Consequences of German Nazism

From Academic Kids

This article chronicles the long and short-term consequences of German Nazism on the countries and communities it affected during World War II and the Holocaust, most of which were detrimental.


Impact on Germany

Stalin, Churchill and Truman's armies killed more than 7 million Germans, including at least 3 million civilians, during the war.

Following World War II, Germans as a people were often viewed with contempt because they were blamed for Nazi crimes by other Europeans. Germans visiting abroad, particularly in the 1950s and 1960s, attracted insults from locals. Today in Europe and worldwide (particularly in countries that fought against the Axis), Germans still might get scorned by elderly people who were alive to experience the atrocities committed by Germans during World War II. This resulted in a feeling of self-hate and guilt for many ethical Germans, causing numerous discussions and rows among scholars and politicians in Post-War West Germany (for example, the "Historikerstreit" (historians' argument) in the 1980s) and after Reunification. Here, the discussion was mainly about the role that the unified Germany should play in the world and in Europe.

Following the World War II, the Allies embarked on a program of denazification, but as the Cold War intensified these efforts were curtailed in the west.

Germany itself and the German economy were devastated, with great parts of most major cities destroyed by the bombings of the Allied forces, sovereignty was taken away by the Allies and the territory filled with millions of refugees from the former eastern provinces, moving the eastern German border westwards to the Oder-Neisse line. The remaining parts of Germany were divided among the Allies and occupied by British (the north-west), French (the south-west), US-American (the south) and Soviet (the east) troops.

After a short time the Grand Alliance broke over ideological problems (Communism versus Capitalism), and thus both sides established their own spheres of influence, creating a previously non-existent division in Germany between East and West, (although the division largely followed the borders of states which had exist in Germany before Bismarck's unification less than 100 years before).

A constitution for East Germany was drafted on 30 May 1949. Wilhelm Pieck, a leader of the Socialist Unity Party of Germany(SED) party (which was created by a forced merger of the Social Democratic Party of Germany (SPD) and Communist Party of Germany (KPD) in the Soviet sector), was elected first President of the German Democratic Republic.

West Germany, (officially: Federal Republic of Germany, FRG - this is still the official name of the unified Germany today) received (de facto) semi-sovereignty in 1949, as well as a constitution, called the Grundgesetz (Basic Law). The document was not called a Constitution officially, as at this point, it was still hoped that the two Germanies would be reunited in the near future.

The first free elections in West Germany were held in 1949, which were won by the Christian Democratic Party of Germany (CDU) (conservatives) by a slight margin. Konrad Adenauer, a member of the (CDU) party, was the first Bundeskanzler (Chancellor) of West Germany.

Both German states introduced, in 1948, their own money, colloquially called West-Mark and Ost-Mark (Western Mark and Eastern Mark).

Foreign troops still remain in Germany today, for example Ramstein Air Base, but the majority of troops left following the end of the Cold War (By 1994 for Soviet troops, mandated under the terms of the Treaty on the Final Settlement With Respect to Germany and in the mid-1990s for Western forces). The Bush Administration in the United States in 2004 stated intentions to withdraw most of the remaining American troops out of Germany in the coming years.

The West German economy was soon rebuilt thanks to fewer reparations imposed on West Germany, while in East Germany, whole factories, including all machinery, were taken apart and moved to the Soviet Union. The Eastern Block did not accept the Marshall Plan, denouncing it as American economic imperialism, and thus it (East Germany included) recovered much more slowly than their Western counterparts.

During the Cold War, it was difficult for West Germans to visit East German relatives and friends and impossible vice versa. For East Germans, especially after the building of the Berlin Wall on 13 August 1961 and until Hungary opened up its border to the West in the late 1980s, thus allowing hundreds of thousands of vacationing East Germans to flee into Western Europe, it was only possible to get to West Germany by illegally fleeing across heavily-fortified and guarded border areas.

44 years after the end of World War II, the Berlin Wall fell on 9 November, 1989. Both the East as well as the West parts of Germany were re-united on 3 October 1990.

Economic and social divisions between East and West Germany still continue to play a major role in politics and society in Germany today. It is likely the contrast between the generally well-off and economically-diverse West and the weaker, heavy-industry reliant East will continue at least until the forseeable future.

See also:

Impact on Jewry

Of the world's 15 million Jews in 1939, more than a third were killed in the Holocaust. Of the 3 million Jews in Poland, the heartland of European Jewish culture, barely 350,000 survived. Most of the remaining Jews in eastern and central Europe were destitute refugees, unable and/or unwilling to return to countries which they felt had betrayed them to the Nazis. This gave a profound impetus for the pre-existing Zionist movement to press more radically for the creation of a Jewish state (Israel) in the British Mandate of Palestine. This outraged many British and Arab residents, many of whom firmly opposed such a new state. After various acts of Jewish terrorism (notably King David Hotel bombing ) and illegal immigration (haa'pala) the British eventually withdrew in 1948, placing the region into the intense state of civil and ethnic unrest which continues until this day. (See Israeli-Palestinian Conflict)

Impact on Austria

Austria, which had been annexed by the Third Reich in 1938 (Anschluss), was separated from Germany again and, just like Germany itself, divided up into four zones occupied by the four victorious nations. However, Austrian diplomacy succeeded in preventing the country from gradually being split into a "Western" and an "Eastern" state. Rather, Austria regained its full independence and sovereignty in 1955 with the signing of the Austrian State Treaty (Staatsvertrag).

Denazification as well as the restitution of Jewish property were carried out slowly and half-heartedly by the authorities. For decades to come, the Austrian people, supported by politicians of all major political parties, preferred seeing themselves as "Hitler's first victim" to taking responsibility for the crimes that had been committed by Austrian Nazis.

Similarly to Germany, the Austrian economy quickly recovered in the course of the 1950s.

Impact on Poland

The Polish border was moved westward in between the Curzon line and the Oder-Neisse line. The resulting territorial loss of 188,000 km2 was compensated by 111,000 km2 in territory to the west. The land compensation was of little comfort to Poland, which suffered the highest proportional population loss of any nation in Europe. The war and Nazi occupation killed 6 million citizens, including more than half of their intelligentsia and 90% of its Jewish population, about 3 million people. Some professions lost 20-50% of members, like priests of all religions, lawyers, businessmen, and men's tailors or shopkeepers. Poland lost its 2 biggest cities, Warsaw (razed by Germans) and Lwow (annexed by Soviets), and most of its old and newly acquired cities were lying in ruins (i.e. Wroclaw). In addition Poland became a Soviet satellite state, remaining under a Communist government until 1989. For better or worse, Poland became artificially one of the most unified nations in Europe.

Impact on Central Europe

The peoples of central Europe found themselves under Soviet military occupation at the end of the war, and the Soviets rapidly installed Communist puppet governments in all the countries they controlled, especially Poland, Hungary, Romania, Bulgaria, and what was then Czechoslovakia (now the Czech Republic and Slovakia). Some of the radical reforms these regimes carried out were initially popular, but it soon became clear that this came at the price of a total loss of national sovereignty. It was to be more than 40 years before the Russians retreated from their gains of 1945.

Impact on the Soviet Union

Hitler's armies had killed more than 27 million Soviet citizens during the war, including some 11 million soldiers who fell in battle against Hitler's armies or died in POW camps. Millions of civilians also died from starvation, exposure, atrocities, and massacres, and a huge area of the Soviet Union from the suburbs of Moscow and the Volga River to the western border had been destroyed, depopulated, and reduced to rubble. The staggering mass death and destruction there badly damaged the Soviet economy, society, and national psyche. Significantly, part of the national myth of suffering cultivated by the government of the Soviet Union denied the especial victimisation of Soviet Jews by the German invaders. The mass destruction was a major reason why the Soviet Union installed satellite states in Central Europe; as the government hoped to use the countries as a buffer zone against any new catastrophic invasions from the West. This helped break down the wartime alliance between the Soviet Union and the Western Allies, setting the stage for the Cold War, which lasted until the USSR's collapse in 1991. Soviet culture in the 1950s was defined by results of the Great Patriotic War, from the circulation of POWs and returned soldiers through GULag to the vital shortage of marriageable men.

Impact on Western Europe

Britain and France were on the side of the victors, but they were exhausted and bankrupted by the war, and they never recovered their status as world powers. With Germany and Japan in ruins as well, the world was left with two dominant powers, the United States and the Soviet Union. Economic and political reality in Western Europe would soon force the dismantling of the European colonial empires, especially in Africa and Asia. The new states quickly found themselves unprepared for the realities of independence and faced the harsh reality of rapid population growth, social unrest, and political instability, all of which afflict many of these former colonies today.

The Communists emerged from the war sharing the vast prestige of the victorious Soviet armed forces, and for a while it looked as though they might take power in France, Italy and Greece. The West quickly acted to prevent this from happening, hence the Cold War.

Impact on Greece

In Greece the impact of German Nazism was an occupation of the country which destroyed its economy and much of its previously established society. Even today a special newspaper exists (Polemikos Typos) which writes about what happened during this occupation. Out of the power-vaccum that followed the Axis withdrawal from Greece came the civil war. The war involved two primary factions, Monarchists and the Communists (In Greek known as 'Elas'), the former with much international support from nations like Britain and the United States and the latter with support from the freshly Communist states of Bulgaria, Yugoslavia and Albania (however, as an interesting side note, Stalin decided not to allow the Soviet Union to support the Communist rebels, a policy the West at the time thought was a blatant lie).

Impact on world politics

The war led to the discrediting and dissolution of the League of Nations and led to the founding of the United Nations on October 24 1945. Like its predecessor, the UN was established to help prevent other world wars and contain or stop smaller conflicts. The principles enshrined in the Charter of the United Nations are a testament to the world's attitudes at the fall of the Third Reich.

Impact on International law

The impact the Nazis had on present-day international law cannot be underestimated. The United Nations Genocide Convention, a series of laws that made genocide a crime, was approved in December 1948, three years after the Nazi defeat. That same month, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights also became a part of international law. The Nuremberg trials, followed by other Nazi war crimes trials, also created an unwritten rule stating that government officials who "follow orders" from leaders in committing crimes against humanity cannot use such a motive to excuse their crimes. It also had an impact through the Fourth Geneva Convention (Art 33) in making collective punishments a war crime.

Impact on Western Societies

After the world viewed the horrors of Nazi death camps, many western peoples began to outwardly oppose ideas of racial superiority. Liberal anti-racism became a staple of many western governments. Whereas racism was still present, openly racist publications were looked down upon. The social progression towards tolerance of different cultures in western societies has continued to the present day. Although figures such as Martin Luther King, Jr. had a profound impact on anti-racism in the west, the impact of the Jewish death toll during World War Two were equally profound. Since the collapse of Nazi Germany, western populations have been wary of racial political parties, fearing the return of a catastrophe similar to the purges carried out by Nazis in Germany.


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