In April 1933, during the early months after the Nazis ascended to power in Germany, a law which commonly came to be termed as the Aryanan Paragraph came into effect. It outlawed any person of Jewish descent from government employment. This was the first piece of legislature to be effected in a then heightening assault on Jews led by the Third Reich Hitler and evidently expressed in his toxic rhetoric and ideological imperatives. This placed German Churches at a focal point: They either had to resist these attacks on Jews or dismiss all Jewish preachers and employees so as to preserve their subsidies. Most of the churches publicly or silently fell in line with Hitler’s demands. These in effect became the onset of the world’s bloodiest World War II and the context of Roderick Stackelberg’s book on Hitler’s Germany: Origins, Interpretations and Legacies which provide an interesting read and meets its chief objective of introducing any reader to the history and the atrocities committed in the Nazi Germany. The book extends from the abortive 1923 Beer Hall Putsch to the World War II and the aftermath in the 1940’s. This therefore gives Stackelberg’s novel a wide coverage while ensuring the reader is totally engrossed in the narrative as the story unfolds. Stackelberg , a humanities professor at Gonzaga University in Spokane, he cogently sets out to argue out that the Nazi Regime was supported and maintained through a mass consensus by the majority of the German citizens rather than the implied coercion by most authors. He is hence in agreement with Daniel Goldhagen and his views as phrased in his narrative, Hitler’s Willing Executioners of which he has recognized and praised. He points out that Germans expressed conviction and expediency in their support and collaboration with the Nazi regime. He endeavors to balance ‘intentionalist’ versus ‘functionalist’ approaches to the Holocaust committed against Jews so as to amply show the Nazi’s adherence to the fatal eugenic belief of exterminating all those deemed to be “life unworthy of life”. This resulted in the death of two-thirds of the Jews in Europe at the time. Stackelberg successfully combines dramatic writing with a dispassionate analysis so as to aptly provide a rich historical context the barbaric behavior and actions of the Third Reich by boldly depicting a pre-history of Nazism such as the absolutist rule put forward by his predecessor Otto Van Bismarck, the 19th-century nationalist propagandistsand the Free Corps hooligan squads who not only crushed the 1919 Spartacist revolt but also murdered Rosa Luxemburg. He further covers the Nuremberg trials, the German denazification and the modern-day resurgence of militant neo-Nazi extremists. Although the work presented herein has already been documented in other books, he manages to author an interesting and engrossing superb read on the Nazi Germany history.
The book first provides a detailed coverage of the roots of fascist ideologies, its constituency and the conditions that facilitated its growth in Germany. It then reflects on the key problems facing German unity which Stackelberg clearly and comprehensively covers as absolutism and particularism. This serves as a basis as to why the German Empire changed from a democratic state to social imperialism and finally landed on the path to war. Stackelberg clinically examines the Germanic ideology that was instituted into the masses by the political class so as to influence support. He finds that the politicians managed to drive the cause for nationalism towards fanatism while coupling this with vulgarized idealism and anti-Semitism. Stackelberg has also provided a rich context for German’s history and involvement in the First World War and the resultant crisis in imperial Germany under Bismarck. He goes on further to examine the Weimar Republic through a well-documented study and the weakness of liberal democracy in Germany. This led to the consequent fall of the Weimar republic and the rise of Nazism further facilitated by the Great Depression. The Nazis managed to consolidate power in the 1933-1934 under the Third Reich Hitler whose governance in the 1933-1939 period has been fully analyzed under the aspects of politics, society and culture hence providing a rich and diverse read. Further, Stackelberg manages to depict hideous details of the persecution of the Jews and the Holocaust in this period. The origins of the Second World War, its spread from a European to a global war and its ensuing transformation from triumph to defeat in 1942-1945 have been elaborately covered while providing ample contextual information that leaves a clear imaginative image in the readers’ minds. Finally, the book evaluates the aftermath of the war and Germany’s National Socialism. The last chapter examines Hitler’s place in history and memory and the vital lessons learnt from the ordeal.
In the introduction, Stackelberg clarifies why he wrote the book despite a myriad number of historical books in the market dealing with a similar subject matter. He feels there is a need to write a book that not only covers the Nazi regime but also the 19th century background and the aftermath. Despite the book’s title, only seven out of sixteen chapters are dedicated to the Nazi regime. It provides a rich and essential understanding of the Hitler-led Nazi regime. This was a decision he reached at after having taught the subject matter for over twenty years. Stackelberg feels that the book approaches the Nazi regime under a two dimension: He provides an accurate and complete account of Nazi rule and goes further to provide an interpretive framework that endeavors to explore the reasons as to the extraordinary occurrence in German history. The book provides a clear guideline to the reader whereas incorporating the complex and vast complexities of historical causation as experienced by the contemporary figures that lived in that turbulent and violent era.
In creating a rich analysis and reconstruction of the Nazi regime in 1933 to 1945, the author places the period in a larger context which enables him to ably provide a sufficient background of the regime while ensuring various critical arguments are brought forward.
First, Stackelberg feels that history is inseparable from its interpretative analysis. No author, in Stackelberg’s view should present the bare facts of a historical occurrence without endeavoring to provide a parallel interpretive theory as to why the historical phenomenon took place. Historical books and journals have always depicted the Nazi era under a barbaric and destructive scope and it is almost viewed entirely as the world’s greatest battle of evil versus good. This approach is rather heightened by the atrocities committed such as the irrational racial obsessions and the Holocaust with an aim to wipe out all Jews. Any other approach, such as a metaphysical approach, would definitely not successfully account for the success and popularity of Nazism in Germany. However, rather than approach the Nazi era under a moral and evil conception as multiple authors’ have, Stackelberg endeavors to define the rise of the Nazi regime under a political analysis. Stackelberg feels it is essential to establish why the Germans at the time felt that Nazism was a reconstructive force in the quest for National Socialism that would utterly propel them into a superpower state. He critically notes in a catchy headline that history is past politics, hence, even the atrocities committed under the anti-Semitism derive must have a cognitive understanding. Unlike facts which if in dispute can easily be ratified among historians, an analysis of the reasons as to why German Nazism was widely popular can only be perceived under the analysts own political and societal values. These are highly diverse among historians and are therefore bound to bring forth a degree of controversy.
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