One cannot quibble with the fact that the East German government managed to completely recast the old apparatus, often at great cost, since many of those dismissed were far more skilled than their replacements. What is problematic, however, is that from the outset, this housecleaning was performed to the accompaniment of ideological music. By 1949, the task of Vergangenheitsbewältigung--overcoming the past--had already been completed, according to article 6, paragraph 1 of the East German constitution, which declares: "The German Democratic Republic has ... rooted out and destroyed German militarism and Nazism." Such instant success could be achieved only by bureaucratic fiat: anyone who joined the ruling Communist party was automatically clean. Carrying a party card became a substitute for the more laborious work of self-examination, remorse, and mourning. "The decisive factor is present political stance, not prior organizational affiliation," went the party line. As the economic disparity between the two Germanys grew, the antifascist refrain became the prime raison d'être of the Eastern state, and evolved in time into a full-blown historical lie that claimed antifascist resistance was strong in East Germany even before 1945. The Nazi monster had, miraculously, stopped at the Elbe. Although it was never stated quite so bluntly, many East German citizens--particularly young ones--believed this fiction, thanks to the government's subtle deception.
I love the phrase "bureaucratic fiat", it's so apposite
it's complicated because there's an almost dialectic approach to this: should everyone (even the worst Nazis) easily get a second chance? should they have to earn it? what amount of "self-examination, remorse, and mourning" is enough? can it ever be enough?