Date of Award

5-2016

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

Major

History

Major Professor

Vejas G. Liulevicius

Committee Members

Monica Black, Denise Phillips, Daniel Magilow, Margaret Andersen

Abstract

Throughout the Second World War, the National Socialist regime enacted a wide-ranging campaign to enhance the German nation by assimilating conquered populations into its demographic structure. At the axis of this multifaceted enterprise stood the Re-Germanization Procedure, or WED – a special program designed to absorb “racially valuable” foreigners into the German body politic by sending them to live with host families in the very heart of the Third Reich. The following dissertation provides the first ever study of the Re-Germanization Procedure and examines the momentous influence this initiative exerted over Nazi policy-making in occupied Europe. It is a story of the nexus between popular opinion on the home front and imperialism abroad, a fresh inquiry into the dynamics of German rule and their basis in the experiences of ordinary human beings, a kaleidoscopic portrait detailing a signature aspect of the National Socialist era that has largely eluded the scrutiny of historical analysis. The WED created a space where German and non-German civilians could articulate their understandings of race, community, and national belonging from within the settings of everyday life. Drawing on methodological tools from the fields of critical race studies and postcolonial theory, my research probes the extraordinary degree to which their interactions with state actors, and with each other, helped shape the classification of indigenous peoples across the length and breadth of Hitler’s empire – a place where identity politics often meant the difference between life and death. By situating this process within a global context of nation-building and colonialism, my project reveals an unfamiliar side of an infamous epoch in order to show how, under the wartime Third Reich, discourses of race came to function not just as an impetus for genocidal violence, but as a transformative framework of inclusion.

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