A chronological account of the pivotal year in which Hitler’s master plan of Lebensraum and Jewish extermination was set in motion.
British historian MacDonogh (After the Reich: The Brutal History of the Allied Occupation, 2007, etc.) carefully traces the ominous events of 1938, which function as a kind of countdown to world war—from Hitler’s consolidation of military power in January and February to the shameful Munich Agreement and Kristallnacht toward the end of the year. The Führer had unveiled his master plan to his service chiefs by November 1937, and MacDonogh’s study of the following year is especially revealing in its depiction of the reluctance to go to war displayed by both his underlings and the German populace as a whole. The German military was not prepared, the economy was weak and the country desperately needed raw materials. Before 1938 was over, though, Germany had absorbed Austria and annexed German-speaking Sudetenland in Czechoslovakia. With the help of avid Austrian anti-Semites and the Nuremberg Laws, the Nazis were able to strip the approximately 200,000 Austrian Jews of their power and wealth, transporting the ones who didn’t flee the country to Dachau and elsewhere. Hitler cozied up to Mussolini, and their Berlin-Rome axis coordinated racial and military policies. The July Evian Conference failed to find homes for Jewish refugees. In the face of Hitler’s expansionist fantasies, British Prime Minister Chamberlain conceded that Czechoslovakia was not worth a widespread effort on the part of the British military. Though a public-relations disaster, Kristallnacht sealed the fate of the Jews; relief organizations run by Quakers and others helped transport Jewish children to safety. By his January 1939 speech in the Reichstag, Hitler had declared his “prophecy” of Germany’s return to glory.
A chilling examination of a critical year in European history.