Persilschein is a German idiom and literally means "Persil ticket". To own or have a Persilschein is akin to having "a clean bill of health" and may refer to the granting of a wide-ranging permission or "carte blanche" to pursue a business or a previously morally or legally suspect interest.
The term originated in the German military and refers to Persil washing powder. For example, it was common for army recruits to have to bring an empty box with them to the barracks in order to send their civilian clothes home to their family. Boxes advertising the very common washing powder, Persil, were often used for this purpose. In soldier's jargon the actual conscription order was also called a Persilschein.
The term Persilschein underwent a change of meaning, especially during the denazification period. Suspected Nazi offenders could be exonerated by statements from victims or former enemies and thus accepted as having a good reputation, a record of which was sufficient to meet Allied requirements under post-war denazification laws.
Colloquially the affected person was said to be "washed clean" of accusations of Nazi sympathies; "cleanliness" in this context meaning "innocent". They were attested as having a so-called "white vest" and were now allowed to apply for a house or open a business again. During 1948, the interest of the Americans in systematic denazification waned markedly as the Cold War and the threat from the Soviet bloc hove increasingly into view. Faster processes were introduced to bring denazification to a swift conclusion, however, that led to questionable judgements (see 131ers below).
A 131er was the colloquial name for any public or state employee who reapplied for a job that they had lost following the end of the war in Nazi Germany. The name is a taken from "Gesetz zur Regelung der Rechtsverhältnisse der unter Artikel 131 des Grundgesetzes fallenden Personen" or "Law regulating the legal status of persons covered by Article 131 of the Basic Law". Applicants were mostly civil servants, university professors and judges, but others included officials from defunct administrations as well as professional soldiers, who had served the Third Reich between 1933 and 1945.
In May 11, 1951 the German Bundestag voted to create Article 131. It permitted re-employment for all public servants, employees and workers who had not been classified as Nazis during the denazification process. Civilian officials would be classed "fit for reuse" with Wv., or z. W. suffixes added to their work papers. Professional soldiers could also be reinstated with their ranks in the Bundeswehr. The law stated that all German post-war state administrations were obliged to employ at least 20% of their staff from this group of ex-employees. Retirement benefits were also reinstated. However, dependants or members of the RSHA (Nazi security services) and its associated agencies were explicitly excluded from this law irrespective of their culpabilities within the Third Reich.
- Ernst Klee: Persilscheine und falsche Pässe. Wie die Kirchen den Nazis halfen. Fischer-Taschenbuch-Verlag, Frankfurt am Main 1992, ISBN 3-596-10956-6 (Fischer-Taschenbücher 10956 Geschichte).
- Jan Zweyer: Persilschein. Grafit Verlag, Dortmund 2011, ISBN 978-3-89425-615-9.
- § 53 (5) des Gesetzes zur Regelung der Rechtsverhältnisse der unter Artikel 131 des Grundgesetzes fallenden Personen
- See also: Karsten Jedlitschka: Old boys network. Der "Verband der Nicht-Amtierenden (Amtsverdrängten) Hochschullehrer" und seine Lobbypolitik in Bayern am Beispiel der Universität München. In: Elisabeth Kraus (ed.): Die Universität München im Dritten Reich. Aufsätze. Teil II. Herbert Utz Verlag, Munich, 2008, ISBN 978-3-8316-0726-6, pp. 571–613, specifically p. 580. (, p. 580, at Google Books)
- Persilschein, Jan Zweyer