World War I and the Myth of Comradeship
This chapter examines Germany's obsession with community and belonging as a consequence of the aftermath of World War I, the loss of which left the German nation tattered and fragmented. Soldiers' participation in the immense violence of an industrialized war could no longer be categorized in terms of individual guilt and responsibility. The collective memory of these orgies of destruction concealed the “I” in the Us. Communities of comrades sanitized their aggression toward the enemies through altruism bestowed on those who belonged, at least according to collective memory. The myth of comradeship also praised the platoon as the model of a truly united nation, the Volksgemeinschaft. This paved the way for a new moral system that no longer revolved around the conscience of the individual but rather around the social life and reputation of the group—the platoon as well as the nation.
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