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The Rise and Fall of Comradeship
Hitler's Soldiers, Male Bonding and Mass Violence in the Twentieth Century


  • Date Published: February 2017
  • availability: Available
  • format: Paperback
  • isbn: 9781107658288

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About the Authors
  • This is an innovative account of how the concept of comradeship shaped the actions, emotions and ideas of ordinary German soldiers across the two world wars and during the Holocaust. Using individual soldiers' diaries, personal letters and memoirs, Kühne reveals the ways in which soldiers' longing for community, and the practice of male bonding and togetherness, sustained the Third Reich's pursuit of war and genocide. Comradeship fuelled the soldiers' fighting morale. It also propelled these soldiers forward into war crimes and acts of mass murders. Yet, by practising comradeship, the soldiers could maintain the myth that they were morally sacrosanct. Post-1945, the notion of kameradschaft as the epitome of humane and egalitarian solidarity allowed Hitler's soldiers to join the euphoria for peace and democracy in the Federal Republic, finally shaping popular memories of the war through the end of the twentieth century.

    • Offers a cultural approach to military history, demonstrating the way in which ordinary soldiers thought, felt, made choices and coped with mass death and violence
    • Explores the multifaceted fabric of male bonding and how 'hard' and 'soft' features work together
    • Explains some of the discontinuities in Germany's twentieth century and how those engaged in brutal genocidal violence could then form one of the strongest democracies ever to be established
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    Reviews & endorsements

    'Probing into the Janus-faced quality of comradeship, Thomas Kühne illuminates the moral world of Nazi Germany on its own terms, a world in which most German soldiers acted as they did, not because they were forced to do so, but because they thought it was right. Obsessed with the 'virtue' of being held in high esteem by their 'masculine' comrades, they had scant concern for their victims. This book makes an essential contribution to understanding the capacity to commit terrible atrocities without remorse in Nazi Germany.' Christopher Browning, University of North Carolina

    'War is a powerful generator of solidarity. Thomas Kühne explores the rise and decline of the German version of this phenomenon, Kameradschaft. It was a myth that was lived in World War II and came to shape male identity into the late twentieth century. How, why and with what consequences this happened is the subject of this powerful exploration.' Michael Geyer, University of Chicago

    'An original, comprehensive, and incisive analysis of the concept, myth, reality, and ultimate disintegration of soldiers' comradeship in modern Germany and its profound implications for the manner in which German men imagined war, perpetrated violence, and for long managed to avoid coming to terms with their complicity in the crimes of the Nazi regime. Set within the larger context of European and American ideas and practices of military cohesion, this is an important book that should be read by all students of modern and military history.' Omer Bartov, Brown University, Rhode Island

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    Product details

    • Date Published: February 2017
    • format: Paperback
    • isbn: 9781107658288
    • length: 310 pages
    • dimensions: 228 x 152 x 16 mm
    • weight: 0.45kg
    • availability: Available
  • Table of Contents

    Introduction: a concept from a different world
    Part I. The Myth of Comradeship, 1914–1939:
    1. Healing
    2. Coalescence
    3. Steeling
    Part II. The Practice of Comradeship, 1939–1945:
    4. Assimilation
    5. Megalomania
    6. Nemesis
    Part III. The Decline of Comradeship:
    7. Privatisation
    8. Integration
    9. Demonisation
    Conclusion: protean masculinity and Germany's twentieth century

  • Author

    Thomas Kühne, Clark University, Massachusetts
    Thomas Kühne is Strassler Chair in Holocaust History and Professor of History at Clark University, Massachusetts. His research, published in English, German and other languages, focuses on modern Germany and explores the cultural history of war and genocide and the construction of collective identity through mass violence. His awards include fellowships from the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation and the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, and the German Bundestag Research Prize.

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