Historicization of National Socialism
Yad Vashem Studies, Volume XIX
Martin Broszat and Saul Friedländer
A Controversy about the Historicization of National Socialism
This work presents an exchange of letters between Broszat, head of the Institut für Zeitgeschichte in Munich, and the Israeli historian Saul Friedlaender between September and December 1987. The discussion, prompted by Broszat’s article in Merkur (May 1985) and by Friedlaender’s criticism of his proposal for the historicization of Nazi Germany, focuses on the question of the uniqueness of the Nazi regime and the influence of a researcher’s origins or the background of his work, as Broszat opposes the “mythical memory” of survivors as opposed to the “objective” findings of historians. Broszat denies that he intended to bring about the relativization of the Holocaust or to evade moral judgment. He defends the study of “everyday life” in Nazi Germany carried out by his Institute, which helps to break down stereotypes and generalizations about the complicity of ordinary people. Friedlaender reiterates his concern that these trends may obscure the criminal nature of Nazism and the widespread knowledge at the time about the Final Solution, and that “understanding” of Nazis may lead to empathy.