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Virtual: Discussion of ‘The Pale Death: Poison Gas and German Racial Exceptionalism, 1915-1945’

January 29, 2021 at 12:00 PM - 2:00 PM

Join the North Carolina German Studies and Workshop Series for a discussion on German racial exceptionalism.

In the second year of World 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 Michae 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

The Zoom URL for each NCGS seminar will be communicated two weeks before the event via the NCGS listserv.

If you are not on this listserv please contact the NCGS organizers Max H. Lazar, ( and Michael Skalski, ( and ask them to be added this listserv or request the URL for the specific event.