The Spark

the Voice of
The Communist League of Revolutionary Workers–Internationalist

“The emancipation of the working class will only be achieved by the working class itself.”
— Karl Marx

A Parody of Justice—64 Years Late

Sep 28, 2009

On September 8, the German Parliament–just before the coming elections–repealed sentences handed out to so-called “war criminals,” sentences given by the Nazi regime! Sixty four years after the end of World War II and the collapse of the national-socialist regime, its last victims have been rehabilitated.

In 2002, various categories of Germans were rehabilitated. Their so-called crimes included deserting from the German army, taking a conscientious objector stance, and cowardice in the face of the enemy. And those Germans waited 62 years for their exoneration. But seven years ago, the “war criminals” were excluded from the decision. According to some right wing politicians, soldiers who had “harmed” their comrades should not be rehabilitated. The left-wing government at that time, including Social Democrats and Greens, gave in to the right.

Historians estimate that Nazi military courts pronounced at least 30,000 death sentences, after which some 20,000 were executed between 1934 and 1945. A number of those not executed were sent to concentration camps where they died from what they suffered there. For similar reasons, tens of thousands more were sent to the camps by the Nazis. In most cases, the victims were Germans who had aided Jews, or who had criticized Hitler’s regime, or who gave information to the Allies, or soldiers who had not been harsh enough to prisoners of war. Their courageous attitude shows that the German people didn’t unanimously support Hitler and his policies. Many Germans were also victims of the ferocious Nazi dictatorship.

The survivors of these military courts were abandoned and sometimes slandered after the war. At the same time, when the German bourgeoisie was reconstructing its state apparatus after 1945, it used numerous people who had served the Nazi regime. The German state did organize spectacular trials–like Nuremberg–against high Nazi officials and numerous underlings. But other former Nazi officials–like judges, prosecutors, mayors and police commissioners–were used in the German administration starting with the Cold War, in 1946-1947. In 1955, when the German Federal Republic set up a new army, the Bundeswehr, it brought back a number of old officers of the Wehrmacht to staff it.

The decision announced this September to rehabilitate some of the so-called “war criminals” came so late that a majority of those concerned had already died. But the decision does at least prove the extent to which the so-called democratic postwar Germany was built on a pile of manure.