Last Saturday a frighteningly large group of Austrians decided they would like to have some Nazis running their country. Three hundred thousand of them voted for the League of Independents, a frankly totalitarian organization.
It is no surprise that the clearest evidence of the continuing strength of Nazi doctrine should appear first in Austria. From the beginning, the occupation forces have called Austria a "liberated country." De-Nazification was not undertaken on a large scale, controls were lifted far sooner than in Germany, and Austria is traditionally conservative.
Less publicized examples indicate a similar trend in Germany, however. Back in July, an Allied Military Government public opinion poll, which the Social Relations people point out may have under-estimated the situation, revealed that "sympathy for National Socialism" had jumped more than 20 per cent in two years. An independent survey, run off at the same time, spotted former Nazis in more than one-half of all Bavarian State Government positions.
The Western German elections in August found nearly all the candidates plugging away at "German National Rights" as their campaign issue. The election also featured groups of uniformed bully boys which the press euphemistically called "splinten parties"; the wrapping was different but the contents were the same. U.S. students in Europe this summer heard Germans parrot the same phrase again and again: "Hitler was all right; he did us a lot of good."
A lot of this continued Nazi sympathy is squarely the AMG's fault. When the military government took over, it vigorously began to clean out Nazis from public office, and tried installing people who were both anti-Nazi and anti-socialist. They ran out of these pretty quickly. Rather than threw any weight behind the reasonably left-wing Social Democratic party, which included some of Hitler's strongest opposition, the AMG started putting back Nazis. Plants were returned to their wartime directors in a "move to promote a free enterprise economy."
At the end of May a civilian High Commissioner took over from General Lucius D. Clay, and began hacking away at the lower levels of Allied administration in an effort to "get the Germans running themselves." His plan eventually foresees the West German government handling all governmental functions on its own, while he acts in an "advisory capacity."
He is going to have to produce a lot of advice. We have trained few Germans as administrators; the ones we have trained are running into active hostility set off by Nazis still squatting in office. The autocratic German educational system remains severely unchanged; 90 per cent of teachers fired as Nazis have been rehired. German newspapers have been licensed back to their former owners.
With parliamentary governments functioning in both Austria and Germany, it is no longer possible for the occupation forces to return to any sort of direct control. The Nazis are back for a long stay. The best that can be done is to diminish their influence by giving every reasonable encouragement to the democratic regimes.