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German Society in the Nazi Era. 'Volksgemeinschaft' between Ideological Projection and Social Practice

25-27 March 2010

International Conference organized by the Institut für Zeitgeschichte München-Berlin and the German Historical Institute London

Venue: German Historical Institute London

Convenors: Horst Möller (IfZ), Andreas Gestrich (GHIL), Bernhard Gotto (IfZ), Martina Steber (GHIL)

One of the most striking changes of perspective in recent research on National Socialism is the new interest which younger historians in particular are taking in German society during the Nazi period. Adopting questions, theories, and methods derived from the cultural turn, they are examining the social foundations of the Nazi dictatorship in order to explain the regime’s structure and its system of rule. The term Volksgemeinschaft, which has increasingly been used as the starting point from which to characterize Nazi society, can help to define both the visionary dimension of Nazi social policy, and its integrative and exclusive aspects. This change in perspective can be observed in Britain as well as Germany. It is noticeable that the social history approaches which shaped the discussion from the end of the 1970s to the middle of the 1980s rarely serve as reference points for the new research on Nazi society. Categories such as class or social inequality no longer play a large part in recent studies, not even in Britain, where they were the subject of especially close investigation.

The conference ‘German Society in the Nazi Era: Volksgemeinschaft between Ideological Projection and Social Practice’, co-organized by the German Historical Institute London and the Institut für Zeitgeschichte München-Berlin, will address these new approaches, but emphasize their social history dimension. It is mainly interested in the social consequences of social practice inspired by the notion of the Volksgemeinschaft. It will systematically investigate the functional mechanisms and characteristics of society in the Nazi Altreich, while incorporating the enormous dynamic for change which was inherent in the Nazi regime and casting light on processes of social change from the Weimar Republic to the immediate post-war period.

Conference programme (PDF file)
Keynote lecture by Sir Ian Kershaw (MP3 download, 50 min, 45.6 MB)
Conference report (PDF file), published in: GHIL Bulletin 32 (2010), Vol 2