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Denazification: how the West removed a virus

by Susantha Goonatilake

One of the longest wars ever in the entire world ended in May by the military defeat of the LTTE. But there are disturbing signs that the beast may rise again. The TNA, especially over the last decade had a unanimity of views with the LTTE and was its spokesman. The TNA's recent electoral victory in the Vanni should be a cause for worry.

The reports that tens of thousands of LTTE supporters are missing from IDP camps (while innocent Tamils still languish) are a further sign that the LTTE could regroup. The creation of the so-called expatriate Transnational Government of Tamil Eelam is another symptom.

Our war started in 1973 with the import of 20,000 detonators from Tamil Nadu for 20,000 explosions to Jaffna. But before and after that, was a set of fiction created for separatist propaganda. For at least two decades in the areas controlled by the LTTE,people especially children had been brainwashed on lies to hate others and to fight. UNESCO has a slogan that it is in the minds of men that wars begin. These hateful minds must be cleaned.

Are there any lessons for us from other countries that have faced a similar situation of a brutal war carried through a brainwashed fanatical group? Yes, we have in the case of the denazification programme after the Second World War. We should follow a similar path.

There are many obvious parallels between the Nazis and the LTTE. These parallels include: the creation of an artificial exclusive mono ethnic traditional homelands (in Hitler it was his Lebensraum), ethnic cleansing of all other groups, the indoctrination of gullible segments by raw racist propaganda, the undisputed rule by one man (Prabhakaran as Sun God and Hitler as Fuehrer), conscription of the young ("Hitler Jugend" and the LTTE "Baby Brigade") - the list of parallels goes on.

At the end of World War II, the Allies were faced with the problem that although militarily defeated, the ideology of Nazism was probably intact among the German population. The Allies also had in their memory the fact that the Second World War arose only two decades after Germany was defeated in the First World War. The lesson was not to humiliate the defeated Germans as they did after World War I, but to remove Nazi thinking. We must follow a similar path. Let me first describe the Western Allies' program of de-nazification whose details can be found by anyone going to the Internet. My presentation is also informed by a lived-in-experience while I was trained as an engineer for three years in Germany where I interacted with a wide cross section of Germans.

Opinion surveys conducted after WW II showed that after the military defeat, the Nazi virus was still very much alive. For example, a majority of Germans surveyed five years after the war said that Nazism was a good idea. Even after being shown after the war the horrors of what had been done to Jews and Poles through extermination (Die Endlösung - the "Final Solution"), over one third of Germans approved it as necessary and said that Jews should not have the same individual rights as Germans. Even by 1952, roughly 1/3 said Germany was better off without Jews and that Hitler was good. The Nazi ideology had lasted long after the military defeat.

A post World War II official US document stated "Only an inflexible long-term occupation authority will be able to lead the Germans to a fundamental revision of their recent political philosophy." Beginning in January 1946, a few months after their victory, the Allies issued a series of "Denazification Directives". The target was any Nazi remnants in the society, culture, press, economy, judiciary and politics. The process identified groups and persons who were both directly or indirectly associated with the Nazis and their ideology and brougssht out means to deal with them. Those in charge of the denazification program were partly those Germans who had been persecuted by the Nazis (in our case anti-LTTE Tamils). They were the persons who interrogated the prisoners of war and who searched for Nazi sympathizers.

Very early on, the US established a screening process for those Germans that were to be re-educated. All Germans were put into five categories: major offenders, offenders, lesser offenders, followers, and exonerated persons. The newly appointed German administration established no less than 545 civilian courts for the denazification process which oversaw 900,000 individual judicial cases. The result was that by 1947, 90,000 Nazis (not ordinary Germans) were put into concentration camps, while another 1,900,000 Nazi sympathizers were forbidden any work apart from manual labor. That is, they were removed from any potential position of intellectual or ideological influence.

The advent of the Cold War from 1948 lessened these activities somewhat because the West found a new threat from the Soviet Union. Later on, denazification was carried out by newly appointed German Ministers. The US Army and its Information Control Division had a direct hand in ideologically changing the minds of Germans. By 1946, it was controlling 37 German newspapers, 101 magazines, 237 publishers of books, 7384 book dealers and printers and six radio stations. One result was the banning of 30,000 German book titles which covered not only school textbooks but also even books of poetry. Possession of a banned book was considered a crime. All this was to completely erase the Nazi stain - what was then called the "Persil process", Persil being a detergent. The denazification detergent was being applied to the whole German society to remove Nazi dirt. In the Soviet occupied zone of Germany, the denazification process was much harsher.

Apart from Germany, other European countries also followed denazification programs. Greece which had suffered under the Nazi jackboot had Nazi collaborators tried in special courts. It sentenced to death Greek Prime Ministers who had collaborated. Ordinary Greeks who collaborated were publicly humiliated, some tried on treason charges and others were repressed.

Some of the most stringent denazification programs were carried out by the Norwegians (who are one of the biggest sponsors of the LTTE). This included publicly humiliating and demonizing those Norwegians who supported the Nazis and their ideology. Norwegian Quisling, the pro-Nazi leader was tried for treason and executed by firing squad.

These denazification processes strongly influenced the contents of the subsequent German Constitution (Grundgesetz) and Germany's new polity. The total re-education through denazification and removal of the ideological virus has been successful. Germany is today a very peaceful country averse to war. Two generations of Germans have grown up after denazification and most of them are extremely embarrassed by what their Nazi forefathers did. The ambitious plan of post-World War II German reconstruction, especially through the Marshall Plan brought about what was subsequently called the German Economic Miracle.

We have all the prerequisites today to perform our own Economic Miracle whose essential constituent is continued peace and the rapid reconstruction of the North and East. To guarantee our own economic miracle, a prerequisite is a removal of the threat of a future racist war by undertaking our equivalent of denazification.


Related article: On "De-Nazification": A Response to Susantha Goonatilake by Vinoth Ramachandra


Mr Goonathilaka , The only way You can stop the Tamils Regrouping and restart a liberation struggle is is by giving them their self determination . Tamils of Srilanka are A PEOPLE they have A distinct language, historical habitate, culture, ancent history as early as sinhala or even before, they ruled themselves before the colonial masters dismantled their kingdoms and united them with sinhalees.And Your the Buddhist Sinhala Superemacistes like the NAZES tried to supress the Tamils in their home lands since independence , When you have used your military immoraly, violently to supress Tamil's Democratic, resonable passive agitation, only tamill took up arms to liberate themslve. You CREATED THE LTTE (VIRUS accoding to you) The vaccine to prevent the virus mutating and infect and destroy you will be to grant Self determination to Tamils and recognise their home lands.

Posted by: Glen.Eagle12 | October 18, 2009 04:22 AM

There he goes again,this Susantha Goonetileke.Even the picture that accompanies the article in the Daily Mirror is as phony as his arguments.Is he 25 years or so old as the picture makes him appear?Since SG has been spouting rabid anti-Tamil rants for more than 25 years now,he must be older than that!!
Denazification is a good idea and no doubt the LTTE displayed several fascist tendencies that must be roundly condemnedThe LLTE's fascism however was DIRECT consequence of Sinhala nazism.The Nazi ideology-- as opposed to fascism(there is difference,you know Mr.S.G)--was accepted by Sinhala "intellectuals" long years ago and has informed Sinhala politics right down to this day.Remember Dharmapala(not quite Anagarika,was he?)Remember the member of parliament who said that since Indira Gandhi was an Aryan,with a distinct Aryan nose,she should be supporting the Arya-Sinhala people,instead of the kalu-Demalayays? Read the speaches and statements of the many "patriots" and 'jatika" thinkers.And so on and so forth...
The denzification should begin among the Sinhalas -- not perhaps among the Sinhala people but among the Sinhala "intellectuals"and journalists and politicians,text book writers.There are political parties even now which are direct descendants of Dharmapala's political ideology.Somehow,
filled with a deep sense of inferiority and confusion(not to speak of their ignorance)these people are constantly using Nazi terminologies and attitudes to describe the Tamils and the Sinhalese and contributing to the national chaos.
Indeed we should have a serious program of denazification,bur it should begin with certain sections of the Sinhala intelligientsia, and that tribe of thuggish journalists who proliferate in the internet and certain newspapers.Even in their lack of ordinary civilities of debate and ordinary courtesies, as Dayan Jayatileka pointed out recently,they resemble the thugs of the third reich.
The third reich was defeated,but I am afraid the Arya-Sinhala reich is likely to continue for a long time in Sri Lanka,lead in the future by Ranawake and the disciples of Amerasekera and Goonatileke.

Posted by: rajan karalasingham | October 18, 2009 08:59 AM

Beginning from your utter falsehood "Even by 1952 roughly 1/3rd of Germany was better off without Jews and that Hitler was good" most of the statistics you have given in your hateful article is based on lies and deception.

It was only the other day that learned lady Chancellor Angela Merkel was in Israel and even in Katyn expressing the deep regret of the marvellous German people for the sins of the Nazis - your heroes.

Every other Chancellor from the time of Helmut Schmit I remember joined the Israelis in remembering the massacred jews. You are trying to take advantage of the vast majority of poorly informed Sri Lankans of recent German history.

Your flow of thought and your extreme Tamil hatred is clear when you recommend a local form of de-Nazification. Why, have'nt you noticed this is already on in the IDP camps - to your absolute delight?

If you'll forgive me, sir, you need phychiatric help for your sake and that of the good of the wider society.


Posted by: Ilaya Seran Senguttuvan | October 18, 2009 09:26 PM

Isnt it more true that Sinhala Nationalism and Tamil Nationalism have fed off each other? A bit like the chicken and the egg? Both Nationalisms border on supremacism, each thinking they have a greater claim to the country's landmass. Tamil supremacists thinking they have a right to 4 times as much land per-capita as the Sinhalese and the Sinhalese supremacists thinking the Sinhalese Language and Buddhism should reign supreme over all of Sri Lanka.

There is a clear devide in Sinhala society today on the IDPs. The vulgar like Susantha G who are prepared to tolerate the detention camps and the decent who want them set free even at the cost of a potential security threat. To my mind de-LTTE fication stands a better chance through generosity and kindness rather than pointless punishment.

We shall live and learn..

Posted by: dingiri | October 19, 2009 12:31 PM

In responding to reader Dingiri, please allow me to repeat Tamil nationalism was a late response to Sinhala nationalism that arguably began when Dharmapala (Anagarikam) obliquely attacked Tamils while he wanted everyone to believe he was against the “Suddha” But I agree, the extremism of both sides harmed both Sinhalese and Tamils. Moreso, the country and its inherent strengths. This falsehood of Tamils forming 15% of the country demanding 75% of the sea and 50% of the land (the figures vary according to who is spreading the lie) has fast run out of steam. The Sinhala supremacis extreme has to now invent another rallying call and Mission Statement. Even the JVP/JHU are now agreed Tamils were wronged and the entire issue needs to be reviewed. Since the Sinhalese leadership from the 1950s made Tamils appear alien to the Island and created conditions for the ordinary Sinhalese to hate them, Tamils having no alternative after years of negotiation asked for the restoration of the pre-17th century Status Quo. The matter rests there still.


Posted by: Ilaya Seran Senguttuvan | October 20, 2009 09:29 AM

Ilaya Seran Senguttavan
"Even the JVP/JHU are now agreed Tamils were wronged and the entire issue needs to be reviewed."
This is news to me.If it is true,it means that the denazification process has aleady begun!We can only hope that certain members of the community of scribes and the "inteligientsia"follow suit!!
Rajan Karalasingham

Posted by: Anonymous | October 21, 2009 05:50 AM

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