process carried out after World War II
Denazification (German: Entnazifizierung) was an Allied initiative to rid German and Austrian society, culture, press, economy, judiciary, and politics of the National Socialist ideology (Nazism). It was carried out by removing those who had been Nazi Party or SS members from positions of power and influence and by disbanding or rendering impotent the organisations associated with Nazism. The programme of denazification was launched after the end of the Second World War and was solidified by the Potsdam Agreement in August 1945.
The term denazification was first coined as a technical term in 1943 in the Pentagon, intended to be applied in a narrow sense with reference to the post-war German legal system. Soon afterwards, it took on a general meaning. From 1945 to 1950, the Allied powers detained over 400,000 Germans in internment camps in extrajudicial fashion in the name of denazification.In late 1945 and early 1946, the emergence of the Cold War, the economic importance of Germany and a lack of Allied manpower to run the denazification effort caused the western powers and the United States in particular to lose interest in the programme. The British handed over denazification panels to the Germans in January 1946, while the Americans did likewise in March 1946. The French ran the mildest denazification effort. Denazification was carried out in an increasingly lenient and lukewarm way until being officially abolished in 1951. The American government soon came to view the programme as ineffective and counterproductive. Additionally, the programme was hugely unpopular in Germany and was opposed by the new West German government of Konrad Adenauer. On the other hand, denazification in the Soviet zone was considered a critical element of the transformation into a socialist society and was quickly and effectively put into practice.
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