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The distinguished professor and historian George L. Mosse (1918-1999) has written an impressive number of scholarly works in the fields of German and English history, Jewish studies, and cultural history. His The Crisis of German Ideology: Intellectual Origins of the Third Reich (1964) is considered by many to be his magnum opus.
Mosse's thesis, while hardly new, is that Hitler's ideas (if indeed he had any original ones) did not simply spring from nowhere, but were a result of a century of German "Volkish" thought that permeated virtually all of German society. This idea has, of course, been presented by a number of writers, but what distinguishes Mosse's discussion is the extraordinary wealth of documentation he uses, primarily from original German sources. Mosse's cited writers on the purity of the German people, on racism, and on a kind of "new-Romanticism" believed to solve the nation's ills (Eugen Dietrichs, Paul de Lagarde, Julius Langbehn, Guido von List, et al.) may be unfamiliar to many English-speaking readers, but they were, according to Mosse, highly influential thinkers in their day and quite probably had a great effect upon Hitler. This makes a lot of sense.
What doesn't make as much sense is that Mosse, in sticking rather rigidly to his thesis, mentions only in passing any dissenting voices, be they liberal, communist, religious, the youth, etc. And when they ARE mentioned, these voices are frequently tossed aside as if they are unimportant. Also, Mosse keeps repeating the words "Volk" and " Volkish" so often (literally hundreds of times) that the reader is made dizzy and wants to say, "O.k., o.k., I get the point!"
The rise of the NSDAP in Germany was, of course, a long uphill battle for acceptance and votes, lasting from the late teens until 1933. Even as late as 1932, just months before the Nazis finally attained leadership, votes for the NSDAP were a disappointment to the party, which failed to receive a majority. Who were those millions of Germans who didn't vote for the Nazis? Didn't they exist? Yet Mosse treats this as the merest of sidesteps, and one is almost led to believe that every single man, woman, child (and baby!) in Germany was, regardless of how they actually voted, a proto-Nazi! Of course, once the Nazis were in power and formed a terrorist state, dissent was difficult if not completely impossible. Oddly ignored is what is often said to be a significant "strength" of any dictatorship: the mass of people who, out of indifference, fear, sense of impotence, self-absorption, ennui, etc. sit on the sidelines and essentially don't or can't say anything.
As mentioned above, not even children escape from Mosse's need to stick to his thesis. In discussing the "youth movement," Mosse writes on p. 173, " To dismiss the romanticism of the youth as essentially 'unpolitical,' as many historians have done, is a grave error." Isn't believing the exact opposite possibly also a "grave error"? I think the truth lies somewhere in the middle, in a wide variety of ways.
Anyone who has studied Germany's 1898-1933 "Youth Movement" (the title of Mosse's 9th chapter) knows that no such easily-identifiable movement ever existed, and surely Mosse, who spent the first 21 years of his life in Germany, must have known this. Instead of a single organized movement, there were, in fact, many small, loosely-organized youth "movements" which sprang up around the country named, variously, Wandervögel (Wandering Birds), Freideutsche Jugend (Free German Youth), etc. Some were for boys only, some for girls only, some were mixed, some were Jewish groups, some Catholic, some Protestant, some with an adult leader, some (the majority) with an older teenager as leader. The general purpose was "youth for the youth." So what did they have in common? Their essential similarities were making hiking trips into the countryside, staying in tents, playing musical instruments (primarily guitar, lute, or violin), singing folk songs, and emphasizing clean living (no alcohol or smoking), exercise, and friendship. Politics rarely played any role.
Even for those who don't accept all of Mosse's theories (and many of his theories ARE convincing), this book is invaluable as a source of information on German thinking from 1850 to 1945, much of which is probably new to English-speaking readers. Unfortunately the book doesn't include a bibliography as such, so one must rely on bibliographic footnotes, but these are in themselves a real treasure trove.
I highly recommend this fascinating book, despite the above-mentioned reservations.