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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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Applied Geography and Area Research in Nazi Society: Central Place Theory and Planning, 1933–1945

Applied Geography and Area Research in Nazi Society: Central Place Theory and Planning, 1933–1945

(p.182) 8 Applied Geography and Area Research in Nazi Society: Central Place Theory and Planning, 1933–1945
Hitler's Geographies

Mechtild Rössler

University of Chicago Press

The earliest ventures in applied geography and area research were developed during the Weimar Republic. In 1933 the first theoretical study appeared: the central place theory by Walter Christaller. Under National Socialism good research conditions existed for social scientists (at least, those who were not persecuted, exiled, or murdered) who wanted to implement their theories. Law and central planning organizations provided the political and institutional basis for scientific research. Power struggles and conflicts concerning competence between different institutions headed by Hitler, Himmler, and Rosenberg afforded scientists freedom to develop new approaches and conduct research within the control imposed by a central organization. Walter Christaller worked in such institutions under Himmler. His personal and political biography is imbued with paradoxes: a former member of the Social Democratic Party, he switched to the Nazi Party in 1940, in 1945 to the Communist Party, and once again to the Social Democratic Party in 1959. However, these events merely hint at the complex nature of the political context in which Christaller and other scientists worked from 1933 to 1945. This chapter is an attempt to illuminate the ‘reactionary modernism’ of the Nazi State, drawing from archival material and recent historical studies on social science in the 1930s and 1940s.

Keywords:   Nazi spatial theory, central place theory, Walter Christaller, Nazi geography, Nazi planning

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