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Anna Haag and her Secret Diary of the Second World War

A Democratic German Feminist’s Response to the Catastrophe of National Socialism


Edward Timms

How was it possible for a well-educated nation to support a regime that made it a crime to think for yourself? This was the key question for the Stuttgart-based author Anna Haag (1888–1982), the democratic feminist whose anti-Nazi diaries are analysed in this book. Like Victor Klemperer, she deconstructed German political propaganda day by day, giving her critique a gendered focus by challenging the ethos of masculinity that sustained the Nazi regime. This pioneering study interprets her diaries, secretly written in twenty notebooks now preserved at the Stuttgart City Archive, as a fascinating source for the study of everyday life in the Third Reich. The opening sections sketch the paradigms that shaped Haag’s creativity, analysing the impact of the First World War and the feminist and pacifist commitments that influenced her literary and journalistic writings. Extensive quotations from the diaries are provided, with English translations, to illustrate her responses to the cataclysms that followed the rise of Hitler, from the military conquests and Jewish deportations to the devastation of strategic bombing. The book concludes with a chapter that traces the links between Haag’s critique of military tyranny and her contribution to post-war reconstruction.
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Chapter 6: False Ideals: Master Race, Religious Mission, Faith in the Führer, Tainted Healthcare and Perverted Justice


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False Ideals: Master Race, Religious Mission, Faith in the Führer, Tainted Healthcare and Perverted Justice

In a thoughtful New Year’s reflection, dated 6 January 1942, Anna Haag reviewed the state of the nation:

The collective moral deterioration of the German people, their voracious gulping-down of false ideals (the concept of race, the claim to be racially superior, to have a world mission, etc) with all their appalling consequences, prove just how submissive a nation can become whose members have been deprived of all scope for thinking for themselves. A single individual, a single party apparatus thinks for everyone. All ideas are filtered and poured into the brains of the masses. And since at the same time arrangements have been made for anyone who repudiates this ‘wealth of ideas’ to starve or to die a miserable death in a concentration camp or prison, the result is that the overwhelming majority obediently switch off their own thinking apparatus, for after all everyone wants to live and love and eat and drink.1

Such passages take us back to the question with which this book began: How was it possible for a highly educated people with outstanding intellectual achievements to endorse an ideology that made it a crime to think ← 107 | 108 → for yourself? Anna’s answer anticipates the judgment of modern historians: that National Socialism derived its power from perverted ideals, backed by an apparatus of coercion that reduced the...

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