Germans into Nazis

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9780674350922: Germans into Nazis

Why did ordinary Germans vote for Hitler? In this dramatically plotted book, organized around crucial turning points in 1914, 1918, and 1933, Peter Fritzsche explains why the Nazis were so popular and what was behind the political choice made by the German people.

Rejecting the view that Germans voted for the Nazis simply because they hated the Jews, or had been humiliated in World War I, or had been ruined by the Great Depression, Fritzsche makes the controversial argument that Nazism was part of a larger process of democratization and political invigoration that began with the outbreak of World War I.

The twenty-year period beginning in 1914 was characterized by the steady advance of a broad populist revolution that was animated by war, drew strength from the Revolution of 1918, menaced the Weimar Republic, and finally culminated in the rise of the Nazis. Better than anyone else, the Nazis twisted together ideas from the political Left and Right, crossing nationalism with social reform, anti-Semitism with democracy, fear of the future with hope for a new beginning. This radical rebelliousness destroyed old authoritarian structures as much as it attacked liberal principles.

The outcome of this dramatic social revolution was a surprisingly popular regime that drew on public support to realize its horrible racial goals. Within a generation, Germans had grown increasingly self-reliant and sovereign, while intensely nationalistic and chauvinistic. They had recast the nation, but put it on the road to war and genocide.

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Review:

One of the four key archival photographs in this history of the rise of the Nazi state shows a young, disheveled Hitler among the throng of "patriotic Germans gathered on Munich's Odeonsplatz to hear the declaration of war read aloud from the steps of the Feldherrnhalle on 2 August 1914." Fritzsche analyzes the exact significance of this moment to Hitler and the German population. To de-emphasize, in this manner, the Nazis' rise from the rubble of economic despair and hardship and to posit their birth in this popular movement represents a shift in the more conventional historic point of view that dates Nazism at the end of World War I (1918). In the moment captured by this photograph, the German Volk was in the process of being born.

The Volk becomes a crucial entity as Fritzsche scrutinizes the evolution of Germans into Nazis. The Nazis rose to power "because [they] spoke so well to [the peoples'] interests and inclinations. Given the illiberal aims and violent means of the Nazis, this popular support is a sobering, dreadful thing." The Nazi revolution offered a complex and vicious intertwining of the Left and Right that amounted to a reckless rebelliousness and the crossing of nationalism with social reform, anti-Semitism with democracy, and paranoia with nationalistic zeal for a new beginning. Their rise spanned a remarkably short period--from 1914 to 1933. Each of the four chapters opens with an archival photograph that represents a key point in the evolution of this dreadful rise.

The pivotal November 1918 event, for example, was the call by the Volk for the abdication of the Kaiser, exemplified by the unprecedented demonstration of socialist workers in the government quarters. It would take just a few hours for the old order to crumble and Germany to declare itself a socialist republic. Leap ahead to January 1933. Hitler had just been made chancellor of Germany. Here is a description of the swelling crowds and celebratory atmosphere: "Nearly one million Berliners took part in this extraordinary demonstration of allegiance to a party that promised to do away with both the sentimental bric-a-brac of the prewar past and the clutter of Weimar democracy and to establish a strong-willed and strong-armed racial state...." In the meantime, Communists, Socialists, and Jews were being severely beaten. Fritzsche cites the dramatic overpowering of German towns and the harrowing popularity of Nazi brutality as he sheds light on Hitler's immense popularity. Fervent nationalism and an overarching anti-Semitism weigh in heavily. This is a history that seeks not to exonerate but to tell the cautionary tale. --Hollis Giammatteo

From the Back Cover:

Peter Fritzsche, in his Germans into Nazis, makes a...crucial point about public opinion in the 1930s and 1940s. He recalls-and this is something that foreigners living in Germany have always understood more readily than academics-that the popular appeal of Hitler's movement lay much more in the hope and optimism it generated than in its various invitations to hate and to fear.-Neal Ascherson, Los Angeles Times Book Review

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Book Description Harvard University Press. Paperback. Book Condition: new. BRAND NEW, Germans into Nazis, Peter Fritzsche, This work organized around turning points in 1914, 1918 and 1933 explains why the Nazis were so popular and what was behind the political choice made by the German people. Rejecting the ideas that the Germans voted for Hitler because of their hatred for the Jews or humiliation of losing World War I, or had been ruined by the Great Depression, the author argues that Nazism was part of a larger process of democratization and political invigoration that began with the outbreak of war in 1914. The 20-year period following was characterized by the steady advance of a broad populist revolution that was animated by war, drew strength from the Revolution in 1918, menaced the Weimar Republic, and finally culminated in the Nazis. They twisted together the ideas of both Left and Right, crossing nationalism with social reform, anti-Semitism with democracy and fear of the future with the hope of a new beginning. This radical rebelliousness destroyed old authoritarian structures as much as it attacked liberal principles. Bookseller Inventory # B9780674350922

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