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Discussion of “The Pale Death: Poison Gas and German Racial Exceptionalism, 1915-1945”

January 29, 2021 @ 12:00 pm - 2:00 pm

This event is organized by the NC German Studies Seminar and Workshop Series. For the most updated details and information on joining the event, please visit the NCGSWS website.

Graduate Writing Seminar
with PETER B. THOMPSON I University of Illinois—Urbana-Champaign, Department of History

In the second year of Wolf War I, the German-Jewish chemist Fritz Haber supervised the first deployment of industrialized chemical weapons against French colonial troops. The uncertain nature of the attack, both in its execution and outcome, led many German military men to question the controllability of poison gas. Over the next three decades, Germans would continue this line of inquiry, as aero-chemical attacks appeared increasingly imminent. This article narrates the German search for control over chemical weapons between the World Wars, revealing the ways in which interwar techno-nationalists tied the mastery of poison gas to ethno-racial definitions of German-ness. Under the Nazis, leaders in civilian aero-chemical defense picked up this interwar thread and promoted a dangerous embrace of gas that would supposedly cull the technically superior Germans from other lesser races. While this vision of a chemically saturated world did not suffuse German society, such logic did play out in the gas chambers of the Holocaust.

Comments: JAMES CHAPPEL (Duke University, Department of History) and KONRAD H. JARAUSCH (UNC—Chapel Hill, Department of History)

Moderation: MAX H. LAZAR (UNC-Chapel Hill, Department of History) and MICHAEL SKALSKI (UNC-Chapel Hill, Department of History)

The paper will be distributed to the participants before the workshop. Please contact the organizers of the event.

Co-Conveners: Duke University, Department of History, and UNC-Chapel Hill History, Department of History and the Center for European Studies


January 29, 2021
12:00 pm - 2:00 pm
Event Category:
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