A nation in peril? : rethinking how fear influenced everyday life and politics in the Weimar Republic / by Russell A. Spinney
Includes bibliographical references (p. 365-376)
In order to gain access to the experience of fear as a social fact, this dissertation project examines a variety of public, semi-public and private sources, including literary voices, local newspaper editorials, reports from municipal police, town councils, district attorneys and gendarmerie, collections of Catholic, Lutheran, Jehovah’s Witness and Jewish materials, and individual German writings, diaries, memoirs, petitions and photographs from central German communities in Thuringia and other neighboring regions.The archival evidence indicates that fear was not necessarily particular to Germany or universally experienced by all Germans in the same ways at the same time. Fear had multiple historical sources that informed how different groups understood fear in a variety of ways and defined how people should feel fear and express those feelings (or not) in the politics of Imperial Germany. Much of this history of fear is not necessarily unique to German political culture, when compared to Western Europe and North America, and Germans were not overwhelmed by any one fear, but the prospects of defeat in the First World radicalized how Germans increasingly invoked fear in their politics after the war.Activists of various kinds increasingly cultivated social realities of fear in the Weimar Republic in order to valorize certain “emotional economies” that framed how both men and women should feel and express their feelings. The most radical emotional economies sanctioned more aggressive forms of politics that threatened to undermine the dominant forms of respectable middle class political culture and any chances of cooperation with moderate working class activism or other opponents. Yet the threats that radical activists posed also led to a vigorous defense of the republic at the local level and a variety of alternative emotional economies to counter the fear emanating from the extremes.Antisemitism was a key source for fear in the provincial Germany, but more so through ordinary, everyday life than currently understood in the scholarship, not only motivating Jewish and non-Jewish German resistance to increasing antisemitic violence, but also undermining Jewish and non-Jewish German relations and racially transforming local communities in the process.Finally, the focus on central German communities demonstrates that nationalist economies of fear played a key role in forging nationalist solidarity in the latter years of Weimar Republic, suppressing nationalist dissent to the emergence of the Nazi movement in Thuringia, and informing a social reality of fear that must be considered more seriously in current thinking about the relationship of terror and persuasion in the Nazi seizure of power.
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