Abundant yet Defective Virtue in the Third Reich

Faculty Sponsor

Timothy Malchow


Arts and Sciences


World Languages and Cultures

Presentation Type

Oral Presentation

Symposium Date

Spring 4-28-2022


German author Uwe Timm wrote his book Am Beispiel Meines Bruders in the aftermath of World War II, during which time he struggled to come to terms with the fact that his older brother—fondly remembered by relatives as being a brave, honorable, and well-behaved child—was one of the many SS soldiers who contributed to the horrors of the holocaust. Timm relays loving childhood memories of his brother and juxtaposes them with shocking accounts of violence and racism typically associated with the time period. A close reading of the text reveals the link between these seemingly contradictory realities: Prussian values. The traditional values of bravery, honor, and obedience that Timm’s brother exhibited in his early childhood later developed into the same characteristics which enabled the holocaust to occur. In my research paper, I identify parallel examples of Prussian virtues, as laid out by Timm in Am Beispiel Meines Bruders, and relate them to the grander philosophical tradition of deontological and collective ethics, as represented by the influential thinkers Immanuel Kant and Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel. In doing so, I seek to expose Timm’s critique of traditional Prussian values, and ultimately establish a complex cultural setting that facilitated the collective attitudes and actions of the Third Reich.

Biographical Information about Author(s)

Eleanor Wegener is a senior student from Kansas City, Missouri. At Valparaiso University, she studies German and International Economics and Cultural Affairs, and is active as the Residential Assistant at the campus’ German House. In addition to her activities at Valpo, Eleanor has studied German literature and history in the international study centers in Cambridge, England and Tübingen, Germany. She hopes to continue pursuing graduate studies in Europe and eventually become a professor of German.

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