Choosing communism as the lesser evil: Victor Klemperer and the transformation of East German higher education, C. 1933-1953

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Hogg, Emmanuel R.

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University of Guelph

Abstract

This thesis examines the remarkable transition from Nazism to Communism that occurred in East Germany following the Second World War. It provides insight into what motivated individuals to collaborate with the Communist authorities by analyzing the diaries of a professor who experienced both the Third Reich and Soviet occupation, Victor Klemperer. It argues that Klemperer's motives for partaking in the 'anti-fascist democratic transformation' of higher education from 1945-53 were determined by his experiences with Nazism, especially the ease with which his colleagues accepted Nazi interference in the academic milieu, and his desire to play a role in reconstruction during Soviet occupation. His decision to go along with 'socialist reorganization', however, was dominated by a personal search for material comfort and career successes in a regime he described as the 'lesser evil'. This thesis studies Victor Klemperer as a German professor but also as a German citizen living under successive dictatorships, in order to highlight the complexities that underpinned the behaviour of individuals struggling through a period of huge political, socio-economic, and cultural upheaval.

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Keywords

transition, Nazism, Communism, East Germany, Victor Klemperer, motivation, socialist reorganization, behaviour

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