The Continuities of German History: Nation, Religion, and Race Across the Long Nineteenth Century / Edition 1

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In this controversial work of German history, Smith argues that German historians have become ever more focused on the twentieth century and on twentieth-century explanations for the catastrophe at the heart of it: the Holocaust. Against conventional wisdom, he considers long-term continuities - in the concept of nation and the ideology of nationalism, in religious exclusion and violence, and in race and racism. Exploring these topics in novel ways, he argues for deep continuities in German history, even as he insists that Germany was not on a special path to destruction. The result is a series of challenging reflections on nationalism, anti-Semitism, and race, as well as a novel interpretation of modern German history.
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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
“Taking 1941 as the decisive culmination point in modern German history, this book offers a truly masterful analysis of the links between nationalism, racism and anti-Semitism. I know of no other study that examines in a more circumspect way and within a broad comparative framework the complex and controversial subject of how earlier discourses about the exclusion of Jews are ultimately related to their mass murder. A major scholarly achievement and challenge to both pre- and post-Goldhagen historiography.” -V.R. Berghahn, Columbia University

“Helmut Walser Smith argues for a history of the Holocaust that recalls centuries-old forms of communal anti-Judaism and anti-Semitism, ritual riots, communal expulsions, and extinctions of Jewish memory. The mobilization and radicalization of these traditions into an eliminationist racism and anti-Semitism during the long nineteenth century accompanies the remaking of nation and religion and set the stage for the holocaust – an act of mass murder that is simultaneously embedded in the past and in its destruction of humanity radically breaks with it. Smith, thus, initiates the long overdue debate on a history of humanity and the bonds of belonging that requires depth of perspective in order to make sense.” -Michael Geyer, University of Chicago

"A thoughtful, provocative, and extremely stimulating essay. Smith explores the strands of continuity, reaching back to early modern times, of nationalism and anti-Semitism in Germany. Not a repetition of the old "Luther to Hitler" argument, this study instead asks hard questions about how the subjects of history conceived of continuity in their own history; it seeks answers in the culture of the built environment, visual sources, the imagined nation, and the remembrance of violence and sacrifice in community ritual." -Isabel V. Hull, Cornell University

“Helmut Smith¹s deep history of the intellectual contours and social practices of nationalism, racism and anti-Semitism in central Europe is a subtle and complex work. Stretching across centuries and drawing comparisons from the entire European cultural world, his investigations throw into sharp relief the murderous conjunction of these three sets of ideas and actions during the Nazi era.” -Jonathan Sperber, University of Missouri

"Imaginative and elegantly written, this book is a major piece of scholarship. Smith's deft use of comparative and interdisciplinary methods, coupled with his long-term perspective, has yielded both depth of field and keen insights into such central topics in Holocaust historiography as modern antisemitism, eliminationist racism, popular violence, and the changing valences of nation and national community." -Anthony Steinhoff, H-German

"Highly recommended." -Choice

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780521720250
  • Publisher: Cambridge University Press
  • Publication date: 4/30/2008
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 254
  • Product dimensions: 5.98 (w) x 8.98 (h) x 0.55 (d)

Meet the Author

Helmut Walser Smith earned his PhD at Yale. He has held the position of Martha Rivers Ingram Professor of History at Vanderbilt University since 1992. He is the author of German Nationalism and Religious Conflict (1995) and The Butcher's Tale: Murder and Anti-Semitism in a German Town (2002), which won him the Fraenkel Prize for the best work in contemporary history and was named an LA Times Non-Fiction Book of the Year.
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Table of Contents

Introduction page 1

1 The Vanishing Point of German History 13

2 The Mirror Turn Lamp: Senses of the Nation before Nationalism 39

3 On Catastrophic Religious Violence and National Belonging: The Thirty Years War and the Massacre of Jews in Social Memory 74

4 From Play to Act: Anti-Jewish Violence in German and European History during the Long Nineteenth Century 115

5 Eliminationist Racism 167

Conclusion: Continuities in German History 211

Acknowledgments 235

Index 239

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