Issue 1/2015

Content Overview: English Titles and Abstracts:

  • Horst Möller: The Bayerische Vereinsbank between Resistenz and Gleichschaltung 1933-1945.
  • Anne Rohstock: From an Anti-Parliamentarian to a “Cold Aryaniser” of Jewish Companies in Europe. Theodor Eschenburg during the Weimar Republic and Third Reich.
  • Magnus Brechtken: More than an Historians‘ Skirmish. The Debate on “Das Amt und die Vergangenheit”.
  • Anne Barnert: Personalities, the Capital, Blind Spots. The Collection “Staatliche Filmdokumentation” of the GDR.
  • Stephan Lehnstaedt: The Interpretative Struggle for the “Ghetto Pensions”. Remarks on the Practice of Discourse of the State Social Court of North Rhine-Westphalia.

Abstracts

Horst Möller: The Bayerische Vereinsbank between Resistenz and Gleichschaltung 1933-1945

 

During the Nazi dictatorship, what consequences did bank policy and bank supervision have for the hitherto barely scrutinised regional banks? Did a form of “self-Gleichschaltung” [bringing oneself into line with Nazism] occur – as it did in many other social fields – or did the banks seek areas with room to manoeuvre? What consequences did staff policy have for the filling of positions in management and on the supervisory board? In the case of the Bayerische Vereinsbank, which serves as an example here, the management and supervisory boards succeeded for a considerable length of time – approximately until 1938 – to preserve their autonomy. Courageous senior members and the two major shareholders – the Gutehoffnungshütte and the Mendelssohn-Bank – played a decisive role in this regard, especially Paul Reusch, head of the supervisory board between 1936 and 1938. But even after the Gleichschaltung action of 1938, in which the Nazi regime forced these two major shareholders out of the Bayerische Vereinsbank, which was denounced as a “Jewish bank”, management and the supervisory board continued to put up a fight against any further limitations of their autonomy despite the 1938 influx of Nazi personnel and further intensified pressure by Nazi functionaries in 1942/43. Until the end of the war, bank management succeeded in at least preserving some partial autonomy through their highly skilled actions: This shows, to what extent Resistenz [immunity to full-scale integration into National Socialism] was possible.

 


Anne Rohstock: From an Anti-Parliamentarian to a “Cold Aryaniser” of Jewish Companies in Europe. Theodor Eschenburg during the Weimar Republic and Third Reich

 

Since 2011 there has been a heated debate about the political scientist Theodor Eschenburg. Was he committed to democracy already back in the Weimar Republic? Or did his political opinions only change after 1945? Additionally, how should we assess his actions during Nazi rule? On the basis of newly discovered sources, Anne Rohstock places the actions taken by Eschenburg during the Weimar Republic and the Third Reich into historical context. She shows that, during the first period of democratic rule, Eschenburg held anti-parliamentarian and anti-pluralistic views. During the Third Reich, Eschenburg represented the interests of the Nazi regime regardless of the consequences for those affected: He aimed at squeezing Jewish enterprises out of economic relations with the German Reich; his actions resulted in Jews losing their livelihood. While this in some ways “cold Aryanisation” was part of routine procedures of the Reich Ministry of Economics, Eschenburg used the room for manoeuvre available to him for the benefit of the Nazi regime. The article thus sheds new light on Eschenburg’s participation in the deprivation and persecution of the Jews in Europe.

 


Magnus Brechtken: More than an Historians‘ Skirmish. The Debate on “Das Amt und die Vergangenheit”

 

The article provides an historiographical summary of the public and academic debate on the book Das Amt und die Vergangenheit [The German Foreign Office and the Past]. Based on the hypothesis that investigating and discussing the highly problematic aspects of the Federal Republic’s history has had an enlightening and emancipatory effect on German society far beyond purely historical questions, the text presents the general direction and the research development from the immediate aftermath of the war until the turn of the century. It becomes clear that an astonishing variety of information and arguments was presented in the regular discussions of the German public about its past. The bulk of potentially perceptible information met with varying interest of the society. One key question is for example why the findings of Christopher Browning and Hans-Jürgen Döscher in the 1980s and 1990s did not receive a similar public appreciation as the commission’s report in 2010. The debate about “Das Amt” echoed patterns of arguments in which the politics of history dominated. In the academic discourse the rational weighing of empirical-based arguments prevailed. The debate about the continuities of personnel from before 1945 to the institutions of the Federal Republic in the 1960s has made it clear that more empirical research on the mentality and thinking, the world views and the value systems of these people, based on thorough archival scrutiny, has still to be done.          

 


Anne Barnert: Personalities, the Capital, Blind Spots. The Collection “Staatliche Filmdokumentation” of the GDR

 

The Staatliche Filmdokumentation [State Film Documentation, or SFD] existed at the Filmarchiv [Film Archive] of the GDR between 1970 and 1986, where it produced documentary films classified as not for public dissemination but as an historical source for future generations. Its goal was a systematic and comprehensive self documentation of the socialist state of the GDR for future reference. As part of the SED’s politics of history, the SFD possessed certain freedoms: It was partially able to bypass censorship in the creation of its films and thereby provides a record on topics forbidden to the state media. The preserved film documents of the SFD are almost unknown to date. As the result of a research project at the Institute for Contemporary History, this unique source collection will be presented on an archival basis for the first time: 1) the extensive SFD documentation on personalities, which especially covered the mid-rank leadership elite of the GDR, 2) topical documentation, especially focussed on the social history of Berlin, as well as 3) films, which were supposed to create documentation on aspects of the GDR which currently were subject to censorship.

 


Stephan Lehnstaedt: The Interpretative Struggle for the “Ghetto Pensions”. Remarks on the Practice of Discourse of the State Social Court of North Rhine-Westphalia

 

In the summer of 2014 the German parliament amended the “Ghetto Pensions Act” [a.k.a. ZRBG in German] to the effect that pensions resulting from employment in a ghetto now presuppose a start of pension payments in 1997, unrelated to the date of the application and any prior decision to date. Parliament harshly criticised the earlier restrictive practice, while at the same time the Landessozialgericht Nordrhein-Westfalen [State Social Court North Rhine-Westphalia] defended its mostly dismissive position – also here in the VfZ. This contribution creates a documentation of the current developments and questions the argument that a more generous interpretation in favour of Holocaust survivors was simply impossible before 2009. Additionally it analyses the way the justice system has dealt with its critics, especially the judge Jan-Robert von Renesse.
 


 




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