One of the themes that was present this week was the question of how much agency did people wield for and against the regime. We can see this question play out in Marhoefer’s article about homosexuality in Nazi Germany. The Nazi regime typically targeted homosexual men and prosecuted them as they made homosexuality illegal. Lesbians were still around during the Nazi regime, but weren’t specifically targeted like gay men were. Instead, the regime relied on witnesses coming and reporting lesbians, as it was not technically illegal. Witnesses who reported to the regime were more likely to raise suspicions and might be investigated by the regime themselves. People were able to wield some agency against the regime, by deciding to not report people, they were taking back what little power they had over their lives, by protecting themselves and those around them from unwanted scrutiny. Being able to show this type of agency during the regime, demonstrates how even when people have little control over their lives, they will do what they can to stand on their own.
We can also see how soldiers were able to have some agency while serving the regime as shown in Kunhe’s article. Soldiers were expected to be embody manliness as it would help to make them a better soldier. These soldiers were able to shape themselves into the ideal of “hard” manliness and once their male identity was established without question, they were able to display some feminine qualities, such as showing affection to fellow soldiers as well as to women. Once they had established themselves as soldiers, they were able to take some agency back and show some softer sides of themselves, which went against how Nazi soldiers were expected to be. We can see how everyday people as well as soldiers in the regime were able to wield varying levels of agency against the regime.
Laurie Marhoefer, “Lesbianism, Transvestitism, and the Nazi State: a Microhistory of a Gestapo Investigation, 1939-1943” The American Historical Review 121: 4 (2016): 1167-1195.
Thomas Kühne, “Protean masculinity, Hegemonic Masculinity: Soldiers in the Third Reich” Central European History Vol 51, Issue 3 (September 2018): 390-418.
After the readings this week, I got to see the terms we discussed last week, in particular fascism in a different way. We are used to hearing fascism discussed by people who were observing the regime, but this week we got to see an insider’s perspective as to why they were drawn to this idea. The prompt given prior to the readings was fascism: for the nation, against empire and it helped to direct my thoughts through the readings.
A theme I came across this week was nationalism and national identity and how these ideas played a role in the support for fascism. As Ruth Ben-Ghiat’s piece suggests a fascist regime was part of a cultural reclamation, where Italy felt that it had lost its national identity and were being populated with too many non-Italians which led to the need to reclaim their culture, which they felt was being lost. This loss of national identity also spurred the demographic colonization in Africa to help build the population back up in order to bring civility and discipline to the people of Africa. Fascism fueled the idea that countries belonged to the colonizers and it was their duty to civilize all they could.
As Paul Hanebrink mentions, Judeo-Bolshevism was a response to wanting to purify their country from immigrants. Rather than take responsibility, blame about communism was put on the Jews as an excuse to purify the country. The idea is that in order to have a true national identity, there must be a pure race, something that connects the entire country, diversity would harm this. It is interesting to see how fascist regimes did what they did as they thought it was helping their country, with little thought for the harm it would cause others.
Ruth Ben-Ghiat, “Conquest and Collaboration” in Fascist Modernities: Italy, 1922-1945 (University of California Press, 2004), pp. 17-45.
Paul Hanebrink, A Specter Haunting Europe: The Myth of Judeo-Bolshevism (Harvard University Press, 2018), pp. 1-10, 11-45.
The readings this week discussed the terms fascism, populism and authoritarianism and how they have been historically used. The way in which we understand and use these terms today, is often based on figures and moments in history, but the history around these terms is ignored. Both the readings by Robert Paxton and Cas Mudde discuss the ideas of fascism and populism and their gained popularity today.
Paxton’s point about how fascism is a cycle of five stages, but very few events/people make it to the fifth stage, “the long duration, during which the fascist regime chooses either radicalization or entropy,” interested me as I had never seen it broken down like that before. It had me thinking that while we may call many leaders fascists, using this cycle they were never true fascists, only echoing the ideology. Paxton also says, “The complex relationship between fascism and modernity cannot be resolved all at once, and with a simple yes or no. It has to be developed in the unfolding story of fascism’s acquisition and exercise of power.” This quote got me thinking about Mudde, as they talk about in their piece that “currently there is a period of nostalgia for the past.” While Mudde discusses the idea of populism, what both authors bring together is this idea that the ideologies of fascism and populism are gaining traction again today, because people want a change, and they see how these ideas worked in the past to make political change.
A question I have is: What harm can come from being nostalgic about the past, without having proper education about it or are people just romanticizing a history because they are unhappy with the present?
Cas Mudde, “Populism in Europe: An Illiberal Democratic Response to Undemocratic Liberalism” (The Government and Opposition/Leonard Schapiro Lecture 2019). Government and Opposition, (2021): 1-21.
Robert Paxton, The Anatomy of Fascism (New York, 2004), pp 3-23.
My name is Emma and I am in my final year of my undergrad in History, with minors in Canadian Studies and Women and Gender Studies.
I am interested in looking at how gender and sexuality were viewed/understood by the far right.
In my free time I enjoy reading, museums and going for walks.