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General George Marshall began planning for the post-was occupation of Germany two years before D-Day. One of the principal Allied objectives of World War II was the de-Nazification of Germany. The announcement of the Crimea Conference states that the aim of the three Powers is “to destroy German militarism and Nazism” and “to remove all Nazi and militarist influences from public offices and from cultural and economic life of the German people.”

The process of defining war crimes and establishing extradition and trial procedures began in October 1943 with the creation of the United Nations War Crimes Commission. The UNWCC was assisted by “national offices” representing the 17 constituent members. A major achievement of this agency was compiling a list of over 37,000 war criminals, security suspects, and witnesses from names and evidence submitted by national offices. A substantially larger “Central Registry of War Criminals and Security Suspects” (commonly known as CROWCASS) was compiled by Allied Military authorities and liaison teams under SHAEF auspices. By September 1945, 82,000 suspects were being held in internment camps, away from the political scene and available for possible trial and sentencing as members of criminal organizations. They were all presumed to be confirmed Nazis and, with some allowance for excessive zeal on the part of the Counterintelligence Corps (CIC), the vast majority doubtless were.

The Nazi Party had a total of 12 million members by the end of the War. At that time the total populaitn of Germany was about 70 million. Having been a party member did not prevent a man from being better at his job and having a more agreeable personality than someone who was not. Too often, in fact, the opposite seemed to be true. Frequently the Nazis had training, experience, energy, affability, and not a bad political record. 'The Americans respected efficiency and trusted the men who seemed to be friendly. In the words of one detachment commander, if "all the Nazis had been exceedingly unpleasant and rude, denazification would have been easy." Moreover, the man who was individualistic enough to have stood out against the Nazis was probably not going to fit in easily with the Americans either. Military government officers generally agreed that if they made a completely clean sweep of the party members, they were going to have to run the country with old men until the next generation grew up. The number of political acceptables between the ages of twenty and fifty who were also trained and competent was exceedingly small.

Vetting was not a mere arbitrary process. Careful screening must be done. A process was established that safeguarded the purely nominal member of the Nazi Party who was forced to join in order to retain his position of livelihood or escape the concentration camp. Under approved directives and procedures, however, not even a nominal party member may be hired without additional screening and evaluation, and then only upon approval of the Supreme Commander of US Military Government.

The denazification program embraces the following:

  1. Arrest and detention of Nazi leaders and influential Nazi supporters and any other persons dangerous to the Allied occupation or its objectives;
  2. Removal and exclusion from public office and from positions of responsibility and importance in quasi-public and private enterprises of members of the Nazi Party who had been more than nominal participants in its activities, active supporters of Nazism, and other persons hostile to Allied purposes;
  3. Eradication of Nazism from German legislation and decrees;
  4. Liquidation of the Nazi Party, together with its affiliated and subsidiary organizations, and the prevention of their revival; e. Elimination of Nazi symbols, anthems, flags, and insignia;
  5. Prevention of Nazi propaganda in any form and the removal of Nazism from German information services, education, and religion.

The dissolution of the Nazi Party is required by Military Government Law No. 5,3 which declared illegal some 50 Nazi Party offices and organizations and prohibits their activities. The same is true of the Party paramilitary organizations, including the SA (Sturmabteilung), the SS (Schutzstaffel), HJ (Hitler Jugend), and the Organisation Todt. Military Government Law No. 5 was posted in every occupied community and violators are subject to arrest and conviction by Military Government Courts.

It was not intended to remove all members of the Nazi Party from all jobs. Plans rather called for the removal and exclusion from public office and from positions of importance in quasi-public and private enterprises of active members of the Nazi Party, active supporters of Nazism, and persons hostile to Allied purposes. Mandatory removal from office was required for former officials and officers of the Nazi Party and Party members who have been more than nominal participants in its activities; certain categories of officials and officers of the various Nazi Party formations, and affiliated, supervised and other organizations; Germans who received certain Nazi Party decorations; and certain officials in the German Government and Civil Service. Such mandatory removals will embrace the upper levels of Nazi leadership, and will affect a broader group than those subject to the arrest program.

The arrest program was enforced by Counter Intelligence officers in the field. Plans called for the detection and detention of the following two groups: those who are included in prescribed arrest categories and are arbitrarily to be arrested by virtue of the positions they held in the Nazi Party or the German government, and those who are included in the Blacklist and are individually sought out by name.

More specifically, automatic arrest of the following groups is required:

  1. All persons who have held office in the Party administration, down to a low level.
  2. All persons who have held Party ranks, down to a low level.
  3. All persons who have held commissions, down to and including the equivalent rank of major, in the para-military organizations.
  4. All officials in the higher ranks of the German Civil Service.
  5. All officers and senior NCOs in the SS.

The removal procedure was founded upon a system of vetting and screening. All persons used by Military Government in public office or in positions of importance in quasi-public or private enterprises are required to fill out a detailed six-page personnel questionnaire called the Fragebogen, prepared by the Public Safety Branch. The purpose of this Fragebogen was to obtain information which will enable Miliary Government officers to determine whether a person should be removed or excluded from the position he held or seeks to hold. The Fragebogen included questions intended to make the person reveal his personal history; secondary and higher education; professional and trade training; record of full time employment, experience and military service; membership and role in all types of organizations before and after the Hitler regime, especially the Nazi Party and its organizations; writings and speeches since 1923; income and assets since 1 January 1931; and travel and residence abroad.

Finding out who had been party members, whether important enough to merit arrest or merely rank and file, was also not difficult. The party had kept excellent records, which often passed into military government's hands intact. In March 1945, SHAEF G-5 informally established 1933 as a cut-off date for mandatory removal. Those who had joined the party after the Nazi takeover in January 1933 would not be dismissed or denied employment outright if they could show that they had not been active members and had joined solely to save their jobs.

ETOUSA, on 29 June 1945, redefined denazification policy for the time when the Americans would be responsible only for their own zone. Public office was interpreted as extending down to Buergermeisters, police chiefs, and "legal personnel"; and all persons appointed to these or higher offices after 30 January 1933 would be unemployable. The term "persons of importance in quasi-public and private enterprises" was taken to cover executives in civil, economic, and labor organizations, in corporations, in industrial, agricultural, and financial institutions, in the press, and in education (including teachers). Nazis subject to mandatory removal were all persons who had held office in the party, had joined before 1 May 1937, or had joined later and were more than nominal members.

The cutoff date of 1937, of course, immediately sparked a fresh debate. It had been chosen because after 1 May 1937 public employees had been required to join the party or lose their jobs. Those who joined earlier, even if not confirmed Nazis, were considered at least to have been opportunists, since they did not join under compulsion. The counterargument was that some, perhaps many, who had joined before 1937 or even before 1933 could have done so without realizing what nazism was; the same could not be said for anyone who joined after 1937. The 1937 cutoff date at least did not force the firing of every person who had held a government job during the Nazi period, which would virtually have been the case under the March policy.

Patton's views on denazification were uncomfortably familiar. In a letter written on 11 August 1945, he had suggested that Eisenhower pass "a word to the people responsible for civil government" to go more slowly on denazification because too many trained people were being removed and too many inexperienced or inefficient ones brought in. As far as nazism was concerned, he said, "It is no more possible for a man to be a civil servant in Germany and not have paid lip service to nazism than it is for a man to be a postmaster in America and not have paid lip service to the Democratic Party or Republican Party when it is in power."

On 11 September 1945, Eisenhower wrote to Patton: "I know certain field commanders have felt modifications to this policy [denazification] could be made. That question had long since been decided. We will not compromise with Nazism in any way. I wish you would make sure that all your subordinate commanders realize that the discussional stage of this question is long past and any expressed opposition to the faithful execution of the order cannot be regarded leniently by me."

On 05 October 1945, Lt. Gen. Lucian K. Truscot took command of Third Army and the Eastern Military District. Truscott told reporters, "I have left too many white crosses across North Africa, Italy, and France and I have seen too many young men wounded and maimed not to be in complete sympathy with any policy that designs to eradicate, root and branch, the evil force, Nazism, that loosed this holocaust on the world."

On 26 September 1945, the Occupation announced Military Government Law No. 8, which prohibited employment of Nazi party members in business in any capacity other than common labor.38 The law applied not only to executives and managers but also to private owners, including owner-operators such as grocers, barbers, bakers, and butchers. Some detachments reportedly got rid of their Putzfrauen (cleaning women) to reduce the chances of being caught with Nazis on the payroll. The enforcement of Law No. 8 forced military government to play a running game of hide and seek with a sizable part of the German population. Since the law did not require outright removal of the persons affected, businesses tried to meet the law's technical requirements by merely changing job titles, and owners attempted to have relatives or friends appointed trustees or to make deals with those who were appointed.

The allies were committed to punishing Nazi war criminals, but European Axis collaborators were not pursued as vigorously because the allies could not easily identify them. Collaborators often camouflaged themselves among the masses of displaced persons and those persecuted by the Nazis. Except for some of the more prominent or notori- ous collaborationist leaders, collaborators were not well known. Collaborators, especially less prominent ones, who infiltrated displaced persons camps, often assumed false identities and/or backgrounds.

The war crimes trials that were to be conducted under Army auspices in Germany and would last for four years began in early April 1945. Cases in which downed US airmen were the victims would make up the largest single category of trials involving crimes against Americans. By the end of summer 1945, war crimes investigating teams collected evidence in 800 such cases; the great majority charged to civilians or the police, very few to soldiers.

The CROWCASS list of suspects, growing by the hundreds every day, would eventually reach 150,000 and take months just to put into usable form. Soldiers, witnesses as well as perpetrators, had to be hunted among the anonymous millions in the prisoner of war cages, where they were likely to be found if they were not dead or prisoners of the Russians. Many, no doubt, were never found.

In the London Agreement of 8 August 1945 (the charter for the International Military Tribunal), Justice Jackson and his British, French, and Soviet colleagues recognized four categories of crimes: war crimes, crimes against peace, crimes against humanity, and membership in groups which the International Military Tribunal might find to be criminal. Taken together, these categories made punishable the conduct of the war itself, all Nazi atrocities committed anywhere at any time, and mere membership in certain Nazi organizations such as the SS and the Gestapo.

Trial proceedings began with the International Military Tribunal of Major War Criminals at Nuremberg in November 1945, followed by 12 “Subsequent Proceedings” at Nuremberg tried before several US Military Tribunals. A third tier of trials, primarily involving concentration camp cases, was heard before US Army courts under the jurisdiction of the Deputy Judge Advocate for War Crimes, USFET. These cases are known as the “Dachau proceedings” because they were held in Dachau, Germany, on the site of the former concentration camp. The accused and later convicted war criminals were housed in the nearby Landsburg Prison.

By mid-1946, US intelligence units were being asked to obtain military and political data on the Soviet Union in the shortest time possible. The growth of Communist parties in France, Italy, Germany, and Greece further increased U.S. suspicion and mistrust of the Soviet Union. Within 2 years of the war's conclusion, the United States perceived the Soviet Union and the spread of communism to be the greater and more immediate threat. In March 1947 President Truman, addressing the Congress, asked Americans to make a global commitment against communism.

On 22 April 1948, the Austrian Parliament passed a constitutional law concerning the termination of the atonement measures provided in the National Socialists Law (Constitutional Law 25/47) with respect to young persons. This law is known popularly as the Youth Amnesty Law. On June 6, 1948, the constitutional law concerning the early termination of the atonement penalties provided in the National Socialists Law for less implicated persons became effective. This law is popularly known as the Amnesty Law for Less Implicated Nazis.

No one of the Western Powers’ representatives could ignore the possibility that the Soviet element hopes to use the question of the prosecution of implicated Nazis as a means of attacking the efficiency and integrity of the Federal Austrian Government. As the discussion progressed it became apparent that the Soviet element was using this opportunity to attack the Austrian Government as such and to obtain a strongly worded condemnation of the Austrian denazification procedures which they could use as a weapon of propaganda.

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Page last modified: 22-08-2016 18:34:12 ZULU