Mazower Chapter 5

In chapter 5 of Mazower’s Dark Continent, he describes the various approaches and policies that Hitler implemented in an attempt to convert Europe into a functioning German empire. Many of Hitler’s policies were based upon the 25 Points of 1920 that the Nazi party created during their infancy.

Within chapter 5, Mazower used the heading “Living in Historic Times,” to emphasize the drastic changes that were taking place throughout this period. Germany had conquered an enormous land mass as a result of their revolutionary Blitzkrieg tactics. Politicians were then left with the difficult task of incorporating these diverse European populations into the “New Order.” Certain countries such as Poland and Czechoslovakia were easily incorporated into the empire because they had immediate value to Hitler and also shared a common germanic ancestry. In these countries their national identities were removed. It was banned to reference them by there former namesakes. Others locations such as France and Scandinavia were difficult to incorporate because they did not share as many commonalities with Germany. These countries were given a greater amount of sovereignty compared to other more repressed regions. Many of the ultimate fates of these provisional states were not to be determined until the end of the war because Hitler did not have a explicitly defined plan in place at the moment.

Of the 25 points, a few of them seem contradictory. Point number two calls for land and expansion, while point number seven is in an anti-foreigner clause that states that only citizens can live in Germany. If Germany is to expand its land and territory, how would they incorporate these newly conquered citizens into their ranks? Wouldn’t they be considered foreigners? Does it matter which country theses people would be coming from?

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?

Eugenics in Interwar Europe


This is a German poster for a government scripted movie, entitled the “The Eternal Jew”. It is described as a documentary, but a cursory glance at the poster reveals that it is a eugenics motivated propaganda film. The features of the Jew on the cover are deliberately depicted as ugly and evil, reminiscent of a witch from the tales of the Brothers Grimm. This movie was released in 1940, and represents the exaggerated European eugenicist view of “degenerates” (Stone, 98) during the interwar period.

The Nazi racialization of the state is well known, but according to Stone, race was a primary criterion even in Britain (Stone, 95). The image of a class based British Eugenicist Society was created by the Society after the Second World War and the disastrous culmination of racial eugenics in the Third Reich (Stone, 98-9). The difference between British eugenics and continental eugenics was their motive. Britain used eugenics to maintain the social hierarchy within the nation (Stone, 94), and to maintain supremacy over the Empire (Stone, 97). On the other hand, Italian and German ‘research’ was motivated by state ideology. Additionally, the methods implemented were very different. While Britain (Stone, 98), Italy (Willson, 84-6), and Germany (Mazower, 76) all advocated pro-natalism in a racial capacity, the former two were only able to legislate moderate laws, which were largely ineffective (Willson, 92-3), whereas the latter had more control over state policy and policing. Thus Eugenics had a greater effect in a German State that believed that blood descent, rather than assimilation, was the only claim to citizenship (Auslander, 110). Finally, while France believed that one could become a citizen through assimilation (Auslander, 110), they were still a colonial power who believed in the natural savageness of their colonial subjects.

In conclusion, it can be noted that Eugenics was an important debate in interwar Europe, but to varying degrees of implementation and success. State policies on women and families might have been influenced by these debates, but it must also be remembered that Europe had just suffered a large population loss due to the Great War. Therefore, these policies were also influenced by economic motives.

Children as a Special Category of Humanitarian Concern in Interwar Europe

The introduction and first chapter of Tara Zahra’s Lost Children: Reconstructing Europe’s Families After World War I, presents a fascinating survey of changing attitudes towards children across Europe in the aftermath of the First World War. We learn, thanks to Zahra’s research on four humanitarian crises during the Interwar Period – the Armenian Genocide, the efforts of the American Relief Association in Eastern Europe, the tragedy of refugee families separated from one another in different countries, and the Spanish Civil War- how children came to earn special consideration in response to humanitarian crises and in European peoples’ general understanding of war and violence.

Early in the introduction, Zahra echoes the two texts we read by David L. Hoffman, which describe the demarcation of a social realm apart from the political and economic spheres in order to better respond to problems related to poverty, crime, and social unrest and how this shaped efforts to respond to the pressures of industrialization and the prospect of modern warfare through new means of categorizing and governing citizens. According to Hoffman, these developments stemmed from the gradual realization by European monarchs that their success as political figures and military strategists depended on their ability to cultivate a productive workforce, strong and able enough to respond to the industrial and military needs of the modern state. It would appear logical then, that children, the root of such a workforce, might have much to gain from this mentality. Zahra confirms this at the bottom of page nineteen, informing her readers that European children did in fact reap the benefits of the age’s changing mentality, thanks to increasingly “romantic” views amongst Europe’s middle classes that no longer saw children as another source of labor, but as future citizens, who should have time to play and develop their minds in preparation for this important role. As this new mentality gained more legitimacy, humanitarian and religious organizations began protesting child labor and the separation of children from their families.

It therefore comes as no surprise that children forced into lives as refugees during and after the First World War would arouse the passions of the liberal-minded European middle classes.  In each of the four cases cited above, those advocating humanitarian initiatives on behalf of children saw their plight as especially distressing. Following the Armenian Genocide, for instance, the League of Nations Commission for the Protection of Women and Children in the Near East set an important precedent by considering the recovery of lost children as an international moral imperative (Zahra, 30).

Zahra also reveals that these same humanitarian organizations and their supporters came to consider the fragmentation of the family unit as one of the worst atrocities wrought by war. This I found particularly interesting, as it affirmed Mazower’s contention that the Interwar Left and Right considered the family as “the natural, primary, and fundamental unit of society” (Mazower, 89). Zahra’s work also reminded me of Wilhelm Reich’s book on the relationship between sexual repression and fascism, The Mass Psychology of Fascism. In it, he identifies the family as “political reaction’s germ cell”, the product of an authoritarian society, and thus “the most important institution for its conservation” (Reich, 104-105). One might therefore find him or herself tempted to argue that the privileging of family rights in conjunction with those of the child over the rights of individual civilians left out of those categories might lead to a situation, visible in fascist states, in which there exist no rights external to those concerning the family’s right to protection from dissolution and decomposition.

The Economic Consequences of the Peace

In this section of his book The Economic Consequences of the Peace, John Maynard Keynes discusses what he believes to be the failings of the Treaty of Versailles.  He believes that the treaty will cause the economic situation in Europe to worsen, as well as fail to prevent future animosity amongst the opposing countries, stating that it contains “…nothing to make defeated Central Europe into good neighbors.”  Keynes’ views appear to be more similar to those of Woodrow Wilson in his 14 Points than those expressed in the official treaty, arguing that the treaty did too much to harm Germany.

Keynes offers many predictions as to how the treaty will throw Germany and blames the selfish wants of the leaders who drafted it for this.  He writes that the treaty has given Germany no means as to care for its people–most of the war debts have been placed upon them, making importing necessary resources from other countries near impossible.  Germany had already been weakened by the Allied Blockade during the war, making famine and death on a large scale inevitable under the conditions which the treaty created.  Immigrating out of Germany was also a challenge due to the large amounts of animosity directed toward them after the war, and the Treaty of Versailles forced them to take all blame for the war.  All of these harsh punishments both directly and indirectly imposed on Germany created a lasting bitterness which eventually led to even greater conflict.

Keynes’ views on post-war European economics are similar to those of Mark Mazower, who ascertains in Dark Continent that “Europe’s economic life was in chaos” (Mazower 104).  While Keynes focuses on Germany, he also argues that the rest of Europe is unprepared for such a great economic disaster that is to come.  His predictions that this economic turmoil will lead to even more conflict are accurate, as it allowed for the rise of vengeful leaders.  The poor economic conditions of post-war Europe are one of the greatest indirect causes of World War II.

John Maynard Keynes: The Economic Consequences of the Peace, 1920.

In this article, Keynes talks about the Treaty of Versailles, and it’s failure to address the economic issues of a post-Great War Europe. He states that victorious Allied powers fail to realize that the stability of Europe, and thereby the stability of both France and Britain as well, is reliant on a complicated system of continental and global trade, which the Treaty attempts to disintegrate.

He focusses on Germany and uses them as a representative of post-war Europe. He believes that the booming population levels, in relation to the rapidly increasing pre-war industrial levels, would not be able to survive with the territorial and financial sanctions the Treaty proposes. His prediction is proven by Mazower in his text “Dark Continent”. Mazower states that because the smaller Central and European nations did not have sufficient resources, they suffered in the post-Great War period. It was only with American loans were they able to initially recover, and thus through American liquidation during the Great Depression they were thrown back into economic turmoil. Alternatively, Russia was self-sufficient during the interwar period, and thus was an economic success, admittedly with a large human cost (Mazower, p.124-5). Finally, Mazower states that while autarky was a good short term plan, in the long run it was detrimental to the Russian economy (Mazower, p.119), especially in comparison to the trading-centric post-World War Two continental economies.

While Keynes’ criticisms are economically valid, he fails to address the volatile political situation of 1919. A perfect example of this revenge-based politics is the War guilt clause written into the Treaty of Versailles. This was unnecessary addition economically, but was an important political addition, especially to the democratic governments in Britain and France. In my opinion, Keynes, while economically correct, fails to acknowledge the context of the Treaty signing, and thus fails to provide viable alternative solutions.

Europe’s Economies after the First World War

When the Allies met in Paris to negotiate the terms for peace after the First World War, their main goal was ostentatiously to create stability in Europe, but each representative came to the table with his own specific interests in mind. This led to major issues in the Treaty of Versailles, such as its questionable economic feasibility. In his book, The Economic Consequences of the Peace, John Maynard Keynes discusses how the preoccupation of the Allies caused them to deal with economic issues using politics and without considering the future of Europe’s economies. While the Treaty of Versailles set many future events in motion, the economic turmoil it created was the most dramatic and disastrous effect it had on the European Continent.

As Mark Mazower writes in Dark Continent, “After the Great War, Europe’s economic life was in chaos.” He goes on to describe the hunger and rapidly falling prices that ensued in Europe following the war. (Mazower 104) Keynes elaborates on the same point, stating that, “In relation to other continents Europe is not self-sufficient; in particular it cannot feed itself.” The people of the industrialized cities of Europe need to obtain supplies like food from outside their cities if they are going to survive. When war breaks out, these supply lines are broken, and because of “… the interruption of the stream of supplies, a part of this population is deprived of its means of livelihood.”(Keynes) After the war, no agreement to eliminate economic tariffs is made, as was suggested by President Wilson in his Fourteen Points, causing even more economic stress in Europe.

A large part of the economic wrongdoing in the Treaty of Versailles was directed at Germany. Not only did Germany have to accept blame for the war, it also had to pay reparations to the Allies for the damage it caused. Germany was also stripped of its colonies, leaving it little economic prospect for paying the Allies.  In response to these terms in the treaty, Count Brockdorff-Rantzau identified that the terms of the peace treaty would literally and economically starve Germany, and that, “Those who sign this Treaty will sign the death sentence of many millions of German men, women and children” (Keynes).

The Treaty of Versailles possessed many economic faults, and, writing in 1920, Keynes foreshadows many of the consequences that these faults will have on Europe. The treaty doesn’t help to restore Europe’s economic vitality or create stability in Central Europe, leaving Europe liable for depression and bloodshed.

Mazower Chapters 1-4 Review

In the first four chapters of Mark Mazower’s Dark Continent, Mazower brings the reader through an enlightening perspective of how fascism, communism, and liberalism molded the progression of twentieth century Europe. Mazower carefully crafts his explanation of the successes and failures of different Nations attempts to organize and modernize in an era with a newly found sense of nationalism and social hierarchy. Dark Continent extrapolates upon which economic policies and government types seemed ideal and which ones were effective for their time and place, and why.

Mazower puts a strong emphasis on the importance of fascist, socialist, and communist ideologies that were crucial for European development in the first half of the twentieth century. He explains why libertarianism, parliaments, and newfound constitutions, which seemed to be the right step forward, failed at the time. Mazower also illustrates why more seemingly primitive governmental structures prevailed. Dark Continent is the first book I have read which highlights the importance of fascism while simultaneously explaining the failures of libertarianism and capitalism.

Despite its stubborn density, the book keeps the reader entertained through a selection of commentary which ranges from legal theorists to poets which helps encapsulate the zeitgeist. The book’s sources are plentiful and legitimate. Mazower brilliantly blends primary and secondary sources in order to lay a strong historical foundation and brings it to life with outside anecdotes and remarks. For example, Mazower uses an amusing sarcastic comment from a critic of the French socialist leadership who wrote, “It was necessary to be prudent…We were not to advance towards power because that would be too dangerous; we would be crushed by the resistance of capitalism itself…We are to advance nowhere!” (p. 134). This quote enabled me to properly imagine the frustration that the French were feeling at the time. Mazower’s ability to consistently intertwine cultural emotions in a historical context is incredible.

The chapters are divided into subsections and occasional space breaks which helps enable the reader to switch tracks while maintaining focus. This is helpful because although it is well written, the rapid pace at which Mazower presents critical information can be daunting. The writing itself is very clear and concise, the organization of his ideas allow for a smooth read. I have yet to re-read anything under the impression that I missed something. Dark Continent is geared towards highly educated readers, and I would not recommend it to be applied to a pre-collegiate level audience. This is not a book which can be read passively.

Critical Summary of Dark Continent (Ch. 1-4) (Revision)

The opening four chapters of Mark Mazower’s Dark Continent provide a thoroughly informative analysis of early twentieth-century European governments that manages to be both balanced and provocative.  By recounting the social, political, and economic climates of the continent’s constituent nations leading up to, during, and between the two world wars, Mazower examines the conditions that led to the establishment of Europe’s dominant governmental systems.  The underlying thesis of these chapters is that democracy was not, as many historiographers have claimed, a foregone conclusion for Europe.  Conversely, Mazower argues that the competing fascist and socialist efforts also vying for primacy during the interwar period seemed at times to be equally if not more viable options.

The author paints a portrait of Europe as a continent fraught with the challenge of establishing proficient governments.  Beginning with the example of the Russian revolution, “liberalism’s first wartime triumph…and most frightening defeat,” Mazower categorically breaks down his period of interest, emphasizing a different perspective in each chapter (Mazower, 11).  Chapter one discusses political theory primarily in terms of Europe’s endeavors with constitutional liberalism.  Chapter two then focuses this scope to a geopolitical evaluation of the emergence of nationalism, flowing eloquently into chapter three’s analysis of the collective ideological shift toward socialist policies after World War I.  Chapter four concludes this quartet with a survey of the role of economics in this period, particularly with regard to the various successes and failures of capitalism in dealing with postwar reconstruction.

Although these chapters do not provide comprehensive historiographical information on the subject matter, Mazower’s four-fronted approach does create a unique portrait of Europe’s “inter-war experiment with democracy” that would be an excellent introduction for a historical neophyte or a refreshing new perspective for a seasoned professional.  The author expounds on his thesis by referencing a variety of historical sources (e.g. newspaper headlines, popular pamphlets, and relevant speeches) and contemporary commentaries (e.g. academic journal articles and historical books), including a number of translations from texts published in pertinent European languages (e.g. French, German, etc.) (Mazower, 5).  While this thorough research lends credibility and color to the prose, the distribution of elements such as direct quotations and statistics is somewhat unbalanced at times, making some passages difficult to absorb in just one reading and leaving others lacking in support.  Despite this, the end (in this case, the first four chapters as a whole) justifies the means; readers will lift their heads from these sometimes challenging pages stimulated and informed, but never bored.

Collectively, Dark Continent’s first four chapters establish Mazower’s distinctive interpretation of Europe’s attempts to settle into a stable state of government during the interwar period.  They also simultaneously set the stage for the discussion of later chronological events such as the phenomenon of Nazism and the establishment of peace after World War II in subsequent chapters.  Mazower’s synthesis of a large body of information into a tight and intellectually challenging work makes Dark Continent a worthwhile read appropriate for undergraduates, enthusiasts, and researchers alike.

Mazower’s Critical Summary (Chapter 1-4)

Mark Mazower’s first four chapters in his book Dark Continent illustrate the hardships, issues, changes, and efforts that nations had to endure post the First World War. These chapters are full of information and facts creating a clear picture of the social, political, and cultural problems occurring in Europe in the 20th century. Although Mazower clearly states important information, his text does seem to be lengthy.

Each of the four chapters depicts a different issue that occurred post WWI when Europe was trying to rebuild itself. The first chapter talks about the different forms of government, focusing on democracy. He goes into much detail about Russia and the Russian revolution. The second chapter talks about the triumph of nationalism, empires coming into action, and minorities wanting to be protected. The third chapter goes into detail about social policies and government initiatives for the populations. And finally, the fourth chapter talks about the chaos in the economy and trying to rebuild it as well as the rise of communism and issues that arose with it.

Mazower backs up all of his statements with evidence that is directly relevant to his topics. For example, when Mazower talks about the League of Nations and minorities starting to rise as a political problem since they wanted to have more power. He states: “The victor powers at Versailles tried a different approach- keeping minorities where they were, and giving them protection in international law to make sure they were properly treated so that in time they would acquire a sense of national belonging” (Mazower, 42). Mazower’s statements are clear and in order.

Throughout the four chapters Mazower text is very informative, but also extremely lengthy. For example, in chapter three, when he describes the new social policy of declining birth rates and regulating populations. From page 76-84 is his whole discussion on the issue of cutting back on the birth rate.

Overall, I believe Mark Mazower’s book Dark Continent is a very good book and is perfectly suited for a European history class. Mazower provides a lot of detail context, which makes it easy for students, especially those who aren’t history majors, to read along and understand what is going on.