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Coercion and Consent in Nazi Germany

Raleigh Lecture on History, delivered by Professor R J Evans FBA, on 24 May 2006.

This lecture was a critique of the current orthodoxy amongst historians that sees the Third Reich as a 'dictatorship by consent', based on a 'self-policing society'. The lecture traced the development of the historiography of policing and repression since 1945, and argued that while early work in this area over-emphasized the totalitarian control exercised over German society in particular by the Gestapo, recent work has trivialized and neglected the repressive side of Nazism. It examined the various methods of control, from the legal apparatus of courts, police and state prisons to low-level enforcement agencies such as Block Wardens, which the Nazis used to repress and deter dissent. The propaganda machinery of the Third Reich presented a picture of unanimity and support for the regime among the people, but the reality, it argued, was very different. Popular opinion was divided and constantly in flux, and the lecture sketched the changing and volatile movement of support, tolerance, distancing and dissent from the regime amongst different groups of Germans on a variety of issues over the period from 1933 to 1945, in order to provide a more convincing account than recent work that has stressed the overwhelming popularity of Nazism amongst the whole German people from start to finish.

More about the Raleigh Lectures on History