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The Nazi Concept of 'Volksdeutsche' and the Exacerbation of Anti-Semitism in Eastern Europe, 1939-45

The Nazi Concept of 'Volksdeutsche' and the Exacerbation of Anti-Semitism in Eastern Europe, 1939-45

Abstract

The Nazi Concept of 'Volksdeutsche' and the Exacerbation of Anti-Semitism in Eastern Europe, 1939-45 SAGE Publications, Inc.1994DOI: 10.1177/002200949402900402 Doris L. Bergen Hitler himself supposedly coined the definition of 'Volksdeutsche' that appeared in a 1938 memorandum of the German Reich Chancellery. The Volksdeutsche, that document rather blandly explained, were people whose 'language and culture had German origins' but who did not hold German citizenship. But for Hitler and other Germans of the 1930s and 1940s, the term 'Volksdeutsche' also carried overtones of blood and race not captured in the English translation 'ethnic Germans'. According to German experts in the 1930s, about thirty million Volksdeutsche were living outside the Reich, a significant proportion of them in eastern Europe - Poland, Ukraine, the Baltic states, Romania.2 The nazi goal of expansion to the east ensured that Volksdeutsche in those areas occupied a special place in German plans. Memoir literature attests to the fact that some of the Volksdeutsche in eastern Europe contributed far more than silent acquiescence to the betrayal and murder of their Jewish neighbours during the Holocaust.3 Individual ethnic Germans stole Jewish property, participated in nazi-sponsored pogroms, and turned in Jews who tried to pass as Aryans. In more
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