Tailoring Truth

Memory Construction and Whitewashing the Nazi Past from Below

in German Politics and Society
Mikkel Dack History, Rowan University, USA

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As part of the post-war denazification campaign, as many as 20 million Germans were screened for employment by Allied armies. Applicants were ordered to fill out political questionnaires (Fragebögen) and allowed to justify their membership in Nazi organizations in appended statements. This mandatory act of self-reflection has led to the accumulation of a massive archival repository, likely the largest collection of autobiographical writings about the Third Reich. This article interprets individual and family stories recorded in denazification documents and provides insight into how Germans chose to remember and internalize the National Socialist years. The Fragebogen allowed and even encouraged millions of respondents to rewrite their personal histories and to construct whitewashed identities and accompanying narratives to secure employment. Germans embraced the unique opportunity to cast themselves as resisters and victims of the Nazi regime. These identities remained with them after the dissolution of the denazification project and were carried forward into the post-occupation period.

Contributor Notes

Mikkel Dack is an Assistant Professor of History at Rowan University and Director of Research at the Rowan Center for the Study of the Holocaust, Genocide, and Human Rights. His current book project is an everyday history of denazification during the Allied military occupation, including German efforts to utilize political screening to whitewash their Nazi past. He has also written articles on post-traumatic stress among Nazi perpetrators, political denunciation, and negative eugenics legislation. He is currently conducting research on the transnational history of deradicalization, particularly Allied efforts to eradicate fascism in defeated Germany, Austria, Italy, and Japan.

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