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Hitler's Empire: How the Nazis Ruled Europe Hardcover – September 18, 2008

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Editorial Reviews

From 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.)
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From School Library Journal

Starred Review. 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
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 768 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Press HC, The; 1st American Edition edition (September 18, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1594201889
  • ISBN-13: 978-1594201882
  • Product Dimensions: 6.4 x 1.5 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.4 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (46 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #382,426 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

36 of 38 people found the following review helpful By Calvin Harris on January 19, 2009
Format: Hardcover
So much literature and history related to World War II in Europe passes through the prism of emotionalism that it actually ends up as propaganda either villifying or lionizing groups or individuals. Whether it be the need to praise the heroism of allied troops, establish the obscene nature of the holocaust or chronicle the perfidity of statesmen, it seems that authors are so often in the thrall of their emotions that the literature is on some level or another, tainted. While Mazower does not by any means disregard the incredible immorality of Nazi policy in Europe, he takes a clinical and wide angle approach to his analysis.

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.
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55 of 65 people found the following review helpful By P. G. Wickberg on December 16, 2008
Format: Hardcover
In the years since Nazi Germany fell in 1945, and especially in the last few decades, the history and society of the Third Reich have been explored, analyzed and gone over with a fine-tooth comb until it is hard to find a new way to approach them. Mazower has chosen to do so by looking at the Nazis as a colonial enterprise and comparing the policies they implemented in conquered neighbors to those implemented by those same neighbors in their African and Asian possessions. As several reviewers have pointed out, he sometimes resorts to forcing the evidence a bit to get the results he is aiming for, but his analysis of the mechanisms of ethnic engineering (I use this term rather than "Holocaust" because it relates not only to the extermination of Jews, Gypsies and other "non-people," as Nazis saw them, but to the forced relocation of other inconvenient populations occupying areas meant to be Germanized) is thorough and at times quite chilling.

One point both Mazower and some of his critics seem to miss is that between the fall of Europe's first in-house colonizer, Napoleon Bonaparte, and the rise of Hitler, there had been others whose ambitions were on the European continent. While other European powers focussed on dividing up Africa, the Middle East and Asia, the Austro-Hungarian Empire set its sights close to home, eschewing colonial adventures in Africa and Asia (which it probably could not have afforded anyway) in favor of expansion into the Balkans, and carefully not taking any territory to which it did not already have a land connection. In spite of their own incompetence, the Habsburgs proved willing to accede to local desires and tolerant enough that in WWI, their Slavic minorities in Trentino and Venezia Giulia fought heroically against Italians claiming to be their liberators.
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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Hancock the Superb on December 26, 2010
Format: Paperback
Hitler's Empire is a fascinating read about the Nazi occupation of Europe in World War II. The popular perception of Nazi Germany is challenged at length, showing the Nazis as incompetent, short-sighted ideologues, with a grand plan for Europe but little idea of how to implement it. A reader may quibble with many of Mark Mazower's conclusions, but his book is definitely an important, eye-opening work.

Mazower thoroughly discredits the old William Shirer "Nuremburg Thesis," that Hitler was an evil genius, with a pre-determined plan for conquering Europe and disposing of the Jews. Other writers, namely Christopher Browning, have shown that the Holocaust evolved haphazardly over time, due largely to the demands and urgency of outside events and internal pressure. Mazower goes a step further and applies this to Nazi foreign policy as a whole. Many of Hitler's military campaigns - Norway, North Africa, the Balkans - were launched out of strategic necessity and disrupted Hitler's plans, stretching forces and resources thinner than anticipated. Mazower's Hitler is more a victim of his own success than an evil mastermind, achieving far more than he ever dreamed possible in too short a time. The goal - a European Order dominated by Germany - was clear, but the methods of achieving this were hastily improvised, inadequate and even bumbling.

Further, there was little or no consistency in Nazi occupation policy. In the USSR and Eastern Europe, the Nazis were horribly brutal and genocidal; in Western Europe and Scandinavia, Nazi rule was fairly benign, with collaborationist regimes ready and waiting.
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47 of 59 people found the following review helpful By S. Matthews on September 30, 2008
Format: Hardcover
This is an excellent book, with a qualifying 'but'. If you want to understand the dynamic of 'Hitlers Empire', how it developed and collapsed, and the details of its particular flavour of genocidal gangsterism, then this will satisfy all the curiosity you have, and then some. My only complain about the main content is that it is a bit short on personalities (though this may be an unavoidable problem - the focus of the book is, after all, on process and governance). You get little real feel for the _people_ who did all this. Mazower does not mention anyone having nightmares, or developing a drink problem (lots of people are mentioned as having drinking problems, but only for the usual, soap-opera sort of reasons, not because of a day job in the mass murder business), but there must have been some. Neither does he really give you a feel for the different sorts of people involved: it is difficult to differentiate the knuckle-draggers from the Schubert fans. I would have liked to learn more about the intellectuals, but they don't get much coverage (there is surely a good book there, in fact).

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.
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