Silas Palmer Fellow Crystal Lee Explores The Demographics Of De-Nazification

Monday, September 19, 2016
 Crystal Lee is a PhD student in the History, Anthropology, and Science, Technology, and Society (HASTS) program at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where she studies data visualization and the history of information.

 Crystal Lee is a PhD student in the History, Anthropology, and Science, Technology, and Society (HASTS) program at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where she studies data visualization and the history of information.

By Crystal Lee

 

What did it mean to be one of the 3.5 million Germans deemed “Nazi enough” to undergo the Allied de-Nazification process after 1945? When was a German scientist deemed “too Nazi” to bring to the United States in the scramble for Cold War technical expertise? The categories governing who was and was not a Nazi heavily colored the economic and political landscape of Germany after the war, and it changed how transnational legal systems dealt with the legacy of the Third Reich. 

In this research project, I explore how the US Office of the Military Government (OMGUS) approached the political and demographic problem of de-Nazification. Indeed, the problem of classification also raises the question of how the US government managed the deluge of survey information in an analog age, which gave rise to a series of technocratic institutions that could evaluate the state of “Nazi-ness” within a given population after 1945. Historiographically, this project is part of a recent surge in interest in what historians call “Cold War rationality,” where decision makers harness a picture of rationality—through optimization, formalism, algorithms, and mechanical process—as a means of understanding phenomena like economic transactions, political elections, and military strategy. However, current research on the state of Cold War rationality has primarily focused on the human sciences writ large without a more focused connection on how these disciplines might be mobilized for foreign state-building. This project attempts to fill this void by asking how political inclinations and actions could be quantified in service of building a new Europe.

Using documents from the OMGUS archive and personal papers of officials within the Military Government—Robert D. Murphy, John Marshall Raymond, and Stanley E. Disney—I argue that the rise of the Fragebogen (a survey given to German citizens after 1945 to ascertain their participation in Nazism) can be seen as part of a general growth of technocratic institutions after World War II. In many ways, de-Nazification was a project in using scientific knowledge in order to reorder a society changed by National Socialism, and it required a massive state apparatus in order to administer one of the first ethnographic projects of this scale.

Conducting research at the Hoover Library and Archives has been a delightful experience, thanks to the incredible staff who made my reading days both productive and enjoyable. In particular, I would like to thank Eric Wakin, Bronweyn Coleman, Carol Leadenham, David Sun, Paul Thomas, Jean Cannon, Stephanie Stewart, and Maciej Siekierski for their support and willingness to answer my many questions, both during my fellowship weeks and beyond. It was an honor to receive the Silas Palmer Fellowship, and I look forward to returning to these incredible sources at the Hoover Archives.   

Crystal Lee is a PhD student in the History, Anthropology, and Science, Technology, and Society (HASTS) program at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where she studies data visualization and the history of information.