By: WIllem Nesbitt
With the return of Germany to the world stage in the 1930s, this time under the leadership of the Nazi regime, the Nazi’s sought to establish the German people as superior, strong, and Ayran, both internally and externally. Whether through the flexing of athletic might at the 1936 Olympic Games in Berlin, or, as seen in Shelley Baranowski’s Strength Through Joy, through establishing nationalist, Ayran ideals via vacations for workers to other countries, the Nazi regime wished to validate their alternative to American “Fordism” and Soviet leftism.
For all of the seemingly self-proclaimed bravado of the Nazi organization Kraft durch Freude established within Baranowski’s introduction, Chapter 5 paints KdF in a different light, one that I feel the author failed to conclude into a potentially interesting point on the organization and thereby the regime, despite spending most of the chapter discussing it. Baranowski relays stories of KdF tourists displeased with their accommodations and experiences, ranging from being upset over being poured a lesser quality coffee, to Westphalian and Silesian KdF tourists nearly coming to blows over some name-calling, and at one point, states that KdF customers were served “a one-course dish to keep [the restauranteur’s] costs in line with KdF’s reimbursement for the meal” (page 166). This single line, of which Baranowski quickly moves on from to discuss class and racial issues within KdF tours, alludes to the potential fact that KdF and the Nazi regime were falling short. If the intention for this program was to both show foreigners the successes of the German people and to teach the workers who went on these trips that their work was resulting in a successful and prosperous nation, then most surely their meals should have been at the very least equivalent to those of the “private” tourists Baranowski contrasts the KdF tourists with. Although the author makes this point, they fail to further extract an argument from it, one such as that the KdF organization was potentially underfunded, or that, like many other endeavours by the Nazi regime, KdF was simply mismanaged and too brash in its intentions, unable to hold up its promises. For all the interesting anecdotes and insights of Baranowski’s writing, they seem to fail to coalesce these points into a tangible argument, leaving the reader wanting for a more satisfying conclusion.