Veterans' associations and political radicalism in West Germany, 1951-1954: A case study of the Traditionsgemeinschaft Grossdeutschland
- Publisher: Cambridge : Bell & Howell Information and Learning Company
Research on veterans' associations in the Federal Republic of Germany in the early 1950s has so far concentrated on the activities of groups lobbying for improved welfare provision and the efforts to establish a unified soldiers' organization. The latter project led to the founding of the Verband deutscher Soldaten (VdS) in September 1951. As fears of a possible repeat of the Weimar experience with organized veterans were at their height in 1951, research deaing with political radicalism has focussed on events leading to the establishment of the VdS, but has not extended beyond it, either in terms of other associations or the period in which they were active. This paper takes one tradition association as a case study, that of the Traditionsgemeinschaft Großdeutschland, to examine how far prominent tradition associations became involved in radical politics and what attitude they developed towards the new democratic system and the politically charged question of West German rearmament. Despite a number of early indicators that suggested an anti-democratic, anti-state attitude might take root within the ranks of Großdeutschland veterans, the history of the association in the period 1951-54 shows that there was in actual fact a surprising rejection of National Socialist and radical, nationalist values. In addition to the varied and complex effects of the lost war and Allied occupation, one of the reasons for the over-estimation of the radical potential of not only this group of veterans, but also those in other tradition associations, was the erroneous assumption that the views of leading generals represented those of the rank-and-file.
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