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Saturday
Sep202008

Books [EN]: Mark Mazower: Hitler's Empire - Nazi Rule in Occupied Europe

Sometimes, I feel as if I'm just beginning to understand World War II, as far as Europe is concerned.

That is an odd experience, for I was born during the Nazi occupation of Holland, I grew up with its stories, its orphans, its shadow looming over all what was decided in vital questions. Then, I went to study Modern History at Amsterdam University in 1959. And again, no matter, if the subject were the XVIIth Century, or even slavery in Classical Antiquity, - the real subject were all the unanswered questions about the holocaust and the civilisation that had made it possible.

Maybe, those more than 50 years have been necessary. I do not know. Anyhow: Here is a book, written by a genial historian, that explains, how the Hitler state worked. Inside Germany, and outside. It is about ruthless ethnic cleansing. On an industrial scale. It is the 20th century European history, we cannot but be ashamed of.

It is about a lost illusion: the illusion of civilization's progress.

The New York Times reviewer James J. Sheehan (Book Review section, 9.21.08) resumes the books' conclusions as follows:

The empire brought out the worst in those caught in it. There were, to be sure, acts of courage and humanity, but these scattered points of light merely accentuate the surrounding darkness. Mazower, a professor of history at Columbia and the author of a number of important books, including a splendid study of the German occupation of Greece, 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. The war was not, he writes, the end of Europe, but “it was the end of Europe as the maker of norms and world policeman. . . . Henceforth, international order would emerge on a different basis, guided by different hands.”

Please, take some time to read this book.

(Can be ordered at amazon.co.uk through HUIBSLOG's partnership, by clicking on the image above.)

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