FRAL - Appel Franco-allemand en sciences humaines et sociales

Who Became a Nazi? A Structured Database of the Denazification Questionnaires from French and American Occupation Zones in Germany, 1945–1949 – DeNazDB

Submission summary

What led Germans to support and join the Nazi party? Did they benefit materially from their membership? And how did they justify their choices?

Nazi ideology caused a world war and one of the deadliest genocides in history. About 8.5 million Germans were members of the Nazi party (NSDAP). However, what caused individual Germans to vote for and join the Nazi party in the 1930s is still not fully understood, in part because current research relies on either aggregate quantitative or small-scale qualitative data. Moreover, existing historical individual-level data does not allow researchers to follow individuals over time, is often unrepresentative, and overlooks important socio-demographic information.

In this project, we propose to collect individual-level longitudinal data from the denazification questionnaires (Fragebogen) distributed in Germany’s French and US occupation zones between 1945 and 1949. The Fragebogen contain detailed information about individuals’ past membership in Nazi organisations, retrospective voting records, as well as academic and occupational histories, income, assets, and other socio-demographics. With the DFG-ANR grant, we plan to digitise a population-representative sample of 25,000 questionnaires for the former American occupation zone, from the approximately 500,000 denazification files located at the National Archives (NARA) in College Park, Maryland. While NARA contains the largest existing Fragebogen collection in quantity, we want to digitise an additional 5,000 questionnaires from the qualitatively richer source at the Archives Diplomatiques in Paris where the denazification files for the French occupation zone are stored. The data will allow us to answer which demographic groups voted for or joined the Nazi movement, and which life events (e.g., unemployment) led to these decisions. The US data allow us to leverage quantitative analysis techniques to draw representative inferences about the individual causes for vote choice and party membership. The French files contain more detailed personal biographies, individual party membership justification, and potential court proceedings. The two proposed data sources thus complement each other and provide unique comparative insight into two historically distinct denazification regimes.

The project will contribute to our understanding of individual motivations to vote for and participate in populist radical right-wing movements. It will further add to political science, economic, and historical accounts of how the Weimar Republic slid back from democracy to dictatorship. Additionally, the data will be made available to scholars and citizens in a relational database through a web platform.

Project coordination


The author of this summary is the project coordinator, who is responsible for the content of this summary. The ANR declines any responsibility as for its contents.


HU Humboldt University Berlin

Help of the ANR 339,584 euros
Beginning and duration of the scientific project: May 2022 - 36 Months

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