While the Nazi politics of the body have been studied at length, the historiographical literature has largely failed to address the role of the Volkskörper, or the German people's body, in the Nazi worldview. As I attempt to explain, it was not the individual bodies of Germans that constituted the foundation for Nazi concepts of the corporeal. The handful of studies that have addressed the subject of the Volkskörper has underestimated its full significance because these studies have considered it an expression of “something else,” that is, a metaphor, or a sign of an organic view of society so characteristic of fascist ideologies. Using the phenomenological insights of Martin Heidegger and Ernst Nolte to recount the history of the Nazi Volkskörper, I describe the meaning this manifestation of the body of the German people had for the Jew as a body, in general, and as a foreign body (Fremdkörper), more specifically. The Volkskörper is what turned the Jew both into a body and into a Fremdkörper, existing either in a parasitical relationship vis-à-vis the Volkskörper or as a dangerous, cancerous body that had penetrated the Volkskörper. In this respect, I claim that the phenomenology of the Volkskörper already contains the phenomenology of the Jewish body. Thus phenomenology has methodological promise for the historical analysis of the phenomenon of Nazism.
Research Article| February 01 2009
Boaz Neumann; The Phenomenology of the German People's Body (Volkskörper) and the Extermination of the Jewish Body. New German Critique 1 February 2009; 36 (1 (106)): 149–181. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/0094033X-2008-025
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