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The Nazi Impact on a German Village

The Nazi Impact on a German Village

Walter Rinderle
Bernard Norling
Copyright Date: 1993
Edition: 1
Pages: 296
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  • Book Info
    The Nazi Impact on a German Village
    Book Description:

    Many scholars have tried to assess Adolf Hitler's influence on the German people, usually focusing on university towns and industrial communities, most of them predominately Protestant or religiously mixed. This work by Walter Rinderle and Bernard Norling, however, deals with the impact of the Nazis on Oberschopfheim, a small, rural, overwhelmingly Catholic village in Baden-Wuerttemberg in southwestern Germany.

    This incisively written book raises fundamental questions about the nature of the Third Reich. The authors portray the Nazi regime as considerably less "totalitarian" than is commonly assumed, hardly an exemplar of the efficiency for which Germany is known, and neither revered nor condemned by most of its inhabitants. The authors suggest that Oberschopfheim merely accepted Nazi rule with the same resignation with which so many ordinary people have regarded their governments throughout history.

    Based on village and county records and on the direct testimony of Oberschopfheimers, this book will interest anyone concerned with contemporary Germany as a growing economic power and will appeal to the descendants of German immigrants to the United States because of its depiction of several generations of life in a German village.

    eISBN: 978-0-8131-4888-5
    Subjects: History, Political Science

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
    (pp. vii-viii)
    (pp. 1-6)

    THIS STUDY CENTERS on Oberschopfheim, a village in southwestern Germany. In it we seek to indicate some quite different yet interrelated things. First and foremost, we strive to assess the impact of the Nazi era (1933-1945) on the village and its people, as similar studies have attempted to do for other German communities. Because the people of Oberschopfheim remained relatively unmoved by the blandishments of the Nazis, we devote much attention to the causes of their relative indifference; to the structure of their village and to their traits, habits, attitudes, and expectations; to the ballast that kept their community on...

    (pp. 7-22)

    BEFORE THE UNIFICATION of Germany in 1871 Baden was an independent grand duchy in southwest Germany. Its name derives from the many sulfur-bearing hot springs that exist in the area and from the fertile plowlands thereabout. Baden province is shaped somewhat like a human leg wearing a fifteenth-century Burgundian shoe. It is bounded on the west and south by the Rhine river and on the north by the Main. Eastward it extends irregularly into the Black Forest, to Hesse and Wuerttemberg. Baden is 138 miles from north to south, about sixty miles from east to west at its southern extremity,...

    (pp. 23-43)

    FROM A LOW of about 150 during the worst stages of the Thirty Years War, the population of Oberschopfheim rose sporadically to around 950 by the end of the Napoleonic wars and to 1,324 in 1854.¹ Growth would have been faster had not scores of citizens, mainly young men, left because of insufficient farmland and overcrowded trades. Thus Oberschopfheim numbered more women than men and more people less than twenty-one years old and over fifty-five years old than the German national average. Still, unlike many villages all over the Western world, its population continued to increase. In 1939 36 percent...

    (pp. 44-57)

    THOUGH GERMAN NATIONALISM seemed especially menacing to foreigners from 1864 to 1945, regionalism and particularism have been as evident in Germany as in other major countries. Germans from small towns and villages, like their counterparts elsewhere, have usually thought of their communities as “natural societies” and the state as a distant and artificial structure. In domestic matters ordinary Germans at all times have been governed more by state, county, and local officials than by national dignitaries in Berlin.¹ These local functionaries have generally considered their most important concerns to be keeping taxes down and defending village interests against all threats...

    (pp. 58-70)

    IN 1914 the last European war that had gone on for years had been the series of protracted conflicts of the French revolutionary and Napoleonic era, 1792-1815. Newspaper pictures and film clips from the great cities of all the major European powers in late July and early August 1914 show cheering, flag-waving crowds of civilians surrounding masses of smiling soldiers marching off to war. A mixture of expansive patriotism, thirst for adventure, and relief from the monotony of ordinary existence had produced an atmosphere reminiscent of that at the proclamation of the First Crusade in 1095.

    This mass emotional debauch,...

    (pp. 71-87)

    FOR THOSE PEOPLE in the Western world who were personally maimed in one of the wars of the twentieth century and for those who lost a father, husband, brother, or son in one of those conflicts, the war in question has ordinarily been the most vivid public event in their memories. For anyone else born before 1925 such has not usually been the case. For them, eclipsing all the wars has been the memory of the Great Depression of the early 1930s. For many, perhaps most, of the farmers in Germany the Great Depression seemed to portend inexorable ruin. Demand...

    (pp. 88-105)

    THE MALAISE of German agriculture in the 1920s and the consequent sense of desperation that gripped German farmers constituted a situation made-to-order for the Nazis. They were slow to grasp their opportunity for several reasons. One was that agriculture was of only peripheral interest to the “artist,” Adolf Hitler. More fundamentally, Hitler was determined to build a mass movement that would stand above all mere parties and special interest groups, that would draw its support from many disparate and antagonistic groups in society, and that would represent the whole German nation and people. Moreover, in the years 1924-1928 Hitler was...

    (pp. 106-137)

    ONE OF Adolf Hitler’s favorite ploys was to take others by surprise. Many of his successes, both at home and abroad, owed much to shrewd employment of this tactic. In an action that would become all too typical, after his unexpected appointment as chancellor on 30 January 1933, the Nazis immediately refused to work with other parties in theReichstag.Everyone was shocked.

    In Lahr county theAnzeigerreceived the news with apprehension and changed its editorial policy. It stopped all anti-Nazi articles for fear of losing official advertisements and intensified its attacks on the Social Democrats, primarily because the...

    (pp. 138-153)

    ALTHOUGH NAZI political activities interfered sporadically with village liberties, Oberschopfheimers were much more concerned with economic problems. The village had reached an apex of prosperity in 1914, had suffered conventional “hard times” from 1917 to 1929, and then had been scourged by widespread unemployment, low farm prices, and bad weather until 1933.

    Before the election of March 1933, Hitler campaigned on the promise of immediate solutions to the nation’s economic ills. His actual program, insofar as anyone could fathom it, consisted mostly of slogans like “Common Good Before Private Gain” and the injunction to have faith in Der Fuehrer. Marxists...

  13. [Illustrations]
    (pp. None)
    (pp. 154-164)

    AFTER THE MARCH 1933 elections the NSDAP claimed to have instituted radical social changes throughout Germany. The Party boasted that it had brought social equality and mobility to all Germans, molded theVolkinto a harmoniousGemeinschaft(community), won the primary loyalty of the masses, and saved the family from disintegration. Like most Nazi claims, indeed like the claims of most political regimes anywhere, these were a mixture of truth and puffery.

    In a sense the NSDAP tried toimposeequality on the whole nation by attempting to encompass its entire social life, by establishing Party organizations of all sorts of...

    (pp. 165-189)

    THE CITIZENS of Oberschopfheim greeted the onset of the Second World War with the same resignation displayed by their ancestors in World War I and numberless other conflicts in bygone ages. Three hundred fourteen men from the village were drafted into the German army and dutifully tramped off to war. By 1945 they had been joined by about eighty-five others in some kind of national service. Many of the latter were teenagers called up in the last months of the war.

    All of them were regular troops. As in World War I, not one became an officer or a war...

    (pp. 190-204)

    WHEN ADAM AND EVE were trudging out of the Garden of Eden, Adam allegedly turned to his erring mate and remarked, “We live in changing times.” Rudolf Gissler, mayor of Oberschopfheim in the early 1970s, put it a bit differently. In his village, he said, more changes had taken place in his own lifetime than in the preceding thousand years.¹ He did not exaggerate. It was not merely that changes in the physical appearance of Oberschopfheim and in the manner of life of its people had been legion, it was also that therateof such changes had accelerated steadily...

    (pp. 205-224)

    THE “ECONOMIC MIRACLE’ transformed everyday life for the people of Oberschopfheim, as indeed it did for most people everywhere in Germany. The vast improvement in village housing, for instance, had many desirable side effects apart from the mere pleasure most people derive from residing in attractive and convenient quarters. One tangible change was the installation of central heating between 1965 and 1973, even though the global oil crisis and the subsequent upsurge of oil prices in the latter year caused some people to return to their traditional wood stoves. Even when central heating was retained, as it was by most...

    (pp. 225-228)

    FEW HURRICANES ever raged so fiercely over the world’s political landscape as did Nazism from 1933 to 1945. Yet when it had been blown out by World War II neither the innate attitudes nor the personal conduct of most Oberschopfheimers had been affected much. Overall, their insularity had stood them in good stead. But what of the future? It is an article of faith in democratic countries that an informed and vigilant citizenry whose members feel personal responsibility for the conduct of their government is essential if democracy is to endure. Would the self-centered localism displayed by most Oberschopfheimers during...

  19. NOTES
    (pp. 229-259)
    (pp. 260-272)
  21. INDEX
    (pp. 273-276)