Visions of Community in Nazi Germany: Social Engineering and Private Lives
Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub
When the Nazis seized power in Germany in 1933 they promised to create a new, harmonious society under the leadership of the Fuhrer, Adolf Hitler. The concept of Volksgemeinschaft - 'the people's community' - enshrined the Nazis' vision of society'; a society based on racist, social-Darwinist, anti-democratic, and nationalist thought. The regime used Volksgemeinschaft to define who belonged to the National Socialist 'community' and who did not. Being accorded the status of belonging granted citizenship rights, access to the benefits of the welfare state, and opportunities for advancement, while these who were denied the privilege of belonging lost their right to live. They were shamed, excluded, imprisoned, murdered.
Volksgemeinschaft was the Nazis' project of social engineering, realized by state action, by administrative procedure, by party practice, by propaganda, and by individual initiative. Everyone deemed worthy of belonging was called to participate in its realization. Indeed, this collective notion was directed at the individual, and unleashed an enormous dynamism, which gave social change a particular direction. The Volksgemeinschaft concept was not strictly defined, which meant that it was rather marked by a plurality of meaning and emphasis which resulted in a range of readings in the Third Reich, drawing in people from many social and political backgrounds.
Visions of Community in Nazi Germany scrutinizes Volksgemeinschaft as the Nazis' central vision of community. The contributors engage with individual appropriations, examine projects of social engineering, analyze the social dynamism unleashed, and show how deeply private lives were affected by this murderous vision of society.
Industriearbeit im Dritten Reich: Untersuchungen zu den Lohn- und Arbeitsbedingungen in Deutschland 1933–1945 (Göttingen, 1989). 160 Consumption under National Socialism economic policy, war preparations took priority. ‘Improvements’ in social policy lagged far behind the cost of living, and the standard of living is likely to have dropped after 1933. The population saw what was happening and complained about these setbacks. However, sufficient measures were taken to prevent the kinds of
invariably difficult, subject to more than one interpretation, and often prompting debate that casts more heat than light. ‘Totalitarianism’ is one such term that comes to mind, a concept of loaded value rather than clean analytical content. That does not mean that it is devoid of value. But that value is limited. The same could be said of the term Volksgemeinschaft. The emphasis upon the concept—if, indeed, it can be regarded as a genuine concept—in recent research on the society of the Third
Lower, Nazi Empire-Building and the Holocaust in the Ukraine (Chapel Hill, 2005); Martin Dean, Collaboration in the Holocaust: Crimes of Local Police in Belorussia and Ukraine, 1941–44 (Basingstoke, 2001); Mark Mazower, Hitler’s Empire: Nazi Rule in Occupied Europe (London, 2008). 54 Richard Evans, The Third Reich in Power: 1933–39 (London, 2005), 108–9. 55 Armin Nolzen, ‘Inklusion und Exklusion im Dritten Reich: Das Beispiel NSDAP’, in Bajohr and Wildt (eds), Volksgemeinschaft, 60–77.
the quantitative relationships between the relief agencies. The staffing levels and facilities in residential (geschlossen), walk-in (offen), and semi-residential (halboffen) relief programmes provided by Caritas and the Inner Mission remained virtually identical between 1928 and 1941–2. In contrast, the NSV’s full-time staff exploded from 5,706 in 1934 to 122,280 in 1941, a figure which corresponded to almost the entire volunteer staff of Caritas. The number of NSV volunteers increased from
Deutschland im 19. und 20. Jahrhundert (Tübingen, 2002) for full discussions of Nazi name law and practice. 37 e.g., a 1941 case in which the transliteration produced the vulgar German name ‘Schindelarsch’ (LAB A Rep. 001-02, No. 2967), pp. 281ff. (MF B3384). 38 See Dietz Bering, The Stigma of Names: Antisemitism in German Daily Life 1812–1933 (Ann Arbor, 1992) and Wagner-Kern, Staat und Namensänderung. 39 2. Verordnung zur Durchführung des Gesetzes über die Änderung von Familiennamen