As the war in Europe against Hitler's Germany drew to a close, Allied policy-makers had to decide what to do with Nazi...


THE PLEDGE BETRAYED: America and Britain and the Denazification of Post-War Germany

As the war in Europe against Hitler's Germany drew to a close, Allied policy-makers had to decide what to do with Nazi functionaries. As BBC-producer Bower makes abundantly clear, the Allies had a hard time coming up with anything like a policy. The British War Office never gave denazification a high priority; it would be in Britain's interest, many thought, to reestablish a strong German state and economy after the war, and thus to keep Nazi leaders in place. The United States at first made a lot of noise about retribution--per the notorious Morgenthau Plan for the destruction of Germany's industry, the flooding of its mines, and the scattering of its people. But if US planners had more bluster, they had little interest in seeing even their eventual, less Draconian policy of going after war criminals through to a serious conclusion; the offices responsible were consistently understaffed and undersupplied, reflecting the feeling that there was no glory in the job. Bowers shows that men like banker Herman Abst, who helped keep the Nazi war machine running, managed not only to escape punishment, but to be given an important role in Germany's reindustrialization; today he is chairman of Germany's second largest bank, the Deutsches Bank. Two sorts of people did pay a price: the famous figures like Goering, von Ribbentrop, etc., and some of those who carried out orders rather than making them. But the postwar Adenauer government instituted a policy, in Bower's telling, that kept denazification to the lower rungs, protecting those higher up who had simply moved on. Bowers recounts, with rue, the national hysteria over the kidnapping and subsequent murder of industrialist Harms Martin Schleyer--said to presage a leftist social revolution; only afterward did anyone bother to notice his role as an SS officer (who in his new position, Bower points out, engineered a lockout of striking workers). The knowledge that such men still occupy positions of power is one cause of social unrest among German youth, Bower maintains, and he doesn't believe the wound is likely to heal. It's a stringent account, and unsettling

Pub Date: Jan. 8, 1981


Page Count: -

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: N/A

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1981

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