Relating Amnesty to Amnesia; De-Nazification and German sovereignty.(OPED)(POLITICAL BOOKS)

The Washington Times (Washington, DC), August 27, 2002 | Go to article overview

Relating Amnesty to Amnesia; De-Nazification and German sovereignty.(OPED)(POLITICAL BOOKS)


Byline: Viola Herms Drath, SPECIAL TO THE WASHINGTON TIMES

The complexity of the de-Nazification process in West Germany at the dawn of the birth of the Federal Republic of Germany in 1949 has puzzled many observers. Among those puzzled were the modern historian Norbert Frei and the American occupiers who brought the guilty Nazi elite responsible for the unspeakable crimes and mass murders of Adolf Hitler's regime to justice at the Nuremberg trials (1947-1949) and attempted to de-Nazify the country by sorting out the guilty from the innocent in a general political purging campaign.

This affected millions of former Nazi Party members who expected and eventually received an annulment of punishments and full integration by Konrad Adenauer's coalition government. To be sure, the stringent de-Nazification methods of the British and American military governments, fortified by their emphasis on purification and re-education, soon came under heavy public criticism and were promptly stopped when the newly elected Bundestag came into power.

In "Adenauer's Germany and the Nazi Past," a painstakingly researched analysis of the early Adenauer era, Norbert Frei takes a hard look at the political, judicial and intellectual consequences of the emerging amnestysizing "policy of the past" and disapproves. Highly critical of the chancellor's policy of leniency and the reversal of de-Nazification policies of the Allies, Mr. Frei suggests a linkage between the pursuit of a general amnesty for Nazi officials and war criminals with current discussions about Hitler's Germany as a nation of accomplices. The revisionist implication relating amnesty to amnesia represents a provocative thesis.

Acknowledging that the implementation of major policies was never an altogether German undertaking but a matter of Allied consent and cooperation, Konrad Adenauer, West Germany's first chancellor, presided over the heated amnesty debate in favor of an end to the imposed de-Nazification with political cunning and diplomatic finesse.

As pointed out by the Allies, Mr. Adenauer was well-aware of the obligation of morally and legally confronting the Nazi past. However, when the conservative democrat also addressed the immediate need for flexibility, for the stabilization, reconstruction and integration of an unstable society traumatized by a cruel war and years of confusing occupation, the author questions his motives. …

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