Abundant yet Defective Virtue in the Third Reich
Arts and Sciences
World Languages and Cultures
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.
Wegener, Eleanor MM, "Abundant yet Defective Virtue in the Third Reich" (2022). Symposium on Undergraduate Research and Creative Expression (SOURCE). 1035.