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warfare in and of itself. The focus on moral growth and transformation that he
shared with Soviet political of¬cers revealed a striking continuity in wartime
Russia of the Soviet Communist belief in the malleability and perfectibility
of human nature. In Nazi Germany, the war had a fundamentally different
standing. It was on the battle¬eld that the racialized properties and imperial
ambitions of the new man were to materialize.
The quick victories of the Germans ¬rst against Norway, Holland, Belgium,
and France in spring 1940, and then Yugoslavia a year later, and, in the ¬rst
¬ve months after the June 1941 invasion, the Soviet Union created an extraor-
dinary familiarity with empire which worked itself into everyday exchanges.
The features of this new imperial identity can be seen most plainly in the self-
assured geopolitical analyses of Goebbels™s weekly, Das Reich, which began
publication in the victorious summer of 1940. It introduced an insistently
global perspective to German readers to take the measure of British isolation
and to identify the resources of Germany™s power and that of its allies. Spokes-
men for the Third Reich such as Carl Schmitt outlined the reasoning behind
“the Reich as the force for European order,” while others surveyed the colo-
nial administration in Poland, describing the Generalgouvernement as “a ¬eld

Joshua Rubenstein, Tangled Loyalties: the Life and Times of Ilya Ehrenburg (New York: Basic

Books, 1996), 193.
Ilya Ehrenburg, Cent Lettres, trans. A. Roudnikov (Moscow: Editions en langues etrang` res,

1944), 12.
The New Man in Stalinist Russia and Nazi Germany 337

for experiments in imperial structuring” and the new settlements of German
colonialism that spread out from Litzmannstadt.94 In their mind™s eye, soldiers
moved across Germany™s imperial space with astonishing ease, even looking
upon their assignments abroad as an opportunity for tourism. As new mobiliza-
tion orders came through in spring 1941, soldiers took turns guessing: “We™re
guessing and wondering: the South of France? Holland or Poland? Over Italy to
Africa? Home“Home? No one believes that,” recalled Hans Hoeschen in one
of his early reportages: “What would we be doing Home?”95 Even civilians
wandered vicariously along the outposts of empire. For the ¬rst time, wrote
Die Mode, fashion was ¬tted to new political borders: new Berlin collections in
1942 featured “colorful stitches in the style of South Eastern costumes “ short,
loose ¬‚eece coats like those worn by Hungarian shepherds “ caps ¬rst inspired
by Sicilian ¬shermen “ the white hood of the Dutch “ narrow black shawls
worn around the head and the stepped, layered skirts of the Spaniards.”96
And what were Berlin housewives preparing for dinner? “This year, for the
¬rst time, green peppers, and also eggplants and chicory have been conquered
by Germany™s kitchens,” noted Das Reich about “Berlin in autumn 1941”:
“Sauces or stuf¬ng for paprika halves is the more likely topic of conversations
between neighbors than the last ¬lm.”97
The dramatic reordering of European space also established striking con¬-
dence in a racialized anthropology of subject peoples. Tarnopol, for example,
was known to Hans Hoeschen to be a “city with two faces. Some things were
formed by the German spirit, which is expressed in Bohemian and Frankish
forms. This was once a outpost of a courageous German Burgertum, whose
colonial endeavors gave the cities of the East their character for centuries.”
The rest of the city, however, is “eastern [ostisch], strange, and gloomy.”98
German soldiers in both world wars deployed hierarchical categories classi-
fying friend and foe in terms of cleanliness and dirtiness, but in World War
II, the letters posted from the Eastern Front were much more apt to make
physiognomical judgments on the population rather than the landscape. An
increasingly racialized point of view was expressed in the proportion of nega-
tive references to hygiene and in the drastic pejoratives that dismiss people as
everything from “˜dull,™ ˜dumb,™ ˜stupid™ all the way to ˜depraved™ und ˜barely
humanlike,™” against which Klaus Latzel adds, “the vocabulary of the First
World War seems almost harmless.” Latzel concludes:

That the French were arrogant, the Jews money-hungry, the Poles lazy and dirty,
the Russians dull, and the Serbs highway robbers, all that previous generations had
˜known,™ and there was little need for remedial lessons. But that these traditional

Carl Schmitt, “Das Meer gegen das Land,” Das Reich, 9 Mar. 1941; also Das Reich, 5 Jan.

Hans Hoeschen, Zwischen Weichsel und Wolga (Gutersloh: C. Bertelsmann, 1943), 8.

“Aus den Kollektionen,” Die Mode 2 (Jan./Feb. 1942).

Jurgen Schuddekopf, “Berlin im Herbst 1941,” Das Reich, 26 Oct. 1941.
¨ ¨

Hans Hoeschen, 46“7.
Peter Fritzsche and Jochen Hellbeck

stereotypes not only classi¬ed the people for whom they were minted, but ranked
them in hierarchies, biologically justi¬ed their dehumanization, and in extreme
cases opened the way for their destruction, this was a lesson that only the Nazis
felt capable of successfully teaching.99

The new knowledge that ordinary soldiers on the front had acquired earned
the unabashed praise of Goebbels. “Their judgement of the enemy,” he stressed,
“was sober, objective, without a trace of arrogance, but always superior. They
offered opinions about the mentality of the Bolsheviks or the English that
would put a practiced social psychologist to shame.”100
The new knowledge of race war did not always come easily. The military
historian Hannes Heer stresses the moment of “shock” and the subsequent pro-
cess of “renormalization.” “The tale told by the letters written by the majority
of soldiers who invaded the Soviet Union in summer 1941,” he explains is
of the “experience having turned them ˜into a different person,™ of a process
of ˜inner change™ having occurred, of being forced to ˜completely readjust,™
and also of having to ˜throw overboard several principles held in the past.™”
While Heer concedes that “a minority of men experienced this ˜adjustment™
as a harrowing process of ˜split consciousness™ which ended either in their
resigned withdrawal into a world of subjective privacy . . . most soldiers man-
aged to adapt effortlessly to the shock: they became ˜hard,™ ˜indifferent,™ and
A “New Man” became more and more recognizable. According to Kleo
Pleyer, a reporter on the Eastern Front:

The battle-grey German was spared nothing in the Soviet Union. He did not
just go through a triumphant offensive attack, as in France, he also had to keep
his head amidst enemy artillery that lasted hours, days, weeks. He has seen one
comrade after another fall bloody to the ground, he has seen the shredded corpse
of a friend. For months he lived in hell. Countless nights he stood guard with his
machine gun without relief, from dusk to dawn, shaking with cold and drenched
by rain. . . . But for all that he only became stronger, harder.102

What emerged was a new kind of heroism that had been incubated ideologi-
cally in the 1920s but only put into practice a half-generation later; the combat
soldier increasingly assumed the virtues of unsparing and ruthless hardness,
and whose brutality was justi¬ed not any longer in general terms of Christian

Klaus Latzel, 177, 181. See also Klara Lof¬‚er, Aufgehoben: Soldatenbriefe aus dem Zweiten

Weltkrieg: Eine Studie zur subjektiven Wirklichkeit des Krieges (Bamberg: WVB, 1992), 122.
Goebbels, “Gesprache mit Frontsoldaten,” Das Reich, 26 July 1942.

Hannes Heer, “How Amorality Became Normality: Re¬‚ections on the Mentality of German

Soldiers on the Eastern Front,” in War of Extermination: The German Military in World War
II, 1941“44, eds. Hannes Heer and Klaus Naumann (New York: Berghahn Books, 2000),
331“32. See also Omer Bartov, Hitler™s Army: Soldiers, Nazis, and the War in Third Reich
(New York: Berghahn Books, 1991), 26; and Hanns Wiedmann, Landser, Tod, und Teufel:
Aufzeichnungen aus dem Feldzug im Osten (Munich: Piper, 1943), 11.
Kleo Pleyer, Volk im Feld (Hamburg: Hanseatische verlaganstalt, 1943), 227.
The New Man in Stalinist Russia and Nazi Germany 339

duty or national service, but in much more precise ideological allegiances to
the Fuhrer or to “Volk, Fatherland, and Destiny.”103 “Here war is pursued
in its pure form,” re¬‚ected one soldier in July 1941; “any sign of humanity
seems to have disappeared from deeds, hearts, and minds.” “With the senses
of a predator we recognize how the rest of the world will be ground between
the millstones of this war.”104 The absolute terms of the engagement on the
Eastern Front became more drastic after Stalingrad, when explicit references to
the very survival of Germany betrayed the new defensive situation of the racial
empire in early 1943. The huge casualty rate that accompanied Germany™s long
defeat actually produced more and more New Men: of¬cers newly promoted
from the ranks wore distinct uniforms of an increasingly lawless, terrifying elite
whose seeming invincibility except at the very end remains a familiar media
fantasy to this day. New professionals also proliferated in the Reich™s “eth-
nic cleansing” operations in which hundreds of thousands of allegedly ethnic
Germans were reclaimed and resettled, racially undesirable Poles pushed aside
and forcibly put to work, and racially unacceptable Jews isolated and then
murdered. Germany™s New Man is most completely visible, most concretely
realized, across the vast killing ¬eld which he laid out in the war years.
Nazi Germany™s war against the Soviet Union brought the Third Reich™s
New Man fully to life. Engaged in what they believed was a brutal race war
against inferior people, Germany™s soldiers increasingly identi¬ed with the
tough, remorseless ¬gure that had been the Nazi ideal. But this New Man
was fundamentally different from his Soviet counterpart. In the Soviet Union,
the New Man fashioned himself in accordance with the stringent but lawful
movements of progressive history and was available as an exemplar to be emu-
lated around the world. If the demands of history left behind Old Men, and
literally condemned them to death, the promise of history also recreated a new
socialist being. In contrast, the New Man in Germany mistrusted history. It
was precisely the danger zones of World War I, the awful, hidden potentials of
technological mobilization, and the international jeopardy in which postwar
Germany found itself that made the New Man both possible and necessary.
The adherents of Nazi racial suprematism mobilized in lieu of history, while
the Stalinist citizen believed himself to be the embodiment of historical pro-
gression. It is not surprising, then, that for all the violent dissociation of the
New Man from the Old Man under Stalinism, the process of creation was
regarded as consistent with universal Enlightenment principles. In Germany,
the New Men were Aryans ¬rst and foremost, serving the particular interests
of Germany, not the general ideas of revolution and liberation. Socialist New
Men could ¬nd each other around the globe; Aryan New Men knew only each
other. In this sense, the New Man in the Soviet Union was more optimistic,
while the New Man in Nazi Germany could only rely on the bloodlines of his
own people, reclaiming Aryans out of Germans and ethnically “lost” Germans,

Latzel, 367“8.

Quoted in Bartov, 26.
Peter Fritzsche and Jochen Hellbeck

but uninterested in and uninteresting to the rest of the world. If the enemy of
the Soviet Union lay in the dead hand of the past, which did not release all con-
temporaries and condemned them as useless, the enemy of the Third Reich was
spatial: what was around Germans, what threatened to contaminate Germans.
This self-absorption with the racial body meant that there was no developed
category of Old Men in Nazi Germany: Germans as such were Aryans who
needed to be taught to recognize their racial selves; those political groups that
had misled the country in the decades before the Nazi revolution were not
regarded as incorrigible as was often the case in the Soviet Union. But this self-
absorption with the Aryan self also meant a fanatical concern with eliminating
racial impurities, Jews, ¬rst and foremost, but also people who were deemed
to be impaired with heritable physical and mental defects.
The Soviet New Man cultivated the self both physically and intellectually
and sought a rational and critical praxis of the individual. There was great
stress on the soul and on the process of recognizing and unlearning bourgeois
habits and on recognizing and assuming socialist virtues. It was the individ-
ual™s intellectual responsibility to remake himself, a labor that was exposed in
and advanced by textual analysis, diaries, autobiographies, and other instru-
ments of self-re¬‚ection. The emphasis on the text stands in contrast to Nazi
Germany™s suspicion of books and letters. In Hitler™s words, blood could blot
out paper.105 Germany™s New Men worked on their bodies and on their rela-
tions with other bodies, whether these were Aryan spouses and the German
Volk or Russian “subhumans” and Jewish “parasites.” Although early Nazis
produced autobiographical texts, Mein Kampf ¬rst and foremost among them,
Nazi Germany did not cultivate intellectual self-examination. The huge paper
trail that the Nazis left behind aimed to index the physical body and technical
and physical capacities and to ensure the separation of healthy Aryans from
dangerous others. As a result, the New Men of the Soviet Union and the New
Men of Nazi Germany did not recognize each other as elites, although each
cited the peril of the other in order to accelerate the process of self-fashioning
at home.
Stalinist and Nazi New Men did share a common commitment to discipline,
whether intellectual or physical, and thus a belief in the ability to leave behind
the liberal world. They both put a premium on organized collectivities “ their
marching order expressing, alternatively, the powerful march of history or the
strength and beauty of the master race. Only through synchronic collective
exertions could history be propelled forward, as the Soviets believed, or the
degenerative tumble of history be reversed, as in the German case. Both scorned
liberalism for its weakness and inability to cope with the demands of the
modern world. Their pretense to transform the world in systematic fashion
and grandiose ways legitimated their claim to being vanguards of two distinct
variants of an illiberal modernity. In the Soviet case, the liberal world had

See Katerina Clark and Karl Schlogel™s contribution on the Soviet image of Nazi Germany in

this volume.
The New Man in Stalinist Russia and Nazi Germany 341

become obsolescent and a grander future could be achieved; in the Nazi case, the
liberal world obscured more fundamental racial identities. There was a dizzying
audaciousness in the assumption that new collective identities could be claimed
in the twentieth century. However, this audaciousness also revealed itself in
the vast destructive energies that the creation of the New Man entailed. In
the Soviet Union, New Men presupposed Old Men abandoned by history who
needed to be cleared away; in Nazi Germany, New Men revealed themselves in
their willingness to eliminate any and all racial perils. The assumption of new
identities was ultimately a ferocious attack on and a frightening alternative to
liberal modernity, a state of being that is possible and demands scrutiny.
part iv


States of Exception
The Nazi-Soviet War as a System of Violence,


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