Was Nazism Collectivistic? Redefining the Individual in Berlin, 1930–1945

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Was Nazism Collectivistic? Redefining the Individual in Berlin, 1930–1945

Post by Haven » 30 Sep 2015 22:52

Was Nazism Collectivistic? Redefining the Individual in Berlin, 1930–1945
Moritz Föllmer

The Journal of Modern History
Vol. 82, No. 1 (March 2010), pp. 61-100
Published by: The University of Chicago Press
DOI: 10.1086/650507
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/10.1086/650507
Page Count: 40

Was Nazism collectivistic? At first glance, the answer to this question seems obvious. Countless statements by leaders and minor spokesmen of the Nazi movement and regime made it abundantly clear to Germans that they needed to subordinate their personal desires and interests to the Volksgemeinschaft (national community). “In our nation the priority is not on the individual and what benefits him but on the common good, the Volk and Germany. We are responsible to future generations.” This random quote could have figured in many speeches, tracts, or newspaper articles; it is here taken from a letter by the Swabian high school senior Hans B. to his half-sister Freia Eisner, who had emigrated to France. Evoking his personal commitment and sacrifice, Hans added, “These are no phrases! This is the way I feel and think! I have been with the Nazi movement since 1930 and have vouched for it with my blood when I was knocked down by a Communist gang in front of my house.”

On the basis of similar statements, as well as a by now familiar variety of institutions and practices, a number of historians have recently emphasized the collectivistic character of the Third Reich’s ideology and practice. Without defining the term explicitly, they draw on a widespread sense of “collectivism” as an order that requires the subordination of individuals to a collective good, however defined. For instance, Claudia Koonz has argued that Nazism had an ethic of its own. Rather than simply being immoral, it had a specific morality distinguished from liberal morality by “a deeply anti-liberal collectivism,” which was “the hallmark of public culture in the Third Reich.” Another example of the use of “collectivistic” to describe the essence of Nazism stems from a controversy in the 1990s regarding whether one can speak of a modernization of German society in and through Hitler’s dictator-ship. Overcoming this dichotomy, some commentators have conceded that there was a specific “Nazi Modern,” which included a strong validation of personal achievement. However, they have clearly demarcated this Naz Modern from the modernity of liberal democracies by insisting that it was deeply committed to racial collectivism, thus marking a “radical break from the process of individualisation.”

On line copy: https://www.academia.edu/2198576/Was_Na ... _1930-1945

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