Issue 1/2016

Content Overview: English Titles and Abstracts

  • Roman Töppel: “Volk und Rasse” - Searching for Hitler’s Sources.
  • Axel Schildt: Targeting the Nazi Past of West German Intellectuals. The Investigative Campaign of Kurt Ziesel During the Adenauer Era.
  • Mechthild Lindemann: German Scientists as the Inventors of “Agent Orange”? A Search for Clues.
  • Thomas Riegler: “Keep it under the Rug”: The Weapon Sales of the Austrian Nationalised Industry and the Noricum Scandal.
  • Frank Bajohr: The First Two Years of the Center for Holocaust Studies at the Institute for Contemporary History.
  • Michael Mayer: How Autonomously did Vichy Govern? On the Current Debate on the Introduction of Antisemitic Racial Legislation in France in 1940.

Abstracts

Roman Töppel, “Volk und Rasse” - Searching for Hitler’s Sources

The chapter Volk und Rasse [People and Race] is considered the central ideological chapter of Hitler’s book Mein Kampf. In this chapter, Hitler develops the figure of “the Jew” as a homogenous enemy and antitype to the “racially pure” creator of culture, the “Aryan”. The present essay deals with the question of Hitler’s sources for his chapter Volk und Rasse. This question is not easy to answer, for Hitler, who always wanted to appear original, rarely named the authors who inspired him. Furthermore, he mostly used bits and pieces from books and essays which he had read and ignored everything else that did not fit into his pre-made concept of the world. However, it has become possible to uncover some of his sources by using the letters of his private secretary Rudolf Heß, the remains of Hitler’s private library, and finally through comparing Volk und Rasse with other books and articles in periodicals that were advertised in the Völkisch scene of the early 1920s. As a result, stronger influence on Hitler’s writing emerge from Houston Stewart Chamberlain, Heinrich Claß, and Theodor Fritsch as well as from Dietrich Eckart, Hans F. K. Günther, and Alfred Rosenberg. Namely the early influence of Rosenberg on Hitler’s race ideology remains underestimated, while the influence of other authors who are often named as sources for Hitler’s ideas – such as Joseph Adolf Lanz, Karl May, and Karl Haushofer – has been greatly overestimated.

 


Axel Schildt, Targeting the Nazi Past of West German Intellectuals. The Investigative Campaign of Kurt Ziesel During the Adenauer Era

 

In late 1957, a book by the conservative right wing publicist Kurt Ziesel (1911-2001) caused a sensation. It was called: Das verlorene Gewissen. Hinter den Kulissen der Presse, Literatur und ihrer Machtträger von heute [The Lost Conscience. Behind the Scenes of Press, Literature and Today’s Powerful]. Ziesel scandalized the career of those intellectuals of the Third Reich, who in the meantime had made their peace with the Federal Republic of Germany and were even holding liberal views, but had concealed their former political positions and publications. The article retraces his strategy as well as how he dealt with the reactions of the accused, such as Rudolf Pechel and Karl Korn, and the argumentative support for those he attacked from prominent intellectuals, such as the publisher of Frankfurter Hefte Walter Dirks, the philosopher Theodor W. Adorno, Hans Werner Richter, Heinrich Böll and other members of Gruppe 47. The campaign abated in the middle of the 1960s, but its means became part of the arsenal of methods for political fights.
 


Mechthild Lindemann, German Scientists as the Inventors of “Agent Orange”? A Search for Clues

 

Did German scientists invent “Agent Orange”? A request by the American Department of Defense asking the German Foreign Office for further information suggests as much. When in spring 1983 the Vietnam Veterans’ law suit against the herbicide’s producers reached its decision phase, the court asked for the testimony of German scientists who, as the Pentagon put it, had been visited by a German-American colleague in the early 1960s and had given him a formula that had led to the development of “Agent Orange”. The article presents background information on this mysterious request and showcases the problems of dual use products. Why should a chemist working for the American military have contacted members of a German committee working on occupational health and safety issues? Did they have knowledge which, in the early 1960s, could have been of interest to the US Army? The search for answers shows that neither side really wanted the scientists to testify. The possible witnesses themselves, as well as the German government, did not wish to be associated with a herbicide widely regarded as a chemical warfare agent. Besides, there was the risk of a new debate on the German past, as several scientists had been involved in research projects on chemical warfare agents in the 1930s. The Pentagon also preferred to keep the German scientists away from the law suit. Their testimony could have confirmed the judge’s assessment that both the American government and the military leadership had ordered the use of “Agent Orange” in Vietnam in spite of significant health risks to American soldiers.

 


Thomas Riegler, “Keep it under the Rug”: The Weapon Sales of the Austrian Nationalised Industry and the Noricum Scandal

 

The so called Noricum scandal deeply unsettled the political system of the Austrian Second Republic between 1985 and 1993. So far, this case has not been the subject of historical research with the exception of journalistic or political science accounts. The affair was caused by illegal arms deals with Iran and Iraq, at a time when these countries fought each other in the First Gulf War (1980-1988). The arms shipments were conducted by the Noricum Maschinenhandels GesmbH, a subsidiary firm of the Vereinigte Österreichische Eisen- und Stahlwerke – Alpine Montan AG (VOEST-Alpine AG), the heavyweight of the Austrian Nationalised Industry. The sales encompassed 353 long-range howitzers (GHN-45), ammunition, and supplies. The deals constituted a clear violation of Austrian arms export laws, which forbade the sale of arms to belligerent states. After the affair gradually became public, political and criminal responsibility was clarified during several trials. This contribution explores the subject (1.) in regard to the overall context of post-industrial change in the 1970s and 1980s. (2.) The Norcium affair is interpreted as a continuation of problematic Austrian arms exports to Latin America and the Middle East. Furthermore, (3.) the circumstances of Austrian neutrality and the arms exports laws are highlighted, as well as the political-judicial consequences (4.).
 


Frank Bajohr: The First Two Years of the Center for Holocaust Studies at the Institute for Contemporary History

 

This contribution assesses the activities of the Center for Holocaust Studies, which was set up by the Institute for Contemporary History in a pilot phase in 2013. In doing so, it received important impulses from American and Israeli institutions, who criticised that an institutional partner for Holocaust research was missing in Germany of all places. The Center is currently being funded by the Federal Ministry of Education and Research; it is planned to extend it further and have it transitioned to mixed Federal and State funding. In the short period of its existence, the Center has already left its mark in its three areas of activity: International conferences and a fellowship program for visiting scholars by now are both integral parts of a research infrastructure. Research is also being conducted within an international network, as with the edition of the diaries of the Nazi chief ideologue Alfred Rosenberg, which was published together with the Mandel Center for Advanced Holocaust Studies in Washington. Finally with a “Teaching Summit” for German university teachers conducted in Washington as well as courses at LMU Munich, important foundations for university teaching on the Holocaust have also been laid.

 


Michael Mayer, How Autonomously did Vichy Govern? On the Current Debate on the Introduction of Antisemitic Racial Legislation in France in 1940

 

The persecution of the Jews in France is the subject of a current debate. It concerns the introduction of antisemitic laws by the French Vichy government in the summer and autumn of 1940. Ultimately it is about the question whether a continuity of antisemitism existed in France before and after 1940. Recently some have re-emphasised that the start of a French antisemitic policy in 1940 only occurred as a reaction to the anti-Jewish deeds of the German occupying forces in France. According to this view, there were hardly any continuities, and after 1940 antisemitism was mostly imported from Germany. Michael Mayer proves that this was not the case. Rather, one can observe two parallel lines of development: On the one hand the French government implemented its own policy of persecuting the Jews in France fairly independently of German antisemitic actions. On the other hand German measures regarding the expropriation of Jewish property led to successful defensive actions by the French administration. Vichy thus largely acted autonomously in introducing antisemitic segregational legislation, while it mostly reacted to German measures in the context of the “Aryanisation” of Jewish property. This reveals both the continuities as well as the ruptures in French antisemitism.

 


 




© Institut für Zeitgeschichte