Academic journal article German Quarterly

The Continuities of German History. Nation, Religion, and Race across the Long Nineteenth Century

Academic journal article German Quarterly

The Continuities of German History. Nation, Religion, and Race across the Long Nineteenth Century

Article excerpt

Smith, Helmut Walser. The Continuities of German History. Nation, Religion, and Race across the Long Nineteenth Century. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2008. 246 pp. S22.99 paperback, $75.00 hardback.

The volume takes a close look across centuries at strands of continuity in terms of nationalism, racism, and anti-Semitism in Germany. The author argues that the Holocaust cannot be sufficiently explained by only analyzing the events in the 20th century, as many scholars do. The mass murders by the Nazis of Jews and Slavs should be viewed as a continuation of a deep-rooted and long-time prej udice in German society. However, although the violence against the Jews increased in the 19th century, murders seldom occurred. Only the events in the early 20th century with pogroms in Eastern Europe and the violence of the First World War led to the ritualistic murders after 1 938 in response to the Crystal Night. In contrast to the Nazi regime, the German state in the 1 9th century specifically prevented anti-Semitic murders.

Smith argues for a close look at the evolutionary construction of the German community with its growing exclusionism. Scholars who study the long history of antiSemitism may overlook the significance of the "transformation in the conception of community - first defined in local terms, then as nation and nation-state, then as a racialized nation, and finally as a racialized nation-state" (220). In order to understand the tragic events fully, scholars should recognize the important interrelationship between forms of community and the shape of anti-Semitism. …

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