Quest for Economic Empire: European Strategies of German Big Business in the Twentieth Century

Quest for Economic Empire: European Strategies of German Big Business in the Twentieth Century

Quest for Economic Empire: European Strategies of German Big Business in the Twentieth Century

Quest for Economic Empire: European Strategies of German Big Business in the Twentieth Century

Synopsis

German unification evoked ambivalent reactions outside its borders: it revived disquietingmemories of attempts by German big business during the two world wars to build an economic empire in Europe in conjunction with the military and the government bureaucracy. But thereare also high hopes that German finance and industry will serve as the engine of reconstruction in eastern Europe, just as it played this role in the postwar unification of western Europe.

Excerpt

With the end of World War II half a century ago, the period 1939- 1945 and the decades leading up to Hitler's war of aggression and extermination continue to be assessed and reassessed by historians and politicians from many different angles. Given the broad public interest, political and military perspectives predominate in debate. In the same way, the question has been raised as to how far there exists a line of continuity between the two "great wars" of the twentieth century, and how far World War II was a repeat performance of the First so that the Allies twice resisted an attempt to establish a pax Germanica in which the Reich would reign as the dominant power on the European continent from the Atlantic to the Urals. Some, especially in Germany where the desire to "normalize" the course of German history has grown in recent years, will highlight the discontinuities between 1914 and 1939 and even more so between the first and second halves of this century. Others who are struck by the continuities will, in marshalling the evidence for their view, inter alia point to the map of Europe in 1916/17 and 194¼2 to compare Germany's proclaimed territorial war aims as an indicator of her ambitions. They have little doubt that the powerful and restive nation in the heart of Europe twice in this century aimed to build a large territorial empire. And they also tend to raise the question of where Reunified Germany is headed now.

Given the weight of the German industrial and financial system in Europe today and in the decades since the turn of the century, the European strategies and policies of big business, with their underlying traditions and mentalities, pose some of the most intriguing questions of modern history. What were the aims of German industry and finance in the first half of this century and what are they today? What shifts and changes have there been over time and what accelerated them or slowed them down? What role did German industry . . .

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