“1938” and the Politics of Homogenization: Protecting the Nation in Europe on the Eve of World War II

Prague, 10–12 October 2018

Organizers: Masaryk Institute and Archives of the Czech Academy of Sciences, Prague; Institute of Contemporary History of the Czech Academy of Sciences, Prague; Faculty of Law, Charles University, Prague

The conference language is English.

The Munich Pact signed on September 30, 1938 is one of the key historical milestones in European history. The conference will take it more broadly than predominantly as a period of intense political and diplomatic bargaining. Indeed, we understand the year 1938 as a kind of a metaphor for the direction European societies moved in before WWII. In different national contexts, social and political processes and national inclusion and exclusion were its common denominator. They demonstrated a departure from the liberal conception of the modern state and society, and aimed at consolidating national and political communities in their largely exclusive conception. The principle of “protecting the nation” was the main motive behind the process in which directive exclusion or, on the contrary, calculated preference characterized a paradigmatic change in the concept of civil society and the state. At various stages of its development, we can identify it in individual national contexts across Europe exactly on the eve of WWII.

However, it was not just an immediate reaction to the threat to national existence represented by Nazi expansion, but rather the result of longer and less unambiguous developments. At the latest, we can trace the roots in the economic and political crisis of the 1930s, the consequences of which brought Europe closer to the principle of racial and ethnic purges. Even though it was primarily Nazi Germany that represented and supported this policy, local national elites also often sympathized with the idea in the interest of “protecting the nation.” The resulting homogenization of the area in a geographical and population sense was both the result of external influence and transfer and of interactions within national political representations. The roots and manifestations of the process are the central topic of the conference.

In the discussion, we will focus mainly on features of this transformation phase in individual national contexts, and on the degree of mutual interaction and transfer of practices between individual European countries. We can observe racial as well as national “protective” principles in individual national examples, inter alia, in the following areas:

Conveners: Radka Šustrová, Vít Smetana, Jan Kuklík

Contacts: Radka Šustrová, sustrova@mua.cas.cz; Vít Smetana, smetana@usd.cas.cz

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