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After the Nazi Racial State

Difference and Democracy in Germany and Europe

Rita Chin, Heide Fehrenbach, Geoff Eley, and Atina Grossmann

Publication Year: 2009

After the Nazi Racial State offers a comprehensive, persuasive, and ambitious argument in favor of making 'race' a more central analytical category for the writing of post-1945 history. This is an extremely important project, and the volume indeed has the potential to reshape the field of post-1945 German history. ---Frank Biess, University of California, San Diego What happened to "race," race thinking, and racial distinctions in Germany, and Europe more broadly, after the demise of the Nazi racial state? This book investigates the afterlife of "race" since 1945 and challenges the long-dominant assumption among historians that it disappeared from public discourse and policy-making with the defeat of the Third Reich and its genocidal European empire. Drawing on case studies of Afro-Germans, Jews, and Turks---arguably the three most important minority communities in postwar Germany---the authors detail continuities and change across the 1945 divide and offer the beginnings of a history of race and racialization after Hitler. A final chapter moves beyond the German context to consider the postwar engagement with "race" in France, Britain, Sweden, and the Netherlands, where waves of postwar, postcolonial, and labor migration troubled nativist notions of national and European identity. After the Nazi Racial State poses interpretative questions for the historical understanding of postwar societies and democratic transformation, both in Germany and throughout Europe. It elucidates key analytical categories, historicizes current discourse, and demonstrates how contemporary debates about immigration and integration---and about just how much "difference" a democracy can accommodate---are implicated in a longer history of "race." This book explores why the concept of "race" became taboo as a tool for understanding German society after 1945. Most crucially, it suggests the social and epistemic consequences of this determined retreat from "race" for Germany and Europe as a whole. Rita Chin is Associate Professor of History at the University of Michigan. Heide Fehrenbach is Presidential Research Professor at Northern Illinois University. Geoff Eley is Karl Pohrt Distinguished University Professor of Contemporary History at the University of Michigan. Atina Grossmann is Professor of History at Cooper Union. Cover illustration: Human eye, © Stockexpert.com.

Published by: University of Michigan Press

Series: Social History, Popular Culture, and Pol


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p. vii

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Introduction: What’s Race Got to Do With It? Postwar German History in Context

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pp. 1-29

In June 2006, just prior to the start of the World Cup in Germany, the New York Times ran a front-page story on a “surge in racist mood” among Germans attending soccer events and anxious officials’ efforts to discourage public displays of racism before a global audience. The article led with the recent experience of Nigerian forward Adebowale Ogungbure, who, af-...

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1. Black Occupation Children and the Devolution of the Nazi Racial State

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pp. 30-54

Prior to 1945, children were a primary target in the Nazi regime’s murderous quest to build a new order based upon fantastical notions of racial purity. In a determined drive to craft an Aryan superstate and realize a racialized empire in Europe, the Nazi regime enacted social policies ranging from sterilization to “euthanasia” and, ultimately, mechanized mass mur-...

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2. From Victims to “Homeless Foreigners”: Jewish Survivors in Postwar Germany

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pp. 55-79

In 1933, at the beginning of the National Socialist regime, Germany counted approximately 500,000 Jews. In 1946–47, three years after Germany had been declared judenrein, some quarter of a million Jews—the numbers are rough and some recent estimates top 300,000—resided in Germany, albeit on occupied and defeated territory, mostly in the American...

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3. Guest Worker Migration and the Unexpected Return of Race

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pp. 80-101

In an attempt to head off a major labor shortage precipitated by the post-war economic boom, the Federal Republic of Germany signed a worker recruitment treaty with Italy in December 1955. The agreement inaugurated an eighteen-year period of foreign labor recruitment that targeted guest workers from many southern Mediterranean countries, including Muslim...

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4. German Democracy and the Question of Difference, 1945–1995

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pp. 102-136

With the collapse of the Third Reich, democratization became one of the most urgent political and ideological tasks facing West Germans. The ideal of democracy (liberty, equality, popular representation) as well as its concrete institutions (a constitution and popularly elected representative bodies) promised to protect the new state against repeating the barbarity of the...

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5. The Trouble with “Race”: Migrancy, Cultural Difference, and the Remaking of Europe

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pp. 137-182

In what follows I want to develop some general thoughts about the acute discomforts experienced by western European politicians, social commentators, and cultural critics whenever “race” enters the agenda of political debate or erupts violently into the main territories of public life. These thoughts might be keyed to any number of major happenings of the past...


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pp. 183-242

Select Bibliography

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pp. 243-252


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pp. 253-263

E-ISBN-13: 9780472025787
E-ISBN-10: 0472025783
Print-ISBN-13: 9780472033447
Print-ISBN-10: 0472033441

Page Count: 272
Publication Year: 2009

Series Title: Social History, Popular Culture, and Pol
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OCLC Number: 642475431
MUSE Marc Record: Download for After the Nazi Racial State

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Subject Headings

  • Europe -- Race relations -- History -- 20th century.
  • Racism -- Germany -- History -- 20th century.
  • Germany -- Race relations -- History -- 20th century.
  • Foreign workers -- Germany -- History -- 20th century.
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