Hitler's Empire: Nazi Rule in Occupied Europe (Allen Lane History) Hardcover – 5 Jun 2008
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`A brilliant account' -- David Cesarani, Independent
`A first-class account' -- Richard Overy, Literary Review
`Brilliant ... a must for anyone who has a serious interest in the dreadful Third Reich' -- Justin Cartwright, Spectator
`Exposes the intellectual bankruptcy of the enterprise with forensic skill and wit'
-- Christopher Silvester, Daily Express
`In many ways an exemplary volume.'
`Remarkable ... provocative ... an important new book' -- Adam Tooze, Sunday Telegraph
`[A] beautifully constructed account of life under the horrifying Nazi empire ... Splendid' -- Norman Stone, Guardian
`Remarkable ... provocative ... an important new book'See all Product description
Top customer reviews
He sets out to examine why the Nazis did what they did and what they hoped to achieve. He gets to the nub of it by identifying an issue that plagued German policy and self-conception from the time of Bismarck. How should Germany best deal with the problems of mixed ethnic communities containing significant populations of Germans outside the Reich?
It is understanding that this question is the infamous "German Question" that Hitler tried so outrageously to "solve" that provides the framework to the book and the entire conflict. The irony is that Hitler's war did indeed end up "solving" this German Question but in a way that was far different from what Hitler intended.
I cannot recommend this book highly enough.
The problems start to appear when Mazower moves from documentary and close analysis to interpretive framework. His major theses - there are two - are familiar, but much enlarged from the core of his earlier 'Dark Continent': first that the Nazis were the culmination of the process of ethnic cleansing and national consolidation that completely restructured Europe in the 20th C., and second that what was new about them is really only that they did to _europeans_ what european colonial powers had been doing to non-europeans for centuries - this is some sort of variation on the old A.J.P. Taylor position. I have no problem with the first thesis, but I don't buy the second. Paul Schroeder has argued that Napoleon was the first to give Europeans a taste of what being on the object, rather than the subject side of the verb 'to colonize' meant, and my impression is that Napoleon's version was probably closer most of the time (though, note - and it is certainly germane - Napoleon's version was not very nice either). Yes, there were times and places that were like the Ukraine (the Belgian Congo, for instance) but not in general. And when Mazower tries to argue otherwise, his prose is littered with the tells characteristic of someone trying to hammer historical facts into an ideologically conditioned prior. For instance he tends to move smoothly from 'there exists' to 'for all' far too easily (minor example that comes to mind: the true observation that some Ukrainian post-war exiles were nasty pieces of work morphs slopily into a remark that vaguely implies that the post-war Ukraininan exile community in the 'States consisted solely of genocidal gangsters imported by the CIA). He writes, in the conclusion, presumably thinking of the British 'if they lacked the ideology and the resources to systematize mass killing on the scale of the New Order, they also lacked the fundamental sense of urgency'. I like the implication of that: as if the major reason why the Brits didn't try to recycle the population of India into lampshades was that they didn't have a good management consultant on the job (I somehow get the impression that Mazower doesn't like management consultants either). It is hard to square Mazower's basic argument with, for instance, Burke's impeachment of Warren Hastings; that Burke could do this, even if he eventually failed, suggests a whole bunch of moral and legal assumptions about what you could do out in the colonies that didn't apply in the Nazi case. How - why? - would anybody have impeached Erich Koch? There is also the secondary point that, in the end, Warren Hastings was no Erich Koch.
The reality is that Hitler (together with Stalin, Mao, Pol Pot and all the other lovables) was a phenomenon unique to the 20th C. and Mazower, in spite of his ambition otherwise, convincingly shows this. It's more than enough of an achievement.
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