Skip to main content
Article thumbnail
Location of Repository

From Fascism to Communism: The Reconstruction of the Security Apparatus in the Soviet Zone of Occupation and Romania, 1944-1948

By L. van de Grift


Towards the end of the Second World War, the Red Army occupied a large part of Europe and placed it under military administrations. The arrival of Soviet troops in East Central Europe marked the beginning of the region’s transition towards a new political system. Between 1944-1945 and the end of the decade, a process unfolded throughout this region in which communist parties, with the support of the Soviets, succeeded in strengthening their position of power, eliminating opposition to their rule and establishing a monopoly of power. The establishment of communist regimes has generally been perceived as a major caesura in history. The new system broke with former patterns and traditions. This perception can be found in communist representations and in Western views of that time and regained popularity after 1989 in the countries that had to endure communism. It is particularly visible in accounts on communist personnel policy: they emphasize the radical replacement of staff after the communist rose to power. This book addresses some of the dilemmas that this historical narrative produces. In countries like Germany and Romania, the communist parties had been seriously weakened during the war. How were they able to carry out this vast an operation and where did they find new and loyal employees? Did they indeed remove all former staff and replace them with loyalists or could some degree of personal continuity be observed? What was deemed more important: political loyalty or professional qualifications? This research focuses on the security apparatus, which was the central pillar of both the (pseudo-)fascist regimes of Hitler and Antonescu and of the communist system. The communists regarded the (secret) police and the army as the most ‘contaminated’ institutions of the state. The research covers the period 1944-1948, as these were the years of transition in which the communists sought to establish their monopoly of power in a definitive way. In the power struggle that ensued, transitional justice and purges served as important instruments. This book aims to show that the uniform accounts of what happened in the Soviet Zone of Occupation in Germany and in Romania - a radical purge of former employees and former fascists - does not do justice to a more complex reality. Whereas the eastern part of Germany indeed saw the construction of an almost entirely new police force, in Romania a substantial degree of personal continuity can be observed. Acts in the past soon lost importance to employees’ views of the present and their attitudes towards the new rulers. Their integration in the communist regime, by means of membership of one of the pro-communist organizations, became a token of their loyalty. In the Soviet Zone, a shift from retribution towards integration could be observed as well, but the security apparatus was explicitly excluded from this development. Only on exceptionally urgent occasions did the German communists deviate from their rigid policies. The book tries to give an explanation for these clear differences by focusing on long-, mid- and short-term factors such as institutional traditions, the course of the war, the nature of the previous regimes and the contingency of transitional politics

Topics: Geschiedenis, Specialized histories (international relations, law), Literary theory, analysis and criticism, Culturele activiteiten, Overig maatschappelijk onderzoek, Fascism, Communism, Romania, Germany, East Central Europe, regime change, transitional justice, administrative purges, comparative history
Publisher: Utrecht University
Year: 2009
OAI identifier:
Download PDF:
Sorry, we are unable to provide the full text but you may find it at the following location(s):
  • (external link)
  • Suggested articles

    To submit an update or takedown request for this paper, please submit an Update/Correction/Removal Request.