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Denazification was an Allied initiative to rid German and Austrian society, culture, press, economy, judiciary and politics of any remnants of the Nazi regime, specifically by removing those involved from positions of influence and by disbanding or rendering impotent organizations associated with it. It was launched after the end of the Second World War and solidified by the Potsdam Agreement.

This denazification was accomplished through a series of directives issued by the Allied Control Council, seated in Berlin, beginning in January 1946. "Denazification directives" identified specific people and groups and outlined judicial procedures and guidelines for handling them.

Though all the occupying forces had agreed on the initiative, the methods and intensity differed between the occupation zones.

Table of contents
1 Application in the Allied Occupation Zones
2 Implications for the future German states

Application in the Allied Occupation Zones

American zone

The United States initially pursued denazification in a committed though bureaucratic fashion. The military administration established 545 civilian courts to oversee 900,000 cases. By 1948, however, with the Cold War now clearly in progress, American attentions were directed increasingly to the threat of the Eastern Bloc; the remaining cases were tried through summary proceedings that left insufficient time to thoroughly investigate the accused, such that many of the judgments of this period have questionable judicial value.

Soviet zone

The most radical and rapid denazification occurred in the Soviet zone, as it was tied to a fundamental socialist transformation of the society. Members of the NSDAP and its daughter organizations were removed from their positions without right of appeal and interned in camps, however opponents of the transformation to a socialist state were also silenced in this manner. Oversight of the process was handled entirely by Soviet intelligence agencies.

French and British zones

The French and British took a more measured approach and focused primarily on an exchange of the elite, rather than pursuit of all those who collaborated with the regime.

Implications for the future German states

The culture of denazification strongly influenced the Parliamentary Council charged with the responsibility of drawing up a constitution for the occupation zones. This constitution, called Grundgesetz, was finalized on May 8, 1949, ratified on May 23, 1949, and came into effect on May 24th, 1949. This date effectively marks the foundation of the Federal Republic of Germany.\n