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Document Type

Article

Abstract

The precarious legacy of National Socialism has informed much, if not all, of German historiography in the decades since Fritz Fischer first published German War Aims in the First World War in 1961. Sonderweg historiography (scholarship that explores the notion that Germany has followed a separate path to modernity) attempts to anchor the field with two historical assumptions: that an understanding of the greater German past necessitates an inherently negative diagnosis of German ills, and that this diagnosis is a product of and hinges on the emergence of National Socialism in Germany. But what if we excluded National Socialism from German history – not by making it out to be a momentary aberration, but rather by analyzing the period before the Nazi Party existed? When, where, and in what form, then, does the notion of a “separate path” take hold in Germany? In the Weimar era (1918-1933), the writings of the artist Hugo Ball, the novelist Thomas Mann, and the essayist Robert Musil help to break down the various “peculiarities” of contemporary German historiography in a new context, and the Sonderweg is revealed as a cultural artifact of a “Weimar moment,” used by Germans to reconstruct their society and identity in the aftermath of the First World War.