Democracy and socialism have nothing in common but one word, equality. But notice the difference: while democracy seeks equality in liberty, socialism seeks equality in restraint and servitude… Alexis de Tocqueville

Nationalsozialismus is the German word for National Socialism which, try as he might, Hitler was never able to disassociate with the Marxist idea of socialism. The crux of the reason that he could not lies in his own definition of the system as meaning a commitment of an individual to a community which, as it always does in totalitarian societies, means a commitment of the individual to the leader of the community. Questions of private versus public, of racial purity and whether the enjoyed the music of Wagner as opposed to the Song of the Volga Boatmen are all beside the point.

When the individual exists for the state, rather than the other way round, you have socialism and whether you call it the thin end of the wedge or the slippery slope the only thing you can be sure of is that you have begun the descent into totalitarianism.

With the best of intentions towards the demands of social justice when you abandon the idea that there is an objectively knowable hierarchy of good that exerts an authority that is the basis of the power of the state – i.e.; when you no longer pay anything other than lip service to the self-evident truths, “that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. That to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.”

It happened when Alexander declared himself a god, when the Caesars of Rome claimed divinity and in the last century when Hitler, Hirohito, Stalin and Mao proclaimed themselves to be the “total man” [God having been dismissed] and human life became worthless – to them at least. Mazower has done a good job of painting a picture of Europe under the Nazis and elsewhere he has included Stalin with his erstwhile ally in the devastation of Eastern Europe.
It is not that history repeats itself so much as it is that erroneous ideas take hold and create repetitive cycles of the same errors being made – like the classical definition of insanity as continuing to engage in the same destructive behaviour while expecting a different result. Mazower’s work is not only history but also prophecy and warning.

Hitler’s empire : how the Nazis ruled Europe New York : Penguin Press, 2008 Mark Mazower Europe History 1918-1945 Hardcover. 1st. ed., later printing. xl, 725 p., [16] p. of plates : ill., maps ; 25 cm. Includes bibliographical references (p. 648-672) and index. Clean, tight and strong binding with clean dust jacket. No highlighting, underlining or marginalia in text. VG/VG  

Drawing on an unprecedented variety of sources, Mark Mazower reveals how the Nazis designed, maintained, and ultimately lost their European empire and offers a chilling vision of the world Hitler would have made had he won the war.

Germany’s forces achieved, in just a few years, the astounding domination of a landmass and population larger than that of the United States. Control of this vast territory was meant to provide the basis for Germany’s rise to unquestioned world power. Eastern Europe was to be the Reich’s Wild West, transformed by massacre and colonial settlement. Western Europe was to provide the economic resources that would knit an authoritarian and racially cleansed continent together. But the brutality and short-sightedness of Nazi politics lost what German arms had won and brought their equally rapid downfall.

Time and again, the speed of the Germans’ victories caught them unprepared for the economic or psychological intricacies of running such a far-flung dominion. Politically impoverished, they had no idea how to rule the millions of people they suddenly controlled, except by bludgeon.

Mazower forces us to set aside the time worn notion that the Nazis’ worldview was their own invention. Their desire for land and their racist attitudes toward Slavs and other nationalities emerged from ideas that had driven their Prussian forebears into Poland and beyond. They also drew inspiration on imperial expansion from the British, whose empire they idolized. Their signal innovation was to exploit Europe’s peoples and resources much as the British or French had done in India and Africa. Crushed and disheartened, many of the peoples they conquered collaborated with them to a degree that we have largely forgotten. Ultimately, the Third Reich would be beaten as much by its own hand as by the enemy.

Throughout this book are fascinating, chilling glimpses of the world that might have been. Russians, Poles, and other ethnic groups would have been slaughtered or enslaved. Germans would have been settled upon now empty lands as far east as the Black Sea — the new “Greater Germany.” Europe’s treasuries would have been sacked, its great cities impoverished and recast as dormitories for forced laborers when they were not deliberately demolished. As dire as all this sounds, it was merely the planned extension of what actually happened in Europe under Nazi rule as recounted in this absorbing book.


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