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New Perspectives on World War II and Central Europe

Territorial Revisionism and the Allies of Germany in the Second World War: Goals, Expectations, Practices is a collection of essays edited by Marina Cattaruzza, Stefan Dyroff, and Dieter  Langewiesche, and published by Berghahn Books in December 2012. In this blog post, the editors explain how the collection sheds new light on our understanding of Germany’s European allies during the Second World War.

Until now, research on the Second World War in Europe has focused on two main areas: on the one hand, the individual countries, and on the other, the two big “blocs”: the Allies and the Axis Powers. On the part of the Allies, historians made the point very early that states with different political systems and values managed to cooperate temporarily while still striving to achieve their respective goals. Awareness of this was heightened by the sudden shift from the partnerships in the Second World War, to the reality of the Cold War between previous allies the United States and the Soviet Union and the East/West division of the European continent by the Iron Curtain.

 

With the German system of alliances, however, German dominance often obscured the existence of independent war aims by the satellite-partners of the “Third Reich.” Therefore, analysing the schemes of the less powerful states which chose to ally themselves with Germany became a subject which interested only a few specialists. The aim of our volume is to challenge and overcome this situation, offering an alternative to standard German-centric accounts of the period 1933-1945.

 

The rise of Nazi Germany as the most successful revisionist power, which based its politics on the criterion of race and radical anti-Semitism, set the agenda for East Central and South Eastern Europe as well. Numerous states and national movements in the region enacted plans of territorial enlargement, at least a partial elimination of the Jews, and ethnic engineering that, on the whole, provided considerable destructive potential on their own. Such plans were fitted to the general framework of the Third Reich’s New European Order. In addition to Germany, we are examining revisionist states such as Hungary, Bulgaria, and Romania and nationalist movements like the Organisation of Ukrainian Nationalists. A territorial focus of our volume is in the lands of the old multi-national empires, especially the Habsburg and Ottoman Empires. Next to states, organized minorities played an important role for the issue of revisionist claims such that we included two case studies on them. A key concept of the volume is “territorial revisionism”, intended as all manner of politics and military measures that attempted to change existing borders. Taking into account not just interethnic relations but also the motivations of states and nationalizing ethnocratic elites, the volume reconceptualised the history of East Central Europe during World War II.

 

The opportunity to deal with such a topic at the wider European level is better nowadays than ever before. In fact, in contemporary Europe, after the fall of the Berlin Wall and the enlargement of the European Union, people are increasingly prepared to regard their common past from new perspectives. Our volume is intended as a contribution in the direction of a common European History of the 20th century, adequate to the reality of the increasing social, cultural and political integration on the European Continent.

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Marina Cattaruzza is Professor of Modern and Contemporary History at the University of Bern.

 

Stefan Dyroff has been Lecturer and Research Fellow at the Department of Contemporary History at the University of Bern since 2006.

 

Dieter Langewiesche was Professor of Modern History at the University of Hamburg from 1978 to 1985 and of medieval and modern history at the University of Tübingen from 1985 to 2008.