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2 - A Particular Kind of Privacy

Accessing the ‘Private’ in National Socialism

from I - Interpreting the Private under National Socialism

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  28 June 2019

Elizabeth Harvey
Affiliation:
University of Nottingham
Johannes Hürter
Affiliation:
Leibniz Institute for Contemporary History Munich - Berlin
Maiken Umbach
Affiliation:
University of Nottingham
Andreas Wirsching
Affiliation:
Leibniz Institute for Contemporary History Munich - Berlin
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Summary

This chapter challenges the persistent view, influenced by George Orwell's classic novel Nineteen Eighty-Four, of the crushing of private life under dictatorship. Orwell’s depiction rests on an assumption that private life constituted the antithesis of ‘the political’. The chapter critiques this position in two ways through analysing sources including private diaries and letters. On one hand, it argues that although the legal protection afforded to the private sphere under National Socialism was severely eroded, there were limits in practice to how far the state could extend its grasp. On the other hand, it shows how readily many individuals adapted to the new conditions. Far from regarding personal diaries and letters as a medium through which they could escape from politics, many Germans used such private writing to position themselves in relation to the new regime: to that extent, under Nazism ‘the political’ could become the basis for a reconfigured private life.

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Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2019

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