Perceptions of Evil: A Comparison of Moral Perspectives in Nazi Propaganda and Anti-Nazi Literature

Title: Perceptions of Evil: A Comparison of Moral Perspectives in Nazi Propaganda and Anti-Nazi Literature
Authors: Inksetter, Hamish
Date: 2015
Abstract: This thesis examines how the concept of evil was understood by opposing German perspectives during the era of National Socialist rule (1933-1945). The rise of Nazism in Germany marked a period of massive political upheaval wherein the National Socialist government encouraged the masses to view the world in terms of a great struggle between forces of good and evil. This was the central theme of their propaganda, which zealously encouraged racialist beliefs in the popular consciousness, and was based on assumptions of German superiority and Jewish evil. Despite Hitler's apparent success in creating an obedient nation, a significant number of Germans opposed his rule, amongst whom a small group of writers expressed their discontent through creative fiction. Through a comparison of the worldviews communicated through political propaganda and anti-Nazi literature, it is revealed that the crux of the divide between their opposing perspectives hinged on the meaning of evil. Since evil is a concept with many meanings, this thesis approaches the subject thematically. The comparison begins by focusing on the perception of evil as an all-corrupting force that had taken hold of Germany, followed by an exploration of how power and brutality were understood, ending with a comparison of views on how the struggle between good and evil took place on both a social and individual level. In addition to demonstrating the subjectivity of moral perspective during a tumultuous period of the recent past, this research reveals how the struggle against Nazism existed as a conflict of ideas. Moreover, the comparison of cultural sources (including Nazi art, visual propaganda, written texts such as Mein Kampf, and anti-Nazi creative fiction) demonstrates the value of art as a tool for conducting historical enquiry. Since the legacy of the Third Reich continues to directly influence modern perceptions of evil, exploring how evil was understood according to contemporary Germans – from both pro and anti-Nazi perspectives – is of particular historical interest.
CollectionThèses, 2011 - // Theses, 2011 -