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This chapter analyses a range of different ego-documents, written and visual, to explore how ordinary Germans positioned themselves vis-a-vis the National Socialist regime. Creating such records was a symbolically charged practice which valorised notions of the private. The analysis particularly focuses on the performance of gender roles in this context. The first section explores these issues in private conversations recorded in the 1930s by Amy Buller, which were later published as 'Darkness over Germany'. The second section examines private photo albums made by young women, showcasing leisure and enjoyment as ways of living out ideological promises of the Nazi regime. The third section analyses an illustrated diary by the wife of a German officer, which configures her experience of the years 1942–1945 as a romantic fantasy. The analysis shows not just what National Socialism did to ordinary Germans, but what ordinary Germans did with National Socialism. In using it as a resource to realise their personal aspirations and fantasies, they could become avid supporters of the regime – but also ones that were all too happy to drop its specific political aims in an instance, when new ideological templates promised greater personal satisfaction.
This chapter critiques the way in which historians of National Socialism have dealt with the topic of private life, highlights recent new developments in the historiography that can be built on, and shows how concepts of privacy and the private drawn from sociology and political theory can usefully be applied and tested in relation to developments under the Nazi dictatorship.
This chapter takes the case study of one couple in wartime to examine the intersections between private life and ideas about the Volksgemeinschaft. It argues that the couple’s performance of the rituals of intimacy, the cultivation by each of them of a particular individual persona, and their exchange of letters, photographs and goods were all embedded within the war’s larger material, emotional and political economies. In the process, the couple sought to aestheticise their experiences and to capture through photographs happy memories of moments during wartime for the post-war future they envisaged.
This chapter examines the home leave granted to soldiers during the Second World War as a fundamental dimension of private life for millions of Germans in wartime. It explores the topic from a number of different perspectives. It outlines the regime’s policies and propaganda regarding home leave as a privilege, focusing on the regime’s goals and its conflicting impulses both to control the time men spent away from their military duties and to allow some degree of undisturbed privacy. The chapter then examines personal letters between home and front in order to explore the expectations and experiences relating to home leave on the part of the men on leave and their wives or girlfriends and families. Finally, it uses cases from military and civil courts to show instances of marital conflict and domestic violence associated with home leave.
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