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Fordism, Mass Tourism and the Third Reich: The "Strength through Joy" Seaside Resort as an Index Fossil

Hasso Spode
Journal of Social History
Vol. 38, No. 1 (Autumn, 2004), pp. 127-155
Published by: Oxford University Press
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/3790030
Page Count: 29
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Fordism, Mass Tourism and the Third Reich: The "Strength through Joy" Seaside Resort as an Index Fossil
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Abstract

Nazi Germany played a pioneering role in promoting "holidays for all." In- and outside Germany the travel activities of "Strength through Joy," (KdF) were celebrated as the breakthrough working class tourism. The ideal to overcome class distinctions by the industrialization of traveling--as already Thomas Cook has dreamt of--seemed to come true at least on holiday, the "socialism of deed" formed the "people's community." A core was the erection of the "seaside resort of the 20,000." In a nutshell the project--its remains cover a large strip of the Baltic Sea--reveals basic structures and ambiguities of the Nazi rule. This essay combines the history of tourism with that of the Third Reich, underlining how much both were entrenched in developments engendered by the "grammar of rationalization." Thus, the essay suggests ways to overcome the comforting concept of a "special path" that tames Nazi barbarism as a "deviant," if not unique, accident of modernity. It starts with a more philosophical look at rationalization. Then the travel activities, their size and forms, and the ideological framework of KdF are presented. Subsequently, the motifs and the technical means of the mass resort are portayed. What once was awarded at the World Fair, nowadays stands for "megalomania;" this reversal is discussed in the light of the debate about "Nazi architecture," Summing up, KdF was not really successful: either as a propaganda tool and as a means to foster working class tourism. Nonetheless, it pointed the way to the future.

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