Does the war benefit from a crime?

National Socialism: War and Holocaust

Michael Wildt

Michael Wildt is a trained bookseller and worked for Rowohlt Verlag from 1976 to 1979. He then studied history, sociology, cultural studies and theology at the University of Hamburg from 1979 to 1985. In 1991 he completed his doctorate on the subject of "On the way to the 'consumer society". Studies on Consumption and Eating in West Germany 1949-1963 ”and then worked as a research assistant at the Research Center for the History of National Socialism in Hamburg. From 1997 to 2009 he worked as a research assistant at the Hamburg Institute for Social Research and completed his habilitation in 2001 with a study on the leadership corps of the Reich Security Main Office. Since 2009 he has been Professor of German History in the 20th Century with a focus on the Nazi era at the Humboldt University in Berlin.

His main research interests are National Socialism, the Holocaust, the history of violence in the 20th century and notions of social and political order in modern times.

Contact: mailto: [email protected] «

Peter Krumeich, Employee at the chair of Professor Wildt, contributed to the development of the content of the magazine and, in particular, in coordination with the editorial team, was responsible for the image research for this magazine.

The end of the Second World War left Germany in ruins. The Allies initially assume state power. The perpetrators should be punished, and justice and satisfaction should come to the victims. But the following decades show which hurdles stand in the way.

View of the dock during the Nuremberg trials (& copy Federal Archives, image 146-1994-120-22A)


At the end of the Nazi regime, what was left of the "Volksgemeinschaft" was a "rubble society". Over five million German soldiers were killed, the aerial warfare in Germany claimed around 570,000 lives, around 14 million Germans fled or were driven out of what was then the eastern German territories.

Overall, World War II killed an estimated 55 million people, most of them civilians. The Soviet Union was hardest hit, with an estimated 24 million deaths. Almost six million Jews were murdered, and hundreds of thousands of Roma and Sinti, disabled and sick people fell victim to the Nazi regime's racist policies.

Around 15,000 Jews had survived in Germany, plus tens of thousands who had been liberated from various camps or had fled from Eastern Europe to the West. Over 150,000 Jewish "Displaced Persons" (DPs) were cared for by the occupying powers and Jewish aid organizations in various camps, especially in Bavaria, in the summer of 1946. Hundreds of thousands of prisoners were liberated from the concentration camps by the Allied armies, 35,000 in Buchenwald alone Millions of foreign forced laborers as well as refugees and displaced persons from Eastern Europe were on German territory, while the Allied armies found between 6.5 and seven million DPs in the area of ​​the later western occupation zones alone.

The total defeat of the Nazi regime meant that there was no longer a German state or government. Instead, the Allies divided Germany into four zones of occupation in which they took power. At the Potsdam Conference from July 17 to August 2, 1945, Stalin, Harry S. Truman, the successor to US President Roosevelt, who died in April 1945, and Churchill, who, after the Conservatives lost the elections in Great Britain in early July 1945, determined had, was replaced by the British Labor politician Clement Richard Attlee, that Germany should be denazified, democratized and demilitarized. Until further notice, the Soviet Union, the USA, Great Britain and France determined the fate of Germany in a joint control council. Soon, however, the political contradictions broke out, and the Soviet occupation zone on the one hand and the three western zones on the other pursued opposing policies.

The division of Germany, which was to last until 1990, was one of the most serious consequences of National Socialism. As a result of the division, the previous connection between the food industry was also torn apart after the end of the war, and the supply of the West German population was largely dependent on grain imports from the USA and Canada. Only now did it become clear to what extent the nourishment of the "Volksgemeinschaft" had been secured by the ruthless plundering of the occupied territories. The Germans did not starve during the war, but afterwards.