Susquehanna Historian’s New Book Examines Cultural Origins Of Nazism
Published on November 5, 2013
A new book by Susquehanna University Associate Professor of History David Imhoof reveals the ways in which ordinary Germans changed their cultural lives and their politics from the mid-1920s to the mid-1930s.
“Becoming a Nazi Town: Culture and Politics in Göttingen Between the World Wars” (University of Michigan Press, 2013) uses the example of a mid-sized German city to offer a new explanation for where Nazism came from and why Germans supported it so significantly.
“It’s hard to talk about how these things changed at the national level, because we experience political and cultural change at the local level, the street level,” says Imhoof.
Casting the origins of Nazism in a new light, Imhoof draws a connection between cultural activities and the rise of the Nazis by looking at three examples of everyday cultural life in Göttingen: sharpshooting, an opera festival and cinema.
“The Nazi party was able to draw on cultural traditions already in place,” he explains. “It gave them a much broader base of support for the party. Politics were divisive, politics caused problems. But activities like sharpshooting were something they could all get behind. That was something about which the Nazi party would say, ‘This is Germany. This is what we need.’”
“Nazism was able to flourish because the party reshaped things that had already started. It wasn’t something that came down from the top; it bubbled up from the bottom and Berlin was very good at building on it.”
His research demonstrates how the Third Reich was able to accomplish what it did, including persecuting Jews and other so-called "state enemies." Imhoof shows that the Third Reich did change Germany, but with the help of average Germans.