Helen Roche ‘In Sparta fühlte ich mich wie in einer deutschen Stadt’ (Goebbels)
: The Leaders of the Third Reich and the Spartan Nationalist Paradigm1 When Goebbels visited Sparta in 1936, he declared that here, he truly felt as if he were in a German city.2 Yet, as the Greek historian Thucydides had predicted nearly 2,500 years before, all that remained of the city-state which had been so renowned in Classical times were a few unimpres- sive ruins. Nothing here could compete with the surviving architectural splendours of the Athenian acropolis; nor was anything left to suggest that Sparta’s citizens had been at one time, militarily and politically, the most powerful in all the Mediterranean. Why, then, should Goebbels have 1 This paper was inspired by the realization, very early on in my PhD research (on the inf luence and idealization of Sparta in nineteenth- and twentieth-century German elite education, specifically at the Prussian cadet-schools [1818–1920] and Nationalpolitische Erziehungsanstalten [1933–45]), that the Nazi appropriation of Sparta extended far beyond the field of education. Indeed, it rapidly became clear that something tantamount to Spartan self-identification could be found in the thought of many leading National Socialists, including Hitler himself. This there- fore represents a preliminary overview of a topic which I will investigate fully upon completing my doctorate. All translations are my own unless otherwise stated. 2 Athenian Embassy-Report, 30 September 1936. I am indebted to Professor Hagen Fleischer for this reference, which originally appeared in his 1998 article, ‘Die “Viehmenschen” und das “Sauvolk”. Feindbilder einer dreifachen Okkupation: Der Fall Griechenland’, in...
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