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Transitional Justice in Divided Germany after 1945.

Cohen, David
June 4, 2015

Source: (2006) In, Elster, Jon, editor, Retribution and Repatriation in the Transition to Democracy Cambridge University Press, New York, pp.59-88

My purpose here is to survey all of these aspects of coming to terms with the past in an attempt to identify key features of relevance to problems of transition justice in our contemporary world. As complicated and unique as the German case may be, it nonetheless displays characteristics that have much in common with dilemmas that more recent transitional regimes have also faced. I will organize the analysis around four aspects of the German experience: (I) Allied attempts to punish German war criminals in national and international military tribunals; (2) denazification programs and other measures designed to isolate or neutralize dangerous elements in the four zones, and the German reaction to them; (3) German attempts to achieve justice for Nazi criminality; (4) other aspects of the political context of transitional justice in Germany, which are considered in the Conclusions section. This includes the osensible failure of denazification and the paradox of the success of the Bundesrepublik’s (BRD’s) Rechtstaat in the face of the apparent “renazification” of BRD institutions. The discussion will for the most part focus on the period 1945-50. A full history of the attempts to confront past injustice in pastwar Germany would not only lead long past anything that might be meaningfully regarded as a transitional period, but also in a sense be nothing less than a full history of the modern Bundesrepublik to the present day. (excerpt)


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