The German population

In the early years after the war, many Germans denied knowledge of Nazi crimes, as well as any responsibility for them. Instead, they often saw themselves as victims of the regime and the war (as if huge numbers of Germans had not supported Nazism). Such apologetic claims had spread quickly in defeat. On 22 April 1945, for example, just days after US forces had led Weimar citizens through nearby Buchenwald, the following text was read in churches in Weimar.

118 – Proclamation about Buchenwald in Weimar churches, April 1945

US troops confront Weimar citizens with prisoner corpses in Buchenwald (16 April 1945)

The Wiener Library

Last Monday hundreds of inhabitants of our city were ordered [by US soldiers] to go round Buchenwald concentration camp. It has emerged that events took place there of which we were completely unaware. We condemn the cruelty and sadism with which people were treated and in many cases tortured to death. Such things were possible only through an attitude of mind which had completely rejected Christianity and from which we too as a church have suffered greatly. Thus we can declare before God that we do not share any guilt for these atrocities.

Source: J. Schley, Nachbar Buchenwald (Cologne, 1999), p. 4 (emphasis in the original)

Translation: Lesley Sharpe and Jeremy Noakes