I am a student currently learning about the atrocities that Nazi Germany committed in the 1940’s. Some of the well-known and worst ones are the concentration camps and horrific experiments, but they violated human rights in so many other ways that I had not heard about such as murdering ally POWs and even their own officers for failure or for just about any other reason. They stepped all over the innocent countries around them, breaking many treaties and violating every rule of war. They did this all in the name of the mad concept of a perfect race. Then, when they were defeated, they tried to hide their crimes by burning all the evidence.


My question is that in light of this, you would think that it would take at least a century until they would be in position to lecture other nations on human rights. As I watch the news today, I see the same nation telling the US, the UN, and the EU that they should stop violating the rights of refugees, minorities, etc. and be more like Germany. I know that there are still people alive today that are WW2 veterans, holocaust survivors, an even original Nazis.

How is this not hypocrisy of ludicrous proportions? What am I missing?

Thanks in advance!

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    It's generally a good idea to avoid subjective questions on History:SE. They are likely to be closed. For more guidance on asking questions here, check out the resources in the help centre – sempaiscuba Aug 21 '17 at 12:59
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    Any answer would require a value judgement (opinion) about today's events. Historical sources and methods will not answer this question. – MCW Aug 21 '17 at 12:59

Well functioning societies usually turn the page when they realize that they did something wrong or that their enemies did; they bury the hatchet and look towards the future instead. In this spirit, part of ending a war usually involves a large degree of forgiveness of the general population and most or all of its leaders.

What more, (West) Germany has been a vibrant democracy with a deep attachment to human rights since WW2, and a notoriously tolerant one at that. (In case searching for counter-examples of hate groups or human rights abuses crosses your mind, yes it's not perfect but keep context in mind: several US states had racial segregation enshrined in law until the 60s.) For all of Germany's flaws in welcoming immigrants and refugees, other countries have plenty of good lessons to learn from what it's been doing since WW2, and Germany is (IMO) thus entitled to some clout.

  • Thanks for the answer! This makes sense but I guess this makes me wonder 'why bother sticking to any rules of war when you are forgiven instantly regardless' – Joe Miller Aug 21 '17 at 15:20
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    Two reasons. One is that when you don't stick to rules of war, you will end up trialed for it just like the nazi war criminals. The other is fear of retaliation: Hitler, for instance, had nerve gas but was so convinced the allies would retaliate in kind were he to use it that he did not. – Denis de Bernardy Aug 21 '17 at 15:42
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    @JoeMiller Except that Germany was not forgiven instantly - the country was split into 4 militarily occupied zones (with travel massively restricted between east and west), the Nazi leadership was held up for trial and punished by death or long prison sentences, and even after West Germany were allowed to form their own government again they were subject to restrictions under an occupation statute for some years. – user13123 Aug 21 '17 at 23:20
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    It took 45 years to the final peace treaty of 1990, to be precise (although West Germany had gradually regained most of its rights in the decades before). – Annatar Aug 22 '17 at 6:06

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