Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Forced Assimilation in inter-war Europe?

But the development of social policy had a darker side as well: safeguarding the “quality” as well as the quantity of the nation’s human stock—as doctors, scientists and policy-makers recommended—implied reducing the dangers to public health. These were not only slums, poverty and malnutrition; they also encompassed the physically and mentally ill, who were shut away, sterilized or even in the extreme case killed for the greater good of society. Juvenile delinquents or the sexually promiscuous were also seen as jeopardizing family stability and public order. And sometimes the threat to the nation was defined even more broadly in terms of an entire class—as in the so-called “social problem group,” which supposedly existed in inter-war Britain—or in terms of race. The Third Reich combined biological anti-Semitism with a highly efficient state apparatus to produce the most modern form of this kind of racial welfare state in Europe.

Mazower, Mark (2009). Dark Continent: Europe's Twentieth Century (pp. 77-78). Vintage. Kindle Edition.

As all the players of the Great War tackled the issue of identity following the mutilation of their old identity before the war, Germany, probably the most profoundly scarred of all the players, expressed its desire to find itself in such a radically higher degree than the others (WW1 alumni).

By the time the Nazis came to power, Germany had convinced itself that it was not the fault of the Germans that they suffered defeat, but of dangerous foreign influences that had permeated into the relatively liberal 2nd Reich. As a consequence of this new understanding of German Nationalism, you start to see insane programs like this (which were not uncommon in other countries, including the USA, but not to such a murderous degree as Nazi Germany).

Some blame Wilson's 14 Points for inspiring these sorts of forced assimilation programs, but I bet Wilson did not mean for such things to occur and was just ignorant of the facts on the ground.

What do you think Cedric?

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