Central European History Society Presidential Panel: Europe and Beyond: Nazi Imperialism from Lebensraum to Globalism

AHA Session 174
Saturday, January 5, 2019: 10:30 AM-12:00 PM
Monroe Room (Palmer House Hilton, Sixth Floor)
Shelley Baranowski, University of Akron
Colonialism and Public Culture in the Third Reich
Willeke Sandler, Loyola University Maryland
The Men of the Hapol and Nazism's Economic Empire
Jennifer Jenkins, University of Toronto
Dennis Sweeney, University of Alberta

Session Abstract

In the past two decades, German colonialism and imperialism have drawn renewed attention from historians. Topics have ranged from German imperial imaginaries before unification, to the long-term impact of Imperial Germany’s overseas empire despite the loss of its colonies after the First World War, and to the reconsideration of Nazi Germany itself as an “empire.” As the voluminous scholarship on the Holocaust makes clear, the Third Reich had no rival in its murderous destructiveness. Yet as the papers for this panel demonstrate, German imperial ambitions in the Third Reich extended beyond its Lebensraum project in the East in diverse, contested, and unpredictable ways. While the Nazi regime’s and Hitler’s long-term objectives have been debated at length, the presumption of German global power in the future found a sizable domestic audience and inspired countless mid-and lower-level agents of the Reich, who pursued their agendas with varying degrees of success. Especially because this panel addresses the breadth of Nazi ambitions, it should attract historians from diverse fields, who are interested in imperialism and colonialism.

Willeke Sandler’s paper, “Colonialism and Public Culture in the Third Reich” discusses the advocates of overseas empire, who testified to the continuing importance of prewar territories in many circles. Exercising a presence which could not be ignored, they kept alive the possibility of a future global empire. Jennifer Jenkins’ paper, “The Men of HAPOL and Nazism’s ‘Economic Empire,” argues that the Nazi “drive to the east,” which would require war to obtain, required an extensive global economic reach to assure Lebensraum’s success. She examines the HAPOL (Handelspolitische Abteilung or Trade Policy Division of the Foreign Office), which implemented the bilateral clearing agreements between the Third Reich and industrializing nations globally, and which in turn would give Germany the resources to acquire European Lebensraum. Michael Miller’s paper, “The Ukraine Project: Dutch East Indies Companies and the Nazi East,” tells the story of German and Austrian officials in the Nazi occupation of the Netherlands, who sought to transfer Dutch plantation expertise from the East Indies into German-occupied Ukraine. This project's failure suggests that prior European overseas colonial experience proved in applicable to the Nazi empire.

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