Wednesday, July 5, 2023

Alan E. Steinweis's "The People’s Dictatorship"

Alan E. Steinweis is Professor of History and Raul Hilberg Distinguished Professor of Holocaust Studies at the University of Vermont.

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his latest book, The People's Dictatorship: A History of Nazi Germany, and reported the following:
The People’s Dictatorship: A History of Nazi Germany offers students and non-specialist readers an accessibly written and relatively short introduction to a large and dynamic area of scholarship. Contrary to what many from outside the field might expect, Nazi Germany remains a lively area of research, with many young historians focusing on previously neglected questions relating to sexuality, the rituals of everyday life, the social impact of the air war, and the end phase of World War Two, just to name a few key thematic areas. My book draws upon this recent scholarship, as well as upon new and recent research on older topics, most notably Nazi racial policy, eugenics, and the persecution and murder of the Jews.

Page 99 contains the opening paragraphs of chapter 5, which is titled “Nazi Society, 1933-1939.” This chapter encompasses the subjects of masculinity, femininity, homosexuality, women, youth, education, and higher education. Nazi policies in these areas embodied continuity with the past, but one that was overlaid with Nazism’s cult of masculinity, its glorification of motherhood, and its cultivation of racially healthy young people. The chapter shows how the incessant propaganda and frequent, heavy-handed attempts to mobilize the population behind this intended shift in ideological consciousness appealed to many Germans, but also often met with reluctance and sometimes generated pushback. These responses were based sometimes on ideological opposition, sometimes on irritation with inconvenience, and sometimes on discomfort with the official imposition of a suffocating conformity. Even though dissent and even acts of resistance were more common than is frequently understood by non-specialists, never did the objections amount to a widespread fundamental rejection of the system.

In recent years, a good deal of scholarship has been framed around the notion of the “People’s Community,” the Nazi version of which envisaged a harmonious society marked by an end to class conflict, racial impurity, and the corrupting influences of “World Jewry.” Playing off “People’s Community” as a Nazi concept and slogan, my book proposes “People’s Dictatorship” (which was not a Nazi phrase) as a label for encapsulating a period of German history defined by a repressive totalitarian regime that enjoyed significant popular support. Because the text on Page 99 introduces and summarizes the complex ways in which this dictatorship functioned regarding sexuality, the family, and education, I would say that my book does, in fact, pass the Page 99 Test.
Learn more about The People's Dictatorship at the Cambridge University Press website.

The Page 99 Test: Kristallnacht 1938.

--Marshal Zeringue