[Marxism] Fwd: H-Net Review [H-German]: Stoltzfus on Pine, 'Life and Times in Nazi Germany'

Andrew Stewart hasc.warrior.stew at gmail.com
Fri Oct 19 09:20:37 MDT 2018

Best regards,
Andrew Stewart 

Begin forwarded message:

> From: H-Net Staff <revhelp at mail.h-net.msu.edu>
> Date: October 19, 2018 at 11:14:41 AM EDT
> Subject: H-Net Review [H-German]:  Stoltzfus on Pine, 'Life and Times in Nazi Germany'
> Reply-To: H-Net Staff <revhelp at mail.h-net.msu.edu>
> Lisa Pine, ed.  Life and Times in Nazi Germany.  New York, NY
> Bloomsbury Publishing, 2016.  328 pp.  $35.95 (paper), ISBN
> 978-1-4742-1792-7.
> Reviewed by Nathan Stoltzfus (Florida State University)
> Published on H-German (October, 2018)
> Commissioned by David Harrisville
> Stoltzfus on Life and Times in Nazi Germany
> Lisa Pine, one of the most productive historians of everyday life in
> Nazi Germany, has published another marker in the historiography of
> ordinary Germans. Detractors have charged this alternative approach
> to "big man" and structuralist interpretations with undue celebration
> of "the man on the street." This collection of ten essays, rich with
> research and observations, helps demonstrate that history from below
> does not have to ignore other approaches. Especially when it relates
> the everyday to political decision-making, it adds dimensions and not
> just texture. Thus, it is especially well suited to the urgent task,
> in what might be a new populist era, of confronting ordinary persons
> with the question of how they contribute to the development and
> sustenance of autocracy, fascist or otherwise.
> _Life and Times in Nazi Germany_ asks how ordinary persons perceived
> and acted during such an extraordinary time as the Nazi period,
> raising questions about whether they considered their time to be
> extraordinary, and if so, when and why. While Hitler and his allies
> did not succeed in constructing a _Volksgemeinschaft_ according to
> their ideal, the degree to which they did gain and maintain support
> from the population as long as they were providing incentives for the
> majority--and at a horrendous price to others--casts a probing light
> on the learned habits of our species and its trajectories. Pine's
> introduction rightly emphasizes the pressures of social conformity
> and the terror of nonconformity when considering whether most Germans
> freely chose Nazism or were compelled by terror to accept it. Many
> must have found themselves somewhere in between, given the familiar
> urge to make life easier and more rewarding along with the simple
> lack of experience with resistance or even nonconformity. Resistance
> is also tremendously difficult given our propensity to rationalize in
> ways that comfort and align self-interest with the mainstream, as
> Victor Klemperer's diary points out. By the late 1930s almost all
> Germans could find something to support about the Nazi dictatorship
> so that, as Pine writes, dissent, complicity, and outright support
> often coexisted. Not surprisingly, considering the general human
> condition, Germans "were not equal to the situation," as Sebastian
> Haffner observed. Drawing on familiar habits, they tried "to ignore
> the situation and not allow it to disturb our fun ... to think about
> unpleasant things as little as possible."[1]
> The book consists of three parts: "Food and Health," "Lifestyle," and
> "Religion." Nancy Reagin, who has written on women's political
> organizations before 1933, offers real insights into the everyday
> life of "ordinary" Germans, in contrast to a few chapters that focus
> more on elites. She explores the dictatorship's efforts to convince
> Germans to embrace Nazism, using new food-processing and -storage
> technologies along with enticement, lack of choice, and exhortation,
> reaching the conclusion that Nazi efforts to reshape consumption and
> dietary habits "were largely successful" (p. 40). Although it
> considered women incapable of conducting politics, the dictatorship
> encouraged women to feel empowered by touting their efforts as
> critical to Germany's mission in the big, history-making world of
> men, war, and conquest ("cooking spoons" became "weapons" during the
> war). Reagin identifies the key role that looting from foreign
> territories played in propping up the German food economy and the
> paltry rations for Jewish Germans, although she did not find time or
> space to deal with sources on the privations suffered by foreign
> forced laborers. Looking back from the 1950s, most Germans remembered
> the Nazi prewar years as a "good" period, because they themselves had
> jobs and their own tables were sufficiently set. Pointing out that
> alcoholics were sterilized while drug addicts were rehabilitated,
> Jonathan Lewy's contribution, "Vice and the Third Reich," argues that
> the Nazi approach to addiction (with the exception of alcoholism) was
> remarkably liberal, treating it as a disease (although ending
> addiction was promoted as a measure to stem antisocial behavior). He
> mentions but does not develop the special concern the regime had in
> cautioning women not to smoke. Geoffrey Cocks's study of illness in
> Nazi Germany does consider the gendered nature of Nazi policies,
> which included a focus on promoting women's health to increase the
> population. The _Volksgemeinschaft_ was a Nazi ideal and the
> leadership made decisions in light of its goal of persuading Germans
> to join in constructing it.
> Irene Guenther opens the book's second section with a chapter on the
> fraught Nazi relationship to women's fashion. She shows not only the
> political significance of women for Nazism, but also the limitations
> the regime recognized on its capacity to get its way within the Reich
> by sheer brute force. Characteristically, as well, it was the Führer
> who, in contrast to the cumulative radicalization that he permitted
> in the persecution of the Jews, intervened to reverse coercive
> measures taken by regional domestic officials that alienated the
> _Volk_. Hitler, to protect his image, rescinded a Total War measure
> by the minister for the economy to ban hair permanents in 1943. He
> was responding to complaints from women including Eva Braun, although
> as the war gobbled up chemicals, perms became increasingly rare and
> expensive. Guenter demonstrates that "clothes provided a tangible
> sign of inclusion in and exclusion from the _Volksgemeinschaft_" (p.
> 101), as outsiders were forbidden to wear the dirndl (traditional
> _Volk_ costume) or the uniforms of Nazified women's organizations,
> while others were marked as outsiders on their clothing. Guenter
> concludes that fashion and fashion magazines served as a smokescreen
> that, like Hitler's prolonged refusal to conscript women, attempted
> to create the impression that war under Nazism would not demand harsh
> sacrifices.
> Kirstin Semmens's chapter on tourism is an excellent example of how
> ordinary persons can align their own interests with those of tyranny,
> just as they have learned to align them with power structures during
> a democracy, without any thought of resistance. Semmens emphasizes
> that the Nazis had a big impact on the tourism industry, concluding
> that "everyday tourism" generally increased support for Hitler or at
> least minimized overt resistance, even as it brutalized Jewish
> professionals, some of them colleagues or associates.
> _Gleichschaltung_ (alignment or coordination) of the travel industry,
> Semmens finds, was often due to voluntary changes on the local level
> rather than orders from above, as many tourist professionals traded
> their autonomy for career advances. To the extent that tourist
> professionals were a coherent group (and this could be investigated
> further), Semmens shows them accepting the convenient Nazi claim that
> tourism united the Germans and promoted patriotism.
> David Imhoof's essay, "Sports, Politics and Free Time," begins with
> the intriguing claim that "the history of sport illustrates that Nazi
> _Gleichschaltung_ (coordination) of free-time activities was a
> two-way street, a process by which average Germans helped to create
> the Third Reich culture as much as they had it imposed on them" (p.
> 161). While the expulsion of Jews from the industry and erasure of
> Jewish sites on tourist maps occurred with brutal rapidity,
> _Gleichschaltung_ was a long process, as traced in Imhoof's case
> study of Göttingen, having begun on the initiative of local elites
> even before Hitler came to power and continuing into the mid-1930s.
> While masking "Göttingen interests," townspeople playing, watching,
> or writing about sports "helped turn Göttingen into a Nazi town,"
> Imhoff argues (p. 179). Nazi policing and taxation of organizations
> made use of preexisting notions of community associated with sports
> in ways that attracted Germans to the state and even prepared them
> for war.
> Joan Clinefelter's chapter on art and the _Volksgemeinschaft_ argues
> boldly that "culture generally and the visual arts specifically
> formed the core of the _Volksgemeinschaft_" (p. 189). Before as well
> as during the war, the arts "provided visual proof of the very
> essence of German identity and the new society that was being
> created" (p. 204). As the site of engagement between the German
> people and Nazi conceptions of art, art exhibitions are of particular
> interest for Clinefelter, who contends that the struggle between
> Josef Goebbels and Alfred Rosenberg over German modernists largely
> played out not between the two Nazi bigwigs but at the local level,
> through decisions about how to stage individual art shows.
> Clinefelter argues that the objective of efforts to create a uniquely
> German style of art was to unite the German people and serve their
> needs in a way that erased class differences, making the case that
> the way visual art was presented and consumed functioned as a
> mechanism for integrating the people into the national community
> through participation. Art, like fashion, was a representation of
> Nazi ideology: both presented modern styles as non-German, influenced
> by Jews.
> This book's final section on religion concerns Protestants,
> Catholics, and Christmas. To avoid a repetition of the home front
> unrest that Hitler blamed for Germany's loss of World War I, the
> dictatorship wanted to fight war without impinging on everyday norms
> and consumption, although this became increasingly difficult with
> each year of war. Conversely, churches' practice of their religious
> customs generally became easier during the war, following Hitler's
> resolve, delivered as an order during the first days of the war, that
> all unnecessary provocations of the churches must cease.
> Opening the book's final section, on religion, Christopher Probst
> rightly contrasts Protestant objections to Nazi infringement of
> traditional religious practices with its occasional objections to the
> persecution of the Jews. He points out that the Confessing Church did
> not support Hitler's dream of establishing a Reich Church with a
> Reich bishop above all other German Protestant bishops, answering to
> the Führer. Because Party officials could neither turn opinion
> against these bishops nor agree on how to control them, they referred
> the decision to Hitler, who appeased the bishops and their churches
> in order to maintain the forward momentum of his movement. The
> bishops prevailed because of the public opinion they mobilized.
> Probst's "Protestantism from the Margins" presents a view not so much
> from social margins as from the margins of the Protestant ideological
> spectrum, promulgated by elites. The focus on the Protestant
> relationship to the advance of the violent persecution of the Jews
> identifies the difference between antisemitism and anti-Judaism, but
> more might be made of the range and types of antisemitism and the
> church's relationship to Nazi biological or "racial" antisemitism.
> Probst's consideration of Theodor Pauls and Hermann Maas does
> illustrate the extremes of Protestant thinking about the Jews,
> showing how Pauls twisted Martin Luther's writings by applying racial
> concepts of antisemitism while Maas spoke out against Nazi
> antisemitism and helped Jews to emigrate. One wonders whether these
> elites represented the views of the Protestant masses.
> Kevin Spicer's treatment of "Catholic Life under Hitler" is also more
> concerned with clergy than parishioners. Focusing on the ways in
> which the clergy supported or failed to hinder the persecution of
> Jews, the chapter identifies church opposition, before and during the
> war, as the self-serving "preservation of their own belief system"
> (p. 253). Spicer evaluates resistance in terms of moral behavior
> while insights about the mechanisms that rendered some forms of
> opposition more effective than others are missing. Insights into the
> possibilities, extent, and limits of Catholic opposition are lost in
> sweeping statements such as that Bishop Sproll "had to flee his home
> ... after church-state tensions in his region threatened to become
> deadly" or "the euthanasia programme actually continued
> uninterrupted" (p. 253) following Galen's protest. Bishop von Galen's
> protest against euthanasia "at most ... drove Catholics to mistrust
> state authorities even more.... The Gestapo also acted swiftly and
> mercilessly against any form of resistance" (p. 253). The
> dictatorship's response to Galen's protest hardly supports this claim
> about the Gestapo's reach, and on the other hand the church's failure
> to resist to the extent possible is not identified. (The bishops
> ignored Bishop Galen's suggestions to bring the public into
> opposition by protesting from the pulpit rather than in private; each
> locale that struggled against the removal of crucifixes from Catholic
> schools struggled alone rather than as part of a common Catholic
> front; Johannes Sproll stood alone in refusing to allow
> sterilizations in the hospital of his diocese, etc.) How much will
> for resistance was there considering Spicer's conclusion that most
> Catholics were patriotic, loyal Germans supporting Hitler and few
> questioned his racial policies?
> This book's study of the ways and extent to which the regime
> succeeded in permeating German cultural and social life ends with Joe
> Perry's "Christmas as Nazi Holiday." The Nazis wished to take
> Christianity out of Christmas while aligning the _Volk_'s perception
> of National Socialism with the Christmas mood. The dictatorship tried
> to "colonize" Christmas, in the description of Perry, like other
> institutions and holidays that commanded strong popular allegiance or
> a positive mood. Perry does a fine job of outlining the social and
> historical context of the development of the Christmas mood in
> Germany before the dictatorship attempted to repurpose it as a
> celebration of the _Volksgemeinschaft_. _Völkish_ and pre-Christian
> solstice celebrations interpreted as reflecting the values of Nazism
> were introduced probably with some success, although it is difficult
> indeed to access emotions as people experienced them.
> Overall, _Life and Times in Nazi Germany_ is strong in exposing
> mechanisms that drove the process of _Gleichschaltung_ and in
> illustrating the development of the _Volksgemeinschaft_, coerced and
> voluntary. It demonstrates the continuing vitality of everyday life
> history and would be particularly useful for college courses not only
> in that field but also twentieth-century German or European history,
> not to mention courses in Nazi Germany.
> Note
> [1]. Sebastian Haffner, _Defying Hitler_ (New York: Farrar, Straus
> & Giroux, 2000), 155.
> Citation: Nathan Stoltzfus. Review of Pine, Lisa, ed., _Life and
> Times in Nazi Germany_. H-German, H-Net Reviews. October, 2018.
> URL: https://www.h-net.org/reviews/showrev.php?id=50613
> This work is licensed under a Creative Commons
> Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States
> License.
> --

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