Astute, systematic study traces the roots of the Nazi obsession with a Greater Germany and its murderous, ultimately inept implementation across Europe.
Mazower (History/Columbia Univ.; Salonica, City of Ghosts, 2005, etc.) deconstructs the Nazi vision step by step. It encompassed on the one hand the reconquest of land the Germans believed belonged to them from medieval times (Lebensraum), wedded to the “science” of race on the other (Germans versus Untermenschen). Love of nation and hatred of the Slavs had emerged strongly amid the revolutionary spirit of 1848; both were exacerbated by the humiliating terms of the Treaty of Versailles in 1919. Once the Nazis started rolling across national boundaries, millions of non-Germans came under German rule. This raised a new and urgent question: How could these alien peoples be incorporated into the Reich “in a way that accorded with the principles of racial jurisprudence”? While Norway, the Netherlands and other northern countries were inhabited by suitably Germanic peoples, the Slav nations were not, and Himmler’s ambitious resettlement plan aimed to send pure-blood German “farmer-soldiers” into model villages while driving the ethnic natives and Jews steadily east, thus ensuring a buffer for “an irruption from Asia.” Making the annexation of these countries pay proved increasingly nettlesome for the Nazis, and Mazower examines in turn their mismanagement of the food supply, resources, foreign workers, POWs, slave labor and collaboration policies. Indeed, the Nazis seemed to have stumbled into the great centers of European Jewry in Poland, Hungary and elsewhere without having given advance thought to the problem of what to do with them. Mazower offers perspective on how the so-called Nazi New Order altered and destroyed 19th-century notions of nationalism, imperialism and international law, especially within European powers.
A tireless, immensely valuable reassessment of the entire Nazi edifice and its breakdown.