Term of Award

Fall 2009

Degree Name

Master of Arts in History (M.A.)

Document Type and Release Option

Thesis (open access)

Department

Department of History

Committee Chair

Charles P. Crouch

Committee Member 1

Charles S. Thomas

Committee Member 2

Robert K. Batchelor

Abstract

Germany emerged from post-war Europe economically, politically, and culturally devastated. The process of rebuilding the state meant severing German society from its pre-war roots, changing international and domestic acuity of the German people as violent and racially defined. These postwar leaders, however, were unable to convincingly portray and create a modern nation to shatter the myth of German origins, and accordingly shifted the blame for Germany's situation on Nazi leaders. Absolution of the German people meant denying opportunities for popular self-critique, creating an atmosphere which unwittingly condoned the Romantic national myth. Earlier articulated by the Nazis, this original movement urged Germans to purify and worship the ethnie, granting the state the ability to provide cultural protection, sanctioning racism, prejudice, and bias. The persistence of this ideology in post-war Germany, coupled with economic concerns and the instrumental inability to redefine the German nation led to programs aimed at shattering perceptions of racial ideals and cultural hatreds of the "other," rather than terminating the root cause of these biases. Tendencies to imagine the purity of a past Germany as extant, therefore, support Romantic popular images and feelings for a German nation that never actually existed. In contemporary Germany, the inability to re-define the national ideology and myth leads to a continuation of fear and violence towards minorities and "others," an issue frequently magnified by popular action and political rhetoric.

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