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What Were They Fighting For? German Mentalities in the Second World War

What Were They Fighting For? German Mentalities in the Second World War
1 Devonshire Place, Room 108N, Munk School of Global Affairs
Time: Nov 18th, 12:00 pm End: Nov 18th, 2:00 pm
Interest Categories: History (FAS), Historical Studies (UTM), Historical and Cultural Studies (UTSC), German (FAS), 1950-2000, 1900-1950
Talk by Nicholas Stargardt, University of Oxford

The Centre for European, Russian, and Eurasian Studies presents

What Were They Fighting For? German Mentalities in the Second World War


We still do not know what Germans thought they were fighting for in the Second World War. Despite decades of intense research on Nazi Germany, till now historians have not placed Germans' views of the war centre stage. In his recent book, The German War, Oxford historian Nicholas Stargardt argues that the war became the principal focus of society's hopes and fears. The war was only popular in the brief periods when victory appeared imminent and yet its basic legitimacy was called far less into question than that of the Nazi regime. In this lecture, he will address a number of questions: How did Germans see the outbreak of the war through the prism of the First? How did the changing course of the conflict-the victories of the Blitzkrieg, the first defeats in the east, the bombing of German cities-change their views and expectations? When did Germans first realize that they were fighting a genocidal war and how did they this knowledge alter their view of their own war effort? How did private life- the relationships which led people to write love letters between home and the front-sustain the German war effort? What difference does it make to draw on personal sources such as diaries and family letters, to how we write the social history of this period?

Nicholas Stargardt is Professor of Modern European history at the University of Oxford. He is the author of many articles and three books. The first, The German Idea of Militarism: Radical and Socialist Critics, 1866-1914 (1994), dealt with the hopes for a peaceful, democratic and demilitarised Europe, which were destroyed when the First World War broke out in 1914. For the next twenty years, he has tried to understand the experience of those who lived in Germany and under German occupation during the Second World War. This has resulted in two major books. Witnesses of War: Children's Lives under the Nazis (2005) was the first work to show how children experienced the Second World War under the Nazis, exploring the widely divergent experiences of German and Jewish, Polish and Czech, Sinti and the disabled children. The German War: A Nation under Arms, 1939-45 (2015) answers the key question without which we cannot understand how Germans were able to continue the war till the bitter end: What did they think they were fighting for? Drawing on family letters and diaries, he explores how ordinary people experienced and understood the war, including the moral choices and possible futures they imagined they had at the time.

This event is free and open to all. Registration is required. For further information, please contact Joseph Hawker


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