Anson Rabinbach and Sander Gilman, eds.The Third Reich Sourcebook

University of California Press, 2013

by Todd Weir on September 26, 2014

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Primary source readers represent an unusual historical genre. Unlike editions, their aim is not to enable the reader to hear, as clearly as possible, the voice of a single historical personage or institution. Nor are they purely interpretive works in which the author’s voice is foregrounded. In this conversation with Princeton University historian Anson Rabinbach, we learn what methodological, but also what moral challenges faced him and coeditor Sander Gilman in crafting The Third Reich Sourcebook (University of California Press, 2013). We learn how they selected and how they decided to preface the voices of Nazi ideologues, politicians, fellow travellers and victims.

With 411 primary documents that take the reader systematically through the key cultural fields and criminal activities of the regime, the Sourcebook represents a major engagement with the Nazi worldview by two leading intellectual historians. They found this worldview less uniform and internally consistent than others have surmised. Beyond the exaltation of the German Volk and the demonization of Jewry, much was up for grabs, including the epistemological framework meant to ground these core concepts. In this interview, Rabinbach paints a picture of German intellectual life under the Third Reich that was contradictory and complex, yet above all impoverished.

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