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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Secularism and Sanctity: The Body and the Body Politic Under Fascism


Under fascism in Nazi Germany, ideas of the self, the body, and the soul are completely restructured in opposition to Judeo-Christian ideas and Western thought. While the latter believed that the soul was something that existed outside of and was superior to the body, the former instead insisted that the soul was chained inside the body. While the latter promoted spiritual freedom and agency, the former took a fatalistic stance–the soul was powerless against the destiny prescribed to it by the body it was born into. This paper looks specifically at ideas of the self in Nazi Germany, specifically in World War II, and how ideas of nation and the self are deeply intertwined. Because of this conflation, I assert that Nazi propaganda both sought to degrade religiosity in its citizens and promote a secular society that valued blood and carnality above all else while also lifting the physical body and the body politic (the nation) to a quasi-religious level.

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