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A Nazi Past

A Nazi Past: Recasting German Identity in Postwar Europe

David A. Messenger
Katrin Paehler
Copyright Date: 2015
Pages: 312
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  • Book Info
    A Nazi Past
    Book Description:

    Since the end of World War II, historians and psychologists have investigated the factors that motivated Germans to become Nazis before and during the war. While most studies have focused on the high-level figures who were tried at Nuremberg, much less is known about the hundreds of SS members, party functionaries, and intelligence agents who quietly navigated the transition to postwar life and successfully assimilated into a changed society after the war ended.

    InA Nazi Past, German and American scholars examine the lives and careers of men like Hans Globke -- who not only escaped punishment for his prominent involvement in formulating the Third Reich's anti-Semitic legislation, but also forged a successful new political career. They also consider the story of Gestapo employee Gertrud Slottke, who exhibited high productivity and ambition in sending Dutch Jews to Auschwitz but eluded trial for fifteen years. Additionally, the contributors explore how a network of Nazi spies and diplomats who recast their identities in Franco's Spain, far from the denazification proceedings in Germany.

    Previous studies have emphasized how former Nazis hid or downplayed their wartime affiliations and actions as they struggled to invent a new life for themselves after 1945, but this fascinating work shows that many of these individuals actively used their pasts to recast themselves in a democratic, Cold War setting. Based on extensive archival research as well as recently declassified US intelligence,A Nazi Pastcontributes greatly to our understanding of the postwar politics of memory.

    eISBN: 978-0-8131-6057-3
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. List of Abbreviations
    (pp. vii-viii)
  4. Introduction
    (pp. 1-14)
    David A. Messenger and Katrin Paehler

    He made it through denazification without many problems. He was categorized as a “follower.” He stood trial but was acquitted. He received a mild sentence. His sentence was commuted. He went on to make a career in the Federal Republic of Germany or made good elsewhere. At the very basic level, this book grew out of a deceptively simple question: how did members of Nazi Germany’s functional elites manage to recast their past experiences in such a way as to move on to successful careers and lives in postwar Europe? What type of active roles did these men—and a...

  5. Part 1. Recast Identities in War Crimes Trials and Interrogations

    • 1 Hans Globke at Nuremberg: Testimony as Rehabilitation, 1948–1949
      (pp. 17-28)
      Daniel E. Rogers

      Throughout Konrad Adenauer’s tenure as the first chancellor of the Federal Republic of Germany, between 1949 and 1963, Hans Globke remained at Adenauer’s side as his closest adviser, while the new chancellor built agencies, formulated policies, and reacted to challenges and crises. But during the first four years of that period, because of controversies surrounding Globke’s career during the Nazi era, Adenauer satisfied himself with giving Globke merely the reality, rather than also the title, of his closest adviser. Only after Adenauer won his first reelection in 1953 by a comfortable margin did he promote Globke to the office of...

    • 2 Auditioning for Postwar: Walter Schellenberg, the Allies, and Attempts to Fashion a Usable Past
      (pp. 29-56)
      Katrin Paehler

      “For the time being, my services were no longer required.”¹ Thus ends the memoir of Walter Schellenberg, formerly the head of Office VI—Foreign Intelligence—of Heinrich Himmler’s Reich Security Main Office (Reichssi-cherheitshauptamt [RSHA]). The pithy phrase provides a telling coda to Schellenberg’s almost decade-long effort to remake himself from Himmler’s spymaster, closely connected to the highest rungs of party and state and many of Nazi Germany’s key projects of racial and political surveillance and policing, into a well-meaning and daring German diplomat with strong Western leanings, a cosmopolitan outlook, and a proven humanitarian track record.

      When Schellenberg wrote about...

    • 3 “Bad Nazis and Other Germans”: The Fate of SS-Einsatzgruppen Commander Martin Sandberger in Postwar Germany
      (pp. 57-82)
      Hilary Earl

      In a book about the children of leading Nazis,My Father’s Keeper,Stephan Lebert writes that in Germany “there has been a theory of history doing the rounds, based on silence and a simple formula: there are the bad Nazis and then there are the other Germans.” This is a great myth, writes Lebert. The truth is that there were only perpetrators, “first and second class, and maybe third too.”¹ SS officer Martin Sandberger, a brilliant and driven university student who earned a PhD in law and was leader of Sonderkommando 1a, the SS unit in charge of killing racial...

  6. Part 2. Networks of Recasting

    • 4 Petitions to Franco: Arguments and Identities of Ex-Nazis in the Effort to Avoid Repatriation from Spain, 1945–1950
      (pp. 85-112)
      David A. Messenger

      On September 10, 1945, in Berlin, the Allied Control Council for Germany (ACC), made up of France, Great Britain, the Soviet Union, and the United States, passed a resolution ordering all Germans who had been officials or intelligence agents of the Nazi regime and now found themselves in territories that had been neutral during the war to return to Germany and face denazification proceedings. Furthermore, the ACC requested that governments in states where such Germans resided were to deport these individuals to the territory under control of the ACC, occupied Germany. These Germans were Nazi diplomatic personnel, National Socialist leaders,...

    • 5 Siegfried Zoglmann, His Circle of Writers, and the Naumann Affair: A Nazi Propaganda Operation in Postwar Germany
      (pp. 113-138)
      Susanna Schrafstetter

      In 1991 the famous spy novelist John Le Carré wrote in a new introduction toA Small Town in Germany, his 1967 thriller, “The West Germany of Konrad Adenauer was not all lovely by any means: old players from the Hitler time were two-a-penny, whether they were such men as Adenauer’s own éminence grise Herr Globke,” or “such luminaries of the Free Democratic Party as Herr Achenbach,” or “the ebullient Herr Zoglmann, who only eighteen years before had been a high-ranking figure in the Hitler Youth.”¹ By 1991 Globke and Achenbach had become emblematic of those former National Socialists who...

    • 6 German Diplomats and the Myth of the Two Foreign Offices
      (pp. 139-168)
      Thomas W. Maulucci

      In 1970 the West German Foreign Office (Auswärtiges Amt), which considered itself the institutional descendant of the ministry first led by Otto von Bismarck, issued an official history commemorating its own one-hundredth anniversary. What this publication contained about the National Socialist years was revealing. In the preface Foreign Minister Walter Scheel emphasized that the Auswärtiges Amt itself did not establish the overall lines of foreign policy but instead implemented that policy. However, Scheel asserted that while the ministry was an “excellent instrument for statesmen like Bismarck and [Gustav] Stresemann,” it had been “ one of the worst imaginable” for the...

    • 7 Hitler’s Military Elite in Italy and the Question of “Decent War”
      (pp. 169-200)
      Kerstin von Lingen

      For Hitler’s military elites, the surrender in May 1945 meant not only a national catastrophe, for which the officers had to take professional responsibility, but also social degradation and de-legitimation. From the moment of defeat, but even more during internment and their later testimony at Nuremberg’s International Military Tribunal, Hitler’s officers fought for a reconstruction of their “military honor”: to win the memory battle, while also hoping to continue their professional military careers with immaculate personal records.

      A sharp distinction between the “clean Wehrmacht” and the “dirty Nazi War” of the SS framed the discourse among Hitler’s army veterans between...

  7. Part 3. Unique Recastings in Postwar Germany

    • 8 “I Am the Man Who Started the War”: Alfred Naujocks and His Postwar Stories about His “Adventures”
      (pp. 203-224)
      Florian Altenhöner

      “I am the man who started the war.” This quote by Alfred Naujocks opens his biography written by Günther Peis. In this book, published in 1960 in London, the Austrian journalist narrates Naujocks’s career with the SS and the SD. The book is full of dramatizations, faultiness, and exaggerations; yet these point to a key element of Naujocks’s postwar biography, for his was the story of a perpetrator, told again and again in order to recast his wartime past of murder and crime as nothing more than an adventure.

      Naujocks joined the SD in 1934 and rose within the ranks...

    • 9 “A Man with a Wide Horizon”: The Postwar Professional Journey of SS Officer Karl Nicolussi-Leck
      (pp. 225-248)
      Gerald Steinacher

      In his biography of SSObergruppenführerWerner Best, the German historian Ulrich Herbert coined the phraseAusgrenzung in den Wohlstand, or “exclusion into prosperity.” According to Herbert, “for those excluded from politics and public service, there remained the liberal professions and business, mostly provided by old contacts, some dating from their student days.”¹ Yet there are few studies on the postwar professional lives of former highranking Nazis and SS officers. Among them are Norbert Frei’s edited volumeKarrieren im Zwielicht(Careers in the twilight) and a dozen or so biographical studies, such as Herbert’s work on Best.² Former SS officer...

    • 10 Revision of Life Story/Revision of History: Gertrud Slottke, from National Socialist Coperpetrator to Expellee Official
      (pp. 249-270)
      Elisabeth Kohlhaas

      National Socialism’s women’s and gender history has witnessed a particularly productive phase in the past few years. The majority of these studies show a broad spectrum of participation in National Socialist crimes by nonpersecuted women. Having documented the mobilization of women for the war—both on the “home front” and in German-occupied Europe¹—scholars have focused on women who could be considered perpetrators or coperpetrators, despite concerns about the terminology’s appropriateness; this is particularly true for women in the SS and the police.²

      The current scholarship also considers the post-1945 period but largely focuses on the judicial treatment of women’s...

    • 11 The Gehlen Organization and the Heinz Felfe Case: The SD, the KGB, and West German Counterintelligence
      (pp. 271-294)
      Norman J. W. Goda

      The case of the Gehlen Organization and Heinz Felfe is one of the Cold War’s great espionage tales. Felfe was a former Sicherheitsdienst (SD) officer recruited in 1950 by the Soviet Ministry for State Security (MGB), known after 1954 as the Committee for State Security (KGB). In 1951 he entered the Gehlen Organization, West Germany’s foreign intelligence service, known after 1956 as the Bundesnachrichtendienst (BND). Felfe moved up the ladder in BND counterintelligence, becoming the chief officer charged with counterespionage against the Soviets by 1956. Because he in fact worked as a penetration agent for the KGB rather than for...

  8. Acknowledgments
    (pp. 295-296)
  9. List of Contributors
    (pp. 297-300)
  10. Index
    (pp. 301-318)