A World in Flames: A Short History of the Second World War in Europe and Asia, 1939-1945

By Martin Kitchen | Go to book overview

CHAPTER EIGHT
Europe under the Nazis

Hitler's vision of a German-dominated Europe went far beyond any previous notions of power politics and hegemony. The guiding principle of his 'New Order' in Europe was racial. Thus the 'Nordic' peoples -- Scandinavian, Dutch and Flemish -- were to form the basis of the new Europe and stand united against the vast hordes of racially inferior Slavs in the east whose lands would be seized and exploited by Germanic colonists.

At first the Germans moved cautiously. Their long-term aims were disguised behind conventional if harsh occupation policies. France was divided into occupied and unoccupied zones, but Alsace-Lorraine was not formally annexed, nor was Luxembourg. Hitler intended to annex eastern France from the mouth of the Somme to the Argonne and Lake Geneva, thus incorporating Champagne, Burgundy and the Franche Comté into the Reich. A truncated France would never again be able to challenge Germany.

In Belgium the mining areas of Eupen, Malmedy and Moresnet were annexed in May 1940. Hitler proclaimed Wallonia in the south to be ancient German land and that the Flemish areas were an integral part of the 'Greater Germanic Reich'. The Germans permitted the Flemish National Association (VNV) to act as the political voice of the Flemish, but although the party was entrusted with important administrative posts by the occupation forces, its political aim was unification with Holland rather than with Germany. The Germans therefore sponsored a new party, the German-Flemish Association (DEVLAS), whose professed aim was the unification of Flanders and Germany.

In Wallonia there was already a home-grown fascist movement led by Léon Degrelle and the Germans indulged in some remarkable

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