September 19, 2017
And Call It Peace is Lieut. Col. Marshall Knappen’s 1947 exposé of the horrific and self-defeating results of denazification. Knappen, a Rhodes Scholar, was one of fifteen U.S. and British administrators of the Western Allies’ denazification program. Knappen wrote that the most extreme proponents of denazification believed that the ordinary German must be “confined, restricted, and crippled.” Books were burned, literature (even poetry) was censored, skilled professionals were removed from the workforce, and anonymous poison-pen letters accusing someone of harboring “Nazi ideas” could land that person in jail. Germans were not even allowed to speak positively of their pre-Nazi culture; an order was drawn up to remove all memorials honoring historical German icons (sound familiar?).
Knappen made no attempt to hide his disdain for the program. A more sympathetic look at denazification can be found in the 1946 book America’s Germany, by Capt. Julian Bach, who, after the war, covered occupied Germany for Army Talks magazine. Bach’s account is nearly as bad as Knappen’s:
A Black List has also been drawn up for over 600 artists who are no longer permitted to engage in music, writing, radio, or theatre. The Black List virtually annihilates the German State Theatre. The actors, directors, and musical conductors are not only blacklisted, but so are the chief carpenters, painters, dressmakers, electricians and stage hands. The old Nuremberg Opera was practically liquidated, with thirty-eight of its members barred from further appearances in theatrical enterprises.
Knappen and Bach both reached the same conclusion (Knappen vehemently, Bach grudgingly): The fear tactics, censorship, and thought policing employed during denazification were driving ordinary Germans away from the American occupiers. “These people and their families are ripe for Communism,” Bach noted, adding that not only was the Soviet Union reaping the rewards of the policy, but, ironically, some blacklisted Germans were actually at risk of embracing Nazism in a way they hadn’t during the war, out of bitterness and resentment.
Ruin enough lives by calling people “Nazi,” and you might just drive some of them to embrace Nazi ideas (or at least ideas that are hostile to yours) out of sheer spite. Even New York Times chicken little Chapin concedes that in the 1960s, young American surfers began experimenting with Nazi regalia because they saw how much it cheesed off their parents.
Thankfully, denazification was discontinued before it could do any irreparable harm. But its failures are lost on the present-day, domestic denazifiers. It’s ironic that organizations that pompously proclaim how we must “remember history or we’ll be doomed to repeat it” never seem to actually remember history when doing so might come in handy. Bullying people into silence never works. It just makes folks bitter, resentful, and more likely to shut out opposing arguments.
The U.S. does not have a Nazi problem. If there is a problem, it’s that certain organizations have a vested ideological and financial interest in spreading the “Nazi next door” hysteria. And now those groups are pushing for internet speech suppression to rid us of the phantom threat they themselves manufactured. Sadly, even people who know better are aiding and abetting this foolish and unnecessary enterprise. Cloudflare CEO Matthew Prince has openly questioned his decision to sink the Daily Stormer website. In an interview with CNN, Prince admitted that even though he acted against his principles, a person in his position “wins a lot of points” by going along with the censors.
How easy is it to goad the average person into causing harm to strangers because he thinks that’s what the powers-that-be want him to do?
Are we all Nazis? In a way, maybe we are.