Invoking Eternity: Religion and Temporality in the National Socialist Narrative
Levy, Madeline J.
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CitationLevy, Madeline J. 2021. "Invoking Eternity: Religion and Temporality in the National Socialist Narrative." Harvard Divinity School
AbstractThis paper seeks to shine a light on the National Socialist approach to both religion and temporality as they intersect in the narrative of the Third Reich. Using the Nazi propaganda documentaries 'Triumph of the Will' and 'The Eternal Jew,' I examine one kernel of traditionally religious temporal imagination that found a place in the Nazi narrative: eternity. I suggest that understanding the work that the concept of “eternal” did to root and propel Nazi ideology will offer a nuanced view of the Nazi approach to both time and religion as well as the stakes of such language. First, I give a brief picture of the complexity of the question of religion in the Third Reich. As an undergirding framework, I offer philosopher Charles Taylor’s concept of social imaginary as it intersects with Victor Klemperer’s conclusions on the rhetoric of the Third Reich. Next, I turn to scholarly analyses of German temporality leading up to and following World War I, drawing on Roger Griffin, Taylor, and historians Reinhart Koselleck and Christopher Clark. In analyzing the concept of eternality in 'Triumph of the Will,' I use historian of religion Mircea Eliade’s work on ritual and sacred time as well as with Taylor’s on gathered time and kairotic knots. Building on that analysis, I examine the Wandering Jew myth in relation to 'The Eternal Jew.' Ultimately, I suggest that there are two versions of eternity being offered in these pieces of Nazi propaganda. One version is beyond time in the form of appeals to transcendent Aryan and Jewish essences––the constructive and destructive foundational pillars of Nazi ideology, respectively––and the other version is within time appearing in references to the Third Reich qua modern state-entity as the immanent manifestation of the Aryan essence. I claim that, in weaving together these differing yet intersecting eternities into their narrative, Nazi leadership tied a modern state-building project with a vision of an immanent utopian future to seemingly primordial categories of identity framed in a Christian logic of theophany.
Citable link to this pagehttps://nrs.harvard.edu/URN-3:HUL.INSTREPOS:37368075
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