Journal of Contemporary History | 2019
Anglo–German Relations After 1945
This article re-examines the 1949 war crimes trial of Field Marshal Erich von Manstein, a leading figure in the Wehrmacht High Command during the Second World War. His case, the final British war crimes trial of the immediate postwar era, was fraught with political sensitivity in the face of the Cold War. This research uncovers the gradations and conflicts that characterized British public responses to the Manstein trial, largely overlooked in the existing historiography. It is shown how the successful prosecution of one of the Wehrmacht’s most emblematic commanders for his complicity in the Holocaust became entangled with some of the most contested and controversial issues of postwar Europe. This study highlights, above all, the capacity of powerful political and social elites to instrumentalize the past, disfiguring memories of Manstein s guilt and its manifold implications. These findings serve as an enlightening case study for British cultural memory of the German past, the Second World War, and the Holocaust in the face of an increasingly potent politics of memory. This research thus gets to the heart of the interactions between popular perceptions, collective memory, and political relations so essential to understanding Anglo–German relations after 1945.