On the transnational circulation of settler colonial imaginings: Patrick Bernhard, ‘Hitler’s Africa in the East: Italian Colonialism as a Model for German Planning in Eastern Europe’, Journal of Contemporary History, 2015
Abstract: Since Hannah Arendt’s essay on the ‘Origins of Totalitarianism’ in 1951, there has been a vivid scholarly debate about a nexus between Imperial Germany’s colonial endeavours in Africa and the Nazi occupation of Eastern Europe. Some historians have gone so far as to draw a direct line from the colonial massacres of Windhoek to those committed at Auschwitz. Yet my article suggests a different answer to the question of historical continuities: in its plans for Poland and the Soviet Union, the Third Reich did not draw upon its own colonial past but looked to the undertakings of Fascist Italy in Africa for inspiration. Italy’s huge settlement project, with which it sought to produce the racially superior Fascist New Man, served as a model for Nazi Germany particularly in one crucial regard: in the organization and regulation of a new Volksgemeinschaft at the edge of the empire. These findings are of far-reaching significance for our understanding of both Italian Fascism and National Socialism. The still dominant image of Mussolini’s regime as an insignificant appendage to the superior Nazi state is inaccurate. Rather, modern social engineering of Italian Fascism acted as an ‘inspirational’ force on Nazi Germany, catalysing the evolution of Hitler’s dictatorship.
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