The Tannenberg myth in history and literature, 1914-1945

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The Battle of Tannenberg in late August 1914 has been described as the ‘most powerful German myth’ of the First World War. This essay analyses the role of the battle in German collective memory up to the end of the Third Reich. During the war, the victory in East Prussia was celebrated widely and greatly contributed to the personality cult surrounding Paul von Hindenburg. After 1918, Tannenberg served right-wing circles as a political argument against the post-war order, evoked to underscore the notion of German victimhood against Slav ‘encirclement’, the ‘war guilt lie’ and the territorial provisions of the Treaty of Versailles. However, it never really captured the attention or imagination of writers and artists. Linked primarily to national-conservative groups and ideals, Tannenberg was also of no major significance in National Socialist propaganda.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)778-802
Number of pages25
JournalEuropean Review of History
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 1 Nov 2018

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