National Socialism and the Classical World
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A historical, literary, and epistemological study of the Nazis’ plundering of the intellectual heritage of the classical world to justify their own cultural and political aims.
It is often believed that the historical underpinnings of Nazism were exclusively Germanic, dating back to Frederick II of Prussia and to Bismarck. However significant they may have been, the most central beliefs of national socialism, as Johann Chapoutot shows, emanate from the ancient Mediterranean world.
References to antiquity were prevalent in Nazi-Germany in official speeches, in official state architecture; in sculpture, cinema, and journalism; and in the organization of festivities such as the Olympic Games of 1936. Greco-Roman culture conferred prestige on the Nazis even as it served as a model for the new man, a future society, and an empire yet to be defined.
It was from the ideological foundations of the classical world that the Nazis derived numerous tenets of their empire: In particular, the supposed importance to the survival of the empire of the purity of race found a precedent here. The very story of the failed empires of Greece and Rome gave the Nazis a further impetus to place this struggle at the heart of their world and not let it go.
Johann Chapoutot : A graduate of the prestigious École Normale Supérieure and Sciences Po, Johann Chapoutot is a history expert. He is an assistant professor at the University of Grenoble and teaches contemporary history at the Institut d’Études Politiques and the École Polytechnique, both in Paris. In 2003–2004, he was a lecturer at Harvard University.