Broadcast: Events

Lebensraum and Volksgemeinschaft

Friday 9 October 9:30 until 18:30
European University Institute, Sala Mansarda, Villa Schifanoia via Giovanni Boccaccio 121, Florence
Speaker: Armin Nolzen, Daniel Siemens, Gerhard Wolf, Stefan Hördler, Geraldien von Frijtag Drabbe Künzel

Historians have recently engaged in a heated debate about the reach and analytical value of the notion of the National Socialist Volksgemeinschaft (people’s community). The fact that the ideal of an ethnically and politically homogenous community was largely popular with Germans between 1933 and 1945 remains as uncontested as the fact that the energies released by this imaginary entity crucially contributed to an unfolding of the destructive potential of the NS regime. Past research has investigated this issue largely in terms of processes of inclusion and exclusion within the German Reich, thus risking a marginalisation of the radicalising impulses vital to German occupation and Germanisation policies, above all in Eastern Europe. This workshop starts from the premise that the National Socialist quest for Lebensraum had always involved a concrete ideal of community that cannot be analysed apart from it. The contributions focus on actors crucial for expanding the Volksgemeinschaft beyond the borders of the Reich.


9.30: Welcome by A. Dirk Moses and Daniel Siemens

9.45: Armin Nolzen, The making of the Volksgemeinschaft in the east: Ethnic German catch-all movements as the Nazi party’s avantgarde

11.00: Coffee break

11.30: Daniel Siemens, Sword and plough: Settling Nazi stormtroopers in the occupied eastern territories, 1938-1944

12.45: Lunch

14.15: Gerhard Wolf, Exporting Volksgemeinschaft: Making Germans in annexed Poland

15.30: Stefan Hördler, Fighting for Lebensraum in a Germanised new Europe? Ethnic German SS volunteers from South-Eastern Europe

16.45: Coffee break

17.15: Geraldien von Frijtag Drabbe Künzel, The Dutch and the colonization of occupied Eastern Europe

Commentators:  Elizabeth Harvey, Susanne Heim, Caroline Mezger



Geraldien von Frijtag Drabbe Künzel is Assistant Professor of history at Utrecht University. Previously, she has been a researcher at the NIOD Institute for War, Holocaust and Genocide Studies in the Netherlands. Her fields of interests encompass fascist and Nazi-ideology, German occupation policy, the Holocaust and ethnic cleansing in 20th century Europe. She is the author of the book, Het Geval Calmeyer (2008), which deals with the Holocaust in the occupied Netherlands and, more specifically, the application of racial laws and regulations in that country. Her current research project examines the Dutch participation in the Germanization project in the occupied East. She is the recipient of several awards, including more recently research fellowships from the Gerda Henkel Stiftung in Germany and the International Institute for Holocaust Studies at Yad Vashem.

Elizabeth Harvey is professor of history at the University of Nottingham. She has previously taught at the universities of Dundee, Salford and Liverpool.  In 2004-5 she held the Käthe-Leichter Gastprofessur in women’s and gender history at the University of Vienna. She was in spring 2015 a visiting scholar at the Institute for Contemporary History Munich-Berlin, where she is cooperating on a project on the history of private life in Nazi Germany.  Since 2013 she has been a member of the Historikerkommission zur Aufarbeitung der Geschichte des Reichsarbeitsministeriums im Nationalsozialismus.  Her publications include Youth and the Welfare State in Weimar Germany (1993) and Women and the Nazi East: Agents and Witnesses of Germanization (2003).  She has also published on photography and photojournalism in the Nazi era.  She is currently working on the history of gender and forced labour during the Second World War.

Susanne Heim is the editor of the 16 volume edition Die Verfolgung und Ermordung der europäischen Juden durch das nationalsozialistische Deutschland 1933-1945. Previously she heading a research team of the Max Planck Institute on the history of the Kaiser Wilhelm Society during National Socialism and its role in planning the future of occupied Eastern Europe and Nazi living space. She was visiting professor In Jerusalem, Washington D.C. and Vienna. Her publications include Fluchtpunkt Karibik. Jüdische Emigration in die Dominikanische Republik (2009, co-authored with Hans Ulrich Dillmann) and ‘Wer bleibt, opfert seine Jahre, vielleicht sein Leben’. Deutsche Juden 1938-1941 (co-edited with Beate Meyer and Frank Nikosia).

Stefan Hördler is director of the Mittelbau-Dora Concentration Camp Memorial and curator of the international exhibition on Nazi forced labour. He specializes in twentieth century German history, Holocaust and genocide studies and social and economic history. Previously he worked at the GHI in Washington and the Institute of Contemporary History of the University of Vienna. In 2009 he held a Ben and Zelda Cohen Fellowship at the Center for Advanced Holocaust Studies of the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum. His dissertation on the final stage of the Nazi concentration camp system, 1944-1945, won the First Tiburtius Prize of the Berlin universities in 2013. His current project examines the responses to the steel crisis in West Germany and the United States since the 1970s.

Carolin Mezger is a PhD Candidate in History at the EUI. Originally from Zurich, Switzerland, she completed a BA in history at Yale University. Thereafter, she received a MA in the comparative history of Central, Eastern, and Southeastern Europe from Central European University, Budapest. Mezger is currently researching Southeastern Europe’s post-Habsburg borderlands, exploring how the region’s ethnic German children and youths were mobilized into National Socialist projects during the 1930s and early 1940s. She is author of “‘Denn du bist die Zukunft deines Volkes’: Youth, Nation, and the Nazi Mobilization of Southeastern Europe’s Donauschwaben, 1930s-1944,” in Nationalsozialismus und Regionalbewusstsein im östlichen Europa: Ideologie, Machtausbau, Beharrung, ed. Burkhard Olschowsky and Ingo Loose (Berlin: De Gruyter Oldenbourg, 2015), and “Entangled Utopias: The Nazi Mobilization of Ethnic German Youths in the Batschka, 1930s-1944,” Journal of the History of Childhood and Youth, 9 (2016), forthcoming.

A. Dirk Moses is professor of global and colonial history at the EUI. He is senior editor of the Journal of Genocide Research.

Armin Nolzen is a member of the editorial board of the Beiträge zur Geschichte des Nationalsozialismus ( He is currently working on a history of the Nazi Party, 1919-1945. Among his publications are Charismatic Legitimation and Bureaucratic Rule. The NSDAP in the Third Reich, 1933-1945 (German History) and The NSDAP, the War, and German Society in Germany and the Second World War, ed. for the Militärgeschichtliches Forschungsamt Potsdam by Jörg Echternkamp. His major research interests are Societal History of the Nazi regime, the comparative history of fascist movements, socialization research and the Frankfurt School.

Daniel Siemens is Akademischer Rat auf Zeit at Bielefeld University’s history department. From 2011 to 2014 he was also the DAAD Francis L. Carsten lecturer in Modern German History at UCL-SSEES. He has published two monographs, two collective volumes as well as numerous articles and book chapters on several aspects of European and US history between the 1870s and the 1960s. He is currently writing a comprehensive history of the National Socialist ‘Brownshirts’, under contract with Yale University Press.

Gerhard Wolf is lecturer of history at the University of Sussex and Deputy Director of the Centre for German-Jewish Studies. He is a specialist in modern German and European history. His previous research has focussed on Nazi persecution and population policies. Currently, he is examining the aftermath of the Second World War and the various plans and policies by the western allies to pacify Europe by re-engineering the continent’s demography.

By: Diana Franklin
Last updated: Thursday, 9 July 2015

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