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UCSB Hist 133 B, Winter 2007 (homepage)
German History, 1900-1945

Prof. Marcuse (homepage)

Legacies of the WW2 and the Holocaust
(pdf print version-1 page)

I. Germany's "Special Paths" through History (see also this Hist 133c handout)

  1. Ideological-Cultural (long-term--since Luther, ca. 1500):
    • traditions of obedience, militarism, bureaucracy, antisemitism
  2. Political (middle-term--during 1800s): Germany's unification "from above" by elites, instead of "from below" by economic middle class (bourgeoisie) during industrialization
    • Ditty in satirical magazine Punch, 1913, illustrates special path 2:
      Once the land of poets, seekers, sages
      Who enchant us with their deathless pages
      Now the Prussian Junker, blind with fury
      Claims to be God's counsel, judge and jury
  3. Economic (shorter-term--early 20th century): unique circumstances after World War I
  4. Accidental (also ideological-cultural, but very short term): "Driving accident," (in German: Betriebsunfall): German historians after 1945 postulated that Germany actually had especially good traditions (a superior special path) until things just "broke down" for the 12 years under Hitler.

II. Consequences of Special Path models for postwar planning (back to top)

  • Teheran Nov/Dec. 1943; Yalta/Crim Feb. 1945; Potsdam July/Aug. 1945
  1. Ideological-Cultural: unconditional surrender and long occupation (Morgenthau Plan)
  2. Political: need to purge military, civil service bureaucracy, and reform institutions (W. Germany)
  3. Economic: need to purge economic elites and reform economic system (East German model)
  4. Accidental: no need for long occupation, just leave the Germans alone to do it themselves

III. Some Facts and Figures (back to top)

  • Losses: Poland 5.5 mio (17%); Soviet Union 20 mio (11%; 13 mio=civilians)
  • Germany 7 mio (6%: 3.2 military, 3.6 civilian, 2 mio postwar refugees)
  • France 520,000; Britain 390,000; USA 170,000; Canada 40,000; Italy 400,000 (1%)

IV. Legacies I: Of What?(What were the "signature" defining characteristics of Nazi Germany?) (back to top)

  • ghettos: apathy and WILLINGNESS TO TOLERATE injustice
    (example of intolerance, not caused by it!)
  • mass executioners: obedience, peer pressure, role of hateful ideology like antisemitism
  • mechanics, engineers: fascination with technology, inherent possibility for evil use
    Einstein: we are like 3-years-old with a razor=don't know how to use safely
  • extermination camps: What are lessons of corpse factories? People can become bad when put into the right circumstances?
  • bureaucrats, administrators: abuse of power, division of labor, unquestioning fulfillment of tasks, lack of feeling for consequences (“compartmentalization”)

V. Legacies II: For Whom? (back to top)

  • victims: a haunting, never-ending psychological burden
  • perpetrators (trials): depends on the context, what society does (or does not) do
  • bystanders: with an event of this magnitude, even the uninvolved (daughter and father) are affected
  • later generations (us): "business as usual," vs. engagement for "never again"

VI. Question 8, due Tuesday (back to top)

  • Based on Ulrich Herbert's essay in the Life in the Third Reich collection:
    Date and briefly characterize the 3 "narrative turning points" in Ernst Bromberg's life story.
    Which "special path" model would best fit with Bromberg's narrative?

handout prepared for web by H. Marcuse on March 9, 2007, updated: /07
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