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The post-WWII Germany exerted tremendous efforts toward implementing the program of denazification. The Allies mandated the elimination of the National Socialist ideology from the social, cultural, economic, and political spheres of German life (Taylor 11). The program started with the issuance of the Potsdam Agreement after the end of WWII (Taylor 11). Even though initially it was planned to transform only the German legal system, very soon after its initiation the meaning of the word “denazification” changed and it started to include the complete transformation of many aspects of German culture and removal of the Nazi symbols (Taylor 13). The attempt to get rid of all traces of Nazism aimed to transform Germany into a democratic state and to prevent history from repeating itself.
One of the important Nazi landmarks that survived to this day is the Auschwitz concentration camp. It is the group of concentration and extermination camps constructed for the execution of Polish prisoners on the territory of Poland annexed by Germans during the Second World War (Snyder 21). According to British historian Laurence Reese, more than one million people were killed in Auschwitz (qtd. in Snyder 29). He also estimates that 90 percent of them were Jewish. Other prisoners of the camps included Poles, Romani, Sinti, Russians, and Ukrainians among other nationalities (Snyder 29). Those prisoners who were not executed in the gas chambers were subjected to horrific medical experiments. Many others were dying from starvation and diseases. On January 27, 1945, the Soviet troops freed the Auschwitz prisoners (Snyder 78). The camp survives to this day because it is considered the main symbol of the Holocaust, which helps new generations to remember the terrible legacy of Nazism and allows those who survived to recollect their memories of the camp liberation.
Whether Auschwitz has to be Saved
The recent 70th anniversary of the Second World War has drawn renewed interest to the question of whether Auschwitz has to be saved for future generations to serve as a constant reminder of humanity’s past mistakes (Engelhart par. 4). The importance of the museum is quite visible in the light of the number of visitors of the museum that was around1.5 a million people in 2014 (Engelhart par 4.). However, the overall fiscal shortages of the historical site’s funding, which slowly increased over the last few decades, call into question whether Auschwitz is worth keeping (Engelhart par. 6). Moreover, the decline of the camp’s physical structure due to the decomposition of wooden barracks calls for the costly renovation of the whole museum. Many critics argue that when the last survivors pass away it will turn into an inauthentic tourist destination (Engelhart par. 6).
Fuhrerbunker is another historical site of great significance. It was the center of the Nazi regime until the end of the Second World War (Weale 23). The Soviet troops tried to destroy it several times between 1945 and 1949 as a part of the denazification project, however, it largely survived (Lehrer 14). The need to destroy the bunker in the attempt to get rid of all important Nazi landmarks was the subject of heated discussions for a long time (McNab 67). The question of whether it must be demolished deserves just as much attention as the question of whether Auschwitz should be preserved if not more. On the one hand, the conventional wisdom of historical heritage preservation applies to the Fuhrerbunker just as it would to any other historical site. On the other hand, the residence of Adolf Hitler and his stuff is the dark page of German history that must be removed. While concentration camps such as Auschwitz are especially important to the survivors of the Holocaust and their relatives, the Fuhrerbunker bears no such significance. It can be argued, that, while the preservation of the concentration camps is necessary to honor the memory of the Jews and other nations who paid their lives there, spending money to save the residents of the Fuhrer would only desecrate the memories of the dead.
Learning from Mistakes
Even when the last remaining survivors of the Holocaust pass away, the future generation can learn from the mistakes of their fathers by visiting Auschwitz. The two-tone memorial of human hair that was shorn off the prisoner’s heads is one of the most shocking exhibits of the museum capable of eliciting a strong emotional response in anyone (Engelhart par. 8). It can demonstrate to the non-survivors the sheer size of the victim base of the camp. The museum visitors can learn about the enormity of Nazi crimes by observing this and other exhibitions of Auschwitz.
The effects of denazification in Germany were mainly successful and yielded great results. Over the decades the vast numbers of Nazi-related organizations and citizens who supported the Nazi regime were penalized (Taylor 114). Many procedures and initiatives aimed at dismounting and destruction of the Nazi symbols were supported by the German government and successfully conducted. Additionally, the changes in its judiciary, political, social, and economic spheres completely transformed the former Nazi state into the democratic one (Taylor 114). However, there are still some landmarks of Nazism in Germany, such as the Fuhrerbunker, that need to be destroyed.
Engelhart, Katie. Auschitwz 70th Anniversary Renews Debate over Concentration Camp’s Future. 2015. Web.
McNab, Chris. Hitler’s Fortresses: German Fortifications and Defenses 1939–45. New York: Osprey Publishing, 2014. Print.
Taylor, Frederick. Exorcising Hitler: The Occupation and Denazification of Germany. Bloomsbury Publishing, 2011. Print.
Weale, Adrian. Army of Evil: A History of the SS. New York, New York: Caliber Printing, 2012. Print.