The Nazi Revolution: Hitler's Dictatorship and the German Nation

The Nazi Revolution: Hitler's Dictatorship and the German Nation

The Nazi Revolution: Hitler's Dictatorship and the German Nation

The Nazi Revolution: Hitler's Dictatorship and the German Nation

Excerpt

The title of this anthology announces one of the most extraordinary subjects in all of history. In a sense German National Socialism was only an episode, lasting in Europe as it did for barely a decade; but in another it was both a final legacy of the entire nineteenth century and a terrifying symptom of the twentieth. No phenomenon in recorded experience ultimately occupied the energies of so many humans or ended in such extensive devastation. Short of a complete atomic holocaust, our world is unlikely to witness anything comparable ever again.

Although Nazism can thus be perceived as a universal event, or as the most strident example of a fascist epidemic which has infested all of Western civilization, the focus here is deliberately confined to the national context of Germany following the First World War. After all, there is only limited value in speculating about some totalitarian typology until specific instances have been understood as the product of a certain time and place. The chronological distance between our own time and the Nazi years is now sufficient for such comprehension to be possible.

Lamentation is not explanation. Only a few souls wandering somewhere on the sunlit uplands of idiocy could suppose that Nazism was other than an outrage. Yet to denounce Nazism is simply to express a kind of elementary morality; it is not to engage in historical criticism. If we are to begin to penetrate the historical reality we must ask, and attempt to answer, a number of complex and disturbing questions for which a moral standard provides no absolute guide. We are obligated to regard Nazism with a certain scholarly detachment--which need not be equated with moral indifference--in order to take a more searching look beneath the polemics of years past.

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