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Hitler's GeographiesThe Spatialities of the Third Reich$
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Paolo Giaccaria and Claudio Minca

Print publication date: 2016

Print ISBN-13: 9780226274423

Published to Chicago Scholarship Online: September 2016

DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226274560.001.0001

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The East as Historical Imagination and the Germanization Policies of the Third Reich

The East as Historical Imagination and the Germanization Policies of the Third Reich

(p.93) 4 The East as Historical Imagination and the Germanization Policies of the Third Reich
Hitler's Geographies

Gerhard Wolf

University of Chicago Press

Unlike some National Socialist propagandists might have suggested, German imaginations of Eastern Europe were multi-layered and extraordinary complex. It was not until after the First World War that this mental map was theoretically conceptualized by geographers like Albrecht Penck and Wilhelm Volz. In their Volks- und Kulturbodenforschung paradigm, geographical space was turned into landscapes of cultural and historical encounters fit to legitimize German claims from Belgium deep into Eastern Europe. This chapter shows how pivotal these perceptions were for the German occupiers in their attempts to segregate the native population in annexed Poland during the Second World War. In contrast to Hitler, who, for example in his Second Book, had unambiguously declared that Germany must “under no circumstances annex Poles with the intention to turn them into Germans”, but “remove them and hand over the vacated territory to its own Volksgenossen”, the German occupation regimes proved more flexible. When instructed to select the ethnic Germans from the native population, they were guided less by Hitler’s anthropological racism than by a more traditional völkisch definition of Germanness as promoted during the Prussian Germanization campaigns of the late nineteenth Century and later refined by ideologues like Penck and Volz.

Keywords:   Albrecht Penck, Wilhem Volz, German colonialism, Nazi geographies, Germanness

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