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From Particularism to Mass Murder: Nazi Morality, Antisemitism, and Cognitive Dissonance

Kauders, Anthony



Scholars of the Third Reich have recently begun to study the ethical standards of National Socialist antisemites. Literature on Nazi morality frames German antisemitism as an attempt to reshape the country's mores, but it pays insufficient attention to the psychological processes at work in replacing universalism with particularism. The author argues that cognitive dissonance theory could account for the uses and abuses of morality after 1933. He addresses three inter-related questions: did the regime utilize morality primarily to reduce cognitive dissonance?; did Germans invoke morality mainly to reduce cognitive dissonance?; and how successful was the appeal to morality in cognitive dissonance reduction? The first question makes us think about how morality can pre-empt feelings of cognitive dissonance prior to the implementation of certain policies or actions; the second explores how morality decreases dissonance afterward; and the third suggests that new moral frameworks replace older ones, eliminating cognitive dissonance altogether.

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Jan 21, 2021
Publication Date Mar 5, 2022
Journal Holocaust and Genocide Studies
Print ISSN 8756-6583
Publisher Oxford University Press
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 36
Issue 1
Pages 46-59
Publisher URL