Holocaust Memorial Lecture 2016 - Antisemitism, 'Volksgemeinschaft' and Violence: Inclusion and Exclusion in Nazi Germany

Michael Wildt (Humboldt University, Berlin)
27 January 2016

This special lecture marking Holocaust Memorial Day covers the history of persecution and anti-Semitism within Germany through the lenses of the ideas of national community which served to facilitate such actions and rhetoric. Professor Michael Wildt (Humboldt University, Berlin) successfully illustrates how more radical political rhetoric gave centre stage to this ideology which evoked the inclusion and homogeneity of all Germans at the expense of minorities; this process of exclusion was the principle method of Hitler’s National Socialist party who established this sense of Volksgemeinschaft as a central ideology. This both facilitated and enabled violence towards Jewish Germans and proved to be a visible and characteristic expression of a new and radical idea of national community.

Wildt’s account highlights the causes and effects of the Nazi’s persecution of the Jews and helps to provide new interpretations regarding Nazi violence and criminality towards those excluded from a newly imagined Volksgemeinschaft before the outbreak of the Second World War. Wildt’s interpretation re-emphasises a notion of collective guilt, contradicting recent historiographical trends which have portrayed the German public as allegedly unaware of the excesses of Nazi rule.

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