Document Type

Article

Publication Date

2010

Publication Title

Social History

Volume

35

Issue

4

First Page

439

Last Page

457

DOI

10.1080/03071022.2010.513476

Abstract

Whereas most of the debate surrounding the ‘colonial roots' of the Holocaust has centred around the German genocidal campaign against the Herero in south-western Africa, a much more direct and continuous story emerges when one traces the flow of ideas from the North American western frontier to the German East. In the 1880s, the agrarian economist Max Sering travelled throughout America and Canada, and came to formulate a settlement programme modelled upon what he saw there as the answer to Germany's ‘Polish problem', and indeed to virtually all the ills of modernity. From 1886 to 1914 Sering provided the intellectual ammunition for the Prussian programme of inner colonization, the purchase of land from Poles and the settlement of German ‘colonists' in the provinces of Posen and West Prussia. During the First World War, Sering's views, along with Germany's, would radicalize, as he drew up plans for the settlement of two million Germans in Latvia. Although the Nazi biological racist Darré would reject Sering's assimilationist thinking, the ‘spatial planner' Meyer would see to it that the legacy of a German way of seeing the East as a colonial empire would find its final and most radical application during the Second World War.

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