Slim yet solid state appraisal

Nazi Germany
March 30, 2007

The market for general texts on Nazi Germany seems insatiable.

No publisher's history series can be without one. For Palgrave Macmillan's series on European History in Perspective, the obligatory volume is offered by Tim Kirk.

His aim is "to provide as comprehensive an overview of Nazi Germany as is possible in such a limited space, and to reflect the emphasis and approaches of recent research". The result is an informative guide to the history of Nazi Germany, with thematic chapters on the origins of Nazism; the establishment of dictatorship; the economy; German society under Nazism; consensus and opposition; reproduction and the family; anti-Semitism and the Holocaust; and foreign policy and the Second World War.

Kirk's account is sprinkled with observations on the historiographical debates over how to interpret the story of the Third Reich, as well as material about popular opinion gleaned from contemporary reports by Social Democratic informants and the regime's security service. This is a bill of fare that will be familiar to thousands of A-level students.

However, supported by the huge amount of excellent literature on Nazi Germany published recently, Kirk might have been more adventurous.

Different readers will have different suggestions. Mine would include discussing the legacy of Nazism: how Germans emerged from the Nazi dictatorship and how that dictatorship has been remembered. Kirk also could have devoted more space to military history. Given that the Third Reich was at war for half its life and that Nazi Germany was largely a society in uniform, the attention given to this subject - the final, single chapter covering both foreign policy and the Second World War hardly touches on the military itself - seems inadequate.

Of course, given the amount that has been written on the subject, anyone brave enough to produce "an overview of Nazi Germany" in a little over 200 pages of text will not be able to cover everything. Within these limitations, Kirk has produced a solid introductory text.

Richard Bessel is professor of 20th-century history, University of York.

Nazi Germany

Author - Tim Kirk
Publisher - Palgrave Macmillan
Pages - 8
Price - £52.50 and £17.99
ISBN - 0 333 60072 X and 60073 8

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