Analysis / All Germans Are Nazis

After World War II, Germany went through a long process of Denazification. Schools taught anti-Nazi curriculum and by the 60s, laws were enacted making it illegal to even jokingly goosestep and nonsense like that.

So why is it that countries like America and Britain seem to find it okay to still associate Germany with being the Third Reich?

Looking into American popular culture, works taking place in Germany made in the United States being set in or around World War II such as Hogan's Heroes, about every World War II FPS out there, the failed sitcom Heil Honey, I'm Home! and every war movie ever made seem to be the only instance Germany is ever seen in pop culture in America. Never have we had tales of modern Germany; a whole grand drama could be made about East and West Germany.

But by nature, World War II is by far where the German people are most exposed to modern culture. Strangely enough, there is no All Italians Are Fascists trope, even though Mussolini's granddaughter is a significant figure in national politics (and hers isn't the only ultra-nationalist party), nor an All Spaniards Are Falangists one even though that regime lasted into the 1970s. There isn't even an All Japanese Are Militarists either and they have an even longer history of militarism than the Germans (not in the West, anyway; it probably exists among mainland Chinese and Koreans though). This is probably due to the fact that following World War II the population basically revealed that Not All Japanese Are Ultra-Nationalists, quickly embracing Western morality and philosophy and making a 180 degree turn into the hyper-peaceful, cute-loving nekophiles we know today.

This may have to do with the Nazis being so much more infamous than any other Fascists — mainly because of all the countries they invaded (Spain was neutral in WWII, and Italy tried a bunch of invasions, but wasn't very good at it). This may also have to do with the fact that Germany was the main threat in WWII, despite not killing a whole lot more people than Japan. Or perhaps because, unlike other Axis nations, where only the leadership were tried for war crimes following the war, the official policy of the Allies was to assign collective guilt to the German people for Nazi atrocities. This has, incidentally worked very well, and the German educational system is seen as an excellent example of how to get a country to recognize and come to terms with the nastier parts of its history (it is compulsory for all Germans to learn about WWII and the Holocaust), something Japan has been pretty bad at. Accordingly this Trope is generally a Berserk Button for modern Germans.

Some (particularly American military theorists, Eastern European leaders, and occasionally the French) say it worked too well, as it's given Germany a war-phobia that has occasionally threatened NATO missions (not to mention their own nation's freedom of speech) and Western unity in general. The German "No" vote — as opposed to the expected abstention — on the United Nations resolution authorizing intervention in Libya was seen as particularly damaging; Nicolas Sarkozy in particular essentially told Merkel "what the hell were you thinking?" in response.note 

There is also the fact that the 30s and 40s were the first decades of mass-media. An era of sound newsreels, widespread radio broadcasts and information, and the decades of sound cinema. This corresponded with the 12 years of the mercifully-cut-short 1000 year reich. Related to this is that the Nazis were highly media savvy and they quickly embraced the emerging mass media spectacles. The general public of the western world exposed to newsreels were highly familiar with images from Nazi Book Burning, nazi rallies, the Berlin Olympics. Even before World War II, Hitler and the Nazis were highly visible figures. As such the Nazis both before and after the war disseminated the most widely seen visual images of German culture for the moviegoing audience. More refined members of the public knew of German philosophy and high culture, they may also have been familiar with the Weimar avant-garde of the 20s (many of whose key representatives became exiles who worked in America) but these were far less widely seen and experienced than the images of Nazi Germany. World War II merely magnified that and set in stone. The rise of sound cinema also played a key role in the development of English and especially American English as the global language, couple that with the hegemony of Hollywood, and the general perception of US intervention in the war as "just" and the Nazis as evil, and this trope got a lot of mileage.