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3 - Defining Opposition, 1935–1939

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  08 October 2021

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Summary

A policy of selective enforcement to realign social norms with the Nazi vision of people’s community took form in 1935. As the Gestapo dismantled the underground communist party, pursuing the remnants into society at large demanded a different approach. Nazism asserted the right to control conversation under new legal theories that treated the private as political. But blanket enforcement risked undermining popular support. To compensate, offences became forgivable momentary weakness or punishable subversion depending on motive. The Gestapo developed profiles of ideological enemies and criterion identifying upstanding “racial comrades” in response. The keystone was “political reliability” extrapolated from the suspect’s partisan associations and personal reputation. The ideals of people’s community set the parameters of respectable citizenship. Certain behaviours and associations were evidence of political reliability or inherently subversive attitudes threatening this community. Selective enforcement educated or punished based on the effect of an action upon, the standing of socio-political identities within, and the contributions of an offender toward the people’s community.

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Enemies of the People
Hitler's Critics and the Gestapo
, pp. 74 - 91
Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2021

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