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Belonging and Genocide

Belonging and Genocide: Hitler's Community, 1918-1945

Copyright Date: 2010
Published by: Yale University Press
Pages: 224
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  • Book Info
    Belonging and Genocide
    Book Description:

    No one has ever posed a satisfactory explanation for the extreme inhumanity of the Holocaust. What enabled millions of Germans to perpetrate or condone the murder of the Jews? In this illuminating book, Thomas Kühne offers a provocative answer. In addition to the hatred of Jews or coercion that created a genocidal society, he contends, the desire for a united "people's community" made Germans conform and join together in mass crime.

    Exploring private letters, diaries, memoirs, secret reports, trial records, and other documents, the author shows how the Nazis used such common human needs as community, belonging, and solidarity to forge a nation conducting the worst crime in history.

    eISBN: 978-0-300-16857-0
    Subjects: History, Psychology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
    (pp. 1-8)

    Genocide is the destruction of a “national, ethnical, racial or religious group,” as the United Nations declared in 1948, or, as scholars argue more recently, of any politically, socially, or culturally defined group.¹ Conceptualized as an essay on why and how the Germans committed genocide against Europe’s Jews, this book draws attention to the contrary—the constitutive rather than the destructive side of mass murder. Perpetrators and bystanders energized social life and built collective identity through committing genocide. The desire for community, the experience of belonging, and the ethos of collectivity became the basis of mass murder. Perpetrating and supporting...

  4. ONE Craving Community World War I and the Myth of Comradeship
    (pp. 9-31)

    Erich Maria Remarque’s 1929 novelAll Quiet on the Western Front, a cry for pacificism published a decade after the devastation of Europe during World War I, was undoubtedly the most popular and the most controversial piece of war memory to come out of modern Germany. Following a petition of the Nazi Party, the Prussian state went so far as to censor the movie version produced in 1930 in America.¹ All this attention was not just about a book or a movie. Nor was it just about the past. It was about the future of Germany, its military future in...

  5. TWO Fabricating the Male Bond The Racial Nation as a Training Camp
    (pp. 32-54)

    In early 1939, trying to adjust to his London exile, Sebastian Haffner was disgusted when he thought of Germany. He had recently left his home country with his Jewish fiancée. As an Aryan whose closest friends in Germany had been Jews, he was appalled by the Nazis’ brutal harassment of and violence against the Jews. Even more frightening to him was how rapidly the Nazis had awakened the “readiness to kill” among his compatriots. According to his assessment, the “whole nation, Germany,” was infected “with a germ that causes its people to treat their victims” as if they were "wolves."...

  6. THREE Performing Genocidal Ethics Togetherness in Himmler’s Elite
    (pp. 55-94)

    After having committed mass murder throughout southern Russia in summer and fall 1941, Police Reserve Battalion 9 was allowed a rest in Poland. At a fellowship evening of the Fourth Company in early January 1942, the men traded war stories. Police officer Karl Schiewek amused his comrades with an original poem titled “The More or Less Funny KdF Trip to the Southeast” (Nazi Germany’s official tourist and leisure agency,Kraft durch Freude[Strength Through Joy], was abbreviated KdF). In thirty stanzas, the poem conjured Operation Barbarossa and the adventures of Schiewek unit as a KdF excursion. The parallelism was part...

  7. FOUR Spreading Complicity Pleasure and Qualms in the Cynical Army
    (pp. 95-136)

    In late June 1941 three million German soldiers invaded the Soviet Union on a front of almost one thousand miles and chalked up incredible gains. Within four weeks they destroyed thousands of Soviet tanks and aircraft and took more than five hundred thousand Soviet prisoners. By the end of July the Wehrmacht was poised to take Kiev, Leningrad, and Moscow. The grand vision ofLebensraumfor the German Volksgemeinschaft seemed imminent. By 3 July, Franz Halder, chief of theOberkommando des Heeres(General Staff of the Army, or OKH), declared, “The Russian campaign has been won in the space of...

  8. FIVE Watching Terror Women in the Community of Crime
    (pp. 137-161)

    Although dedicated to the SS ideal of toughness, Felix Landau felt gloomy when reporting to an Einsatzkommando in the District of Radom in the Polish General Gouvernement in summer 1941 . It was not the murder of the Jews that troubled him but rather his concubine, Gertrude. Having left his wife and two children in Vienna, Landau had begun an affair with Trude, a shorthand typist with the Gestapo, in Radom in August 1940 but broke it off when he realized that she was still seeing her fiancé. In June 1941 he transferred to Drohobycz, near Lvov, where the Einsatzkommando...

    (pp. 162-172)

    After capitulating to the Allies in May 1945, the Germans were taught lessons on the meaning of shame and guilt. The occupiers exposed Germans to what they—as a nation—had done. Most Germans had at least some vague idea, but now they could no longer evade knowing the complete truth. Horrifying photos, taken by American soldiers when they liberated concentration camps like those in Dachau or Buchenwald, showing masses of dead, naked, and emaciated bodies, were displayed on posters on public walls, columns, and offices, and in the newspapers, and they were unambiguous. “These Atrocities: Your Guilt!” read one...

    (pp. 173-176)
  11. NOTES
    (pp. 177-210)
  12. INDEX
    (pp. 211-216)