"many old Nazis had made careers in the courts"
Kurt Georg Kiesinger
Creative Commons Attribution Share AlikeKurt Georg Kiesinger - Credit: Deutsches Bundesarchiv (German Federal Archive)

The high profile nature of the Nuremberg Trials has led to an assumption that all Nazis were punished after the war.  The truth is that many people who worked to implement the policies of the Third Reich successfully rebuilt their careers in the years and decades that followed.  Some important figures in West Germany were known to have been former members of the party; these included Kurt Georg Kiesinger, Chancellor from 1966 to 1969, and President Heinrich Lübke, who was in power from 1959 to 1969.  Both of these men were in post at the time of the student protests.

Written in 1963, this article discusses the way former Nazis held high positions within the judiciary. 

Many high-ranking Nazis were never tried after the war.  Declassified documents have revealed that many were recruited by the USA; for example, around 1800 Nazi scientific staff were utilised in ‘Operation Paperclip’, and given false backgrounds which allowed them to work in the USA.  There was also the Gehlan Organisation, established in June 1946, which employed hundreds of former Nazi personnel, largely from the SS and Gestapo, for intelligence purposes against the Soviet Union.  This practice continued for many years in close collaboration with the CIA, which was established in 1947.  For the USA, the new enemy was Soviet Communism.  Consequently, and despite Allied agreements at the Potsdam Conference, the process of Denazification was somewhat compromised by the Cold War.

There is also evidence that in East Germany the Stasi employed former Nazis for intelligence and administrative purposes.