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Nazi Empire: German Colonialism and Imperialism from Bismarck to Hitler Paperback – 27 Sep 2010


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Product details

  • Paperback: 382 pages
  • Publisher: Cambridge University Press (27 Sept. 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0521674085
  • ISBN-13: 978-0521674089
  • Product Dimensions: 15.2 x 2.2 x 22.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 1.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 508,115 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

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'For more than a decade now, historians have been rediscovering that the best key to the question of the continuities of German history is to be found in the histories of German expansionism since the mid-nineteenth century. Admirably attuned both to the longer-term patterns and to the Nazi empire's terrible specificities, with an assured grasp of detail and a clear analytical vision, Shelley Baranowski has given us the best critical synthesis yet of that steadily mounting scholarship.' Geoff Eley, University of Michigan

'This fine new political history of Germany between 1871 and 1945 does a wonderful job of synthesizing all of the most recent literature in English and German.' Suzanne Marchand, Louisiana State University

'Reasonable yet provocative, at once sober and humane, this book is a chilling portrait, as [Baranowski] puts it, of 'the Third Reich's own horrific contribution to the history of European imperialism'.' Dirk Moses, University of Sydney

'In this ambitious book, Shelley Baranowski, an expert on the history of Nazi Germany, defines for readers what was distinctive about the Nazi version of racial empire. At the same time, she offers a valuable guide to the growing literature on German colonialism and its links to Nazism.' Lora Wildenthal, Rice University

Book Description

Drawing on recent studies of the links between empire, colonialism and genocide, Nazi Empire examines the history of Germany from 1871 to 1945 as an expression of the less well-known but nonetheless crucial 'tension of empire', the aspiration to imperialist expansion and the simultaneous fear of destruction by imperialist rivals.

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9 of 17 people found the following review helpful By Manzikert on 26 July 2011
Format: Paperback
A sad effort to revive the discredited notion of relentless continuity in modern German history and the idea of the inevitability of Nazism and the holocaust, a theory beloved by Jewish-US historians in particular. Arguing that the seeds of Auschwitz and the gas chambers took root with German unification in 1871, and dismissing the diversity and political and cultural pluralism of German society in both Imperial Germany and Weimar that could have produced a whole number of outcomes - Hitler being perhaps just one of the most remote - is historical determinism at its worst, and an attempt to turn the historiographical clock back to the 1950s.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: 5 reviews
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
German Continuities between 1871-1945: Excellent Synthesis 26 Jan. 2013
By Matt Obenritter - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
University of Akron should consider itself lucky to have a scholar like Professor Baranowski among its faculty. Proof of this fact is overt to any student of modern Germany or the Third Reich for that matter, particularly so when they finish this book. What this book accomplishes in less than 400 pages is astounding. Baranowski has produced one of the most coherent syntheses over the German nation and its internal struggles to secure its place in the world between 1871 and 1945 and how that endeavor culminated in the atrocities of the Third Reich - as well as or better than any I've read. (As a scholar of modern German history who has read hundreds of books covering this era; that's saying a lot).

There is a discernible theme reoccurring from the unification of Germany in 1871 to the inception of the Third Reich which Baranowski makes clear; she describes it as "the fear of annihilation lurking within the promise of greatness" (pg. 38), both of which came about in the wake of Germany's defeat of the Danes in 1864, the declining Austrian empire in 1866, and its western neighbor France in 1871. Up to that point, Germany had been the victim of internal strife so to speak, mainly the remnants of an antiquated feudal system where regional princes once reigned supreme. Baranowski fails to cover at any length how industrialization followed by economic progress played its part in fostering national interests abroad or how the Zollverein and the exclusion of Austria by the Prussian Junkers helped forge a nascent nationalism in what was to become Germany. There are other books which cover this topic and it would be a bit unfair to disparage her brilliant work since its title is concerned with colonialism and imperialism. It is worth at least mentioning however since competition for resources emerged in the wake of the modern Industrial Revolution - with Germany being a bit of a latecomer to the competition abroad taking place between powers like France and England. It is amid this international atmosphere that Germany sought its rightful place in the colonial sun.

Baranowski neatly divides the book into six distinct chapters which she gives near uniform attention: Imperial Germany from 1871-1914; Imperial Germany during the Great War; the Weimar Republic between 1918 to 1933; the early Third Reich from 1933-1939; Nazi colonialism in occupied Europe during WWII; and finally she closes with the Final Solution and the ensuing Holocaust. Despite the inimitable distinctions occurring through each historical period, the tension of an imperial/colonial empire pervades each. Continental fears of dissolution by outside forces and a longing for a German empire are juxtaposed in Baranowski's text. Professor Baranowski shows how during the years leading up to the First World War, political and economic leaders, hoping that efforts abroad would bring all Germans together - pushed for a colonial solution, thinking it would help resolve tensions caused by the incomplete unification of the German states.

A unified Germany under Bismarck first had to contend with national consolidation, a fact which remained at the forefront of Bismarck's political and nationalistic ambitions. Concomitantly, German fears of domestic and external imperial competitors ultimately led to a radicalization of imperial policies that both provoked Germany's European neighbors and increased the stakes for Germany's survival. Signs of this reality show up when Kaiser Wilhelm II and his military advisors chose to categorically increase their maritime war-fighting capacity, embarking on a naval arms race with England. Unfortunately for Germany, reckless abandonment of diplomacy and aggressive expansionism became the focal concerns of Kaiser Wilhelm II, whose involvement in policy-making after Bismarck's departure ruptured the fabric of the international tapestry. Noted historian Mary Fulbrook once wrote that Kaiser Wilhelm II "played a major role in unleashing the First World War" and Baranowski's judgments about Wilhelm II pretty much solidify and substantiate this remark. Baranowski makes considerable effort (justifiably so) to discuss Wilhelm II's botched foreign policy and his affinity for all things military. Collectively, Baranowski demonstrates how the large central homeland of Germany with its efficient industry, coupled with an educated population and a belligerent Kaiser awash in notions of imperialist ambitions and delusions of grandeur led Germany into the First World War.

Losing the First World War brought about political change and the Weimar Republic. Sadly, the Weimar period was fraught with difficulties as Germany had to contend with Allied occupation from Britain and especially France, accept full responsibility for instigating the Great War, pay exorbitant war reparations (Kriegsentschädigung), essentially give up its military, and cede any territory it had acquired during the colonial period. It was amid this environment and the subsequent global economic Depression that the National Socialists arose. Baranowski provides loads of evidence that paramilitary organizations like the Free Corps and its Nazi successors helped keep colonial ambitions alive and well during the Weimar era.
Meanwhile, once the Nazis seized power and Hitler took center stage, Baranowski illustrates the continuities of European racialist imperialism and particularly its use by the Nazi regime which she claims "linked" German political anxieties and fears of racial mixing (pg. 190). Nazi laws and oppression thereafter functioned well in an atmosphere where Germans were privileged while racial outsiders were marginalized. It was the perfect collusion of pseudo-science and propaganda which slowly and insidiously laid a nightmarish framework followed later by horrendous consequences.

Throughout the text, Baranowski sketches a thematic diagram outlining the German penchant for imperialistic and uncompromising behavior between 1871-1945, as their ideologies of conquest and the efforts to acquire adequate living space (Lebensraum) found heightened efficaciousness in the mind of Third Reich Germans. Namely, because their concept of utilizing what they wanted to multiply their culture and ideologies had zero consideration for the earth or the impacted peoples. German notions of empire were consistently fed by a propaganda meal consisting of: the fear of encirclement, illusory ideals of racial supremacy, a fear of both Marxism and Slavs, and of course by a pervasive anti-Semitism. One could argue that Germany's attempt at empire climaxed with the invasion of the Soviet Union and ended in both defeat and the perpetration of the worst crime thus known to humanity.

Masterful prose with substantial citations accompany the journey through Baranowski's work and her thesis that the Germans feared annihilation and longed for international greatness is cleverly interwoven therein. In the end, Baranowski's study of German empire between 1871-1945 is noteworthy for its succinct and accurate judgments and should be read by anyone interested in either modern German history or anyone trying to understand some of the historical continuities upon which the Third Reich established its short-lived foundation.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
A Fine Investigation of Genocide 14 Jun. 2013
By Broken Luck - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
In the Introduction to "Nazi Empire", the author quotes Hannah Arendt's comment that Nazi Germany's devaluation of the individual was nothing less than an attack on the human conscience- the Jews were simply the most convenient target of their crime. Understanding the significance of the Holocaust, therefore, is no easy task: it involves the singular nature of the event, and the nature of genocide itself. A fine work of original research, "Nazi Empire" offers a much needed piece of the puzzle: While Goldenhagen successfully argues that the virulent antisemitism of Nazi Germany found its roots in the uniqueness of mind and culture of the German people themselves, Baranowski places the event into the context of Western imperialism. The result is a frightening indictment of modern society. ..
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
Widespread Racist and Genocidal German Concepts of Slavs and Jews Long Preceded Hitler 13 Aug. 2013
By Jan Peczkis - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
The roots of modern German genocidal imperialism followed not only the unification of Germany, but also her spectacular economic growth in the late 1800's. In fact, by the 20th century, Germany had the most dynamic economy in Europe, and only the U. S. economy had grown more rapidly since the American Civil War. (pp. 9-10). Clearly, the Germans were "feeling their oats" and lusting for global power status.

Where should German growth proceed? Some policies trended towards the establishment of colonies in Africa. In 1914, Heinrich Class wrote a work, touching on MITTELEUROPA, in which he suggested that German living space (LEBENSRAUM) should be in the east, at the expense of the Poles, who should be removed, and replaced with German settlers. (p. 44).

Large-scale proto-Nazi German views of themselves, and Poles, antedated even WWI. In fact, by the start of the 20th century, the Pan Germans had already moved beyond an ethno-cultural definition of Germanness to a racial and biological one. (p. 42). Furthermore, genocide was already latent in German thinking. The author realizes that, (quote) Together, the Pan Germans and HAKATISTEN sought to promote German settlements, ban the influx of cheap German labor outright, and expel Prussian Poles to the United States. (unquote)(pp. 42-43).

The foregoing can be generalized. The author points out that, (quote) Social Darwinian ideas were not confined to the natural or social sciences. In addition to being disseminated in the press, popular literature became yet another means of legitimating imperialism and its underlying notions of race war. Popular fiction in the Wilhelmine era described Poles as racially different from the Germans. (unquote)(p. 55).

Bismarck and von Bulow (Buelow) were bad enough to Poles. However, von Bulow's successor, Theobald von Bethmann-Hollweg, adopted aggressive proto-Nazi views of Poles. He saw the Germans and Slavs as engaged in a "racial struggle" for survival. (p. 65).

Baranowski characterizes Ludendorff's rule over Poland, during WWI, as a harsh one. (p. 87). In addition, although she does not consider Judeopolonia, she makes it obvious why Poles (notably the Endeks) saw the Jews as Pole-aloof, if not actively pro-German, and feared an eventual joint German--Jewish rule over Poland. Citing a German-language source, she writes, (quote) Ironically, that policy [promotion of German cultural values] extended to Jews, who in addition to experiencing less repression than under the tsars, also presided over the revitalization of Yiddish culture. As the German armies advanced eastward during the summer of 1915, German-Jewish soldiers proved essential as interpreters and procurers of transport and supplies, while the German administration of the Ober Ost [Supreme Command of the East] disproportionately represented Jews and Protestants. (unquote)(pp. 88-89).

The hyperinflation under Weimar and the "draconian" nature of the Versailles accords are commonly exaggerated, and made into an excuse for German support of Nazism. While recognizing the post-WWI difficulties facing the Germans, Baranowski implicitly rejects such exculpatory reasoning, as she comments, (quote) In actuality, the Weimar economy was no worse off than those of other European nations in the postwar period. Alternatively, it was somewhat stronger despite its territorial losses, because little fighting had taken place on German soil. Weimar governments avoided paying most of the reparations it ostensibly owed. (unquote)(p. 123). Far from unilaterally punishing Germany, the American policies included loans and investments for Germany, enabling modest and episodic recoveries in 1924, 1925, and 1927. (pp. 143-144).

The eventual 1939 German-Soviet aggression against Poland, that began WWII, long preceded the Nazis. Although Baranowski does not mention Hans von Seeckt's post-WWI statement about the new Polish state as intolerable to both Germany and Russia, she does mention 1920's German military planning, including the German-Soviet Rapallo Pact. (p. 216). The Reichswehr already then favored war with Poland over lost German colonial territories, and--interestingly--reckoned the recovery of these territories a greater priority over the return of the Saar, the annexation of Austria, and the remilitarization of the Rhineland. (p. 150).

Baranowski provides interesting insights into the Nazi movement. Although Junkers commonly supported the Nazis because of such motives as hatred of bourgeoisie parties and parliamentary democracy (p. 268), it is incorrect to see Nazism as a movement sponsored by the privileged. In fact, Nazism had an unusually broad-based following among most of German society--irrespective of religion, geographical region, social class, etc. (p. 165). The author also points out that the support of big business for Nazism came AFTER their ascent to power, as she quips, "In fact, relatively few employers joined the Nazi Party or openly sided with it before 1933." (p. 167). Ironic to the misrepresentation of Nazism as a conservative movement, the murdered victims of the Rohm (Roehm) Purge were disproportionately politically conservative opponents of Nazism. (p. 198).

Attention is now focused on WWII. The author elaborates of Nazi mass murder of Slavs in Poland, the USSR, etc. She also realizes the genocidal character of GENERALPLAN OST as she comments, (quote) In some versions, 51 million people were to have been driven out. Following population transfers and the deliberate confiscation of food that would likely entail the physical annihilation of most of the population of eastern Europe, roughly five million ethnic German settlers would begin to replace the victims over a generation, pushing Germany's ethnic boundary one thousand kilometers to the east. (unquote)(pp. 299-270).

Now consider the Jews. Ironic to current attempts to blame Christianity for the Holocaust, the author realizes that the same pre-Hitler eventually-genocidal German attitudes towards Slavs also found Jews as targets. She writes, (quote) To the Pan Germans, continental expansion was the antidote to the insidious workings of `international Jewry' that prevented Germany from assuming its rightful place among the world powers. The Pan German demand for living space at the expense of the Slavs to the east so that the German population would have room to grow and prosper would be the key to combating the Jews as well as the Poles. The ethnic cleaning of Slavs would give Germany the resources to counterbalance British power and its accompaniment, the `global Jewish spirit,' as the prelude to further overseas colonization. (unquote)(pp. 45-46).

Baranowski adheres to the functionalist view of Holocaust origins. Unfortunately, her treatment of Polish-Jewish relations at this time is superficial and irresponsible. (p. 346).
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Great Resource 30 Jun. 2013
By Ty - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Good background and insight on the Nazi Empires years in Germany, and the effects after the rein of Adolf Hitler.
2 of 9 people found the following review helpful
"The Nazi Third Reich as one form of empire." 6 Oct. 2011
By ROROTOKO - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
Professor Baranowski's interview on "Nazi Empire" ran as the Rorotoko Cover Feature on February 21, 2011 (and can be read in the Rorotoko archive).
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