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Germany and the Fall of Western Civilization. 1919-1945. Hanna Arendt, Eichmann in Jerusalem 1963 The “Banality of Evil” . I. The Politics of the Irrational & the Racial State.

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Hanna Arendt, Eichmann in Jerusalem 1963

The “Banality of Evil”

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I. The Politics of the Irrational& the Racial State

Humanity seems to have run like boys let out of schoolaway from the humanitarian, idealistic nineteenth century,from whose morality – if we can speak at all of morality inthis connection – represents a wide and wild reaction.Thomas Mann 1875-1955

- “An Appeal to Reason” 1931

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A. What Is Fascism?

Fascio“witch’s brew” of ideologies- response to humiliation

- concern w/ decadence / cultural conservatism

- failure of democracy / capitalism / Enlightenment- intense nationalism / xenophobia / Volkish history

- racism / Social Darwinism- suppression of class conflict- scapegoating; internal “threats” (November Criminals)

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B. The New Rome

  • Benito Mussolini 1922-43

  • Cult of Personality “Il Duce”

    I know your anger, I know your dreams.I’ve been everything you want to be.

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3. Attack on “bourgeois” values- individualism- liberalism

4. Squadristi “black shirts”

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5. Militarism- Ethiopia ’35- Albania ’39


6. Pact of Steel, 1939

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Triumph of the Will

Leni Riefenstahl- 1934 Nuremberg rally- how did the Nazis seduce Germany?

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A. Limited Recovery, 1924-26

  • Dawes Plan 1924

  • Treaties of Locarno 1925- end of occupation- entrance to League of Nations

  • Von Hindenburg becomes


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B. Collapse

  • Weak “civil society”- Revolution 1918-1919- Freikorps- Kapp Putsch 1920- Beer Hall Putsch 1923

    2. Great Depression

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Legacy the Weimar Republic

  • Experiment in democracy that failed

    - economic failure / anger over WWI left

    many Germans distrustful of liberal govt.

    2. Dissatisfaction with democracy left the door

    open for radicals

    3. Hitler took over a system that was already


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C. The Rise to Power

1. Election of 1932- Hitler appointed Chancellor, Jan. 1933

2. Enabling Act, March 1933

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A. Nazi support

- farmers , small business men, civil servants

- “Hitler Youth”

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3. alliance w/ military, industry- rearmament, Rhineland 1936- autarky

4. Paramilitary thugs- SA, “stormtroopers”- SS Schutzstaffel Krupp Iron Works

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B. Propaganda and Culture

"The chief function of propaganda is to convince the masses, whose slowness of understanding needs to be given time in order that they may absorb information; and only constant repetition will finally succeed in imprinting an idea on their mind.“

- Mein Kampf

Joseph Goebbels

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  • Family and the state- Lebensborn “spring of life”

  • Racial Hygiene- public health / heredity- “mainstream”- sterilization

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3. Euthanasia- Reich Committee for the Scientific Registration of Serious Hereditarily and Congenitally-based Illnesses (1938)Bishop of Münster

“banality of evil”- Hannah Arendt, Eichmann in Jerusalem

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4. “Asocials”- Sinti and Roma - addicts/criminals - homosexuals

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III. The Holocaust

Genocide - Any act committed with the idea of

destroying in whole or in part a national, ethnic,

racial or religious group

- killing or causing physical/mental harm

- inflicting conditions that would harm a group - forcefully transferring children

- United Nations, 1948

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Century of genocide

1915 – 1.5 M Armenians

30’s-40s – Hitler, 12 M ? Stalin, 15-20 M ?

Tojo, 5 M

50s-60s – Mao, 50 M ?

1970s – Pol Pot, 1.7 M

1990s – Rwanda, 1+ M ?

Bosnia and Herzegovina

- “ethnic cleansing”

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A. “Racial” enemies

1. Culture creators (Aryans)

Culture bearers (Japanese)

Culture destroyers (Jews)

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2. Racist ideology not unique to Nazis- the scale of murder was

3. Alienation as a precondition- segregation / concentration camps

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B. Pre-war assault

1. Romanticism / nationalism

2. Nuremberg Laws - 1935

- Protection of German Blood and German Honor

- Reich Citizenship Law

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3. Kristallnacht - 1938

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IV. The Final Solution

Auschwitz, 1991

Auschwitz Ovens

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A. 1941 – USSR

1. Einsatzgruppe

September, Babi Yar

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B. Wannsee Conference

  • “Final Solution”November 1942

    Reinhard Heydrich

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C. Resistance

1. Warsaw Ghetto Uprising January 1943

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2. Non-Jewish Resistance

- Dietrich Bonhoeffer 1906-1945- “cheap” vs. “costly” grace

Confessing Church

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3. Reality

“The Road to the Holocaust was built by hate but

paved with indifference.” - Ian Kershaw

Allied complicity?

Voyage of the Damned

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V. Legacy

A. Nuremberg Trials - 1945-491. Morgenthau Plan2. UN guidelines, 1948

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B. Cold War

  • Versailles Diktat

    2. New enemy

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C. Jewish Homeland

1. Zionism

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D. Implications for the West

1. Racist ideology not unique to Nazis - the scale of murder was

2. Alienation as a precondition

3. Western guilt?- Internationalism / Idealism