Hitler's Empire: How the Nazis Ruled Europe

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"Drawing on an unprecedented range and variety of sources, Hitler's Empire demands that we face the full implications of Hitler's takeover of Europe. Using twentieth-century technology to achieve nineteenth-century goals, Germany's forces achieved, in just a few years, the astounding domination of a landmass and population larger than that of the United States. Control of this vast territory was supposed to provide the basis for Germany's rise to unquestioned world power. Eastern Europe was to be the Reich's Wild West, transformed, pacified and
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"Drawing on an unprecedented range and variety of sources, Hitler's Empire demands that we face the full implications of Hitler's takeover of Europe. Using twentieth-century technology to achieve nineteenth-century goals, Germany's forces achieved, in just a few years, the astounding domination of a landmass and population larger than that of the United States. Control of this vast territory was supposed to provide the basis for Germany's rise to unquestioned world power. Eastern Europe was to be the Reich's Wild West, transformed, pacified and civilized by massacre and colonial settlement. Western Europe was to provide the economic resources that would knit an authoritarian and racially cleansed continent together. But the brutality and short-sightedness of Nazi politics lost what German arms had won and brought their equally rapid downfall." Throughout this book are fascinating, chilling glimpses of the world that might have been. The genocide of the Jews was the harbinger of more killing ahead: Russians, Poles and other ethnic groups would have been slaughtered or enslaved en masse. Germans would have been settled upon now empty lands as far east as the Black Sea-the new "Greater Germany." Europe's treasuries would have been systematically sacked, its great cities ransacked and recast as dormitories for forced laborers when they were not deliberately demolished. As dire as all this sounds, it was no more than the planned extension of what actually happened in Europe under Nazi rule, as recounted in this authoritative, absorbing account.
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Editorial Reviews

James J. Sheehan
In this important book, Mark Mazower provides the best available survey of the Nazi empire's precipitous rise and violent demise…[he] tells this somber story with great skill. He captures the diversity of Europeans' experience without getting lost in detail; he maintains narrative momentum without losing sight of major themes. By describing a carefully selected set of individuals and events, he gives the experience of war a human face, bringing to life an extended cast of villains and victims. While his focus is on the Germans, he makes a number of illuminating comparisons with other regimes. In a stimulating and provocative final chapter, he explores the war's meaning for world history…Mazower;s eloquent and instructive book reminds us what the world would have been like if Hitler's enemies had been unwilling or unable to pay the price of defeating him.
—The New York Times
Andrew Nagorski
Many histories have focused on Hitler's costly military mistakes, particularly on the Eastern Front. Mazower largely ignores the battlefields and focuses instead on the political, racial and economic policies of the Nazi conquerors. While many parts of this story have been told before, he painstakingly examines a huge body of evidence for insights into Nazi misrule. This hardly makes for light reading, but it allows him to present a compelling case, which was best summarized by a German general at the end of the war. Addressing his fellow POWs, Ferdinand Heim argued that the German war effort would have been doomed "even if no military mistakes had been made"…all the way through, Mazower offers incisive details and insights that make Hitler's Empire a fascinating read.
—The Washington Post
Publishers Weekly

Columbia University historian Mazower (Inside Hitler's Greece) is a knowledgeable guide to the dynamics of Nazi domination of Europe. His focus is on the ambitions and foibles of the Nazi leaders, who believed that all of Europe could be made to serve German interests. As Mazower shows so well, almost nothing about the occupation had been planned beforehand. The Nazis improvised as their armies raced through Poland, the Soviet Union and the Low Countries, and Nazi generals and old-line bureaucrats fought among themselves for power and spoils. Mazower's most interesting commentary comes at the beginning, when he compares the Nazi imperium to other European empires, and at the end, when he demonstrates its long-lasting consequences. The breadth of Mazower's study is remarkable, but while not diminishing the toll of the Nazi anti-Semitism, he claims, contrary to many scholars, that core of the Nazi worldview was not anti-Semitism, "but rather... the quest to unify Germans within a single German state." Pulitzer Prize-winner Saul Friedländer's coinage of "redemptive anti-Semitism" is far more effective at evoking the realities of Nazi rule than any of Mazower's formulations. Maps. (Sept.)

Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Library Journal

To the 5000-plus titles in English that examine Hitler and the Nazi era must be added yet another tome, and one that is good. Mazower (program director, Ctr. for International History, Columbia Univ.) has produced an exceptional study of the Nazis and their quest for the control of Europe and its surrounding territory. Expanding on his Dark Continent: Europe's Twentieth Century , Mazower masterfully surveys how the Nazis successfully applied current military technology to accomplish the age-old Prussian goal of dominating the other European nations. The Nazis were effective at conquering (at least at the beginning) but were awful at managing their new subjects: despite their initial spate of victories in 1939-40, the Germans were ruthless masters and quickly lost any support their newly conquered peoples may have felt for them as rulers. Mazower sets his narrative within the context of how European thinkers envisioned empire building in the new 20th century, which puts a slightly different spin on the Nazis and World War II. An essential work; recommended for all collections.-Ed Goedeken, Iowa State Univ. Lib., Ames

Kirkus Reviews
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.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781594201882
  • Publisher: Penguin Group (USA)
  • Publication date: 9/18/2008
  • Pages: 768
  • Product dimensions: 5.90 (w) x 9.30 (h) x 1.70 (d)

Meet the Author

Mark Mazower is the author of numerous books on twentiethcentury European history, including Inside Hitler's Greece and Salonica and City of Ghosts: Christians, Muslims and Jews, 1430-1950. He is program director of the Center for International History at Columbia University.
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Table of Contents

List of Illustrations

List of Maps

Abbreviations and Acronyms

Preface: The View from Varzin

Introduction 1

Pt. I For Greater Germany

1 Germans and Slavs: 1848-1918 15

2 Versailles to Vienna 31

3 Expansion and Escalation: 1938-|40 53

4 The Partition of Poland 78

5 Summer 1940 102

6 War of Annihilation: Into the Soviet Union 137

7 Make this Land German for Me Again! 179

8 Organizing Disorder: 1941-2 223

Pt. 2 The New Order

9 Making Occupation Pay 259

10 Workers 294

11 Ersatz Diplomacy 319

12 The Final Solution: the Jewish Question 368

13 Collaboration 416

14 Eastern Helpers 446

15 Opposition 471

16 Hitler Kaputt! 522

Pt. 3 Perspectives

17 We Europeans 553

18 The New Order in World History 576

Notes 605

Bibliography 648

Index 673

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
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  • Posted November 5, 2009

    I Also Recommend:

    Fine study of the horrors of Nazi rule

    In this remarkable study of Nazi rule over Europe, Mark Mazower shows the full horror of Nazism and its lack of any redeeming feature. Its anti-human philosophy could end only in utter destruction.

    Mazower notes that the British-French Munich Agreement with Hitler and Mussolini was 'a disaster for the Czechs and a catastrophe for all those hoping to stem the German drive to war'. The British state then gave the Czech reserves of $100 million to the Nazis after they seized Czechoslovakia in March 1939.

    The Nazis set up colonial-style regimes giving Hitler unfettered executive power. Their colonial autocracy, brutality and racism denied equality and national sovereignty.

    The Nazi occupiers consumed a growing part of Europe's shrinking output, through exploitation, dismantling and destruction. Predatory, never self-sufficient, never autarchic, they increasingly depended on imports and on foreign labour. Their rule brought 'plunder and genocide'.

    The Nazis carried out mass murders throughout Eastern Europe. Hitler told his senior commanders that he wanted the 'physical annihilation' of the Polish population. In their invasion of Poland, the Nazis massacred 50,000 Poles and 7,000 Jews. By contrast, Soviet policy in Poland "did not aim to get rid of any particular national or ethnic group in toto. Its purpose was social revolution, not national purification."

    Mazower notes, "the cult of force and the racial geopolitics that the Nazis took so seriously turned into a programme of extermination on a scale which had no precedent." On 12 December 1941, Hitler told his Gauleiters, "The world war is here, so the annihilation of Jewry must be the necessary consequence."

    Mazower writes, "The rising power in the Agriculture and Food Ministry, Herbert Backe, was a long-time advocate of de-industrializing Russia. His goal was to weaken the urban working class which Stalin had built up and turn the country back into the wheat supplier for western Europe that it had been before the Bolsheviks seized power." The Nazis aimed to cut off Moscow and Leningrad from the grain-producing Ukraine and leave them to starve.

    But the Soviet Union fought back and played the main part in defeating Hitler's armies. Mazower points out that Operation Bagration was "not only the most effective Soviet offensive of the war but perhaps the most overwhelming and devastating single military assault in history."

    After the war, Hungary, Czechoslovakia and Poland expelled Germans. Mazower observes, "the idea that the Powers could turn expulsions on and off at will takes little account of the real driving force behind them - the immense popular hatred towards the Germans that existed in the regions they had occupied as the war came to an end."

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted January 22, 2009

    I Also Recommend:

    A well written collection of how the Nazi's changed the course of the las century. Austin Ms. Lasley (i wrote this conformation my nickname is CP)

    Hitler's Empire by Mark Mazower is very interesting. The book was a bit intimidating at first simply because it started in the 1840's.It offers a really good perspective on Nazism, the Third Reich, and a "Greater Germany". Mr. Mazower definitely put a lot of time in trying to write this book. His book moves flawlessly from chapter to chapter. I must say I also did enjoy the picture section of the book quite a lot. The book also tells you a lot about Himmler, The Gestapo, and The S.S. Overall the book is a very good read if not a bit daunting at first, I recommend to anyone who likes history or who wants to be enlightened.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted August 15, 2009


    Very carefully researched and eye-opening. If you have any interest in WWII or European history, buy this now. Mark Mazower is surely one of the most respected historians of this era.

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