Democratic Culture and Nazi Past. Politics, Personnel, Issues in Bavaria 1945-1975

Employees (IfZ):  PD Dr. Bernhard Gotto,  Dr. Felix Lieb

Policies, Personnel, Impact in Bavaria 1945-1975

How did Bavaria’s ministries and agencies deal with their Nazi past after 1945 – what fractures and continuities had an impact on the new democratic beginnings? This is the subject of a new project at the Leibniz Institute for Contemporary History (IfZ) with the title “Democratic Culture and the Nazi Past: Politics, Personnel, Influences in Bavaria, 1945-1975”. The project was set in motion in a unanimous decision of all fractions in the Bavarian Parliament (Landtag). It will be financed by the State of Bavaria and its main cooperative partner will be the Bavarian State Archive (Bayerisches Hauptstaatsarchiv). A commission of renowned historians specializing in contemporary history and the history of Bavaria has been formed to provide academic supervision. Its members are Helmut Flachenecker (Würzburg), Sabine Freitag (Bamberg), Ferdinand Kramer (Munich), Bernhard Löffler (Regensburg), Joachim Scholtyseck (Bonn), Georg Seiderer (Erlangen), and Margit Szöllösi-Janze (Munich).

Project Specifics

The project builds on the the increasing interest in the topic of how the highest federal and state authorities dealt with people’s Nazi pasts. The project is not, however, limited to one particular institution, as is usually the case: For the first time, the overall context of a state government, both functionally and in terms of personnel, will be taken into account from the heads of ministries down to the level of policy implementation. As the only sizable German state able to maintain its territorial and administrative continuity after 1945, Bavaria is a particularly suitable area of investigation to that end. The study will first analyze career paths, individual influences, and personnel policy. It will, secondly, look into administrative practice, guiding ideas, and routine procedures. And thirdly, it will investigate how the different groups of actors interpreted their past(s) and what internal as well as public reckonings were connected to this. This approach systematically interlinks perspectives involving actors, actions, and perceptions. This makes it possible to rethink what a “Nazi past” indeed entails, prying the category away from a mere reduction to formal criteria such as membership in National Socialist organizations. The selection of areas for closer examination has generally fallen on subjects in which the individual German states (Länder) had jurisdiction. In this way, the research project meets the requirements of the sociopolitical need for academically sound answers, while also entering new territory with a potential for innovation in the field of contemporary history.


Which areas will be investigated

The personnel policy of the state government is one area of investigation of particular interest to the project. The biographical analysis focuses here on influences stemming from the Weimar Republic and the Nazi dictatorship on the leading figures of individual ministries and agencies down to the level of office heads and groups of experts in particular areas. Another area of focus lies on continuities and new beginnings, in terms of both staff and substance, in the Bavarian internal administration of the police, internal security, and safeguarding the constitution. This is rounded out by longitudinal studies on dealings with former Nazi property, the health system, and higher education. The project spans eight individual studies to be carried out in two three-year phases.

The following subprojects will be carried out in the first phase:

The second phase will include investigation into areas such as the riot police, police training, police in major cities, as well as the Ministry of Culture, its Department for Schooling, and the directors of the Bavarian (Gymnasien) academic high schools.

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