dissertations in german studies 2024

Goodwin, Christopher Thomas. Broken Supermen: Disabled Veterans and Soldiers in Nazi Germany, 1939-1945. University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, History Department. Advisor: Peter Fritzsche. April 2024. Abstract:

“Broken Supermen: Disabled Veterans and Soldiers in Nazi Germany, 1939-1945,” focuses on physically disabled veterans as a critical and contested site for the articulation of Nazi ideology and practice. The regime presented the approximately 1.7 million disabled veterans as exemplary representatives of Nazi ideology and utilized them in an attempt to align the broader German population with Nazi ideals of race, gender, class, and able-bodiedness. “Broken Supermen” cautions against historiographical interpretations that presents disabled veterans in the Third Reich as primarily fiscal and social threats. Nazi leaders were absolutely confident that they could culturally and technocratically manage both disability and disabled veterans. According to Nazi leaders, the men needed honorary stipends to stave off pension neurosis, privileged positions at the center of German everyday life such as in theaters and public transportation, government intervention to secure the men wives and children, and land in the east to join the construction of racial utopia. And the regime felt no compunction in enforcing these measures with state power. Yet Nazi leaders badly misjudged their ability to transform the war wound into a symbol of German racial and masculine superiority. Veterans enthusiastically accepted the honors and privileges the regime bestowed upon them, but were not content without greater material privilege. Combat experience did not translate into white-collar employment. Class and religious barriers proved insurmountable for men searching for life companions. And the prospect of a farmer’s existence in the newly conquered East paled in comparison to urban life. And even as the Nazis shifted and expanded the borders of acceptable (military) disabilities in the Third Reich, the German people proved resistant to tolerating some forms of military disability, performing the new cultural rites of military disability to show their esteem, or elevating the disabled veteran as an exemplary model in their own lives.