Nazi Occupation Strategies

TitleNazi Occupation Strategies
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2009
AuthorsEpstein, Catherine
JournalKritika: Explorations in Russian and Eurasian History
Date Published2009

First paragraph: What do we now know about the Nazi occupation of Eastern Europe? A great deal-more, perhaps, than many of us can or wish to stomach. Since the collapse of the Soviet Union, historians have produced a steady stream of works describing the breadth of Nazi planning, the brutality of Nazi policies, and the barbarism of Nazi actions in the East. In Berlin, the Nazis came up with chilling visions of an ethnically cleansed Eastern Europe; more than 30 million Jews and Slavs were to lose their lives so that Germans could have more "living space."1 On the ground, the Nazis deported hundreds of thousands of Poles,2 mercilessly battled Soviet partisans,3 and starved civilians4 and prisoners of war to death.5 The Nazis also pushed Jews into ghettos, ruthlessly exploited Jewish labor, and, in often mind-bogglingly brutal ways, massacred millions of Jews near their homes (and not just in industrial-style death camps).6 The four books under review each treat a different aspect of the Nazi occupation of Eastern Europe. But they share many of the same broader questions, even though they arrive at very different conclusions. What role did the Wehrmacht play in the Nazi occupation? What role did institutional rivalries play in the shaping of Nazi occupation policy? What sorts of regional variations occurred with Nazi occupation policies? Did the Nazis unleash the Holocaust because they were confident of winning the war or because they feared losing it? Do ideological preoccupations or situational factors better explain the radicalization of Nazi policy?7

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