Adenauer's Germany and the Nazi Past

The Politics of Amnesty and Integration

Norbert Frei. Foreword by Fritz Stern. Translated by Joel Golb

Columbia University Press

Adenauer's Germany and the Nazi Past

Google Preview

Pub Date: August 2002

ISBN: 9780231118828

365 Pages

Format: Hardcover

List Price: $65.00£54.95

Pub Date: August 2002

ISBN: 9780231507905

365 Pages

Format: E-book

List Price: $64.99£54.95

Adenauer's Germany and the Nazi Past

The Politics of Amnesty and Integration

Norbert Frei. Foreword by Fritz Stern. Translated by Joel Golb

Columbia University Press

Of all the aspects of recovery in postwar Germany perhaps none was as critical or as complicated as the matter of dealing with Nazi criminals, and, more broadly, with the Nazi past. While on the international stage German officials spoke with contrition of their nation's burden of guilt, at home questions of responsibility and retribution were not so clear. In this masterful examination of Germany under Adenauer, Norbert Frei shows that, beginning in 1949, the West German government dramatically reversed the denazification policies of the immediate postwar period and initiated a new "Vergangenheitspolitik," or "policy for the past," which has had enormous consequences reaching into the present.

Adenauer's Germany and the Nazi Past chronicles how amnesty laws for Nazi officials were passed unanimously and civil servants who had been dismissed in 1945 were reinstated liberally—and how a massive popular outcry led to the release of war criminals who had been condemned by the Allies. These measures and movements represented more than just the rehabilitation of particular individuals. Frei argues that the amnesty process delegitimized the previous political expurgation administered by the Allies and, on a deeper level, served to satisfy the collective psychic needs of a society longing for a clean break with the unparalleled political and moral catastrophe it had undergone in the 1940s. Thus the era of Adenauer devolved into a scandal-ridden period of reintegration at any cost. Frei's work brilliantly and chillingly explores how the collective will of the German people, expressed through mass allegiance to new consensus-oriented democratic parties, cast off responsibility for the horrors of the war and Holocaust, effectively silencing engagement with the enormities of the Nazi past.
Frei has done a great service in documenting the depth and the breadth of indigenous West German opposition to bringing the criminals of the Nazi era to justice and to forcing compromised elites out of positions of responsibility in the crucial early years.... His case is impressive. New Republic
No one has written better. This is an important work: very well researched, reflective, sharp in judgment yet alive to complexity.... Frei's conclusions are alert to the moral and political complexity of our times. David Blackbourn, London Review of Books
The value of this book, which makes for bitter but important reading, rests on the close analysis of sources in the dialectical process of constructing a democracy after 1945. Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung
The merit of Frei's work lies in the thorough historical investigation of three important aspects of political dealing with the Nazi past--achieving an original scholarly contribution that expands and deepens our historical knowledge, and one that cannot be overlooked. Die Zeit
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. The Washington Times
Frei's intense use of primary soures will appeal to specialists familiar with the intricacies of postwar German politics. Choice
This thorough piece of research throws much light on the west German side of de-Nazification and the profound contrast to measures taken by the Allies. Foreign Affairs
Frei's excellent study deserves to be read by anyone interested in the problem of how societies attempting the transition from dictatorship to democracy face - or do not face - a troubled past. Nations and Nationalism
Hailed as 'groundbreaking' and major[,]' [t]he German edition has been cited extensively in the literature since 1996. The power of the work lies not merely in the clear explication of the events... but also in Frei's balanced analysis of the positive and negative repercussions of the Federal Republic's 'policy for the past.' Jay Lockenour, American Historical Review
Frei puts an end to the polemical debate over the putative silences in the official political rhetoric of the 1950s by examining in exceptional detail exactly who said what, when, where, and why. Jeffrey K. Olick, Ethics and International Affairs
This is a fascinating book about how West Germany spent the first years of its life undoing what had been done to overcome the legacy of Nazism. Bill Niven, Holocaust and Genocide Studies
Foreword by Fritz Stern
Introduction
I. A Legislation for the Past: Parliamentary and Administratives Junctures
1. The Amnesty Law of 1949
2. The "Liquidation" of Denazification
3. The Rehabilitation and Pensioning of the "131ers"
4. The Amnesty Law of 1954
II. A Past-Political Obsession: The Problem of the War-Criminals
5. The War-Crimes Issue Preceding the Bonn Republic
6. The Politicization of the War-Criminal Question (1949-50)
7. The Debate Under the Sign of Rearmament (1950-51)
8. A "General Treaty" instead of a "General Amnesty" (1951-52)
9. The Windup of the War-Criminal Problem
III. Fixing Past-Political Limits: Judicial Norms and Allied Intervention
10. The Hedler Affair and the Establishment of Criminal-Legal Norms (1950)
11. The Rise and Banning of the Socialist Reich Party (1951-52)
12. The Naumann Affair and the Role of the Allies (1953)
Conclusion
Postscript to the American Edition
Acknowledgments
Notes
Sources and Literature
Index

About the Author

Norbert Frei is professor of modern history at Ruhr-University Bochum. He is the author of many books on twentieth-century German history, including The Führer State.