Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Dr. Stephen Connor speaks --- History Seminar Series, Friday November 26

The Department of History invites everyone at Nipissing University and those in the wider community to hear Dr Stephen Connor this Friday, November 26, at 3:30 pm, in A122. Refreshments will be provided.
Dr Connor's presentation is entitled "Grey Zone/Green Zone: War, Invasion and Occupation," and concerns the Nazi occupation of Brest-Litovsk in 1942–44. An abstract follows this message.

Please note that the talk will begin later than most other Seminar Series talks to accommodate an Arts and Science Faculty Council meeting earlier the same afternoon.

For further information, please feel free to contact Derek Neal at .


In his 2006 book, Green Zone: Imperial Life in the Emerald City, Rajiv Chandrasekaran detailed American efforts to create a new democratic Iraq.  Paul Bremmer’s Coalition Provisional Authority, he argued, administered Iraq out of step with the harsh realities of life after Saddam and spent their first year ruling and rebuilding from inside a physical and ideological bubble.   In the end, he claimed, even ever-optimistic neo-cons were mugged by reality.
While comparisons between American actions in Iraq and other earlier 20th century invasions are, for the historian, both dangerous and not particularly fruitful, the concept of the Green Zone – the bubble – provides an interesting and compelling lens through which invasion, occupation and reconstruction can be examined.  In my own research focused on the lowest echelons of the German civil administration, I continually witness the profound disconnect between how the Nazis wished the world to be and how, in fact, it was.  In short, I examine the ways in which low-level yet indispensible Nazis were mugged by reality and what they tried to do about it.  
The invasion of the Soviet Union in 1941 marked the beginning of Hitler’s real war.  In the east, he imagined, lay the living space so central to the survival of the Aryan race.  To this end, Hitler ordered the exploitation of the occupied territory in service of the war economy to ensure Germans had enough food to eat and guns to shoot.  From the very beginning, food and labour sat at the very heart of the Nazi colonial experience.
Between late 1941 and mid 1944, the civil administration in the occupied Soviet Union spearheaded efforts at systematic exploitation, spoliation, and extermination.  The question remains – what exactly did this mean for those expected to undertake these tasks ‘at the sharp end’ and for the indigenous populations who would endure them?   The case of Brest-Litovsk located in western Ukraine provides an invaluable case study to address this issue.  Over the course of the occupation, civil officials in Brest-Litovsk produced a flow of reports detailing the goals, methods and travails of implementing their particular slice of Nazi policy.  These reports paint a compelling portrait of everyday life in the region, offering an often surprisingly candid look at the aims, achievements, failures and adaptations of the occupiers. 
This paper details the practice of Nazi exploitation and details the realities facing the German civil administration at the lowest levels.  Finally, my study both provides insights into the Nazi experience in the colonial ‘wild east’ and suggests some of the more general consequences of invasion, war and occupation.