From Moral Disaster to Moral Entitlement – The Impact of Success in Dealing With a Perpetrator Past on Perceived Ingroup Morality and Claims for Historical Closure


  • Fiona Kazarovytska
  • Moritz Kretzschmar
  • Pia Lamberty
  • Jonas Rees
  • Judith Knausenberger
  • Roland Imhoff


Germany’s past is marked not only by the atrocities of the Holocaust, but also by a history of collective attempts to come to terms with these crimes. The present paper focuses on the previously rarely explored consequences of perceived success in dealing with a perpetrator past for the moral ingroup-image and the demand for an end to the discussion of this chapter of history (i.e., demand for historical closure). In one correlational study (N = 982) and three experimental studies (N = 904), we found robust evidence for a positive association between perceived success in dealing with the Nazi past and perceived ingroup morality. The results on the assumed influence of success on claims for historical closure, mediated by morality, were only partly supportive and inconsistent, particularly when controlling for political orientation and collective narcissism. However, final single-paper meta-analyses revealed a significant association between perceived ingroup morality and demand for historical closure (K = 5), as well as a small but significant effect of success (vs. failure) on demand for historical closure (K = 4), even when accounting for political orientation. Implications for understanding ethical self-views in historical perpetrator groups and recurring debates about a ‘Schlussstrich’ on the German Nazi past are discussed.