David Cesarani

Defies Any Parallel

The Third Reich: A New History

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Every 9 November during the Third Reich, Hitler and his minions performed a solemn memorial rite for comrades killed during the struggle for power. The day that properly commemorated the dead of the Great War was appropriated for men whose fate was rather less noble. But to the Nazis they were ‘martyrs’ who sacrificed their lives for their prophetic leader and the redemption of Germany. Michael Burleigh brilliantly sums up this flimflammery as a ‘Nazified passion play’. It was, however, part of the larger picture in which the ordinary was sentimentalised and recast as sacred. Even the welfare system was adapted to nurture faith in the ethnic community and family. For this reason, too, the Nazis’ conflict with the Church was anything but a sideshow.

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