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Among the most important resolutions made by the allied nations was the process of denazification. This measure was supposed to rid the German politics, economy and culture of national socialistic ideology and to award a just penalty to war criminals. The denazification policy took place in different manners in the occupation zones due to different political and economical interests.

Allied control council law no. 104

All those accused of war crimes were separated into five different categories according to the allied control council law number 104 passed in March 1946 in order to ascertain the appropriate degree of penalty. The allied nations divided the accused into main culprits, beneficiaries, minor culprits, followers and exonerated people. The goal of this aim was the suppression of all NSDAPcustomThe National Socialist German Workers' Party was a political party in Germany active between 1920 and 1945 members.

Process in the 4 occupation zones

The political cleansing in the Socialist areas was a lot more efficient and consistent than in the West zones, as they aimed to change the structure of society through a radical cleansing. In the American occupation zone a mild approach was taken: every adult had to complete a questionnaire and their degree of penalty was assessed on the answers given. In March 1946 the exemption law was passed that put all responsibility for denazification in the hands of German authorities. However this lead to amnesty instead of just penalties, enabling several war criminals to evade punishment. From 1947 onward the US military government pursued a policy of re-education, which aimed to incorporate Germany into the circle of western nations. As the occupation forces were drifting apart gradually the initial purpose of denazification was forgotten over time. The British and French did only pursue the process in a rather confined manner1.

Criticism and conclusion

The common policy of denazification has to be contemplated critically due to the political consequences. International developments after 1945 had a special influence on this process as the cold war and the political differences between the USA and the Soviet Union overshadowed the course of denazification. Consequently former officials of the NSDAP managed to escape into exile and pursue their occupations abroad. One example was the war criminal Hans Ernst Schneider who had been active in the NSDAP for years and went into exile under the name of Hans Schwerte. He was only unmasked in the 1990s, illustrating that the resolutions made at the Potsdam conferencecustomGoals of the Potsdam Conference in 1945 included the establishment of post-war order, peace treaty issues, and countering the effects of the war were not in accord with the actual approach taken by the occupational forces.

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1945 - 1949