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Energizing the Everyday 277

VICTOR KLEMPERER,24 a Jewish professor of Romance languages married to
a Gentile, describes “one single working day” in his book Lingua Tertii Imperii.
Those designated as “Jews” by Nazi law had been forced into labor since spring
1939, and Klemperer had been assigned a job in a Dresden factory that produced
paper envelopes. He recalls that the atmosphere was not “particularly Nazi” in
this company. The entrepreneur was a member of the SS but, so Klemperer again,
“he supported the Jews in the factory wherever it was possible, he politely talked
to them and occasionally he gave them something from the canteen [which the
letter of the law prohibited.]” Klemperer also recalls that he is not sure what was
more of a consolation, a piece of horse sausage or if once in a while he was called
not only by his (last) name but “Herr Klemperer” or even “Herr Professor.”
According to his recollection also the workers were by no means “Nazi” at least
not any more in winter 1943/4, one year after Stalingrad. One of the workers
was a man by the name of Albert, who was skeptical of the German (Nazi)
government and not fond of the war. He had lost a brother, and he himself had
been released from the military because of stomach problems and was anxious
to avoid being redrafted to the military before “this bloody war has come to
an end.” Klemperer overheard a talk with one of the mates where the other
responded to such remark: “But how shall this war come to an end? Nobody
gives in!” Albert responded: “Well isn™t that clear? The others have to accept that
we are invincible, they cannot conquer us, we are so extremely well organized!”
Klemperer describes another mate, too. This woman, Frieda, occasionally
asked about his wife and also once in a while gave him an apple. Many times she
ignored strict decrees not to talk to “the Jews.” Once, she came over and said:
“Albert says your wife is a German. Is she really a German?” “Immediately I
lost any joy in the apple,” Klemperer recalled. “This friendly person who was
not a Nazi at all and had human feelings, even here the Nazi poison had made
its way; she had identi¬ed Germans with the magical notion of Aryan. She could
not grasp that my wife would be a German.”

period include many examples of breaking the boycott or exchanging greet-
ings with neighbors and former colleagues. Although such symbolic gestures of
recognition could mean a lot to the addressees, they never constituted a body
of practices that visibly demonstrated nonacceptance.
Many people were uneasy about the destruction of Jewish property that
occurred repeatedly by street violence, even before Reichskristallnacht of
November 9“10, 1938,25 but their concern was apparently not for the loss
to the proprietors but rather the loss to the “German Volk™s common weal.”26
The same people “stood by” when SA and Nazi activists denounced people

Victor Klemperer, LTI: Notizbuch eines Philologen, 3rd ed. (Halle: M. Niemeyer, 1957), 101“6.

Michael Wildt, “Gewalt gegen Juden in Deutschland 1933 bis 1939,” WerkstattGeschichte 8,

no. 18 (1997): 59“80.
Saul Friedlander, The Years of Persecution, 1933“1939, Vol. 1: Nazi Germany and the Jews

(New York: HarperCollins, 1997); idem, The Years of Extermination, 1939“1945, Vol. 2: Nazi
Germany and the Jews (New York: HarperCollins, 2007).
Sheila Fitzpatrick and Alf Ludtke

for committing Rassenschande, that is, having intimate relations with a Jew.27
The vast majority of Reichsdeutsche looked the other way, while others did
not hesitate to denounce possible “non-Aryans.” Moreover, when Jews were
deported, former neighbors often looted or snapped up bargains at the regular
auctions of “con¬scated” (that is, stolen) property held all over the country;
and in 1942 and early 1943, Nazi agencies were swamped with claims for the
houses and apartments of deportees (in the spring of 1943, following orders
from the top, these claims were suspended until the “¬nal victory”).
In many places, local of¬cials and clerks administering welfare programs
interpreted laws regulating marital and sexual relationships between “Aryans”
and “Jews” as a pretext to exclude Jewish recipients or reduce their bene¬ts.
The same range of (non)arbitrary action characterized the administrations of
public health and hygiene and of public order as well. It was local or regional
agents who decided, for instance, to ban Jews from park benches, public baths,
or tramways. Racism also triggered exclusion of those parents and/or children
evaluated by local public health authorities as erbkrank (hereditarily diseased)
or erbunwert (hereditarily un¬t). Between 1935 and 1937 around 15 percent
of the applicants for ¬nancial support under the law providing for families of
four and more children were deemed “unworthy” on these grounds, depriving
about one hundred thousand families and more than four hundred thousand
children of bene¬ts.28
In addition to the measures already discussed expelling Jews from employ-
ment in the public and private sectors, the Internal Revenue Service and
Customs extracted con¬scatory portions from assets and other fortunes being
transferred to foreign countries, and of¬cials and border guards set out to
collect as much as possible from those emigrating legally. From early 1934,
administrative orders increasingly reduced the amount of assets that could
legally be transferred out of the country (bringing it down to 10 RM to be car-
ried by one person later that year). Through assessments of the amount to be
paid as Reichs¬‚uchtsteuer that were often arbitrarily high, the amount of cash
left to the exiles was often reduced to zero. Local IRS of¬cials acted with even
less restraint against those who left illegally in response to warnings or rumors.
Whether or not they were caught, the authorities immediately con¬scated all
their remaining property as a whole, and if such cases came to court, judges
con¬rmed these actions.29
Practices of exclusion resonated with special intensity in and with Germans
every day when partnerships were affected: whether heterosexual or unisexual,

Alexandra Przyrembel, Rassenschande: Reinheitsmythos und Vernichtungslegitimation im

Nationalsozialismus (Gottingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 2003), 185“227.
Asmus Nitschke, Die “Erbpolizei” im Nationalsozialismus: zur Alltagsgeschichte der Gesund-

heitsamter im Dritten Reich: Das Beispiel Bremen (Opladen: Westdeutscher Verlag, 1999),
Alfons Kenkmann and Bernd-A Rusinek eds., Verfolgung und Verwaltung: die wirtschaftliche

¨ ¨ ¨
Ausplunderung der Juden und die westfalischen Finanzbehorden, Exhibiton catalogue Villa ten
Hompel (Munster: Ober¬nanzdirektion Munster, 1999).
¨ ¨
Energizing the Everyday 279

short- or long-term, or formalized by marriage or practiced informally. Local
Nazi Party functionaries or Hitler Youth leaders literally staged public chases of
individuals who had been denounced by neighbors or colleagues for sustaining
such a partnership (Rassenschande). When the Nuremberg Laws of September
1935 incorporated Rassenschande into criminal law, state prosecutors and
judges cracked down sharply on all suspects, as did criminal police and Gestapo.
Thousands of individuals were tried for Rassenschande, while others went into
exile or committed suicide. “Jewish” men, the main victims, were sentenced to
several years of prison often followed by unlimited detention in a concentration
In general, those being targeted by ever intensi¬ed measures of racist exclu-
sion reacted with efforts to establish or expand networks of support. Still,
even well after the Nuremberg Laws of 1935 many of those marked as “Jews”
considered the persecution as temporary “ especially those born around and
before 1900 who were not members of a synagogue congregation. Those who
had been vigorous advocates of German nationalism or fought in World War I
often ignored or belittled the threat despite widespread and repeated violence.
(Klemperer, who had no doubt about the deadliness of the threat, was an
exception.) Only younger people tended to understand the exclusion as per-
manent and a matter of life and death, and they were the ones who mainly
resorted to exile. Those who found themselves trapped and excluded made all
sorts of efforts to strengthen relationships with family and Jewish neighbors.
Maintaining or (re)inventing bonds did not, however, overcome ingrained ¬s-
sures of class or politics. Accordingly, these communities of exclusion remained
necessarily fragile. Bitter and often brutal struggles for survival penetrated their
everyday, limiting even more the liminal space Nazi persecution left for retreat.
In the Soviet case, exclusion was on grounds of class, not race. From 1918
to 1936 a legal category of stigmatization “ lishentsy, or those deprived of the
vote, often on grounds of class “ existed.31 If you were a lishenets “ and even
sometimes if you were not, but were nevertheless suspected of bad class origins
or attitudes “ you were generally deprived not just of the right to vote but
also of access to higher education, membership of the Communist Party and
the Komsomol, and state housing; liable to special punitive taxation, disadvan-
taged in court (which operated according to the principles of “class justice”),
and always vulnerable to being ¬red from your job (especially a white-collar
one) in one of the periodic institutional purges held in the 1920s and early
1930s. Members of certain widely recognized categories like the clergy (includ-
ing family of priests and other church of¬cers), byvshie (“former people” =
ci-devants), and persons who had been dekulakized often tried to hide their
origins, which in turn made the “unmasking” of those who “concealed their
class face” a favorite pastime of Communists and Komsomols.

Przyrembel, “Rassenschande,” 389“443.

On lishentsy, see Golfo Alexopoulos, Stalin™s Outcasts: Aliens, Citizens, and the Soviet State,

1926“1936 (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 2003).
Sheila Fitzpatrick and Alf Ludtke

Whereas in the case of Nazi Germany, it was relatively clear whether you
fell into an outcast category (Jews, homosexuals, the mentally and physically
impaired, and “asocials”), in the Soviet Union the situation was more compli-
cated: stigmatization was even more widespread than in Germany, but less sta-
ble in its targets. Being a “class enemy,” that is, belonging to one of the social
classes (bourgeoisie, nobility, clergy, kulaks) that were of¬cially regarded as
hostile to the Soviet state, was the main reason for stigmatization (along with
past political af¬liations, adherence to religion, relationship to “enemies of the
people,” and so forth). But in a rapidly modernizing, highly mobile, unsettled
society like that of Russia in the ¬rst half of the twentieth century, an individ-
ual™s class was not so easy to determine. What was the social class of someone
born in a peasant family, apprenticed in youth to a blacksmith, who had a job
in the private retail sector during NEP and then worked as a cook in a state-
run cafeteria? Or of a woman married to a worker, herself a librarian, whose
father had been a member of the nobility before 1917 and later worked as an
accountant in a state ¬rm? Or even of the kolkhoznik whose parents had been
classi¬ed as “poor peasants” but whose uncle had been dekulakized?Almost
everybody™s biography had elements of ambiguity as far as class was concerned;
hence, many people were at risk of stigmatization if (as often happened) they
were denounced as “kulaks” or “nobles.” For this reason, it was standard
practice to edit one™s biography to leave out the black marks like dekulakized
uncles, and equally standard practice for ill-wishers to denounce one for such
At moments of political tension, or simply as the result of bad luck, the
priest father, kulak uncle, or aunt in emigration might come back to haunt any
Soviet citizen, resulting in punishments ranging from rebukes for concealment,
through expulsion from university or the Communist Party, to deportation
(for example, in the case of former nobles in Leningrad after Kirov™s murder)
or arrest as an “enemy of the people.” But at other times, these black marks
would be forgotten (sometimes even as a matter of state policy, as when Stalin
in 1935 dropped the remark that “a son does not answer for his father,” thus
temporarily sanctioning the lifting of stigma from kulaks™ children). Of course,
black marks were never forgotten by those at risk of having them revealed.
More than half the women respondents in a small oral history project of the
1990s remembered such a “sword of Damocles” hanging over their heads in
the 1920s and 1930s.33
It could also happen that those who were hiding some black mark in their
family history were the most vociferous and apparently convinced enthusiasts.
Stepan Podlubnyi, the son of a dekulakized kulak, was only one of many
who reacted to his own threatened exclusion by passionately embracing Soviet

See Sheila Fitzpatrick, Tear Off the Masks! Identity and Imposture in Twentieth-Century Russia

(Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2005).
Engel and Posadskaya-Vanderbeck, eds., A Revolution: four out of eight respondents fell into

this category (Dubova, Fleisher, Berezhnaia, Dolgikh).
Energizing the Everyday 281

values and attempting to rid himself of the “kulak” within.34 Raisa Orlova,
who belonged to the suspect class of “bourgeois intelligentsia” and for that
reason was initially rejected for membership of the Komsomol, reports a similar
feeling of having to work doubly hard on herself to overcome a taint, as well
as a similar (and in her case even longer-lasting) sense of identi¬cation with
the Soviet project.35 Even emigr´ oral histories of former Komsomol activists
taken in Munich after the war catch that same emotional drive to belong, to
overcome the resistance of the collective to admitting them. This re¬‚ected the
pervasiveness of the Soviet “remaking” myth, even though in practice the black
marks that resulted from “bad” social origin were hard to expunge. Here we
¬nd a clear contrast to the German situation, where those excluded had no
realistic hope of ever belonging and rarely if ever developed an emotional
attachment to the regime that excluded them.

family bonds
There are different approaches to the bonds of families. One is to ¬nd out
what people say about the importance of family bonds, for example, in let-
ters from the front or answers to surveys. However, this approach does not
account for possible discrepancies between articulations of the desirability of
close family bonds and their actual (non)existence or form. Furthermore, peo-
ple are not always asked to give an opinion on this sort of topic, and, if asked,
they may not respond if they regard it as either as self-evident or, on the con-
trary, particularly touchy. A second approach is to try to test the strength
of family bonds through observations of behavior and social environment. If,
for example, it were demonstrable that in Nazi and/or Soviet society people
habitually denounced close family members to the authorities (as Arendt and
others assume), that would surely indicate a weakening of bonds. The social
environment is relevant to the question of family bonds in that certain circum-
stances are likely to put practical obstacles in the way of maintaining them:
for example, societies in upheaval, with high rates of geographical and social
A third approach would look at life courses and life cycles, since even within
the one family, “family bonds” mean something different to the different mem-
bers and even different to the same person at various stages of life. This is all
the more true of nonfamily bonds like friendship and workplace comradeship:
it is impossible to imagine general statements on this topic that satisfactorily
covered, for example, a schoolgirl daughter, a nonworking mother, a working
father, and a grandmother who are all members of the same family. If we com-
bine these approaches in inquiring about the Nazi and Stalinist cases, we get a
mixed picture.

Podlubnyi™s story is told by Jochen Hellbeck in his Revolution on My Mind, 165“221.


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