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    T. Rohkrämer, Die fatale Attraktion des Nationalsozialismus (Riccardo Bavaj)

    Francia-Recensio 2017/1 19.‒21. Jahrhundert ‒ Époque contemporaine

    Thomas Rohkrämer, Die fatale Attraktion des Nationalsozialismus. Über die Popularität eines Unrechtsregimes, Paderborn, München, Wien, Zürich (Ferdinand Schöningh) 2013, 402 S., ISBN 978-3-506-77676-1, EUR 29,90.

    rezensiert von/compte rendu rédigé par

    Riccardo Bavaj, St. Andrews

    It has long been common place, but is now more apposite than ever, that hardly anyone concerned with the history of Nazism is able to keep up with the literature. Attempts to combine the findings of some of the many studies published in recent years are thus particularly welcome. Thomas Rohkrämer’s book is a work of synthesis, not on one but on two levels: It aptly draws from secondary literature, but it also provides a kaleidoscope of views and opinions gleaned from a range of ego-documents, such as diaries, letters, and memoirs, mostly from prominent figures (e. g. Victor Klemperer, Günter Grass, Thomas Mann, Sebastian Haffner, Melita Maschmann, and Lore Walb). He also taps rich collections of primary source material, such as the Sopade reports, oral history interviews (e. g. by Alison Owings, and by Eric A. Johnson and Karl-Heinz Reuband), and the autobiographical essays by Nazi Party members collated in 1934 by Theodore Abel (source-critical concerns about this collection notwithstanding). The use of ego-documents makes the book accessible and conveys a sense of how the Third Reich, from very different perspectives, was perceived and experienced, and how it has been remembered.

    The topic of the book is the popular appeal of National Socialism and the Third Reich. While other historians emphasize the fact that Nazi Germany was built on terror, or that many Germans benefited materially from the Nazi regime, Rohkrämer highlights the »fatal attraction« that Nazism exerted on »ordinary Germans«. As in his previous book that explored intellectual continuities in the German Right from the early nineteenth century to the end of the Third Reich, he makes a case for the importance of a »single communal faith«that many Germans had been longing for, and that in 1933 quite a few of them thought they had found. Rohkrämer does not suggest that Nazism offered a strictly defined ideological dogma. Nor does he follow those who see Nazism as a political religion filling a void that had been created by secularization and the »disenchantment of the world«. Rather, he uses the term »realm of beliefs«(Glaubensraum) – borrowed from Ernst Bloch – in order to express the vague, dynamic and multifaceted nature of Nazi ideology, which was both grounded in political Romanticism and able to accommodate various visions of the future. The common theme reverberating through this »realm of beliefs« was the goal of creating an ethnically pure, homogenous community, and the promise of »restoring«a sense of belonging to Volkand Heimat. This theme was made tangible through a plethora of symbols and rituals – a new political »style«that Walter Benjamin famously described as the »aestheticization of politics«.

    More than other historians, Rohkrämer emphasizes the popular appeal of militarism and war. The belief that Germany had to wage war in order to »defend«her interests was more wide-spread, and the difference in popular opinion between 1914 and 1939 less pronounced, »than often assumed«. Quite frequently, war and violence were considered an essential prerequisite of a better tomorrow. The dream of social harmony within the confines of the Volksgemeinschaftrequired the »removal«of both »internal«and »external enemies«: those considered to be outside the realm of moral obligation, and supposedly threatening Germany’s existence and the realization of a glorious future. Atrocities were often justified, moreover, with the stock phrase »war is war« (»Krieg ist eben Krieg«). Even in the final years, with the popularity of the Nazi regime dwindling and growing signs of social disintegration, many Germans still did not question Nazi ideology but instead criticized deficiencies in its implementation (as later opinion polls would show, this was an attitude that prevailed even after 1945). As we know from Sven Keller’s study of »endgame crimes« »Volksgemeinschaft am Ende«1, which came out at the same time as Rohkrämer’s book – the idea of the Volksgemeinschaftdid not simply disappear into the fault lines of a »collapsing society«; its influence could still be felt. Even in the final months of the war, the »people’s community« could still function as a guiding principle in the midst of chaos, and the recommended method for overcoming chaos was violence – from the very beginning an integral aspect of the Nazi drive to remake the nation.

    Thomas Rohkrämer’s wide-ranging book illuminates a key facet of Nazism’s popular appeal, from its electoral to its military victories, and beyond. It gives insight into hopes and promises of national rebirth, the sense of being part not just of something bigger but of a great »historic mission«, and a militaristic mindset that was harnessed and nurtured in the Third Reich. A more systematic analysis of particular groups, milieus, and spaces might have yielded more specific results, also with respect to the place of the individual in a racist project of national renewal. Nonetheless, this well-informed and engaging synthesis is a welcome addition to the literature on one of the central questions in the history of National Socialism.

    1 Sven Keller, Volksgemeinschaft am Ende: Gesellschaft und Gewalt 1944/45, Berlin, Munich 2013 (Quellen und Darstellungen zur Zeitgeschichte, Band 97).

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    PSJ Metadata
    Riccardo Bavaj
    Die fatale Attraktion des Nationalsozialismus
    Über die Popularität eines Unrechtsregimes
    CC-BY-NC-ND 4.0
    Zeitgeschichte (1918-1945)
    Deutschland / Mitteleuropa allgemein
    1930 - 1939, 1940 - 1949
    Nationalsozialismus (4041316-0), Volksgemeinschaft (4273270-0)
    PDF document rohkraemer_bavaj.doc.pdf — PDF document, 339 KB
    T. Rohkrämer, Die fatale Attraktion des Nationalsozialismus (Riccardo Bavaj)
    In: Francia-Recensio 2017/1 | 19.-21. Jahrhundert - Époque contemporaine | ISSN: 2425-3510
    URL: https://prae.perspectivia.net/publikationen/francia/francia-recensio/2017-1/zg/rohkraemer_bavaj
    Veröffentlicht am: 16.03.2017 12:25
    Zugriff vom: 28.09.2020 11:42
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