The Rise of National Socialism and the Working Classes in Weimar Germany

The Rise of National Socialism and the Working Classes in Weimar Germany

The Rise of National Socialism and the Working Classes in Weimar Germany

The Rise of National Socialism and the Working Classes in Weimar Germany

Synopsis

Before seizing power the Nazi movement assembled an exceptionally broad social coalition of activists and supporters. Many were working class, but there remains considerable disagreement over the precise size and structure of this constituency and still more over its ideology and politics. An indispensable work for scholars of interwar Germany and Nazism in general.

Excerpt

Until recently it appeared that any relationship between National Socialism and the working classes of Germany was essentially negative. A virtual consensus prevailed over many decades that both the Nazi ethos and constituency were overwhelmingly middle class. In 1930 the political scientist Theodor Geiger remarked: 'No one doubts that National Socialism owes its electoral success to the traditional and new middle class', a view echoed by Hendrik de Man, among many others, when in 1931 he defined the NSDAP as 'a typical middle-class and white- collar movement'. Postwar analysts readily endorsed such perceptions, with Seymour Martin Lipset prominent among those who explained the origins of Hitler's political breakthrough in terms of a radicalisation of the middle classes. Thus when Karl- Dietrich Bracher published his seminal history of National Socialism in 1969 he concluded that 'it was the rural and urban "middle class" in the broad sense of the term, which started and carried through the breakthrough of the NSDAP.... Generally, in times of crisis the hopeless elements in the middle class tend to listen to fascist slogans, while the working class, on the other hand, tends towards Communism'. A series of fine regional and local studies have generally accepted or further promoted this line of interpretation, leaving an almost indelible imprint on the historiography of National Socialism.

During the past decade or so, however, it has become increasingly apparent that the National Socialist constituency at the end of Weimar was far more diverse than hitherto believed. By then the NSDAP had succeeded in building a coalition that cut drastically across social fault lines in a manner unprecedented in German . . .

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