Denazification after WWII and Reconstruction after the American Civil War

Denazification, the process of ridding German and Austrian society from the remnants of Nazi ideology, was (from what I understand) mostly successful.

But Reconstruction, the process of readmitting the Southern States into the USA, was not particularly successful, again from what I understand. Southern states like Mississippi instituted Black Codes and systems like Peonage that were essentially designed to continue the exploitation of former slaves. Jim Crow laws, segregation, lynchings, and other forms of brutal oppression continued for a century.

How could it have been done better? Would something like a ‘Truth and Reconciliations’ program have worked? Since a feeling of responsibility and collective guilt was pretty successfully imposed upon the German people for the Holocaust, was there any way of instituting a feeling of collective guilt for white Southerners over the brutality of slavery? Would that have improved things in the long run?

Reconstruction would have gone better had Lincoln not been assassinated, I think. Your question is very thought-provoking. It does seem that Germany learned their “lesson” much faster and better than the American South has. The Germans banned displays of the swastika; that may have helped and in the South the stars and bars (I think this is the right term) continues to be displayed practically everywhere. There never has seemed to be much contrition about slavery and the war it led to, I agree. Maybe banning that flag would help, but, I’m speculating. I suspect freedom of speech issues complicate the matter, but that flag should never fly above a State building as it has in Georgia, and other southern states. Just my opinion, but expressing such to a southerner is, to them, like slapping-around their grandmother, or such.

Was the permanent (they’re still there!) stationing of troops in Germany part of the answer?

It took the deployment of troops to the South to compel them to accept school integration. Would history have been better if the South had been run for a longer period as a military occupation? Would Germany have returned to aggression if it had been left united and unoccupied?

Also…there was a new common enemy in communism and the USSR, so Germany was more forcibly driven into the alliance with western Europe. The South never felt the same need to be close to the North, as they might have if some other great power was looming near and threatening to conquer them.

Plus…George Marshall was a genius, and Johnson, Grant, Hayes, etc. not so much.

Whatever cultural elements it was based upon, Nazi Germany was a brief, 12 year period in the country’s history. Slavery had been a core feature of Southern society for at least a century.

The Confederate South wasn’t Nazi Germany, it was Japan.

Germany didn’t really deal with its Nazi period until the 60s and 70s, when the people who were children during the war and born after the war came of age and started questioning the things their parents generation did during the war, and the average German’s responsibility in the rise of the Nazis.

A better comparison would be how Germany and Japan have dealt with their past post-WWII. Germany and The South are really too different to compare. Civil wars are different than wars between nation states in nearly every aspect.

I wonder why the US has to keep so many troops in Germany and other places for so long, as well
. Geo. Marshall was unusually far-sighted for a military guy and rebuilding the cities we helped

destroy was fitting and, indeed, noble. It gave the Axis powers ample opportunity to rebuild and

repair their economies, but how long should we do this ? Our own economy has to compete with

them and they have to spend zilch on their own defense.

We get a lot of benefits from having bases in Germany and Japan. It’s not an altruistic gesture on our part.

Also, Japan and Germany are within the top ten countries in the world in terms of military spending (and Japan also covers the vast majority of the operating costs for the US forces there).

It’s a common myth that other countries spend nothing on defense because America is defending them for free. The reality is both Germany and Japan have paid billions to the United States for the cost of American troops stationed in their countries. It’s actually cheaper to station troops overseas for this reason.

All good points. It is not a fair comparison. Still, the spoils of war…etc. I have a cousin who’s married to an Air Force officer. He’s a nice enough guy from Alabama

and a gentleman, and a lot of southerners are, but at the start of a football game, during the Pledge, he commented that the flag shown on the tv is not “my flag”.

I asked what he meant and he went on to tell me about the primary devotion he and other southerners had and have for the confederate flag.
I was a bit taken-aback I said, " But, you guys LOST that war and long, long ago". I pointed -out he now serves in the military and didn’t this seem odd to him ?
I can think of no other conflict in history where the vanquished side gets to continue

to fly their colors. I generally like southerners, I really do. But the romantic attachment to that flag confounds me. It is as if they remain deluded as to what ELSE that flag represents, bigotry, slavery, and oppression, that kinda’ ticks me off.

Oh, I figured it was a quid pro quo- type of deal, but I didn’t know those countries spent very much at all on defense. I sit corrected, guys.

Not trying to ingratiate myself, here, but this is a really intelligent website. Well, I

mean it’s members. This place makes Yahoo seem more like barber shop banter.

A couple of thoughts come to mind.

Firstly Nazi Germany was totally occupied top to bottom, and excepting a few ‘apparatchiks’ was a whole new society in a very few years.

I still read and hear about the US Civil War who claim that the Union never ‘really lost.’

I’m English, we had one bloody Civil War after Charles I. Nasty enough for anyone.

The effects of the Union/Confederacy War in The US certainly affected the rest of the World, maybe the first World War.

I suppose the difference would be in the numbers of Nations fighting against the Axis powers vs. the International powers involved in the American Civil War.

As I was taught the Civil War killed an extraordinairy number of people, not, maybe the bloodiest internal conflict, if there is a bloodless version, I’ve yet to see one.

Pace Ukraine.

pdunderhill, I watched a very good program produced about 5 years ago, a multi-episodic history called “Liberty”. Throughout the watching of it I pondered,

despite my general admiration for the American Revolution and it’s founders and principles and so forth,

whether the colonies really had sufficient cause for the separation from our mother country. I understand the “taxation without representation” motive and agree with it

but it does seem that King George had a point; that a vast effort and fortune had been spent by the crown to win and to defend the colonies, and that a relatively

small tax upon us, The Stamp Act, as we American’s refer to it, seemed not too unfair.
I’ve never been overseas; I wonder what most Brits think. Btw, thanks for sending us

The Beatles and all the other great bands. American rock was growing stale.

You could also ask why Iraq did not remain peaceful after the war and supported an insurgency and still has a large cadre of people who believe the same things they did before the war.

One answer may be that the reason Germany and Japan changed was because the entire population saw the devastation of war and the spirit of the population was totally broken, allowing them to be rebuilt and re-molded along different philosophical lines. The South, like Iraq, was defeated in battle but left substantially unchanged in the aftermath.

I remember this being a big worry in the Iraq war when the 4th mechanized infantry was stalled by Turkish refusal to allow the U.S. to cross over its borders. The worry then was that if the victory came quickly and with only one region of the country exposed to the might of the U.S. military, it would leave the rest of the country in a situation of having ‘lost’ without ever seeing a battle or U.S. military power. That would leave them unbowed and hostile.

All that said… The South was not Nazi Germany. One of the things that ended the Nazis was the Allied policy of forcing citizens to actually march through the extermination camps and see what was being done in their name. Many were horrified and deeply ashamed, and that made them ardent anti-Nazis.

Maybe that’s the real answer. The Japanese and German populations felt shamed by their role in the war. The Germans because of the excesses of the Nazis, the Japanese because they were forced to surrender and that was shameful in their culture. Therefore, both populations were receptive to change. The people in the South felt more like they were on the losing side, but not necessarily the wrong side.

Don’t forget that the civil war was about more than slavery, although slavery was a major factor. The south seceded for a number of reasons, including the general feeling that they were not being fairly represented and that the North was interfering in their lives too much in a number of ways. Lincoln won the Presidency without winning a single southern state and he wasn’t even on the ballot in 10 of the southern states. That caused a lot of anger. In addition, the Southern states were generally poorer, and the main economic system was built around plantations which they thought required slaves to be successful. To make matters worse, the north advocated trade tariffs that would negatively impact the south.

Therefore, the people in the South felt that social change in the north was threatening their economy (at a time when many of the people were subsistence farmers and barely surviving), and that the increase in population in the north from immigration was changing the electoral balance and leaving them with no representation. It didn’t help that the north was growing in wealth while the south largely stagnated.

After the war, many of these factors remained in place. The promise of reconstruction was not uniformly kept, leaving many southerners bitter. The emancipation of slaves didn’t have the dire economic consequences that were feared, but it did cause a lot of dislocation, further embittering the people. Bitter, prideful people are not easy to sway to your point of view.

I’ve been doing research on our revolution recently. Now finishing The Glorious Cause: The American Revolution, 1763-1789, part of the Oxford History of the United States. I wouldn’t say it’s the very best book on the subject, but its analysis of why the American people feared increasing oppression by the British government is quite excellent. There was more to it than taxation. Do some research. (There were already immigrant groups here who did not consider England “the mother country.” Even among the Loyalists who fled after the Revolution, many realized, too late, that they really felt “American.”)

The subject here is Reconstruction. One large problem was that it was ended too early. There was a contested Presidential election& a deal was struck in which the Republican candidate became president but Federal troops would leave the South.

Who had a right to be angry? Lincoln didn’t refuse to run in the south. Southern election boards refused to put his name on ballots.

And let’s not forget that Southern delegates had also stated they planned on seceding if Douglas was elected.

Reconstruction ended early as part of the deal to get Rutherford B. Hayes elected President. If the white Southerners would support his candidacy, he would remove US troops from their capitals.

I suggest you readLong Shadows: Truth, Lies and History, which deals with this exact topic - why did Germany and South Africa deal fairly well with their hateful legacies, but not Japan or the US South. A compelling read, IMO.

ISTM that there are parallels between the post-Civil War South and Germany after the First World War:

In both cases there was a great deal of resentment over the loss of their respective wars since their troops had held the upper hand much of the time.

Both managed to shake off and defy the hated regime that had been imposed on them by the victors.

Both began associating a particular minority group with their defeat and began oppressing them.

The KKK were in some ways comparable to the Nazis.

But the South never did quite manage to “rise again” because it wasn’t its own sovereign country like Germany.

Reconstruction had to wrestle with the task of integrating a hated and terribly oppressed minority into political participation in the larger society. The denazifiers in Germany were not faced with that problem, for the grisly reason that Germany’s Jewish population had largely been exterminated or had departed.

Also, denazification was supported by an enormous investment in the rebuilding of German industry. Reconstruction lacked similar financial support.