By John Wear, August 9, 2017
Invention of the Word Genocide
The word “genocide” was first used in 1944 by the Polish Jew Raphael Lemkin in his book Axis Rule in Occupied Europe. Lemkin states in regard to his invented word “genocide”: “By ‘genocide’ we mean the destruction of a nation or of an ethnic group. This new word, coined by the author to denote an old practice in its modern development, is made from the ancient Greek word genos (race, tribe) and the Latin cide (killing), thus corresponding in its formation to such words as tyrannicide, homocide [sic], infanticide, etc.”
Most people today use this narrow definition and define the word “genocide” as the deliberate destruction of national, racial, religious or ethnic groups. However, Lemkin intended the word “genocide” to have a much broader meaning. Lemkin states:
“Genocide has two phases: one, destruction of the national pattern of the oppressed group; the other, the imposition of the national pattern of the oppressor.”
Raphael Lemkin’s invented word “genocide” received spectacular mileage at the Nuremberg trials.
Historian James J. Martin states:
Its use by both the principal British figures of the prosecution, Maxwell-Fyfe and Sir Hartley Shawcross, the Attorney General of Great Britain, to castigate the Nuremberg defendants collectively, was more than Lemkin expected.
In this article I will show that Raphael Lemkin’s new word “genocide” also appropriately applies to the Allied treatment of the German people after World War II.
Denazification of Germans
Denazification was an Allied program instigated after the war to punish National Socialist party members and to remove them from public and semi-public office. Hypocritically disregarding the horrendous crimes they committed against the Germans, the Allies determined that the National Socialist party was so criminal that it had to be extinguished.
German leaders in all walks of life had found it necessary or expedient to join the National Socialist party or one or more of its affiliated organizations once it took control of Germany. Membership in the National Socialist party expanded rapidly immediately preceding and during the war. Party and nation became so closely identified during the war that to join was to display patriotism; to refuse membership was to invite penalization for disloyalty. The Allied program of denazification set out to ruin the lives of millions of Germans simply because the Allies thought that Germans who joined the National Socialist party had made a political mistake.
The denazification decrees authorized in the Potsdam Agreement were inconsistent with the Potsdam declaration that
discrimination on the grounds of…political opinion shall be abolished.
Potsdam permanently dissolved the National Socialist party and its affiliated organizations and institutions. The Potsdam Agreement commanded that
Nazi leaders, influential Nazi supporters and high officials of Nazi organizations and institutions…shall be arrested and interned
and that all lesser Nazis
shall be removed from public and semi-public office and former positions of responsibility in private undertakings.
The chief instrument of denazification was a 12-page questionnaire consisting of 133 questions. As many as 13 million of these questionnaires were printed and handed out either to Germans with questionable pasts or to those seeking employment. While many of the Germans found the questions absurd and comical, the questionnaire still had to be properly completed and returned before a German could return to normal life. A German had to properly complete the form with its “sometimes stupid questions” in order to survive. Otherwise he was out of work and deprived of ration tickets. If he was not careful, he could also be arrested and declared a war criminal.
The Americans were hell-bent on purging National Socialist party members from German politics. The Americans led the way with denazification, trying 169,282 cases, while the Russians and French tried a total of 18,328 and 17,353 cases, respectively. The British showed less interest in denazification, trying only 2,296 cases in their zone. The Allied denazification process was flawed because there were too many cases and the witnesses were unreliable. The witnesses knew they would be under the microscope themselves, so the most important thing for them was to deny any wrongdoing on their part.
The high number of arrests and tough denazification policy created serious obstacles for the smooth running of postwar Germany. As one American major reported in July 1945,
great difficulty has been encountered in finding competent and politically clean personnel from Civil Administration.
Wholesale dismissals as a result of denazification made it difficult for cities and towns throughout Germany to carry on business in an orderly manner. The gaps left by the dismissals were particularly large in the German public school system. In the American zone 65% of all primary school teachers were removed, and most of the remaining teachers were approaching retirement.
The many problems that arose as a result of the denazification process caused Gen. George Patton, at that point Military Governor of Bavaria, to call for a less rigorous approach. He claimed that trained staff were being removed from their administrative posts and replaced with less experienced and less capable personnel. Patton asserted:
“It is no more possible for a man to be a civil servant in Germany and not to have paid lip service to Nazism than it is for a man to be a postmaster in America and not have paid at least lip service to the Democratic Party or Republican Party when it is in power.
Patton was transferred after his views surfaced in the New York Times. Gen. Eisenhower stuck to a tough denazification program.
For millions of Germans the worst part of the denazification process came after the questionnaire had been completed. After reviewing the questionnaire, Allied intelligence officers would frequently visit German homes for additional examinations and interrogations. Many of these intelligence officers were Jewish refugees who had fled Nazi persecution in the late 1930s with old scores to settle. The additional interrogations were often structured to inflict as much pain and suffering as possible, and often resulted in internment or even death.
The interrogations in the Russian zone were typically brutal and inhumane. A German physician reports his experience of the interrogations at a Russian camp:
The cellars of all the barracks are crammed with people, about four thousand men and women, many of whom are interrogated every night by the NKVD officials. The purpose of these interrogations is not to worm out of the people what they knew—which would be uninteresting anyway—but to extort from them special statements. The methods resorted to are extremely primitive: people are beaten up until they confess to having been members of the Nazi Party. But the result is almost the opposite of what most of the people probably expect, that is, that those who hadn’t been party members would come off better. The authorities simply assume that, basically, everybody has belonged to the Party. Many people die during and after these interrogations, while others, who admit at once their party membership, are treated more leniently.
Even well-known anti-Nazis such as Freddy and Lali Horstmann encountered problems in the Russian zone. Lali records that after the war Russian officers unexpectedly visited their home and searched its contents. Her husband Freddy was taken to the headquarters of the NKVD to be asked a few questions about his work in the Foreign Office. Lali was told that she could not accompany her husband to the interrogation. The officers repeatedly told Lali that she had nothing to fear. Lali states that she never saw her husband again.
Many Germans also reported abuse in the American zone. Ernst von Salomon was arrested and thrown into an internment camp north of Munich with his Jewish girl friend and other prisoners. The men were promptly beaten and the women raped by the military police while an excited audience of American GIs watched through the window. Von Salomon had his teeth knocked out during his beating. When he picked himself off the floor, his face pouring with blood, von Salomon gasped to an officer,
You are no gentleman.
The attackers roared with laughter at this remark.
No, no, no! We are Mississippi boys!
the officer proudly responded.
Von Salomon was imprisoned for 18 months in the camp without any charge against him or any interrogation being conducted. When he was finally released he was so emaciated that he looked like a skeleton. Other inmates have confirmed von Salomon’s description of the American internment camps. For example, Karl Blessing, later President of the Bundesbank, reported that he had been treated in exactly the same way.
While denazification efforts were less stringent in the British zone, the British issued directives to their soldiers to keep Germans in their place. One postwar pamphlet issued to British troops reads:
Do play your part as a representative of a conquering power and keep the Germans in their place. Give orders—don’t beg the question. Display cold, correct, dignified curtness and aloofness. Don’t try to be kind—it will be regarded as weakness. Drop heavily on any attempt to take charge or other forms of insolence. Don’t be too ready to listen to stories from attractive women—they may be acting under orders. Don’t show any aversion to another war if Germany does not learn her lesson this time.
The Jewish Brigade, which was part of the British Eighth Army, also murdered many disarmed and defenseless German officers as part of the Allied denazification program. The Jewish Brigade followed behind the British army and killed senior German officers who were typically not guilty of anything except having served in defense of their country. Morris Beckman states in his book The Jewish Brigade:
These were the first post-war executions of selected top Nazis. There were several dozen revenge squads operating; the highest estimate of executions was 1,500. The exact figure will never be known.
The so-called denazification of Germany was in reality a determined attempt to remove all vestiges of pride in Germans toward their own nation and culture. The program was hypocritically administered by the Allies with a total disregard for justice. Hans Schmidt states in regard to denazification:
If one takes away from a nation and people their sovereignty, their independence; their right to self-determination; their right for justice and the truth; their right for an independent, impartial and fair judiciary; their right to be governed by persons (politicians or princelings) that have always the best interests of their own country in mind; their right to retain their own culture; their self-esteem, and even their own currency; their right to defend their blood lines, and finally, their identity, then this folk and nation is condemned to annihilation from this earth.
 Lemkin, Raphael, Axis Rule in Occupied Europe: Laws of Occupation, Analysis of Government, Proposals for Redress, Washington, D.C.: Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, 1944.
 Ibid., p. 79.
 Martin, James J., The Man Who Invented ‘Genocide’: The Public Career and Consequences of Raphael Lemkin, Torrance, CA: Institute for Historical Review, 1984, p. 174.
 Keeling, Ralph Franklin, Gruesome Harvest: The Allies’ Postwar War against the German People, Torrance, CA: Institute for Historical Review, 1992, pp. 31-32.
 Ibid., p. 32.
 MacDonogh, Giles, After the Reich: The Brutal History of the Allied Occupation, New York: Basic Books, 2007, pp. 344-348.
 Ibid., pp. 344, 351, 355.
 Bessel, Richard, Germany 1945: From War to Peace, London: Harper Perennial, 2010, pp. 194-195.
 Blumenson, Martin, (ed.), The Patton Papers, 1940-1945, Boston: Houghton-Mifflin, 1974, p. 738.
 Bessel, Richard, Germany 1945: From War to Peace, London: Harper Perennial, 2010, p. 196.
 Goodrich, Thomas, Hellstorm: The Death of Nazi Germany, 1944-1947, Sheridan, CO: Aberdeen Books, 2010, pp. 299-303.
 Von Lehndorff, Hans Graf, Token of a Covenant—Diary of an East Prussian Surgeon, 1945-47, Chicago: Henry Regnery Co., 1964, p. 127.
 Horstmann, Lali, We Chose to Stay, Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1954, pp. 198-200.
 Botting, Douglas, From the Ruins of the Reich—Germany, 1945-1949, New York: Crown Publishers, 1985, p. 263.
 Ibid., pp. 263-264.
 Ibid., p. 206.
 Beckman Morris, The Jewish Brigade: An Army with Two Masters, 1944-45, Rockville Centre, NY: Sarpedon, 1998, p. xiii.
 Schmidt, Hans, Hitler Boys in America: Re-Education Exposed, Pensacola, FL: Hans Schmidt Publications, 2003, pp. 26, 48.