Hitler’s Empire: How the Nazis Ruled Europe

Mark Mazow­er
  • Review
By – January 10, 2012
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.

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