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The Science of the Swastika

Bernard Mees, Fellow in History at the University of Melbourne, Australia

The first theoretically informed study of the relationship between an academic discipline and what the Nazis termed their Weltanschauung.

The first study of Sinnbildforschung, German ideograph or swastika studies, though more broadly it tells the tale of the development of German antiquarian studies (ancient Germanic history, archaeology, anthropology, folklore, historical linguistics and philology) under the influence of radical right wing politics, and the contemporary construction of ‘Germanicness’ and its role in Nazi thought. The swastika and similar symbols were employed by the ancestors of the modern day Germans. As these had also become emblematic symbols of the forces of German reaction, Sinnbildforschung became intrinsically connected with the National Socialist regime after 1933 and disappeared along with the Third Reich in 1945.

With the Nazi seizure of power, ideographic studies became directly supported by the state. In 1935 an organization was founded within the SS to further its study, the SS-Ahnenerbe. Most infamous as the organ through which medical experiments were arranged to be performed on the inmates of concentration camps, the Ahnenerbe was founded as a historical research institution before it expanded its horizons to the physical sciences.

Contents

Introduction: ‘Issues concerning the Teutons’; Chapter 1. The Tradition of Völkisch Germanism; Chapter 2. History and Intuition; Chapter 3. Origins of Ideographic Studies; Chapter 4. Germanic Resurgence; Chapter 5. National Socialism and Antiquity; Chapter 6. Intellectual Prehistory; Chapter 7. Academic Responses; Chapter 8. The Expansion of the Ahnenerbe; Chapter 9. Into the Academy; Chapter 10. Epilogue, Aftermath; Conclusion: The Secret Garden; Bibliography Index

"For Mees, the central story here is the process through which this multifaceted inquiry, which embraced archeology, philology, anthropology, and folklore, gradually became subdued into the highly tendentious and politicized völkisch movement that culminated in National Socialism." - American Historical Review

"Die Aufarbeitung der komplexen Fachge-schichte der Skandinavistik mit einigen ihrer Wurzeln in der Germanenkunde und dabei insbesondere ihre Verwicklungen und Verirrungen in Nazideutschland ist ein sich inzwischen ordentlich entwi-ckelndes Forschungsfeld... Ihr größter Gewinn ist dabei wohl der Um-stand, dass die vorliegende Forschungsergebnisse nun auf Englisch dargelegt sind und somit einer größeren Öffentlich-keit zugänglich werden." - NORDEUROPAforum

2008
372 pages + 16 pages illustrations
ISBN 978-963-9776-18-0 cloth $55.00 / €50.00 / £45.00

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