Denazification was the set of activities taken by the victorious Second World War allies to root out all vestiges of the National Socialist ideology and [[Nazi Party]. It was the result of a policy set at the [[Yalta Conference by Franklin D. Roosevelt, Winston Churchill, and Joseph Stalin. At the Potsdam Conference, it was restated as "all members of the Nazi party who have been more than nominal participants … are to be removed from public or semi-public office and from positions of responsibility in important private undertakings."
No specific implementation guidance or procedures were established at these policy-level conferences; the individual occupying nations (i.e., those of the three leaders plus France) developed their own investigations, questionnaires, and hearing mechanisms. These procedures reflected some political goals of the countries, such as the French goal of weakening its traditional enemy and the Soviet goal of increasing Communist power. The United States both wanted to get rid of criminal Nazis, but build democracy and practical alliance for the Cold War.
One of the fundamental problems of denazification is that while some Nazi Party members were indeed war criminals of the most monstrous sort, other Germans belonged to the party for non-ideological reasons, as a necessity to hold or advance in a job involving national infrastructure, such as the fire service or water purification. Not all Germans, even some that might be war criminals, were necessarily Party members.
In general, the enforcing countries divided Nazis into the categories, in 1948, of:
- major offenders
- lesser offenders
- persons exonerated
Some persons were exonerated, and others were amnestied either because their skills were critical, or they were needed for some political reason. Some serious offenders, such as Hans Felfe, hid the full extent of their involvement.