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The Mark of CainGuilt and Denial in the Post-War Lives of Nazi Perpetrators$
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Katharina von Kellenbach

Print publication date: 2013

Print ISBN-13: 9780199937455

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: September 2013

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199937455.001.0001

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From Honorable Sacrifices to Lonely Scapegoats

From Honorable Sacrifices to Lonely Scapegoats

Chapter:
(p.112) 5 From Honorable Sacrifices to Lonely Scapegoats
Source:
The Mark of Cain
Author(s):

Katharina von Kellenbach

Publisher:
Oxford University Press
DOI:10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199937455.003.0006

In the Christian tradition, the blood of the sacrificial lamb washes away the sins and expiates guilt. Sacrificial language permeated the self-portrayals of Nazi perpetrators in postwar prisons and internment camps and allowed them to reverse the indignity of criminal convictions into altruistic acts of bravery and heroism. While the convicts of the Allied military trials framed their deaths as heroic sacrifices that would eventually be vindicated in the triumphant rebirth of the nation, the defendants in the West German criminal trials during the 1960s recognized the changed political climate that increasingly isolated them. By the sixties, the national collective that had authorized the killings fragmented. Perpetrators denounced the ungrateful community that abandoned them and moved to offer them up as scapegoats for its own atonement. The shift from sacrificial hero to despised scapegoat signals the collapse of the national collective and the increasing sense of isolation among Nazi perpetrators.

Keywords:   scapegoat, sacrifice, atonement, passion of christ, west german nazi trials, antisemitism, mulka, eichmann

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