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3 - Private Lives, Public Faces

On the Social Self in Nazi Germany

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 analyses a selection of personal testimonies written by non-Jewish German refugees and non-Germans with experiences of Germany under Nazi rule to the 1939 Harvard essay competition ‘My Life in Germany before and after 1933’ in order to explore how behaviour in private in Germany under National Socialist rule helped to constitute a ‘bystander society’. It argues that the pressures to demonstrate conformity in public did not simply create dissonance between individuals’ public and private selves, but also transformed private attitudes and habits. As a result, a ‘bystander society’ emerged after 1933 in Germany that was characterised by people tending not to intervene on behalf of the direct targets of persecution: as such, it was a precondition of the Holocaust.

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Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2019

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