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German Colonialism and Imperialism from Bismarck to Hitler

jan peczkis|Sunday, August 18, 2013

WidespreadRacist and Genocidal German Concepts of Slavs and Jews Long Preceded Hitler The roots of modern German genocidal imperialism followednot only the unification of Germany, but also her spectacular economic growthin the late 1800’s. In fact, by the 20th century, Germany had themost dynamic economy in Europe, and only the U. S. economy had grown morerapidly since the American Civil War. (pp. 9-10). Clearly, the Germans were “feeling their oats” and lustingfor global power status.

Where should German growth proceed? Some policies trendedtowards the establishment of colonies in Africa. In 1914, Heinrich Class wrote a work, touchingon 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, andreplaced 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, thePan Germans had already moved beyond an ethno-cultural definition of Germannessto a racial and biological one. (p. 42). Furthermore, genocide was alreadylatent in German thinking. The author realizes that, (quote) Together, the PanGermans and HAKATISTEN sought to promote German settlements, ban the influx ofcheap German labor outright, and expel Prussian Poles to the United States.(unquote)(pp. 42-43). The foregoing can be generalized. The author points outthat, (quote) Social Darwinian ideas were not confined to the natural or socialsciences. In addition to being disseminated in the press, popular literature becameyet another means of legitimating imperialism and its underlying notions ofrace war. Popular fiction in the Wilhelmine era described Poles as raciallydifferent 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, adoptedaggressive proto-Nazi views of Poles. He saw the Germans and Slavs as engagedin 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 notconsider Judeopolonia, she makes it obvious why Poles (notably the Endeks) sawthe Jews as Pole-aloof, if not actively pro-German, and feared an eventualjoint German—Jewish rule over Poland. Citing a German-language source, shewrites, (quote) Ironically, that policy [promotion of German cultural values]extended to Jews, who in addition to experiencing less repression than underthe tsars, also presided over the revitalization of Yiddish culture. As theGerman armies advanced eastward during the summer of 1915, German-Jewishsoldiers proved essential as interpreters and procurers of transport andsupplies, while the German administration of the Ober Ost [Supreme Command ofthe 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 anexcuse for German support of Nazism. While recognizing the post-WWIdifficulties facing the Germans, Baranowski implicitly rejects such exculpatoryreasoning, as she comments, (quote) In actuality, the Weimar economy was noworse off than those of other European nations in the postwar period.Alternatively, it was somewhat stronger despite its territorial losses, becauselittle fighting had taken place on German soil. Weimar governments avoidedpaying most of the reparations it ostensibly owed. (unquote)(p. 123). Far from unilaterally punishing Germany, the Americanpolicies included loans and investments for Germany, enabling modest andepisodic recoveries in 1924, 1925, and 1927. (pp. 143-144). The eventual 1939 German-Soviet aggression againstPoland, which began WWII, long preceded the Nazis. Although Baranowski does notmention Hans von Seeckt’s post-WWI statement about the new Polish state asintolerable to both Germany and Russia, she does mention 1920’s German militaryplanning, including the German-Soviet Rapallo Pact. (p. 216). The Reichswehralready then favored war with Poland over lost German colonial territories,and—interestingly—reckoned the recovery of these territories a greater priorityover the return of the Saar, the annexation of Austria, and theremilitarization of the Rhineland. (p. 150). Baranowski provides interesting insights into the Nazimovement. Although Junkers commonly supported the Nazis because of such motivesas hatred of bourgeoisie parties and parliamentary democracy (p. 268), it isincorrect to see Nazism as a movement sponsored by the privileged. In fact,Nazism had an unusually broad-based following among most of Germansociety—irrespective of religion, geographical region, social class, etc. (p.165). The author also points out that the support of big business for Nazismcame AFTER their ascent to power, as she quips, “In fact, relatively fewemployers joined the Nazi Party or openly sided with it before 1933.” (p. 167).Ironic to the misrepresentation of Nazism as a conservative movement, themurdered victims of the Rohm (Roehm) Purge were disproportionately politicallyconservative opponents of Nazism. (p. 198). Attention is now focused on WWII. The author elaboratesof Nazi mass murder of Slavs in Poland, the USSR, etc. She also realizes thegenocidal character of GENERALPLAN OST as she comments, (quote) In someversions, 51 million people were to have been driven out. Following populationtransfers and the deliberate confiscation of food that would likely entail thephysical annihilation of most of the population of eastern Europe, roughly fivemillion ethnic German settlers would begin to replace the victims over ageneration, pushing Germany’s ethnic boundary one thousand kilometers to theeast. (unquote)(pp. 299-270). Now consider the Jews. Ironic to current attempts toblame Christianity for the Holocaust, the author realizes that the samepre-Hitler eventually-genocidal German attitudes towards Slavs also found Jewsas targets. She writes, (quote) To the Pan Germans, continental expansion wasthe antidote to the insidious workings of ‘international Jewry’ that preventedGermany from assuming its rightful place among the world powers. The Pan Germandemand for living space at the expense of the Slavs to the east so that theGerman population would have room to grow and prosper would be the key tocombating the Jews as well as the Poles. The ethnic cleaning of Slavs wouldgive Germany the resources to counterbalance British power and itsaccompaniment, the ‘global Jewish spirit,’ as the prelude to further overseas colonization.(unquote)(pp. 45-46). Baranowski adheres to the functionalist view of Holocaustorigins. Unfortunately, her treatment of Polish-Jewish relations at this timeis superficial and irresponsible. (p. 346).
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