April is an important month for much of Germany when it comes to World War II. The general surrender was signed in May 1945, but April was the month when city after city surrendered directly to allied forces. That makes now — April — the 70th anniversary of. . . .
Recently my local newspaper in Essen featured an article about this time period called As the Americans freed the Ruhr Region. That was an interesting take on what happened. It made me as an American, think — Did the US free this part of Germany? Or did it conquer it?
At the time, the Allies made it clear they were here to conquer, not to liberate. But they were slick. They dropped leaflets to the populace urging them to turn against the Nazi officials and surrender their cities without fighting. Many did. Maybe this was the moment when the war weary Germans began to conjure up the idea of being liberated from the Nazis, no matter what their political persuasion was in the past.
That attitude carried through right up to the present. It seems a lot more fashionable to talk about the liberation of the Germans than it is to talk about the conquering of Germany. There’s no denial that it happened; American, British, French and Soviet forces occupied German territory and held military bases far too long for the Germans to close their eyes to what happened.
But now, 70 years later, with most of Germany back in German hands and the old allied forces all but gone, we’re left with the idea that the Allies freed the Germans from a criminal regime.
That’s only somewhat true. At bottom, the Allies came to win the war. And so I’d re-title that recent article, As the Americans Conquered the Ruhr Region.
Patrick Reed said:
There was far too much active participation by the local populaces with the NSDAP to ever call it liberation. Whether that participation was out of fear of the regime is debatable. It certainly played a part and there was resistance but it is curious how quickly whe Nazi support faded away.
Where did all the Nazis go as the country fell? I am not talking about bigwigs but the common man in the street. Certainly there was wide spread denial. I have more respect for the ones that kept their beliefs.
The NSDAP was conquered, and along with it the Ruhr and all the rest. I don’t see how it can be viewed any other way. Is just continuing denial?
Thanks, Patrick. Most of the war generation is dead here, leaving people who were children during the war. They’re most interested in the topic. The children certainly were liberated – not only from the Nazis, but also from the complicity or impotence of their parents. I don’t think the word liberated means Germans deny what the country did. They’re more than clear on that. I think the word holds a hint of gratitude, particularly to the US. But people shouldn’t confuse the issue. From the Allied perspective, France was liberated, Germany was conquered.