Advanced Search

Learn About The Holocaust

Special Collections

My Saved Research




Skip to main content

"Allen gewalten zum Trutz sich erhalten" : models of subversive spaces in National Socialist Germany / by Corina L. Petrescu

Publication | Library Call Number: DD256.3 .P38 2006

My dissertation concentrates on an analysis of public spheres in National Socialist Germany and investigates where and under which circumstances resistance to Hitler's regime was possible. The plural use of the word "sphere" is programmatic, as I believe that in every society there exist several realms that can function as places of public discourse. I focus on the space of the pseudo public as a potential sphere for anti-state activism. Based on the activities of four organizations operating in Germany between 1933 and 1944 (the Jewish Cultural Association Berlin, the Kreisau Circle, the White Rose, and the Schulze-Boysen/Harnack Organization) I analyze how this social locus functioned in order to foster resistance to National Socialism. While I acknowledge the heated debates in Germany around the notion of resistance, my emphasis rests on the creation and functioning of pseudo-public domains. I explore and examine the artifacts of these groups---leaflets, pamphlets, politico-economical treatises and, in the case of the Jewish Cultural Association Berlin , three theater performances, which marked the different stages in the organization's evolution---in order to establish models of pseudo-public spaces and evaluate their possibilities and limitations as sites of actual resistance. I have identified three such spaces: a passive Gegenöffentlichkeit (counter-public sphere) in the case of the Kreisau Circle , an active Gegenöffentlichkeit in the case of the Schulze-Boysen/Harnack Organization and the White Rose, and the Ghettoöffentlichkeit of the Jewish Cultural Association. At first glance, there are very few elements linking these four organizations. Yet what I believe they all had in common was the goal of resisting National Socialism. My use of the verb resist favors the meaning to withstand. I see the merit of these organizations in their efforts at "preserving, on an unofficial basis, a form of society or polity that [was] threatened by an imposed regime" (Pulzer, The Beginning of the End 25).As a theoretical framework, I employ Hannah Arendt's theory of totalitarianism, Jürgen Habermas's considerations on the public sphere and Oskar Negt and Alexander Kluge's concept of the counter-public . I refine my analysis by means of Michel Foucault's redefinition of power relations and Andrei Pleşu's reflections on the intellectual's position and role in dictatorial regimes. Furthermore, I argue along with Susan Gal and Gail Kligman that the notions of public and private are denominators that always shift their meanings, depending for part of their reference on the context in which they are used. Hence, the meaning of the dichotomy becomes relative, as the distinction is fractal: any action or form of behavior can be divided into private and public elements, which in themselves can be broken down again along the same lines. The result is that within any public sphere, one can establish a private realm, and any private realm harbors a potential public sphere. This public domain, which I will call pseudo-public, brings together people of similar convictions and may mobilize them into a front that stands in opposition to the state, yet ultimately remains isolated and confined, both in its actions and importance, to the small group of initiators. This space offers the possibility to resist, i.e. withstand, the state, but offers no guarantee that actual acts of opposition will in fact take place. In order for actions occurring within it to become concrete forms of opposition, their results need to be visible to the general public and receive its support.

Petrescu, Corina L.
Includes bibliographical references (p. 261-282)
Expand all
Record last modified: 2018-05-18 16:19:00
This page: