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How the Past was UsedHistorical cultures, c. 750-2000$
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Peter Lambert and Björn Weiler

Print publication date: 2017

Print ISBN-13: 9780197266120

Published to British Academy Scholarship Online: January 2018

DOI: 10.5871/bacad/9780197266120.001.0001

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The Immediacy of a Remote Past

The Immediacy of a Remote Past

The Saxon Wars of 772–804 in the ‘Cultural Struggles’ of the Third Reich

(p.181) 8 The Immediacy of a Remote Past
How the Past was Used

Peter Lambert

British Academy

Early in the Third Reich, Nazi ideologues and propagandists proclaimed the rebirth of the German nation. But when was it first born, and when had it died? Nazis, including Rosenberg, Himmler and Darré, looked back to the late eighth and early ninth centuries, constructing an originary myth of a pristine Germanic and pagan Germany, championed by the Saxon war-lord ‘Duke’ Widukind, and its destruction at the hands of Charlemagne, Romanism and Christianity. But, even within the Nazi Party’s leadership, this proved a controversial view. As Nazism began to fulfil its totalitarian ambitions and impose ideological uniformity, a furious public debate broke out. It concerned the origins and meaning of German history, and ultimately German identity. No Nazi doubted that events from which modern Germans were separated by more than a millennium posed urgent questions for the present, and Charlemagne’s Saxon wars acquired other kinds of immediacy in Nazi historical imaginations.

Keywords:   Nazism, Third Reich, German history, Widukind, Charlemagne

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