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Title:Murder Scenes: Criminal Violence in the Public Culture and Private Lives of Weimar Berlin
Author(s):Elder, Sace Elizabeth
Doctoral Committee Chair(s):Fritzsche, Peter A.
Department / Program:History
Degree Granting Institution:University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Subject(s):History, Modern
Abstract:This dissertation is a study of criminal violence and urban culture in Berlin during the Weimar period. Based on police and court documents and newspaper accounts, it examines how Berliners experienced and made sense of homicidal violence within their urban communities. Criminal violence occupied a peculiar place in the culture of Weimar Germany. After the First World War, rising crime rates and the pervasiveness of violence in political and public culture seemed to indicate an irrevocable brutalization of German society that contemporaries increasingly connected to the failures of the Republic and to modernity itself. One need only mention the "monsters of Weimar" (Fritz Haarmann, Peter Kurten, Carl Grossmann) to conjure up long-held images of cultural decadence, police incompetence, moral turpitude---in short, a society at risk. This is not to say that Weimar was doomed to fail; rather, that murder cases provided narratives though which citizens made sense of crisis and modernity itself. Murder was more than a symbol for public anxieties, however. In a period of unparalleled efforts on the part of police to professionalize itself and to create a public of citizens ready and willing to act as a subordinate partner in the war against crime, murder provided the opportunity for officials, citizens, and the press to work together to solve the crimes and make sense of them. The dissertation addresses three important historical problems. First, it explains why crime, and murder in particular, was such an important trope for representing and describing the political, economic, and social crises of the Weimar period. Secondly, by examining the social interactions and relations that murder investigations exposed, the dissertation demonstrates the ways in which anonymity, fear, and mutual suspicion animated modern urban interactions in a culture which one scholar has characterized as a culture of "cool" distance. Finally, by examining the role of citizens, the public, and the police in the process of murder investigation, the dissertation shows how the culture of policing and mutual surveillance which police experts sought to cultivate in the postwar period fostered the necessary cultural practices for the Nazi culture of surveillance and denunciation.
Issue Date:2002
Description:296 p.
Thesis (Ph.D.)--University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, 2002.
Other Identifier(s):(MiAaPQ)AAI3069991
Date Available in IDEALS:2015-09-25
Date Deposited:2002

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