chapter  4
13 Pages

1933–41: A TWISTED ROAD?

The controversy over whether the participation of Germans other than longstanding Nazi true believers is best explained through deliberate indoctrination or universal human psychology is only part of a broader historiographical discussion. That discussion asks whether Nazism as a whole should be represented as a unique incursion of evil into history or as a phenomenon that, no matter how horrible, grew out of normal historical processes and human behaviours. In the mid-1980s German historian Martin Broszat issued a ‘plea for the historicization of national socialism’, by which he appears to have meant that historians should not presuppose that the Third Reich took decisions and formulated policies any differently than other modern governments, whatever their ideological orientations. Broszat charged that scholars of the Third Reich often explained Nazi actions in terms that they would not employ for other regimes, because they were more concerned with condemning Nazi atrocities than with understanding them. Thus, he held, they were unable to see Nazi leaders as anything but criminals. Broszat did not deny or make light of Nazi criminality, but he suggested that Nazis did not set out from the beginning to do evil for evil’s sake.