From Dictatorship to Democracy

Part 1: The Role Ex-Nazis Played in Early West Germany – Published on Spiegel Online International, by Ralf Beste, Georg Bönisch, Thomas Darnstaedt, Jan Friedmann, Michael Fröhlingsdorf and Klaus Wiegrefe, March 6, 2012.

After World War II, West Germany rapidly made the transition from murderous dictatorship to model democracy. Or did it? New documents reveal just how many officials from the Nazi regime found new jobs in Bonn. A surprising number were chosen for senior government positions… //  

… The willingness to let bygones be bygones, either because of a guilty conscience or for the sake of a new beginning, was disastrous. It is this attitude that has prompted historians to accuse the founding generation of having jeopardized the new, hopeful Germany, where human dignity was treated as the most important constitutional value.

Germany in the 1950s was “a precarious nation,” a country on the brink, says historian Wildt. Even though the 50s were seen as Germany’s “golden years,” the period was also haunted by the demons of the past, whose machinations, as we are learning today, could easily have brought Germany to what Wildt calls a tipping point. For many historians and constitutional experts, the fact that this did not happen — once again — was a stroke of luck, and a miracle of the Bonn republic.

Biologically speaking, Germany has largely lost its connection to the generation of perpetrators. Even those who sought to cover up the Nazi past are mostly retired nowadays. The opportunity is favorable. Now it is up to the grandchildren to address the miracle, which must seem like a timeless lesson to some, a lesson on the difficulties of building a democracy from the ruins of a brutal dictatorship. (full text Part 1).


Spiegel Online International’s Photo Gallery: Images of Islam in Germany;

Follow the Money: Global Capital Descends on Berlin Tech Scene, on Spiegel Online International, by Charles Hawley, November 30, 2011.

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