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Colonial crossovers: Nazi Germany and its entanglements with other empires

  • Patrick Bernhard (a1)

Nazi Germany’s place in the wider world is a controversial topic in historiography. While scholars such as Ian Kershaw argue that Hitler’s dictatorship must be understood as a unique national phenomenon, others analyse Nazism within comparative frameworks. Mark Mazower, for example, argues that the international concept of ‘empire’ is useful for comprehending the German occupation of Europe. Using an approach native to transnational cultural studies, my contribution goes a step further: I analyse how the Nazis themselves positioned their regime in a wider international context, and thus gave meaning to it. My main thesis is that, while the Nazis took a broad look at international colonialism, they differentiated considerably between the various national experiences. French and British empire-building, for instance, did not receive the same attention as Japanese and Italian colonial projects. Based on new archival evidence, I show that the act of referring in particular to the Italian example was crucial for the Nazis. On the one hand, drawing strong parallels between Italian colonialism and the German rule of eastern Europe allowed Hitler to recruit support for his own visions of imperial conquest. On the other hand, Italian colonialism served as a blueprint for the Nazis’ plans for racial segregation. The article thus shows the importance of transnational exchange for understanding ideological dynamics within the Nazi regime.

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Ian Kershaw , ‘Hitler and the uniqueness of Nazism’, Journal of Contemporary History, 39, 2, 2004, pp. 239254

Ana Antic , Janna Conterio , and Dora Vargha , ‘Conclusion: beyond liberal internationalism’, Contemporary European History, 25, 2, 2016, pp. 359371

Patrick Bernhard , ‘Konzertierte Gegnerbekämpfung im Achsenbündnis: die Polizei im Dritten Reich und im faschistischen Italien 1933 bis 1943’, Vierteljahrshefte für Zeitgeschichte, 59, 2011, pp. 229262

Frank Ankersmit , Meaning, truth, and reference in historical representation, Leuven: Leuven University Press, 2012

Alex Middleton , ‘French Algeria in British imperial thought, 1830–1870’, Journal of Colonialism and Colonial History, 16, 1, 2015, pp. 115

Arnd Bauerkämper , ‘Interwar fascism in Europe and beyond: toward a transnational radical right’, in Martin Durham and Margaret Power, eds., New perspectives on the transnational right, New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2010, pp. 3966

E. J. Russell , ‘Agricultural colonization in the Pontine Marshes and Libya’, Geographical Journal, 94, 4, 1939, pp. 273289

Patrick Bernhard , ‘Hitler’s Africa in the east: Italian colonialism as a model for German planning in eastern Europe’, Journal of Contemporary History, 51, 2016, pp. 6190

Edward Ross Dickinson , ‘Biopolitics, fascism, democracy: some reflections on our discourse about “modernity”’, Central European History, 37, 1, 2004, pp. 148

Lynn Hunt , ‘The world we have gained: the future of the French Revolution’, American Historical Review, 108, 2003, pp. 119

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Journal of Global History
  • ISSN: 1740-0228
  • EISSN: 1740-0236
  • URL: /core/journals/journal-of-global-history
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