Date of Award
Honors Thesis (Open Access)
Colby College. History Dept.
Raffael M. Scheck
Bombs, propaganda, graffiti, espionage, murder. Normally these words carry a negative connotation, unless used with regard to German resistance to Adolf Hitler and the Nazis. The resistance, which included groups and individuals from all areas of German society but failed to produce a single mass anti-Hitler movement, has gained little recognition outside of Germany but much within, particularly during the past thirty years. Germany has taken the one positive light from that dark time period and used it as a tool of legitimization for the government and other institutions, and as a source for heroic figures of whom Germans can be proud. Through the use of resisters as a political tool and as a source of inspiration, some resisters have gained more recognition and fame than others, a fact which became especially apparent in the years surrounding German unification in 1990. Yet the idea of the resister as a heroic role model only applied to certain resisters. This was due to political boundaries that had already been drawn, misconceptions and distortions as a result of those political lines, and even current events to which Germans could apply the legacy of the resisters. Despite developments in recent German history and memory that would suggest acceptance of a less biased view of resisters, the focus of memory on a select few resisters still remains today. The period in Germany’s history from 1933-1945, also known as the “Third Reich,” has been and will continue to be the best-known of all in the country’s past. Few people around the world have never heard of the dictator Adolf Hitler and his party of National Socialists (NSDAP), more commonly known as Nazis, and the ways in which they terrorized Germany and Europe for over a decade. Though the world no longer holds modern Germany accountable for the atrocities of Adolf Hitler’s radically racist regime, the memory of the Nazi era is still ever-present in Germany. Germans from multiple generations are not entirely comfortable flying their own flag—the traditional black, red, and yellow bars, which is supposed to be a symbol for modern Germany’s democratic tradition—because they see it instead as a symbol of right-wing nationalism, despite the Nazis’ abolishment of the use of the flag in 1933. Hitler’s Mein Kampf cannot be legally sold in Germany. Denial of the Holocaust, display of the Nazi flag or the swastika, and the “Heil Hitler” salute are all illegal, and the German national anthem no longer contains the verse beginning with the words, “Deutschland, Deutschland, über alles”—“Germany, Germany above all,” although the author, August Heinrich Hoffmann von Fallersleben, wrote the song in 1841 and did not have the same political intentions as the Nazis; he wanted to promote the possibility of German unity at a time when it was divided into small princedoms. The National Socialist party is illegal, but there are some small extreme right-wing parties, such as the National Democratic Party (NDP). These right-wing radicals and neo-Nazis continue to attract followers and have been growing in number since reunification; neo-Nazi violence, almost always hate crimes, has also increased dramatically since the Berlin Wall fell.
Germany, History, National socialism, Assassination attempt, 1944, Anti-Nazi movement
Recommended CitationSwartz, Suzanne J., "Obstacles and Stepping Stones to the Hero’s Pedestal: Reunified Germany’s Selective Commemoration of Resisters to National Socialism" (2007). Honors Theses. Paper 277.
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