chapter  5
20 Pages

One of Us

By the start of the 1960s, the legacy of the Nazi past appeared to be gaining increasing recognition within public West German discourse. The new wave of war crimes proceedings was now underway, along with various educational and commemorative activities, while a series of high-profi le scandals had prompted many to question the way in which former Nazis had been able to quietly revert to their pre-war positions in public life. At the same time, though, the new decade brought with it some all too clear reminders of the fact that divergent voices persisted within the Federal Republic when numerous synagogues, churches and other buildings were daubed with swastikas. The graffi ti began on Christmas Eve in Cologne but quickly spread across the country, sparking condemnation at home and abroad amid fears that the ‘old spirit’ had not gone away after all.1 While the West German government swiftly blamed the incidents on misinformed youths and debated possible improvements to Holocaust education, it was clear that eff orts to inspire a closer public refl ection on the Third Reich remained slow, hesitant and far from perfect. The number of people who were prepared to engage with the past in a genuinely critical way remained limited. Instead, many were still keen to assign the blame for Nazi atrocities on a distinct set of ‘excess’ perpetrators who had little in common with the everyday West German citizen. How, though, would people react when the accused in a war crimes trial was neither a sadistic concentration camp killer like Martin Sommer, nor a high-ranking bureaucrat like Adolf Eichmann, but was actually someone drawn from their own ranks, an apparently ‘ordinary’ individual well known within the local community? This chapter explores the impact of such a case: the 1962-3 prosecution of former SS-Stabsführer Martin Fellenz in Flensburg, Schleswig-Holstein-an area of Germany which already had its own peculiar association with the Nazi regime to contend with.