of 1929- 33. Older workers quickly reorganized themselves into unions, reformed the Communist and Social Democratic Parties and launched a series of strikes in 1947 with the demand for the socialization of the means of production; but they had little support from the younger generations of workers, who had never belonged to a union or a left-wing party, and only wanted social peace and material prosperity. The strikes failed, the Communist Party in West Germany lost virtually all its support and was eventually banned, the Social Democrats abandoned their Marxist heritage in 1959, and the decline of heavy industry and the rise of a consumer society completed the process. In East Germany the flight of millions of professionals to the west and the egalitarian policies of the Communist regime created the same effect, albeit at a lower level of material prosperity. The old-style class-conflict that Nazism had put such store by overcoming had finally vanished. Germany had become a levelled-down, middle-class society, differing in its nature from east to west, but sharing a common transcendence of traditional class structures.

The power of nationalism had also been broken, so thoroughly that when elderly Germans came towards the end of the century to look back on the Third Reich and ask themselves why they had supported it, they could no longer remember that one of the main reasons had been because they had thought that it made Germany great again.277 Germany, as the public celebrations accompanying its reunification in 1989- 90 showed, may not have become a fully postnational society. The strong support of the vast majority of Germans for European integration may have been tempered by a continuing self-identification as Germans. But to be German in the second half of the twentieth century meant something very different from what it had meant in the first half: it meant, among other things, to be peace-loving, democratic, prosperous and stable, and it also meant having a critical attitude towards the German past, having a sense of responsibility for the death and destruction that Nazism caused, even feeling guilty about it.278

These matters continued to be widely debated, of course, and some at least also regarded the Germans themselves as victims of the Second World War. Yet in the early twenty-first century, Germany’s capital city has a large public memorial to the Jewish victims of Nazism at its very centre, German concentration camps have become public museums to Nazi atrocities, and on the streets of a growing number of German towns and cities brass plates have been put on to the pavements outside houses and shops that belonged to Jews before 1933, with the names of their former owners inscribed on them. German historians have exposed the long-denied involvement of many sectors of the German population in the crimes of the Third Reich, from the officers and men of the army to the doctors and scientists who staffed Germany’s hospitals and research institutes. Former slave labourers have launched successful actions to gain recognition and a small amount of compensation for their sufferings, and the businesses and companies that profited from the Nazi regime and its policies have opened their archives and admitted their complicity. Artworks and cultural objects expropriated from their Jewish owners under the Third Reich have been catalogued and galleries, museums and state authorities have opened the way for the restitution of those that have not yet been returned.

Not only historical knowledge about the Third Reich, but also public consciousness of what it did, has increased with distance in time from the Nazi regime; yet that regime has not lost any of its power to excite moral debate, rather, if anything, the reverse. Not long after the Second World War was over, the English historian Alan Bullock ended his great biography of Hitler by quoting the words inscribed on the tomb of the architect Sir Christopher Wren in the church he built in London, St Paul’s Cathedral: Si monumentum requiris, circumspice - ‘If you need a memorial, look around.’279 In 1952, when Bullock published his book, the destruction wrought by the war was still to be seen in almost every part of Europe. More than half a century later, this is no longer the case. Bomb-sites have been cleared, battlefields levelled out, divisions healed, peace and prosperity restored to Europe. Most of those who lived through the Third Reich and fought in its wars are no longer with us. Within a few decades there will be no one left who remembers it at first hand. And yet its legacy is still alive in myriad ways. History does not repeat itself: there will be no Fourth Reich. Neo-Nazism still finds its supporters, but nowhere has it shown any signs of even coming close to achieving real political power. The legacy of the Third Reich is much wider. It extends far beyond Germany and Europe. The Third Reich raises in the most acute form the possibilities and consequences of the human hatred and destructiveness that exist, even if only in a small way, within all of us. It demonstrates with terrible clarity the ultimate potential consequences of racism, militarism and authoritarianism. It shows what can happen if some people are treated as less human than others. It poses in the most extreme possible form the moral dilemmas we all face at one time or another in our lives, of conformity or resistance, action or inaction in the particular situations with which we are confronted. That is why the Third Reich will not go away, but continues to command the attention of thinking people throughout the world long after it has passed into history.

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