Intellectuals and Nazism

Samuel Moyn

in The Oxford Handbook of Postwar European History

Published in print May 2012 | ISBN: 9780199560981
Published online September 2012 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Handbooks in History

Intellectuals and Nazism

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  • European History
  • Contemporary History (Post 1945)
  • Social and Cultural History



Although Nazism was destroyed totally and decisively at the end of World War II, the relationship of intellectuals to it as the years passed thereafter never proved simple. Its formation and evolution depended above all on two factors. First, intellectuals drew on traditions of conceptualising the nature of the Nazi ideology and Adolf Hitler's regime forged before the war: anti-fascism and anti-totalitarianism. Second, an evolving politics of recognition of the particularities of Hitler's agenda, and especially his unique animus towards the Jewish people, proved crucial. The persistence of the earliest traditions of interpreting and denouncing Nazism has been drastically understated in conventional narratives of the postwar history of Europe. It may have been surprising that Christianity, even Christian anti-totalitarianism, could enjoy a massive renaissance in the immediate postwar years, given the active and tacit support which many Christians had lent Nazism in Germany and across the continent. France's case shows that – as elsewhere in the interregnum years between World and Cold War – there was no inevitability to the anti-fascist expulsion of Jewish victimhood from perception and memory.

Keywords: Nazism; intellectuals; Adolf Hitler; Germany; Europe; France; Holocaust; memory; anti-fascism; anti-totalitarianism

Article.  10294 words. 

Subjects: History ; European History ; Contemporary History (Post 1945) ; Social and Cultural History

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