Mazower, Chapter 5

In Chapter 5 of Dark Continent, Mazower details the ideology of Hitler’s new order and the policies that were implemented to bring it about. At the beginning of the chapter, he explains the appeal of German Fascism (Nazism) to other European countries at the outbreak of World War II. He
illustrates this change in sentiment and perspective using statistics.

In one instance, Mazower uses France to explain this type of change in 1940. In June of 1940, France suffered a humiliating defeat in six-weeks at the hands of the German Army. This humiliation dramatically shifted how the French as a whole responded to the Nazi’s invasion. Mazower wanted to illustrate that the French began to support the Nazi political ideology, believing that supporting the new governments (the occupying government and Vichy France) was better than continuing the fight.

To emphasize this evolution, Mazower cites an increase in the number of students at the Berlitz in Paris studying German, and the decrease in students taking English classes. Mazower does not explain these numbers, however. There is no explanation listed for why this change in classes at university is important to the larger perspective of the war, or the political and social climates in France.

Mazower compares in the Berlitz example the number of students in German classes in 1939 and 1941. He does not offer any more information. There is no interpretation of these numbers. No possible reasons for the increase in students in these classes. Did the school pressure students to switch from English to German so that the occupying Nazis would not closely scrutinize the school and its practices? Did the students do this to avoid trouble from other students, faculty, administrators and Nazis?

It is interesting that Mazower uses this example, followed closely by an explanation about how positive attitudes towards the Nazi occupations throughout Europe were quick to disappear, including in France. He cites a radical change in perspective occurring within two to three months of the Occupation.

The issue with the argument Mazower makes using the numbers is that he does not provide enough context to explain why the number of students taking German increases. These numbers are used in isolation, with no information about how other occurrences in France affected this and no comparisons to other institutions in Paris or France.

Why would so many students (939 increased to 7,920) have decided to take German after the Invasion and Occupation of France?

3 thoughts on “Mazower, Chapter 5

  1. I think this post summarized the chapter well, but perhaps could have been organized better. However, your point still gets across quite well. In regards to your questions, I think this increase in students taking German was because of the general air of “Germanization” in the nation. The regime was based on Germany as the superior nation, so it would make sense that some would begin to consider it unnecessary to learn the languages of “inferior” nations. It could have also been a fear thing. Maybe their parents suggested they become better citizens in order to please the government.

  2. This blog is interesting, however I feel like it is a little bit repetitive towards the end- the last 3 paragraphs. In my view, students started to learn German in order to fit better and have more opportunities for realization in the future. As the previous post suggested they might also have done this out of fear.

  3. Such a reaction to an incoming power might seem bizarre at first, but I think it makes more sense if we consider the consistent failures of Western European governments to address social and economic problems. People hoped for something new, a sort of Pax Germania that might unify Europe and ensure peace and prosperity. We might also consider the idea that people need to identify with victors, whomever they might be.

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