A hundred years ago, defeat struck the Germans as the worst catastrophe of their modern history – even worse than the Thirty Years War and the defeat against the French in 1806.
Not surprisingly, this catastrophe was interpreted in biological terms: not only had Germany lost 2.5 million people (civilians included), but it was, according to many Germans, deprived of its very means of survival by the Treaty of Versailles. After famine in the First World War, tuberculosis and famine again broke out in the wake of the Great Crisis of 1929, and the sense of biological panic in Germany was redoubled. Drawing on a great number of sources, the Nazis argued that it was high time for Germany to return to nature and the law of nature if it wanted to survive.
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Johann CHAPOUTOT is Professor of Contemporary History at the Sorbonne (Sorbonne Université). A specialist of German history, he has published, among others, The Law Of Blood. Thinking and Acting like a Nazi (Harvard UP, 2018) and Greeks, Romans, Germans. How the Nazis usurped Europe’s Classical Past (The University of California Press, 2016).
This event is organised by the Oxford Centre for European History and Maison Française d'Oxford.