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Germans and War Brutality: The Erosion of Ethics by Ordinary People during World War II

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After the First World War, citizens, soldiers, and political figures alike thought they had witnessed the archetype of human sadism and war brutality. Yet, less than twenty years later, World War II immediately countered this notion. World War II was

After the First World War, citizens, soldiers, and political figures alike thought they had witnessed the archetype of human sadism and war brutality. Yet, less than twenty years later, World War II immediately countered this notion. World War II was a transnational conflict that epitomized total war, which directly engaged civilians in the conflict like never before. Typically when we discuss Germany’s involvement in the war, we have visions of Hitler and his high-up officials personally crafting the Holocaust that killed 6 million Jews via firing squads, ghettoes, and gas chambers. The post-war landscape furthered this notion through the Nuremberg trials, which sentenced the most evil of the war’s perpetrators on the international stage, and the denazification process by the allied countries, which worked to reteach a “brainwashed” generation of Germans. However, rarely was the role of ordinary soldiers and the people at home a part of the dialogue of German complicity. Through the phases of post-war memorialization, people began to question the roles of themselves, and eventually their ancestors, in various ways. Of course, there are immense differences between the architect of the Final Solution and a Wehrmacht soldier who was drafted into the war; my goal is not to place these people on a ladder of guilt, but to widen the dialogue on the complex role ordinary Germans held during the war.
I will begin by establishing complicity among Wehrmacht soldiers, and then among ordinary people, contrasting beneficiaries and participants in popularized crime with bystanders. I will also argue that as women suffered uniquely during World War II, they also exercised unique complicity. Next, I will take these findings and discuss the memorialization of complicity in order to understand how individuals, the public, and the state framed their respective roles in the war; in order to accomplish this I will first discuss individual remembrance by examining individual interviews and familial interviews in order to gain an understanding of how people perceive their role in the war and also how individual stories can change as generations pass. These interviews include people who were both beneficiaries and bystanders. Then, I will discuss collective remembrance by examining the controversy over public monuments. Ultimately, I will argue that ordinary Germans all held significant levels of complicity that need to be assessed in order to understand the Nazi war effort and political system; additionally, how complicity is remembered greatly and profoundly affects memorialization and our future.

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2019-05

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Energiewende: The Future of Germany's International Obligations Following Nuclear Phase-Out

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Energiewende refers to the final legislation that sealed the decision to phase out Germany's nuclear power plants prematurely following the Fukushima nuclear disaster. This policy has been in place as of 2011, however, there has been little research done on

Energiewende refers to the final legislation that sealed the decision to phase out Germany's nuclear power plants prematurely following the Fukushima nuclear disaster. This policy has been in place as of 2011, however, there has been little research done on the comprehensive effects of it within Germany, on German global relationships and obligations. As such, this paper has identified the top areas that have been affected by the legislation as the climate sector, the humanitarian sector and the security sector. In addition to identifying these areas, they have analyzed in the international sphere and this is analysis is used to determine the impact that the German legislation has on political realities in surrounding countries. The impacts are then compared to German obligations, as outlined in numerous treaties from within the three main areas discussed. Not only that, but the effects are also examined within the domestic sphere. The domestic effects are also compared to German obligations from international treaties, while focusing on high priority German issues, such as poverty. This paper ultimately examines the real policy influence that Germany has exhibited as a result of enacting a unique, and ambitious energy policy in a time in which many are still uncertain of the safety, or lack thereof, of nuclear power. The aim is to provide Germany, and countries beginning to question the role of nuclear power, with concurrent solutions to ensure a successful phase out that allows adherence to international and domestic obligations while also illustrating the positive role that nuclear power can play in energy production and policy.

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2017-05

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A comparison between the new identities built after World War II in Japan and Germany by analyzing textbooks published shortly after the War

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After World War II both Japanese and Germans had to come to grips with the reality of defeat. It was during this time when both countries had to develop a new identity that was able to deal with the question

After World War II both Japanese and Germans had to come to grips with the reality of defeat. It was during this time when both countries had to develop a new identity that was able to deal with the question of war responsibility. This paper attempts to compare these two identities using history textbooks from the occupation time period while keeping in mind the delicate balance between the wishes of the occupation authorities, the approaching Cold War, and the very nature of defeat itself.

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2014-05

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Soviet Displaced Person in Germany After World War II: An Analysis of the Harvard Project on the Soviet Social System

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This thesis is based on the responses of Soviet Displaced Persons collected by the Harvard Study on the Soviet Social System (HPSSS), an oral history conducted in Munich and New York from 1950 to 1951 in which former Soviet citizens

This thesis is based on the responses of Soviet Displaced Persons collected by the Harvard Study on the Soviet Social System (HPSSS), an oral history conducted in Munich and New York from 1950 to 1951 in which former Soviet citizens were interviewed. They were primarily interviewed about daily life within the Soviet Union. A total of 331 displaced persons were interviewed over the course of the study, with most individuals receiving multiple interview sessions. These sessions were divided broadly as A and B sections. The A-section, which the majority of interviewees received and was viewed by the compilers as a broad sociological inquiry, was divided into subsections focusing on Soviet work, government, family, education, communication, philosophy of life, and ideology. The B-sections were used for deeper anthropological inquiries and are potentially more controversial due to the use of Rorschach tests and situational responses. Fewer respondents were continued on to the B interviews which contained a variety of subsections, though most respondents were only asked questions from one or two sections of the greater whole. A portion of the B section interviews do provide valuable insight to my thesis for their focus on the Displaced Person status of the interviewees. The project consisted of 764 separate interviews of the 331 respondents. The interviewers for the HPSSS were primarily graduate students, ranging from history, sociology, psychology and economics departments, with varying degrees of fluency in Russian and Ukrainian. Some of the interviewers went on to become leading experts in Soviet Studies in the years to follow. Others stopped publishing, following the major publication of the HPSSS in the late 1950s, which may indicate a move to the private sector or employment within the federal government rather than academics. While not possible to include within my analysis, the major publications of the study also included the insights garnered from nearly ten thousand written questionnaires of DPs that were tabulated and discarded prior to publication.

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2015-05

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Apologia in German and Japanese Post-War Film: A Comparative Analysis of Exculpatory Discourses on the German and Japanese Military in World War II.

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In the sixty-seven years following the end of World War II, West Germany and Japan underwent a remarkable series of economic and social changes that irrevocably altered their respective ways of life. Formerly xenophobic, militaristic and highly socially stratified societies,

In the sixty-seven years following the end of World War II, West Germany and Japan underwent a remarkable series of economic and social changes that irrevocably altered their respective ways of life. Formerly xenophobic, militaristic and highly socially stratified societies, both emerged from the 20th Century as liberal, prosperous and free. Both made great strides well beyond the expectations of their occupiers, and rebounded from the overwhelming destruction of their national economies within a few short decades. While these changes have yielded dramatic results, the wartime period still looms large in their respective collective memories. Therefore, an ongoing and diverse dialectical process would engage the considerable popular, official, and intellectual energy of their post-war generations. In West Germany, the term Vergangenheitsbewältigung (VGB) emerged to describe a process of coming to terms with the past, while the Japanese chose kako no kokufuku to describe their similar historical sojourns. Although intellectuals of widely varying backgrounds in both nations made great strides toward making Japanese and German citizens cognizant of the roles that their militaries played in gruesome atrocities, popular cinematic productions served to reiterate older, discredited assertions of the fundamental honor and innocence of the average soldier, thereby nurturing a historically revisionist line of reasoning that continues to compete for public attention. All forms of media would play an important role in sustaining this “apologetic narrative,” and cinema, among the most popular and visible of these mediums, was not excluded from this. Indeed, films would play a unique recurring role, like rhetorical time capsules, in offering a sanitized historical image of Japanese and German soldiers that continues to endure in modern times. Nevertheless, even as West Germany and Japan regained their sovereignty and re-examined their pasts with ever greater resolution and insight, their respective film industries continued to “reset” the clock, and accentuated the visibility and relevancy of apologetic forces still in existence within both societies. However, it is important to note that, when speaking of “Germans” and “Japanese,” that they are not meant to be thought of as being uniformly of one mind or another. Rather, the use of these words is meant as convenient shorthand to refer to the dominant forces in Japanese and German civil society at any given time over the course of their respective post- war histories. Furthermore, references to “Germany” during the Cold War period are to be understood to mean the Federal Republic of Germany, rather than their socialist counterpart, the German Democratic Republic, a nation that undertook its own coming to terms with the past in an entirely distinct fashion.

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2012-12

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Resilience, Rescue, and Resistance: The History of the Loewy Family in Europe and United States

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Through the lens of a Jewish family in the early 20th century, histories of resilience, rescue, and resistance are shown. The Loewys were a Jewish family who migrated from Poland to Germany then France and ending up in the United

Through the lens of a Jewish family in the early 20th century, histories of resilience, rescue, and resistance are shown. The Loewys were a Jewish family who migrated from Poland to Germany then France and ending up in the United States following World War II. In their travels they experienced many of which other Jewish experiences were, while also differentiating from the overall story. The family also experienced life as refugees and interns during the Holocaust. Arrested in Vichy following the Armistice between Germany and France, the Loewys were later granted their freedom which they used to help free others from the camp. One of the few stories of Jews rescuing Jews, the family began its life as resistors to the Vichy and German occupation. Participating in both passive and active resistance from 1940-1944, they witnessed the highs and lows of this new life. The end of the war saw the family make it to the United States beginning their next chapter as survivors of the Holocaust and the war. With the use of primary source material provided by the Loewys, along with scholarly work about the different periods, the story of the Loewys is one of resilience in the face of mounting adversity, rescuing of internes from camps, and resistance against an occupational force that furthers the research of the Jewish experience in the early 20th century.

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2020