Nationalism has been one of the most powerful belief systems in the modern era of nation-states and played a pivotal role in creating and shaping the Second World War. The focus of this chapter is on investigating the role of nationalism in fostering and shaping the violence of this global conflict, with a primary focus on Nazi Germany, although nationalism in other combatant nations will also be touched upon. In Germany, the Nazis utilized, exploited, and manipulated nationalist sentiment to provide a powerful message of national unity, resurgence, and pride in their rise to power. The obverse, however, was that nationalism also became a tool used to differentiate various racial, ethnic, and religious groups who were defined as not belonging to the Volksgemeinschaft, or people’s community, and which justified the persecution and, in some cases, the extermination of those so excluded. This chapter explores the ways in which national identity in Germany was deeply intertwined with notions of race and racial purity and how this lethal confluence of ideas fostered exclusionary thinking and contributed to Nazi policy, especially regarding the treatment of racial and ethnic minorities. In the crucible of the Second World War, these belief systems became further radicalized and help explain the nature of the conflict, especially in the occupied territories of the east, and especially when examining the war crimes, atrocities, and genocide perpetrated by Nazi Germany.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Arts and Humanities(all)