Synopses & Reviews
The Second World War was the defining event of the twentieth century, leaving millions dead and redrawing the political map in ways that continue to affect nearly the entire human race. What was unprecedented, however, was not simply the war’s scale, but its causes. Unlike previous territorial or political clashes, the war launched by Nazi Germany was an ideological one, waged to wipe entire peoples and cultures from the face of the earth.
In Nazism and War, Richard Bessel, one of the preeminent authorities on the social and political history of modern Germany, demonstrates how racial hatred was the driving force behind–and not a by-product of–Nazism. War was the anvil on which Hitler’s worldview was forged; to him, war was “the most memorable period of my life,” and “all the past fell away into oblivion.” German National Socialism was born in war, emerging triumphant over a country deeply scarred by defeat and eager to reclaim its greatness and to punish those who had usurped it. As a political philosophy, Nazism glorified struggle and conflict, viewing them as the purpose of a nation and a measure of its overall condition. As a political movement and state system, Nazism made its ideology real, plunging the European continent into a war of annihilation and a sea of blood. Nazism–inseparable from war–destroyed the old Europe, and thus helped to create the world in which we live.
Incisive, authoritative, and immensely readable, this is an incendiary and forcefully argued work of scholarship that will rank with the most influential historical analyses of our time.
"This noted historian's book on Nazism offers both the serious scholar and the lay reader a concise yet comprehensive perspective on the events and horrors of that period. Bessel's main contention is that, rather than viewing racism as a component of the Nazi war machine's ideology, we must understand that the Third Reich's views towards race and war were inseparable. 'War was itself an expression of the applied racism of the regime,' Bessel writes. 'Nazi war was racial struggle; Nazi racial struggle was war.' Bessel concedes that other regimes throughout history have committed atrocities and genocide, but he argues that Nazi war had a different quality: 'It was not fought in order rationally to defend national interests or to ensure national security; it was fought in order to redraw the racial map of Europe through violence and mass murder.' Instead of examining one narrow aspect of the history of Nazism, Bessel takes an integrative approach, discussing the political, economic and social aspects of Germany, as well as its military history. For Bessel, any history of Nazism must address what came before WWII and WWI-and what came after the eradication of the Third Reich. Having written two books on closely related topics, Political Violence and the Rise of Nazism and Germany After the First World War, Bessel is well equipped to tackle these topics with authority and to present this rich, well-rounded portrait of the country and its citizenry." Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
About the Author
RICHARD BESSEL is Professor of History at the University of York and a specialist on the social and political history of Nazi Germany. His previous books include Life in the Third Reich; Political Violence and the Rise of Nazism: The Storm Troopers in Eastern Germany, 1925—1934, and Germany After the First World War.