Voices from the ‘Volksgemeinschaft’

Members of the SA at the employment office in Montabaur. Photo courtesy of SEAD-BA

National Socialist ideology championed the notion of a conformist, racially unified ethnic community of Germans known as the Volksgemeinschaft. This vision excluded persons whom the Nazis deemed to be racially different, as well as ‘Aryans’ who allegedly acted against the principles of the communal spirit.

The PMJ documents available to you here deal with questions of how individuals who belonged to the Volksgemeinschaft viewed Nazi policies, experienced life under the regime, or tried to shape the community. The selection provides a glimpse into the psychology of persons who enjoyed privilege due to their status as a member of the Volksgemeinschaft and who committed crimes in the name of ‘Germandom’.

Sample documents
Volume 1  –  document 153
On 19 January 1935 the SS-Standortführer in Berlin prohibits SS men and their families from having private contact with Jews
‘It is forbidden for SS members: (a) to buy in department stores and Jewish shops, (b) to engage Jewish lawyers, (c) to be treated by Jewish doctors. It is every person’s duty to extend this ban also to family members (parents, wives, siblings, children, and so on).’
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Volume 2  –  document 311
On 14 July 1939 the Security Service in Linz reports the imprisonment of SA personnel after desecration of a cemetery in the former Czech town of Rosenberg
‘Individuals from Party circles were taken into custody by the State Police for demolishing the old Jewish cemetery dating from the fourteenth century, which is a listed monument.’
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Volume 3  –  document 216
In a letter dated 8 September 1941, Franz Bergmann from Neheim an der Ruhr criticizes the murder of psychiatric patients
‘It seems that the morphine injection is set to become a horrifying symbol of the medical profession.’
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Volume 3  –  document 214
On 3 September 1941 Friedrich Mennecke writes to his wife about a trip to Dachau concentration camp, where he inspects prisoners and selects those to be murdered
‘We can start with the inspections tomorrow. There are only 2,000 men and the job will be finished really quickly, as they are simply glanced at as they pass by, like on a conveyor belt.’
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Volume 5  –  document 34
Der Stürmer, June 1940: article containing a German soldier’s initial impressions of Amsterdam
‘In Amsterdam there is still a real ghetto right between canals that run through the old town and are known as grachten.’
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