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“Between Detroit and Moscow”: A Left Liberal “Third Way” in the Third Reich

  • Eric Kurlander (a1)

The nature and intentions of Nazi economic policy are once again being hotly contested, although on a new set of terms. No longer is the German bourgeoisie's complicity in the Nazi “seizure of power” or the capitalist underpinnings of Hitler's subsequent aggressions at the center of the discussion. Rather, recent scholarship has chosen to grapple more carefully with the dynamic interplay between economics, race, and social policy in the Third Reich. As David Schoenbaum contended forty years ago, the Third Reich's apotheosization of “national community [Volksgemeinschaft]” led to an array of welfare programs, educational reforms, and “meritocratic” values that may in fact have produced a modern “social revolution.” To be sure, a number of subsequent studies have highlighted longer-term continuities, suggesting that the Nazi Sozialstaat was indebted in some part to the legacy of the Weimar Republic and in other respects presaged the social policies of the Federal Republic of Germany (FRG). Historians likewise continue to debate the relative improvement in living standards experienced by the average German under Hitler. Virtually all scholars agree, however, that, regardless of its efficacy, the underpinnings of Nazi social policy are to be located in the Third Reich's drive to construct a racial utopia at home while securing popular support for wars of conquest abroad.

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Michael Burleigh and Wolfgang Wippermann , The Racial State: Germany 1933–1945 (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1991)

David F. Crew , Germans on Welfare: From Weimar to Hitler (New York: Oxford University Press, 1998)

Kevin Repp , Reformers, Critics, and the Paths of German Modernity: Anti-Politics and the Search for Alternatives, 1890–1914 (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2000)

Rüdiger Hachtmann , Untersuchungen zu den Lohn- und Arbeitsbedingungen in Deutschland, 1933–1945 (Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 1989)

Volker Depkat , Lebenswenden und Zeitenwenden. Deutsche Politiker und die Erfahrungen des 20. Jahrhunderts (Munich: Oldenbourg, 2007), 182

Larry Neal , “The Economics and Finance of Bilateral Clearing Agreements: Germany, 1934–8,” The Economic History Review, New Series 32, no. 3 (Aug. 1979): 391404

Dan P. Silverman , “Fantasy and Reality in Nazi Work-Creation Programs, 1933–1936,” The Journal of Modern History 65, no. 1 (March 1993): 113151

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Central European History
  • ISSN: 0008-9389
  • EISSN: 1569-1616
  • URL: /core/journals/central-european-history
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