Microhistories of Heimat in the Third Reich

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In the Third Reich, ideas about Heimat became entwined with racial fantasies about blood and soil. This article investigates the dynamics and consequences of this development based on a study of the kinship network of Annemarie and Heinrich Brenzinger from Freiburg (Breisgau). The Brenzingers subscribed to a völkisch worldview which conceptualised Heimat as a refuge for kinship groups connected to their locality through lineage. While völkisch groups assisted the Nazi regime in amplifying a fascistic discourse which predated the dictatorship, they also influenced the culture of the Third Reich according to their own ideas. The Nazi regime accepted their activities as part of a transformation of society which required civil engagement. A contrasting reading of Heimat is found in the letters of the Jewish members of this kinship network who were forced from their homeland. It is further elucidated by émigré writers who carefully avoided the völkisch aspects of the Heimat narrative and employed alternative definitions of belonging. By historicising the concepts of Heimat contained in the family collection of the Brenzingers, this article sheds light on the narrowing of the Heimat discourse in Nazi Germany and recovers some of the marginalised voices that resisted it.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages20
JournalGerman Life and Letters
Issue number4
Early online date14 Aug 2023
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 14 Aug 2023


  • Heimat
  • Microhistory
  • Völkisch
  • Worldviews
  • Emigres
  • Migrant Studies
  • Antisemitism
  • Holocaust
  • Third Reich
  • Blood and Soil

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