Shelley Baranowski


On her book Nazi Empire: German Colonialism and Imperialism from Bismarck to Hitler

Cover Interview of February 20, 2011


The horror of the Third Reich continues to fascinate—so much so that an explicit justification for more books on the topic can often be seen as unnecessary or beside the point.  In addition, one still can still hear arguments to the effect that the Third Reich was an incomparable evil.

Yet if the revulsion and incomprehension that inform those views is understandable, I’ve found that placing the Third Reich in a broader historical perspective may help understand the ferocity of the Nazi campaign for “living space” and the Nazi regime’s near total elimination of European Jews.  This perspective includes long-term German imperialist aspirations and Germany’s competition with other empires.

I have also learned that Nazism’s attempt to create a cohesive and ethnically uniform nation, while at the same time incorporating new territories with diverse populations, has been a common problem of empires in general.

Thus, although we can appreciate the extremes of the Third Reich on their own terms, comparisons between the Third Reich and other empires can bring into sharper focus the conditions under which genocide can occur.

© 2010 Shelley Baranowski