The first Germans born after the end of the Third Reich are now growing up, and those who played an active part in Hitler’s rise to power or in the running of his regime are now elderly or dead. Yet the memory of the Nazi period is still very much alive: during the last two years, first the Eichmann trial and now the trial of the Auschwitz guards have brought vivid and horrifying reminders of the atrocities committed in the Third Reich and of the part played in them by seemingly ordinary Germans. Although the investigations leading up to the trials of ex-Nazis are often disagreeable and unpopular — it was recently reported that the police conducting them had asked to be transferred to other jobs — it cannot be said that the Germans are being allowed to forget. Again and again in articles and discussions the phrase ‘the unconquered past’ (die unbewaltigte Vergangenheit) recurs, and nineteen years after Hitler’s death and the collapse of his Reich, the analysis of its origins and the search for an explanation are being pursued more vigorously than ever before.
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