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The Social Backgrounds of Nazi Leaders: A Statistical Analysis of Political Elites in Weimar Germany, 1918–1933

Journal of Historical Sociology

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["Journal of Historical Sociology, Volume 35, Issue 2, Page 222-249, June 2022. ", "\nAbstract\nThis article compares the social backgrounds of Nazi leaders and representatives of democratic parties in the Weimar Republic. It does not advance any overarching new narrative on Nazism’s social origins, but rather aims to present a nuanced statistical picture of Weimar’s political elites. The results of this analysis are derived from an index of German members of parliament and from a new dataset, which has recently been collected from the Neue Deutsche Biographie (NDB), Germany’s largest biographical encyclopaedia. Together, these two samples cover more than 2000 German politicians, industrialists, diplomats, political writers, academics, high state officials, and important journalists. This article reveals sociological differences between the politicians who led the Nazi party in parliament and those elites that promoted Nazism in the media, in academia, or within the German civil service. While Nazi politicians in the Reichstag were recruited from a variety of social classes, ranging from industrial workers to members of the aristocracy, National Socialist elites outside the parliament typically belonged to the Bildungsbürgertum and sociologically resembled the highly educated members of democratic and liberal parties. Overall, the picture of a generation of Nazi leaders emerges that was sociologically far more heterogeneous than is often recognized by historians.\n"]