Between Africa and Poland: colonial discourses and the Nazi resettlement of ethnic Germans, 1939-1944
A significant historical debate regarding the potential structural similarities and continuities between European colonialism and the Third Reich has been ongoing throughout the last decade. Historians have employed different approaches within the debate ranging from links between policies of the Kaiserreich and the Nazi regime, to comparisons between North American continental expansion into western territory and Nazi Germany’s expansion into Eastern Europe. Previous arguments have attempted to prove that certain colonial situations or policies acted as precursors to the Nazi regime. However, despite the various angles through which the debate has been approached, it remains largely unsolved. Although specific elements of colonialism and the Nazi regime are certainly comparable, the extent to which colonialism may have influenced the Third Reich remains unclear. This dissertation will contribute to this debate by utilising a comparative study of two groups of colonial discourses; one group relates to German overseas expansion in Africa whereas the other concerns German continental expansion in Poland. Both these groups of discourses were simultaneously created, shaped and elucidated throughout the Kaiserreich, Weimar Republic and the Nazi regime. Although they were connected to different geographical locations and were informed by different historical events and experiences, the two groups of colonial discourses were strikingly similar. The aim of this dissertation is to investigate and compare these colonial discourses, from the Kaiserreich to the Third Reich, within the context of the resettlement of ethnic Germans (Volksdeutsche) in Poland between 1939 and 1944. This analysis will provide an example of where and in what ways certain elements of the two groups of colonial discourses overlapped with justifications, fantasies and ideology related to expansion, settlement and the treatment of both the ethnic Germans and the native Polish population during the Third Reich.