Society and Violence: Crimes during the Final Stages of the Second World War, 1944/45

Abgeschlossenes Projekt

Employees (IfZ):  Dr. Sven Keller

During the final phase of the “Third Reich”, National Socialist violence escalated for one last time. This research project investigates the heterogeneous range of crimes committed during this period. Central sources include documents and verdicts from post-war trials and investigations in West and East Germany. Using several hundred examples, the study looks into the social and structural framework conditions for this violence as well as into its function.


The results show that the violence provided stability for the regime as a whole, while individual perpetrators experienced a direct sense of power when committing acts of violence. This served to maintain views of Weltanschauung and one’s self-image during what was a period of chaos and collapse. The National Socialist Volksgemeinschaft (“people’s community”) ideology provided orientation here during the last days of the war: Rooted in the trauma of defeat during the First World War, this ideology established “racial enemies”, “traitors to the people”, and internal “defeatists”, who had to be radically combated in order to prevent another defeat, another “1918” from occurring.

Publications within the project

Sven Keller

Volksgemeinschaft am Ende.

Quellen und Darstellungen zur Zeitgeschichte

München 2013


© Institut für Zeitgeschichte