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Nazi Germany and Non-Banal Evilness

  • Steven SaxonbergEmail author
Chapter

Abstract

Germany did not unite into one country until 1871 under Bismarck. A new state, such as Germany, faces the question: how is the state to be defined—that is, who belongs to it and who is an “outsider”? The need to answer this question encouraged an anti-Semitic discourse, as the new rulers did not think that Jews (or Poles, French and others) would be loyal to the new state. This chapter shows that in building the new state, Bismarck purposely recruited civil servants, who were conservative and had antidemocratic, authoritarian values, so they would be loyal to the new state. After losing WWI, the imperial regime lost its legitimacy. The resulting revolution created a new republic. However, since none of the major political parties wanted to have this revolution, the Weimar Republic lacked legitimacy. Its legitimacy was further undermined by the reparations it had to pay according to the Versailles treaty. Since many civil servants continued to harbor authoritarian values and did not consider the Weimar Republic to be legitimate, they often sabotaged its policies. In addition, they were willing to support the Nazi regime, which they considered to be more legitimate. The German state was new and weak, so the Nazi promise of building a strong state gained it support and legitimacy. In explaining why some Germans were willing to commit evil acts, this chapter emphasizes legitimacy. This chapter also argues against Goldhagen’s thesis that eliminationist anti-Semitism caused the Holocaust.

Keywords

Nazism Holy Roman Empire Bismarck Imperial empire Eliminationist anti-Semitism Volk Ordinary people Einsatzgruppen 

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© The Author(s) 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of European Studies and International RelationsComenius UniversityBratislavaSlovakia
  2. 2.Center for Social and Economic StrategiesCharles University in PraguePragueCzech Republic

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