Columbia University history professor Mark Mazower here examines what transpired, far from the battlefields of World War II, in the vast swathe of land conquered by the Nazis. Following Prussian precedent, Nazi prewar aims were twofold — to the East, colonialist, involving massive population displacements and Germanization, to the West, pan-Europeanist, with more racially favored peoples semi-autonomous but subservient. Unexpectedly swift early victories found Germany unprepared, however, for implementing this dark vision. Improvisation, amidst intense bureaucratic infighting, everywhere reigned.
Naziism energized not only murderously anti-Semitic elements but also counter nationalisms. Germany’s massive exploitation of material, cultural, and human resources was deeply resented. Facing defeat, its alliances shattered. Collaboration, though, was never as pervasive, nor brutally suppressed resistance as widespread, as popularly imagined. Mazower notes, too, how the occupation sowed the seeds for postwar supra-national European institutions as well as the demise of European colonial empires. Though marred by concluding gratuitous comparison of Nazi captive land plans with pre-State of Israel land purchases and inmigration promotion, this is an impressive, accessible work of scholarship, illuminating in fine detail one of the darkest periods in human history. Abbreviations and acronyms, bibliography, end notes, illustrations, maps.
Richard D. Wilkins is a clinical data processing consultant in the pharmaceutical industry. He has served in a variety of volunteer leadership positions in the Syracuse, N.Y. Jewish community and has been widely published in Jewish and general media.