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Hitler's Wehrmacht, 1935-1945$
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Rolf-Dieter Müller

Print publication date: 2016

Print ISBN-13: 9780813167381

Published to Kentucky Scholarship Online: January 2017

DOI: 10.5810/kentucky/9780813167381.001.0001

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The Wehrmacht and the Volksgemeinschaft

The Wehrmacht and the Volksgemeinschaft

(p.107) 4 The Wehrmacht and the Volksgemeinschaft
Hitler's Wehrmacht, 1935-1945

Rolf-Dieter Müller

, Janice W. Ancker
University Press of Kentucky

Volksgemeinschaft is an idealized concept referring to the Germanic ethnic or national community. The members of this community enjoyed the economic gains under Hitler, but most remembered the past and feared another war. To gain support for Hitler’s military aggression, Goebbels tapped into fears of Bolshevism and a Jewish world conspiracy and propounded the Nazi racial ideology of extreme anti-Semitism. The “master race” and “slave” ideology led to the imprisonment and genocide of European Jews and others marked as racially inferior or handicapped. In need of manpower for armaments production and in other industries, the Germans used Jewish prisoners and Soviet POWS as slave labor in high-mortality working conditions. The regime also employed and abused foreign laborers living in Germany. Increasing numbers of labor camps, concentration camps, and death camps were added in Germany and occupied areas. Müller notes that German civilians definitely witnessed the presence of these prisoners and were drawn into the system, similarly to the Wehrmacht. Civilians feared the Gestapo, acquired a fatalistic view, and offered little support for a coup. For many, the Wehrmacht’s conspiracy and failed assassination attempt of 20 July 1944, Valkyrie, stands as a hopeful symbol of a rebellion of conscience.

Keywords:   Nazi propaganda, Volksgemeinschaft, Joseph Goebbels, anti-Bolshevism, anti-Semitism, soldier-peasants, Operation Valkyrie, death camps

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