National community

from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

In the political world of ideas of the 19th and 20th centuries, Volksgemeinschaft referred to the ethnic ideal of a largely conflict-free, harmonious social order that had left class barriers and class struggle behind. This was described as a community , in contrast to the concept of society , which was rejected as artificial and un-German. Almost all German parties have used this term since the First World War . The formula of the Volksgemeinschaft was particularly effective during the time of the National Socialist dictatorship . In 1937 Meyers Konversations-Lexikon defined Volksgemeinschaft as the "central concept of National Socialist thought [s]".

Concept history

The word Volksgemeinschaft was first used in Gottlob August Tittel's 1791 translation of a text by John Locke . Volksgemeinschaft brought the phrase “in any [particular] place, generally” to the point. Nineteenth-century scholars who spoke of “Volksgemeinschaft” included Friedrich Schleiermacher , Friedrich Carl von Savigny , Carl Theodor Welcker , Johann Caspar Bluntschli , Hermann Schulze, Wilhelm Dilthey , Wilhelm Wundt and Ferdinand Tönnies .

In the German Empire

Towards the end of the 19th century, ethnicity and language became criteria for determining a nation. The term nation was more closely linked to the term “ state ”, while “people” was easier to understand ethnically. The term “people's community” increasingly replaced the “people's nation” that had been used until then.

“Volksgemeinschaft” as a counter-image to the modern society, which is characterized by conflicts and social contradictions, was attractive to various political groups - especially to conservative , but also to liberal , national Bolshevik and Christian movements. Because of the contrast between community and society highlighted by Ferdinand Tönnies , the concept of the national community gained popularity. The antinomies shaped by Tönnies are reflected in it: unity against plurality, individualism against solidarity of the community, special interests against common good . Initially, the term community was largely politically open to interpretation; it could be interpreted as “national”, “socialist”, “conservative” or “völkisch”. Part of these ethnic communities were the industrial communities , which were directed against the class struggle and strived for a harmonious cooperation between employers and employees. They were discredited as “yellow” (yellow as the color of betrayal ), but were still able to organize until the Weimar Republic. Although politically founded in liberalism, other political directions emerged among the Werksgemeinschaft, such as the Deutsche Werkgemeinschaft (DW, from 1921) Otto Dickels, a national group with a monopoly claim.

In this world of ideas, the ethnically defined people were no longer the classical state people , for which the institutions and law of a state are characteristic, but imagined communities of descent, common blood and soil were the common characteristics. Accordingly, the terms state and territory were replaced by those of people and living space . This living space is the territory of the ethnically defined people.

The political scientists Johann Plenge and Rudolf Kjellén popularized the idea of ​​a state in which “everyone lives with an equal share”, which aimed at inclusion and homogeneity . This idea was supported by scholars as diverse as Franz Oppenheimer , Werner Sombart , Ferdinand Tönnies , Max Scheler , Friedrich Meinecke and Ernst Troeltsch . The ethnic definition of the people and the idea of ​​homogeneity did not, however, correspond to the composition of the population on German territory. As early as 1911, the national community idea was understood by the Pan-German Association in the sense of exclusion and expulsion of foreign speakers. Jews , Catholics and national minorities (Prussian Poles , French-speaking Lorraine , Danes in North Schleswig ) should not belong to the national community. Here, in particular, did Georg von Below , Eduard Meyer , Dietrich Schafer and Reinhold Seeberg out who founded in 1917 the German Fatherland Party were close.

In the first World War

The development into a key political term took place in the First World War under the influence of the August experience of 1914. After all members of the Reichstag had approved the war credits, parts of the population felt a sense of elation for national unity, which Kaiser Wilhelm II summarized in the sentence that he knew no more parties, just Germans. Two days earlier, the leadership of the social democratic trade unions had also decided not to engage in labor disputes for the duration of the war. Nationalist mass demonstrations broke out in the big cities. The social, political and confessional division of the German people seemed to dissolve in a frenzy of national enthusiasm. Impressed by the “August experience”, numerous journalists, professors and intellectuals developed the ideas of 1914 in articles and brochures in 1914/15 , which celebrated the war as the starting point for a new national unity. During the Weimar Republic, the National Socialists were able to follow up on these publications with their national community slogans.

In the Weimar Republic

After the lost war, ethnic thinking in Germany became the main consensus and determinative for the Conservative Revolution , named after Armin Mohler , consisting of the ethnic movement , young conservatives , national revolutionaries , the rural people movement and the youth movement ( Bündischen ). In view of their original state fragmentation, Germans usually do not define themselves as a state nation, unlike France or Great Britain, for example, and therefore tended more easily to ethnicise the term people. In the romantic youth movement of the Wandervogel and especially the Young German Order , the national community was propagated as the ideal of future society based on small, manageable spaces ( neighborhood help ). A true democratic community of the people was to be realized against the supposedly anonymous "society" determined by economic considerations of benefit, selfish individualism and party disputes (parliament was considered a chat room ) . Mohler: “Let's take the individual, for example. In the 'Conservative Revolution' it loses its unconditional value and becomes part of a whole - but a part that receives its special dignity through being part of this whole. ” According to Kellershohn,“ the primacy of the whole, of the people, belongs , the Volksgemeinschaft "to the " basic principles of völkisch thought and certainly does not form a boundary between what Mohler understands by conservative revolution and the Nazi ideology. "

In National Socialism

The National Socialist doctrine defined the national community as "based on blood excessive based Bonding, on common fate and a common political faith community of a people, the classes - and able opposites alien are. The national community is the starting point and goal of the worldview and state system of National Socialism. ”Belonging to the Aryan race was a necessary condition for belonging to the (German) national community, but it was not sufficient. The Volksgemeinschaft was a community of convictions that required a commitment to the National Socialist ideology .

"Volksgemeinschaft" in National Socialism promised social community, overcoming class society, political unity and national resurgence. Large parts of the German population shared these social goals and were mobilized by these goals. In addition, the term Volksgemeinschaft also had an exclusionary effect: Anyone who was not a national in the sense of National Socialist ideology could not participate in the Volksgemeinschaft. Participation in the national community was only possible for Germans, defined as Aryans in the ideological sense of the word . The idea of ​​a national community was the driving force behind the success of the NSDAP's election campaigns before 1933; After 1933, it released considerable social impetus that drove the expansion of the National Socialist organizational world. This expansion was also a result of the term's flexible connectivity to different milieus and personal interests, so that “Volksgemeinschaft” was used very differently in everyday life in society, as Dietmar von Reeken and Malte Thießen remark: “The social effectiveness of this utopia made it ambiguous ahead. [...] Depending on the interests and the situation, the term could be interpreted as nationalistic, anti-Semitic or militaristic. It corresponded to ideas of blood and soil or equality as well as the idea of ​​achievement, it stood for camaraderie and community (vs. society) or culture (vs. civilization) - and occasionally for everything together. ”This is another reason why this national community was a central metaphor for the social side of the Nazi state and one of the most powerful formulas of Nazi propaganda . Especially among the younger generation, the term and its claim to a modernization of state institutions contributed to the legitimation of the Nazi regime .

With the term “Volksgemeinschaft” an ideal of social security, political justice and national renewal in German society was propagated. However, anyone who did not belong or did not want to belong to the German "Volksgemeinschaft" was marginalized, declared an enemy or even annihilated. Features of these notions of order were:

Integration ideas

Racist and anti-Semitic exclusion

Controversies about the reality content of the National Socialist "Volksgemeinschaft"

The question of whether the “Volksgemeinschaft” of the National Socialists was primarily a propaganda slogan or whether and to what extent it also shaped the social reality of the “Aryan” German society is controversial in research. Frank Bajohr and Michael Wildt take the view that one should not understand the formula of the national community as if "social differences or property and property relations in Nazi Germany have been leveled". Rather, the national community remained primarily a "promise". In stark contrast to this, Götz Aly claims that the Nazi regime ensured “a level of equality and upward social mobilization that was previously unknown in Germany”. Michael Grüttner argues more cautiously , who assumes in his contribution to Gebhardt that “at least in parts of German society” serious attempts have actually been made to put the national community concept into practice. Above all in the Reich Labor Service , in the Hitler Youth and in the military, there were "significant equalization processes".

After 1945: Consequences of the national community and memory

After the end of the war , "Volksgemeinschaft" was discredited as a key concept in political programs. At most, the German Reich Party (DRP) and the Socialist Reich Party (SRP) advertised with the Volksgemeinschaft as an electoral target in the 1950s and 1960s. Nevertheless, even beyond the right-wing extremist spectrum, there are obvious references or even explicit mentions of the “national community” in many political debates. The contemporary historian Malte Thießen writes that in debates in the German Bundestag about compensation, about Nazi war criminals or emigrants, “ethnic” boundaries were drawn which clearly show the after-effects of the national community. According to Malte Thießen, there are even clearer indications in interviews with contemporary witnesses : Here the “Volksgemeinschaft” is used so often because it “serves as a contrast film to the present day, in which, according to contemporary witnesses, there is no cohesion, no comradeship or mutual help there is more ”. The “Volksgemeinschaft” has even more serious consequences when it comes to memories of those who were previously persecuted. Interviews with Jews, communists or politically persecuted people or with resistance fighters show, according to Thiessen, that the limits of the “national community” were felt after 1945 as well. The formerly persecuted felt z. Some until today as excluded or as "community alien" and therefore refer to the "national community".

The “Volksgemeinschaft” shows after-effects especially in the political culture of the NPD . It uses slogans such as “national community instead of capitalism ” to attract votes and apparently uses “beautiful” values ​​of the Nazi era for its own purposes. In the judgment of the Federal Constitutional Court on January 17, 2017, the dispute with the “concept of the ethnic definition of the 'national community' represented by it” was a central aspect in determining the party's unconstitutional goals:

"This political concept disregards the human dignity of all who do not belong to the ethnic community and is incompatible with the constitutional principle of democracy."

The lawyer and journalist Günter Platzdasch emphasizes that the Federal Constitutional Court only ruled that the NPD's use of the term was incompatible with the Basic Law. Together with the sociologist Helmut Schelsky , he refers to historical differences in the content of the term before, during and after the National Socialist era. As an example of other intentions in the use of the term, he cites the constitutional lawyer Hermann Heller , who in 1934 emphasized against the fiction of a “socially and politically homogeneous national community” that the “reality of people and nation [...] but as a rule no unity [ shows] but a pluralism ”.

The anti-Semitism researcher Samuel Salzborn , on the other hand, saw “Volksgemeinschaft” in 2018 as “historically and inseparably linked to National Socialism”. Even the term itself is “untenable” in a democracy, since it produces a twofold exclusion: In contrast to the nation , people are not defined by rational, democratic criteria such as the decision to belong or not, but “by pre-political aspects such as the fiction of an alleged one common descent of a collective. ”In this context, community forms a contrast to the open, ultimately voluntary society . With reference to the 2017 BVerfG ruling, Salzborn summarizes that the Volksgemeinschaft only stands for coercion, is “repressive and totalitarian both towards those who are included and excluded”. Influenced by the New Right , the AfD is trying to portray the term, more generally the völkisch terminology of the Nazi forerunners, as not genuinely anti-democratic and to make it publicly usable again. In a Christmas greeting 2015 , the AfD Saxony-Anhalt appealed to “responsibility for the national community”.

See also


  • Frank Bajohr, Michael Wildt (ed.): Volksgemeinschaft. New research on the society of National Socialism. Fischer, Frankfurt am Main 2009, ISBN 978-3-596-18354-8 ( table of contents (PDF; 66 kB) and review by H-Soz-u-Kult ).
  • Steffen Bruendel : Volksgemeinschaft or Volksstaat. The "Ideas of 1914" and the reorganization of Germany in the First World War. Academy, Berlin 2003, ISBN 3-05-003745-8 .
  • Norbert Götz: Unequal siblings. The construction of the National Socialist People's Community and the Swedish People's Home . Baden-Baden 2001 ( PDF ; 70 MB).
  • Franz Janka: The brown society. A people is formatted. Verlag der Evangelische Gesellschaft, Stuttgart 1997, ISBN 3-7918-1975-5 .
  • Heiko Kauffmann, Helmut Kellershohn, Jobst Paul (eds.): Völkische Bande. Decadence and rebirth. Analysis of right-wing ideology . Unrast, Münster 2005, ISBN 3-89771-737-9 .
  • Steffen Raßloff : Escape into the national community. The Erfurt bourgeoisie between the Empire and the Nazi dictatorship . Böhlau, Cologne [a. a.] 2003, ISBN 3-412-11802-8 .
  • Dietmar von Reeken, Malte Thießen (ed.): “Volksgemeinschaft” as a social practice. New research on the Nazi society on site. Paderborn 2013, ISBN 978-3-506-77745-4 .
  • Detlef Schmiechen-Ackermann , Marlis Buchholz, Bianca Roitsch, Christiane Schröder (eds.): The place of the ›Volksgemeinschaft‹ in German social history. Paderborn 2018, ISBN 978-3-506-78648-7 .
  • Lil-Christine Schlegel-Voss: Age in the "Volksgemeinschaft". On the situation of the older generation under National Socialism. Duncker & Humblot, Berlin 2005, ISBN 978-3-428-11547-1 (also Diss., Univ. Marburg , 2003).
  • Karsten-Heinz Schönbach: The illusion of the "national community" - alliance between large-scale industry and Nazi leadership against the workers. In: Yearbook for Research on the History of the Labor Movement , Issue I / 2013.
  • Martina Steber, Bernhard Gotto (Ed.): Visions of Community in Nazi Germany - Social Engineering and Private Lives. Oxford University Press, Oxford 2014, ISBN 978-0-19-968959-0 .
  • Sybille Steinbacher : People's comrades. Women in the National Socialist Community (=  Contributions to the History of National Socialism , Volume 23). Wallstein, Göttingen 2007, ISBN 978-3-8353-0188-7 .
  • Michael Stolleis : Community and national community. On the legal terminology in National Socialism. In: Vierteljahrshefte für Zeitgeschichte , issue 1, 1972 ( PDF ; 1 MB), taken over in: Michael Stolleis: Recht im Unrecht. Studies on the legal history of National Socialism. Suhrkamp, ​​Frankfurt am Main 1994 (2nd edition with new afterword, 2012).
  • Dietmar Süß : "Volksgemeinschaft" and the war of extermination. Society in National Socialist Germany. In: Dietmar Suess, Winfried Suess (eds.): The Third Reich. An introduction. Pantheon, Munich 2008, ISBN 978-3-570-55044-1 , pp. 79-102.
  • Malte Thießen: Memories of the "Volksgemeinschaft". Integration and exclusion in communal and communicative memory. In: Detlef Schmiechen-Ackermann (ed.): “Volksgemeinschaft”: Myth, powerful social promise or social reality in the “Third Reich”? (=  National Socialist "Volksgemeinschaft" , vol. 1). Schöningh, Paderborn 2012, ISBN 978-3-506-77165-0 , pp. 319–334.
  • Michael Wildt: Volksgemeinschaft as self-empowerment. Violence against Jews in the German provinces 1917–1939. Hamburger Edition , 2007; detailed Review. Hans Mommsen , FR literature supplement March 21, 2007, p. 18 ( review ).

Web links

Individual evidence

  1. Vol. 2 Col. 1279, after Hilde Kammer / Elisabet Bartsch, National Socialism. Terms from the time of tyranny 1933–1945 , p. 222.
  2. ^ Norbert Götz: The National Socialist Volksgemeinschaft in a synchronous and diachronic comparison. In: Detlef Schmiechen-Ackermann (ed.): 'Volksgemeinschaft': Myth, powerful social promise or social reality in the 'Third Reich'? , Schöningh, Paderborn 2012, pp. 55–67, here p. 57.
  3. John Locke: Of the Human Mind. Dissected and arranged by Gottlob August Tittel for easy and fruitful use. Mannheim 1791, p. 41 f .; see. John Locke: Works , Vol. 1, London 1751, p. 17.
  4. ^ Norbert Götz: Unequal Siblings: The Construction of the National Socialist People's Community and the Swedish People's Home . Nomos, Baden-Baden 2001.
  5. Eric Hobsbawm: Nations and Nationalism. Myth and Reality since 1780 , Frankfurt am Main 2005, ISBN 3-593-37778-0 , p. 122.
  6. Hans-Ulrich Wehler : German history of society , Vol. 3: From the German double revolution to the concept of the First World War 1849-1914. Munich 1995, ISBN 3-406-32263-8 , p. 951.
  7. ^ Michael Haibl: Volksgemeinschaft . In: Wolfgang Benz , Hermann Graml and Hermann Weiß (eds.): Encyclopedia of National Socialism . Klett-Cotta, Stuttgart 1997, p. 786.
  8. Jörn Retterath: "What is the people?" People and community concepts of the political center in Germany 1917-1924. Walter de Gruyter, 2016, ISBN 978-3-11046-454-2 , p. 319 .
  9. E. Heller, How Colors Work. Color psychology, color symbolism, creative color design and A. Rabbow, Lexicon of political symbols , in: Colors as a guide in politics. Federal Agency for Civic Education, accessed on October 23, 2016.
  10. Paul Hoser: National Socialist German Workers' Party (NSDAP), 1920–1923 / 1925–1945. Historical Lexicon of Bavaria , February 12, 2007.
  11. Peter Walkenhorst: Nation - People - Race. Radical nationalism in the German Empire 1890–1914. Göttingen 2007, ISBN 978-3-525-35157-4 , p. 222.
  12. Quotation in: Sönke Neitzel : World War and Revolution 1914–1918 / 19. Berlin 2008, p. 29.
  13. Der Volksbrockhaus A – Z , 10th edition, F. A. Brockhaus, Leipzig 1943, p. 741.
  14. The term goes back to the middle of the 19th century, cf. Cornelia Schmitz-Berning, Vocabulary of National Socialism , de Gruyter, Berlin 2007, ISBN 978-3-11-019549-1 , p. 54 f.
  15. Dietmar von Reeken, Malte Thießen: Volksgemeinschaft als social practice? Perspectives and potentials for new research on site. In this. (Ed.): Volksgemeinschaft as social practice. New research on the Nazi society on site. Paderborn 2013, p. 21.
  16. Adolf Hitler: Mein Kampf . Two volumes in one book, Zentralverlag der NSDAP, Eher Nachf. Verlag, Munich 1935, pp. 432, 439.
  17. Frank Bajohr, Michael Wildt (ed.): Volksgemeinschaft. New research on the society of National Socialism. Fischer, Frankfurt am Main 2009, p. 8.
  18. Götz Aly: Hitler's People's State . Frankfurt am Main 2005, p. 38.
  19. Michael Grüttner: The Third Reich. 1933–1939 (=  Handbook of German History , Volume 19). Klett-Cotta, Stuttgart 2014, p. 330 ff.
  20. Der Spiegel 4/1960: Deutsche Reichspartei , p. 21.
  21. Malte Thießen: Nice times? Memories of the “Volksgemeinschaft” after 1945. In: Frank Bajohr, Michael Wildt (Ed.): Volksgemeinschaft. New research on the society of National Socialism. Frankfurt am Main 2009, pp. 165–187, here pp. 169–170.
  22. Quoted from Malte Thießen: Nice times? Memories of the “Volksgemeinschaft” after 1945. In: Frank Bajohr, Michael Wildt (Ed.): Volksgemeinschaft , p. 179.
  23. Malte Thießen: Memories of the "Volksgemeinschaft". Integration and exclusion in communal and communicative memory. In: Detlef Schmiechen-Ackermann (ed.): “Volksgemeinschaft”: Myth, powerful social promise or social reality in the “Third Reich”? , Schöningh, Paderborn 2012, pp. 319–334.
  24. ^ A b Günter Platzdasch: Walter Benjamin and the NPD judgment. January 17, 2017, accessed April 16, 2019 .
  25. BVerfG: Judgment of the Second Senate of January 17, 2017 - 2 BvB 1/13 (Leits. 9).
  26. a b c Samuel Salzborn: Antisemitism in the 'Alternative for Germany' Party , German Politics and Society 36: 3 (2018), pp. 74-93.
  27. ^ New right course: The AfD and the "Volksgemeinschaft" , , December 29, 2015.