Isolating Nazism: Civilian Internment in American Occupied Germany, 1944-1950 Public Deposited

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  • March 22, 2019
  • Dolan, Kristen Josie
    • Affiliation: College of Arts and Sciences, Department of History
  • This dissertation examines the Allied program of mass arrests that, in the aftermath of World War II, was part of a larger attempt to locate those suspected of atrocities, neutralize potential disruptions to the occupation, and uproot National Socialist ideology. Under the auspices of Allied denazification, which sought to eradicate Nazism for security reasons and as a precursor to democratization, the American Military Government arrested a wide array of Nazi Party-affiliated Germans. By late 1945, the Army had detained roughly 150,000 persons in a hastily established system of civilian internment enclosures. Within a year, however, American authorities greatly reduced the number of detainees. Moreover, after recognizing that successful reorientation toward democracy would require increased German participation, they handed administration of the camps to German officials--thus heralding an important transition in the relationship between occupier and occupied. Exploring American and German authorities' ensuing struggle to translate the goal of eradicating Nazism into a coherent plan of action, this study offers insight into fundamental challenges of transforming a political culture as well as the difficulties of reconstituting a society that has been atomized over the course of a firmly entrenched dictatorship. Much of the historiographical attention to civilian internment has focused on the program's inequities. By closely examining the origins and aims of arrest policies, as well as pragmatic implementation issues with feedback and adjustments, this study investigates whether and how such a drastic measure contributed to the security of the occupation and early stages of the Federal Republic's postwar political transformation. This dissertation ultimately finds that, in spite of numerous practical shortcomings, the program contributed to both endeavors. Clearly a blunt, inequitable instrument when examined on a case-by-case basis, the arrests nevertheless collectively interrupted political and social continuity at a critical juncture, creating space in which democracy could take root. The process of confronting large groups of people regarding their activities during the Third Reich prompted changes in discourse and behavior toward at least outward acceptance of reforms. Moreover, ensuing debates spurred necessary deliberations over how to move forward in the wake of a twelve-year fascist dictatorship.
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  • In Copyright
  • Jarausch, Konrad Hugo
  • Doctor of Philosophy
Degree granting institution
  • University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Graduation year
  • 2013

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