The German Right in the Weimar Republic: Studies in the History of German Conservatism, Nationalism, and Antisemitism.
The essays in this collection have much to say about the complexity of the German Right. They are particularly strong on the involvement of the religious components of the Right and the centrality of anti-Semitism to all its segments. Crucially, the authors point out that the Right was not a monolithic whole but instead was composed of a number of varied parts. What all these groups shared was hostility to the Weimar Republic and support of volkisch nationalism and anti-Semitism.
The anti-Semitism of such groups varied in its virulence and the ways in which it was expressed but was integral to all of their belief systems. Their success, however, was often dependent upon the degree to which they foregrounded these beliefs. Brian E. Grim demonstrates that Franz Seldte's lack of emphasis on anti-Semitism helped Theodor Duesterberg outmaneuver him in their struggle for leadership of the Stahlhelm and lost the organization a significant number of voters to the German National People's Party (DNVP). Hoping to be a factor in government, the DNVP also muted its anti-Semitism, which cost it support that went instead to the Nazis. As Larry Eugene Jones points out, the fact that Alfred Hugenberg, who triumphed over Count Kuno von Westarp, was not a racist ideologue also contributed to the loss of support for the Nationalist Socialist Party.
Though only a small number of German Catholics were part of the Catholic Right, they contributed to the success of the German Right. Ulrike Ehret notes that these Catholics were members of the social elites of imperial and Weimar Germany. Among their ranks were landowners, high-ranking civil servants, and academics. They were enemies of the Weimar Republic, hostile to the Catholic Center Party, and identified with the volkisch Right. "The Catholic Right," Ehret states, "identified with the volkisch Right not solely because of their radical nationalism and Christian values. Equally important was their exclusivist anti-Semitism" (228). The views of the Catholic Right and their support for volkisch nationalism contributed to the climate that enabled the Nazis' successful move toward power.
When the Nazis took power, the views and actions of Protestant groups such as the Bethel Church, under its leader Friedrich von Bodelschwingh Jr., supported Nazi policies that shifted from eugenics to forced sterilization and ultimately euthanasia. Although opposed by the returning Bethel African missionaries, the pro-eugenics forces prevailed. Edward Snyder writes, "Having already declared their support for sterilization at a conference in Treysa, many Protestant institutions, including Bethel, were more than willing to help the Nazis implement their forced sterilization law in 1934" (262).
This collection of essays is aimed at specialists who have the requisite knowledge of the Weimar period to place this material in context. The authors make clear that the most extreme aspects of the rightist ideology--volkisch nationalism and anti-Semitism--came to dominate the German Right, both secular and religious, during the Weimar years, making it a collaborator in the horrors of the Nazi regime.
University of Massachusetts, Boston
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|Article Type:||Book review|
|Date:||Mar 22, 2017|
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