the guardian Fri 01 May 2009
It was always a source of puzzlement to the Nazis why the British didn't support their imperial ambitions. After all, as Mark Mazower reveals in this impressive history, the British empire was held up as a model by the Nazis. "Hitler's reading of how the British ruled India showed that what counted for him at bottom was force," says Mazower, adding that "a stance of such crudity was not unknown among the British themselves". Mazower also detects similarities between the "racial authoritarianism" of European colonial administrations of the past and Nazi treatment of the Untermenschen. However, Mazower's greatest achievement is to show how the Nazi project, which ended in a programme of racial extermination, began as an expression of narrowly defined nationalist ambitions. As he puts it, how a war for Germans became a war against Jews; how the concept of a Greater Germany evolved into Hitler's policy of Lebensraum, then was hastily recast - after a run of military successes that surprised even the Nazis - as a plan for a whole New Order for Europe.