From Nazism to Never Again

How Germany Came to Terms With Its Past

TOBIAS SCHWARZ / REUTERS

Defeated regimes are not only swiftly removed from power but often immediately erased from memory as well. When Adolf Hitler’s “thousand-year German Reich” came crashing down in 1945 with the Allied victory in World War II, reminders of the 12 years of its actual existence were hastily scrubbed away as Germans scrambled to adjust to life after Nazism. Stone swastikas were chiseled off the façades of buildings, Nazi insignia were taken down from flagpoles, and, in towns and cities across Germany, streets and squares named after Hitler reverted to their previous designations.  Meanwhile, millions of former Nazis hid or burned their …