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Legacies of the Third Reich: Concentration Camps and Out-group Intolerance

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  27 January 2020

Rice University
Washington University in St. Louis
Washington University in St. Louis
*Jonathan Homola, Assistant Professor, Rice University,
Miguel M. Pereira, PhD Candidate, Washington University in St. Louis,
Margit Tavits, Professor, Washington University in St. Louis,


We explore the long-term political consequences of the Third Reich and show that current political intolerance, xenophobia, and voting for radical right-wing parties are associated with proximity to former Nazi concentration camps in Germany. This relationship is not explained by contemporary attitudes, the location of the camps, geographic sorting, the economic impact of the camps, or their current use. We argue that cognitive dissonance led those more directly exposed to Nazi institutions to conform with the belief system of the regime. These attitudes were then transmitted across generations. The evidence provided here contributes both to our understanding of the legacies of historical institutions and the sources of political intolerance.

Research Article
Copyright © American Political Science Association 2020 

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We would like to thank Avidit Acharya, Robin Best, Carles Boix, Volha Charnysh, Connor Huff, Noam Lupu, Shom Mazumder, five anonymous reviewers, Ken Benoit, and Thomas König for helping develop and improve our article. Special thanks to William Simoneau, who played a crucial role in the early stages of the project. Jara Kampmann and Julia Klinger in the GESIS Secure Data Center were extremely helpful during our analysis of the ALLBUS data. Earlier versions of the article were presented at MPSA 2018, APSA 2018 (where it received the SAGE best paper award), the University of Texas, Penn State University, ETH Zürich, University of Bergen, Princeton University, and McGill University. Funding for this research was provided by the Weidenbaum Center on the Economy, Government, and Public Policy. Replication files are available at the American Political Science Review Dataverse:



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