Here is the first Political Geography Assignment. We will be talking about geopolitics and the concept of Lebensraum in class, please discuss these images from WWII Operation Barbarossa in the context of that class material. 500 words or more, due by midnight on Sunday September 11th .
39 thoughts on “Political Geography Blog Assignment #1 – 2016”
In order to really appreciate what is in these five images you need to start with the center left. This crude map shows the Nazi plans to push for more lebensraum in Eastern Europe and the Western Asian plateau. You can see that the map also shows a few white arrows indicating the depth or distance that Germany sought to capture. How can Germany which is only half the size of the Ukraine and a mere 2% the size of Russia hope to ever capture all of this territory? Well the four million troops and hundreds of thousands of vehicle was the plan.
The lower left image shows a part of this plan in action. The troopers moving in formation with the tank is one of the many German innovations in warfighting. The blitz required an overwhelming advancement rate in order to disrupt the enemy lines as much as possible. The wanton disregard for property and the smashing of infrastructure quickly isolates the enemy who then cannot respond in an effective way. This horrible technique has become SOP of armies throughout the world because of its effectiveness.
The effect of the Nazis smashing everything possible is very apparent in the image on the lower right where a lone figure walks past a shattered ruin of a building and new propaganda poster. Since it would be nearly impossible to couch the scene behind the poster as a victory or even as a hold point or stalemate, the artist instead shows a mother with wounded or dead child with a burning building behind that is reminiscent of the same building it hangs upon. Look at the evil that has befallen this child, we must stop this evil before it is too late.
Even though the image of the woman and child is sad it does not compare to the reality of the upper right image where both father or mother (the person is so thin it is hard to tell) and the child are so emaciated that their clothes are nearly falling off for lack of something to hang on. They are sitting outside and the parent seems to be lost in their own thoughts of what to do now. The hunger plan is certainly proving to have an effect on this pair as it probably did to all of the fellow countrymen who survived the shock and awe stage of the invasion.
The final image might actually offer some hope to the viewer once you look closely at the clothing and weapons of these snipers you will see that they are Russians. The clothing was the first clue because the Germans were unprepared for winter and probably did not pack snow clothes. The second clue is the Russian made drum magazine weapon held by the individual on the right. The Germans never could get ahead of the weather or the snipers in the east. Of course there were many other factors that lead to their defeat but the snipers were a new form of evil to contend with. The website militaryeducation.org lists nine of the top ten snipers of WWII as being soviets of many different ethnicities. The number one position was held by a Finn which is no surprise but all of the others killed at least 422 of the enemy. Legendary American sniper Carlos Hathcock who had a $30,000 bounty put on his head by the North Vietnamese only ever amassed 93 confirmed kills.
It is actually pretty horrible when you have to look at the number one killer on the other side as a hero just because the Germans under Nazi leadership were just so wrong.
Great discussion, good integration of the images with the discussion of expansion.
Before I really jump into the meat and potatoes of these images, I want to point out something about them that also goes back to some of the discussion on class. Someone posed the question of why the German populace, assuming they knew as much as we think they know, not act out more against it. There’s the obvious institutional answer, the people didn’t have the power to remove him from office like they did to put him in it. After Hitler assumed absolute control the only way to bring him out of power would have been a coup, or revolution. But the great catastrophes being suffered were not but average German citizens, they were on targeted groups, away from sight, and on other occupied territories like Poland. So even of the populace knew of the terrible plans Hitler was carrying out, he wasn’t carrying out his plans on them. If you weren’t a target you were probably fine in Germany, your life was probably pretty good. The sad it truth is that most people were content with their improved quality of life, so why give it up? Happy people don’t revolt. That at least were some of my thoughts when it was being talked about in class.
Now contrast that with what we see in these images. All of them, all of the strife and violence, this all so far removed from the Germans at the time (not that it didn’t eventually make its way into Germany). Middle left we see the Axis plans for Eastward expansion, for Lebensraum, and all the other images help contextualize a picture of a fairly innocuous seeming graphic. In creating their “living space” the Germans planned to sweep through the Eurasian continent, eliminating populations and infrastructure on the way. It’s a really interesting phenomena. You have an empire with a focus on racial homogeneity and purity at a scale unlike anything in history, backed by some of the most advanced technologies, as shown in the bottom left. Tanks, some of the most impressive feats of engineering at the time existed solely to aid in destruction and conquer. When you even step back and look at the scale and compare it other “empires”, it’s crazy. And the fact that it’s goal was not more people to rule over, not just more power on a global scale, but more space for themselves, makes it even more incomprehensible. They weren’t planning on annexing all the Slavs, they were planning to eliminate them, their influence, and replace them. In the top left you see Soviet soldiers, an interesting contrast to the Germans two pics below. The Soviets, in a defensive position atop a snowy hill, well garbed in warm hats and coats, helps illustrate a problem, faced by the Axis, unpreparedness. It’s easier to defend then attack, especially if you’re waiting out a force in a Russian winter.
Now the last two images on the right put an emotional perspective to all of this, or a different one at least, as well as an overwhelming sense of futility. Bombed out buildings and broken homes. Congrats to the soviets for winning, here’s their prize. All the death on both sides and neither got anywhere.
Good discussion, especially the way you put it in context.
The images above illustrate the extremity of expansion without colonialism that Operation Barbarossa tried to accomplish. While this was one of the biggest war machines ever, Germany’s Third Reich and over ambitions led their expansion to a halt. With a two-front war, and the desire to obtain a warm water front, the Germans continued to believe that they deserved more of a “living space.” Like explained through Lebensraum, if Germany had access to all of Europe, the Middle East, and Africa, their capabilities of self-sufficiency with a plethora of resources and food would allow them to rebuild after losing colonial territory that was taken from them in the Treaty of Versailles. The images above showing the two children without food exemplify the Hunger Plan, and the destruction of Slovak cities by the Germany military. While the soldiers were told to scavenge for daily resources in the towns that they would overrun, they were unable to obtain enough for succession. By starving western Russia and taking many prisoner’s of war, the Germans continued to kill many women, men, and children, and Jews alone. The German military killed more Jews in the eastern soviet cities than they did within their own region. The picture above of the two people hungry is confusing because the child laying his head down on his elder looks as if he is smiling. This reminds me of the Syrian children refugees that I’ve met and their inability to really understand the atrocities that were happening in front of them. While they have seen travesties, they still have aspirations for a life outside of a warzone. They don’t limit their existence to being from a place full of suffering and despair, but thrive on the excitement for building a life and home away from home. I wonder if this child understood his circumstances, or if he was just crying in the lap of a parent.
The bottom left picture of the soldiers surrounding the tanks illustrate the advancement of German engineering that took place within WWII. It was a Kfz-250 half-track machine that helped illuminate their military strategies for expansion. With some of the most impressive war tactics, this allowed the German military to advance and destruct much of Western Russia. Additionally, the map above shows the importance of Leningrad and the great military significance as it prevented the Nazi’s from entering around North Russia and sneak attacking Moscow from behind.
The photo of the snipers in WWII exemplify unconventional tactics that arose after Vietnam. The Battle of Stalingrad had soviet soldiers that were sniping German military and this played a significant role in WWII. They had the ability to ambush multiple soldiers at a time without risking Soviet intelligence and resources on the ground. This ultimately contributed to setting back the German forces. Many of these tactics that took place in Operation Barbarossa set a foothold of global warfare that we see today. Unconventional warfare and its inevitable contributions of fire bombing, war machines, and expansionism for resources without imperialistic ideas have laid a precedent for how nations conduct warfare today. While we are still using these tactics, it is a huge shift from state warfare to states inflicting more harm on civilians. They have become the number one victims by default.
Very nice discussion, especially your comments on the rise of unconventional warfare.
Operation Barbarossa was one of the most ambitious undertakings of World War II; Hitler hoped to succeed where Napoleon had failed over a century before. If he had been successful in his quest to invade and conquer the Soviet Union, the rest of World War II would undoubtedly have played out very differently. The Nazi strategy to invade Russia, shown in the middle left image, reflects the optimism of the Third Reich in the lead-up to the invasion. With three initial thrusts, the Nazis hoped to quickly take control of the major cities in the western Soviet Union, including Kiev, Moscow, and Leningrad, which would allow them to push further east easily. A decapitated Soviet Union would then have proved much less threatening to Germany.
Hitler’s plan played directly into the fears of the British and French schools of geopolitics, which were based on the Heartland Theory. According to the Heartland Theory, whichever power controlled Eastern Europe would also command the resource-rich heartland of the world, which in turn would allow them to control the world island (i.e., Eurasia), and the world as a whole. Operation Barbarossa, at least initially, posed a real threat of Nazi Germany taking control of this key area and beginning truly global domination.
The Germans, however, fit Operation Barbarossa into their geopolitical school in a very different way. The German School was largely based on the ideas of social Darwinism, which was used to argue that Germany had to constantly expand in order to maintain its vitality as a state. By expanding and displacing (or eliminating) conquered peoples, Germany would have more lebensraum, or living space, to exploit for resources and fill with Germans. Additionally, the German School included the idea of the German people as superior to others, which gave legitimacy to Hitler’s claims of what Germany deserved – including lebensraum.
Along the way, the Germans destroyed everything in their path, leaving the western Soviet Union in ruins, as seen in the two bottom images. Additionally, they implemented the Hunger Plan in order to starve the Slavic peoples of the area so that German civilians could move into the area. Agricultural products from the conquered Ukraine could then be sent back to support the Nazi homeland or to support the newly planted Germans in the western Soviet Union. The devastating results of the Hunger Plan can be seen in the upper right image of a starving father and child.
However, the timing of Operation Barbarossa ended up being less than ideal. Just like Napoleon’s troops in the early nineteenth century, the Nazis were forced to fight in the bitter Russian winter. The Soviets in the upper left image were used to fighting in the cold, with specialized weapons and winter clothing like the ushanka hat. The Germans did not have such preparation or weapons for cold-weather fighting and quickly lost their forward momentum, and were eventually pushed back out of the Soviet Union entirely. The threat of Nazi Germany controlling the global heartland had been successfully avoided, but the war was not yet over.
Excellent, as always.
Operation Barbarossa was the German military operation to invade the Soviet Union during World War II. It was a massive undertaking involving 3 million German troops, composed in part of “3,000 tanks, 7,000 artillery pieces, and 2,500 aircraft” and ultimately amounting to “the largest and most powerful invasion force in human history” (Britannica). The German strategy was a three-pronged attack with troops heading north, center, and south towards Leningrad, Moscow, and Kiev respectively. This plan can be seen in the center left picture, along with planned movements after these cities were captured and, the Germans believed, the Soviets fell.
The intentions of the invasion were most definitely eradication of the local populations. This is evident in calculated pre-invasion directives including “Kommissarbefehl, the order to execute all Red Army political commissars” as well as “the ‘Barabarossa jurisdiction Decree’, which exempted German soldiers from prosecution if they committed a crime against any Soviet civilian” (Holocaust). There was, then, a certain portion of the population that was definitely to be killed, but none that was definitely to be protected.
During the invasion too, death and destruction were maximized in several ways. The Hunger Plan, where minimally provisioned German troops were instructed to live off the local land and in so doing starve local populations, was put into effect. The progression of this plan can be seen in the top right picture—probably two starving children—and the ultimate result was millions of Soviet deaths. This was particularly concentrated in POW camps, but also overwhelmed sieged cities along the German invasion path.
A scorched earth policy was also put into practice by invading German troops (and retreating Soviet troops as well), which quickly devastated the large areas overtaken during early progress of the invasion. Evidence of this policy might be found in the bottom left picture, in (I believe) troops moving towards a flame-engulfed farm.
Later progress was slower and more arduous for German troops as the Russian winter set in, cities fought against siege and starvation, and Soviet troops began to mount a response. Damage was still inflicted to local populations, however, in continued attacks and starvation-aimed sieges on cities. Evidence of this can perhaps be seen in the bottom right picture, in the snow-filled carcass of a bombarded building.
The devastation of Operation Barbarossa seen in these pictures and underlined by the resultant loss of life belies the innocent-sounding motivation touted by German leadership for the invasion: Lebensraum, or very simply living space, for the German people. The concept grew out of the German school of geopolitical thought initially based on Friedrich Ratzel’s ideas of social Darwinism: the strongest and most successful peoples being those that are fittest to survive, expand, and rule. It was successively applied to German state itself by Ernst Reich and Rudolf Kjellen, and the idea transformed from philosophical musing to a political plan of action and accompanying justification. Lebensraum, an idea that at first blush sounds more pitifully misguided than mean, displayed its full capacity for malice in the organized annihilation of WW2.
Chris Webb. (2008). Operation Barbarossa Timeline! The German Occupation of Europe http://www.HolocaustResearchProject.org. Retrieved September 12, 2016, from http://www.holocaustresearchproject.org/nazioccupation/opbarb.html
Operation Barbarossa. (2016). In Encyclopædia Britannica. Retrieved from https://www.britannica.com/event/Operation-Barbarossa
Excellent, great discussion well integrated with the images.
Operation Barbarossa was a war maneuver initiated by Hitler at the expense of gaining territory for living space. The images shown above can be viewed as a time frame or guideline as to the stages of the Operation. Hitler had hoped to gain control over Russian territory in order for German to have room to grow. This idea, coined Lebensraum, was created by a man name Friedrich Ratzel and used by Rudolf Kjellen to defend Germanic warfare.
As you can see, in the center left image, the tactic used by the Germans, Blitzkrieg. The Germans hoped that with the West pre-occupied with their own disputes, they could focus all of their attention on gaining territory in the East. Blitzkrieg was intended to be a quick war tactic, hence its nickname “Lightning War.” Unfortunately for the Germans, the success they had previously with such a war tactic, would not be the outcome in this case. In the lower left image, you see men, German, invading and destroying a Russian farm or something of that nature. The Germans planned to conquer piece by piece of Russia, destroying land and taking resources as they went forward.
This introduces the Hunger Plan, which was supposed to enable the German army to be provided for during this Operation. The Germans were to take food and resources and allocate it to themselves and back to Germany. While this plan may have been somewhat successful, it did end up backfiring when there were hardly any resources left. Take the two photos up top for example, the right photo shows a picture of a parent and presumably their child. These two may have been Slavs that had suffered from the Hunger plan. The photo on the left could, as others have pointed out, indicate a change in the war. Whereas the Germans had initially planned for a quick and easy effort to destroy the Soviets, the initial delay in their plans may have ruined their favor. It does appear to be Russians fighting back due to their clothing. It is quite obviously winter in this photo and the men appear to be well-equipped for the occasion. The reason this photo interprets a change in the war effort is for the fact that it was the Russian climate that had a hand in changing the tide.
The last image looks like the overall aftermath. The billboard that depicts the mother holding what appears to be her child states, “Смерть,” which means death. The second word was slightly harder to see, but just that word seems to be enough to carry a message. A dilapidated and destroyed building with a lone figure in front of it may describe the feeling of hopelessness that the Russians felt about the war. The billboard may have been used as an inspiration for civilians to fight. “Would you want this to happen to your own kids,” – that type of scenario. I only wish that I had been able to read the second word so that I may have understood the picture better.
Someone mentioned Napoleon in their response and I remembered a previous professor who once said that Operation Barbarossa was a reason for Soviet survival, or better yet, why Hitler should have studied Napoleon.
Very goo discussion. Nice work
The images displayed show the devastation that Operation Barbarossa during World War II had in effect on the human population living through Eastern Europe, Russia, and Germany at that time. Operation Barbarossa was the plan, by the German during Hitler’s reign, to invade into Russia or at the time Soviet Union due to the idea of lebensraum and the Heartland theory. Nazi Germany believed this land, in accordance with the Heartland theory, was crucial for its survival and domination as a world power. To the Germans at this time, controlling the Soviet Union and its sphere of influence then they could expand into Asia, gaining more access to resources.
The second image on the left shows the initial plans of how to invade the Soviet Union from the German land border in Poland, where the forces would be divided up and then infiltrate from different locations hoping to weaken the Soviet forces, along with the thought process that the Soviet Union would be easy to infiltrate during the summer. First they could take Ukraine from the Soviets, then take Moscow. However, with the Russian school of thought, they were able to secure their borders until the winter where they knew they could defeat the Germans. The top left image and the bottom right image both show how the Soviets had the advantage during winter since they were used to the cold harsh temperatures along with the right clothing and materials. The Germans were ultimately defeated.
Good points, but too brief.
As one of the most violent and horrific operations in the entire history of warfare, Operation Barbarossa also served as the massive, point-turning failure for Hitler’s Third Reich. Hitler invaded eastward into the Soviet Union (as displayed in the map image portraying German movements) in 1941 as a means of securing an ideological and physical need for “living space,” or, “lebensraum.”
Lebensraum, as crafted by Friedrich Ratzel and further developed by Friedrich von Bernhardi, is a geopolitical nationalist theory predicated on the notion that a superior state (metaphorically a living entity with “biological necessities”) needed territory and room to expand without the hindrances of mere colonies. Expand; conquer; inhabit. In terms of Nazi Germany and Operation Barbarossa, this pushed Hitler to conquer eastward into the Soviet Union in order to provide enough space and resources for the “superior” German race to flourish. Because of food shortages and lacking agricultural lands, Germany desired more land that could be used to feed its people. Because the German leaders considered themselves a higher class/race of people, there was support for destroying the Russian population as a natural evolution for the Germanic people. Operation Barbarossa then proved they were willing to stop at nothing to secure this land but were also ill-equipped for the challenge itself.
In the collage, we see an image in the lower left of the German offensive moving forward through farmland with fire and destruction in the background. As there appears to be no snow on the ground, it would appear that the Germans are still successfully gaining land and sweeping victories. Operation Barbarossa was successful for the Germans in occupying many important economic locations in the USSR but would eventually stall out. These locations were crucial for the idea of Lebensraum as they provided agricultural stability for the population needing to be fed back home. The top left image hints where things start to get harder for the Germans. In the photograph, we see a Russian front both literally and figuratively “dug in” to their lines. The Russians are ready and aimed; equipped with cold-weather gear and a defensive position. Judging by the somewhat urban local in the background, this might be in the outskirts of Moscow where the German offensive stalled due to resistance from the Soviet counteroffensive.
The two other images display the stark human realities of Lebensraum and the German offensive. In the photograph of the building, we see living space rendered uninhabitable. What portions of the building left standing by the Germans has since been ravaged by the Russian winter. The propaganda poster on the front of the building is a stark reminder to the Soviets of what is at stake. The two figures in the last photo are the fruition of that reminder. In the photo, we see two (I presume young and related) figures that have had their way of life destroyed for the potential benefit of an outside force. They are possibly starved, as was the method of the Germans to delete the Soviet population. The Nazis rounded up millions of Soviets as prisoners and simply starved them in order to create a food surplus for the Germans back home. Over 4 million Russians were casualties of this operation which would ultimately prove a failure for Hitler and the Nazis.
In geopolitical theory, it’s easy for a racist maniac to conclude “this land is occupied by the inferior; I shall conquer it for the superior.” In practice, when both a nation and a climate itself assumes a counteroffensive position, its much more difficult to stretch your legs in eastward living space.
Very nice, good discussion of the ways the images relate to lebensraum.
These photos show a glimpse of the brutality that the concept of Lebensraum caused in the Soviet Union starting in 1941. This concept was that Germany did not have sufficient living space within its own borders, and therefore needed to expand east and take land from their neighboring countries. This movement gathered steam in the 1920s, and by the 1940s, action was taken. The reality that Germany did not have the capacity to survive as an autarky on their own land alone led to their expansion eastward. The problem was that these territories were already established. When Germany invaded the Soviet Union, diagramed in the middle left, they were looking to establish the land for themselves. But how do you accomplish this in a land already settled? The invasion of Germany into the Soviet Union was known as Operation Barbarossa. This took place in 1941. Following this invasion, The Hunger Plan of Winter 1941-42 revealed the intention of the Germans to starve the people of the Soviet Union and Ukraine out. This not only included physical starvation, but also the destruction of the city, pictured in the bottom left and right, and the death of many citizens by firearms. By the end of this invasion, 3.5 million citizens were killed.
The most interesting thing about the concept of Lebensraum to me is the number of people it influenced towards these heinous actions. The idea that “I do not have enough, and therefore I need to not only take from you, but I need to hurt you.” Germany was able to convince the general public that they were right to invade Russia and to kill millions of people. Perhaps the root of this influence is due to Germany’s ability to persuade its citizens towards considering the Russians as “the others”. By dissociating themselves, perhaps they were able to convince themselves that it was right to take the land and kill those who were in the way, because who else is worthy to live well besides us? Surely the photos here were not displayed as propaganda in Germany, as victims of violent acts of genocide as pictured above, but rather the pictures portrayed must have objectified the Russian and Ukrainian citizens as hurtful to the good of the Germans. If my family were starving in Germany, what would it take to convince me to go kill my neighbors, work their land, take their food, and send it back home to my family? Surely I would not be considering them as “my neighbors”. I would convince myself that these people are the enemy. They are the only thing standing between my starving family and prosperity. Where do I look at something different or foreign to me and consider it ‘the other’? Perhaps this is present in our culture, or perhaps we are slowly overcoming this process of othering through the growth of media coverage and our access to other local outlets. I would hope that these advancements have served to open our capacity to critically discern these types of thought processes.
Good discussion, especially of the ways in which lebensraum was made acceptable to the masses.
Blog Post #1
Operation Barbarossa, the German invasion of the Soviet Union during World War II, was a catastrophe in terms of the loss of human life. When thinking about the operation on a large scale, it is difficult to give any reason – or even humanity – to the German soldiers. What motivated them to take part in such atrocities? We discussed the answer to that question in class, and can partially trace it back to the foundation of the Institut fur Geopolitik in Munich, where Geopolitik was defined as “the science which conceives of the state as a geographical organism.” The study of Geopolitics in all the world’s most powerful states at the time led to each state creating its own school of thought, its own way of justifying its actions while acting on the international stage. Of all these Theories of Geopolitics, Germany’s stands out as the most ambitious. The newly emerged and powerful country looked outwards and eastwards, striving to find a way to catch up to its Imperial counterparts. The idea of Lebensraum, or Living Space, for the German people was a way of justifying this expansion into Germany’s neighbors.
We can visualize this expansion easily simply by looking at the map on the center left, outlining Germany’s attack plan for Operation Barbarossa. The vast power of Germany hammers down on the unprepared Soviet Union in a solid line to the east, while the Soviets fall back to the strongholds of Stalingrad, Archangel, and the Ural Mountains. Above the map is a photograph of a line of Soviet defenders, probably in Leningrad. Leningrad was the site of a bitter siege which lasted more than 2 years, where the Germans attempted to starve out the entire city. This strategy was much more effective in the countryside where the Germans maintained total control of the population. The “Hunger Plan” was implemented in order to cause massive starvation throughout the local populations in conquered areas, so that German citizens could move in and occupy the territory. This would grant the German people their deserved “Living Space.” The effects this strategy had on the Slavic peoples can be seen in the top right photograph.
The brutality of the German invaders helped fuel massive campaigns of propaganda from the Soviet government, which can be seen in the bottom right photograph hanging from a bombed-out building, furthering the point of the propaganda itself. The Soviet people would not go down without a fight and a nationalist fervor swelled up in Stalingrad, pushing out from there against the German line and finally forcing them back at the Battle of Kursk, which is what the final photograph in the bottom left makes me think of. The soldiers advancing past a burning German armored personnel carrier in the countryside. The Soviet retaliation against Germany was also brutal and horrible – but it was the product of revenge rather than a nationalist belief in a right for more living space.
Good discussion, I particularly like your comments on the way the brutality of the German invasion was used to fuel Soviet propaganda.
Operation Barbarossa was an indescribably brutal battle by the Nazis in an effort to completely annihilate the Soviets peoples. What strikes me most, having never actually had a war on our soil, is the level of blind hatred of other people that can be manifested in the common man against someone their leaders see as necessary to destroy. Sadly we see vestiges of that today in our country, to a far lesser degree at this point. The ability of mad men in positions of power in politics and in media to whip the common person into a frenzy of fear, hatred, superiority, belligerence and murder was at the core of what is called Lebensraum.
The barbarism and devastation of the battlefield was only allowed to come about because the average person had been mentally and emotionally poisoned/ brainwashed deliberately by politicians and employees of the media. It is said that the German people didn’t know what was happening. We of the future can never know exactly what was known at the time, but despite not having Internet or immediate access to news, people knew that their neighbors were being taken. They had letters from their fathers, brothers and sons at the fronts where civilians were being intentionally starved to death in addition to being shot daily. This savagery was allowed to happen because the citizens of Germany had hardened their minds against others in the hope of benefitting themselves.
The pictures of this particular operation, the largest military operation in history, show the inhumanity of war and the intent of the Germans to overrun Soviet soil and Soviet cities with a scorched earth policy, destroying everything in their path. The picture on the lower left shows German soldiers in the act of burning everything in the area. On the lower right we see evidence of the aftermath of that policy. As others have said, the map shows the plan for expanding the “leg room” or “living room” for the German people.
It seems that the German people were ok with “expanding” their borders. They had to know this meant war. They had to know that war meant killing the people who lived in the lands they planned to conquer, and they were satisfied that this was a righteous move because they had accepted the propaganda that they were a superior people and that there were other human beings who were actually “sub human.”
The photograph of two starving boys sitting on the curb was captured by someone. Someone who was wealthy enough to have a camera, who, one can only suspect, had food and shoes and the wherewithal to have their film developed somewhere where the buildings were still standing and life maintained a degree of normalcy. This juxtaposition of utter atrocity with life-as-usual for others nearby is what is most difficult to wrap my mind around.
Finally, the upper left picture shows an attempt by the Soviet forces to use snipers to stop the invasion of Nazis into whatever city they were defending. They were dressed for the weather, which was a major contributing factor to the ultimate defeat of the encroachment by the Germans. The Germans were so arrogant, so sure they were superior, so certain that they would meet success against the “Jews, slavs and mongol hordes” and other “untermenschen”(1), that they went to battle unprepared for the weather. Hubris brought them down.
1) Wikipedia, Operation Barbarossa.
BTW, this is Quinn. Using my WordPress login.
The picture of the starving boys was probably captured by the German army, they kept really good records. Good summary of the images.
Lebensraum was a fundamental ideal, along with nationalism and agrarianism, that fueled Germany’s age of imperialism of the early-mid 20th century. Germany, post WW1, was severely damaged in aspect to its economy and military, so much so that Germany could not provide to its people. The massive inflation was one push of many to lead Germany east. For example, in 1914, 10 Pfennig would buy 1/2 dozen eggs, while in 1923, just before the end of WW1, a 1 Billion Mark would afford 3 eggs (http://www.joelscoins.com/exhibger2.htm). Germany was then ‘justified’ to expand its territory into Eastern Germany to acquire agricultural land.
The top right picture shows a family (presumably Russian prisoners of war) that has fallen victim to the ‘hunger plan.’ This was a movement to starve prisoners of war in effort to reduce the eastern European population, only to re-populate with the purity of the German race. Lebensraum, however, did not only have an agricultural ideology, but also was used to promote nationalism and racism. In fact, In Hitler’s Mein Kampf, he discusses lebensraum in a sense that it is German destiny to colonize Eastern Europe as they are the superior race, not to mention it would also correct issues such as overpopulation and the food crisis.
The image with the map demonstrates lebensraum in action, detailing not only eastward expansion but as well as how far the German’s sought to conquer in eastern Europe. These lands, however, were not going to simply given to them; They have to be taken. The bottom left picture shows German soldiers and tanks pushing to the east and taking the land by force. To demonstrate their power and dominance over ‘inferior races and regions’ the German’s left cities’ infrastructures in rubble, as the image on the bottom right shows the building hardly standing on its own. The propaganda poster in this image has Russian writing along the top with a woman holding a child, harmed by the hands of Germany. This is not only a message of resistance from the Russians, but it also serves to identify the enemy and fight against the German cruelty on the Russian population, especially against the women and children.
The image on the top left shows said Russian resistance. The Russian’s are crouched behind a wall using their rifles and machine guns to hold off the German forces. The German’s were rather successful in their expansion movements during world war II, however, the Russian forces were very efficient at holding back the German tech and blitz warfare. Although Germany has millions of troops and thousands of heavy armor vehicles, Operation Barbarossa (1941) was unsuccessful for the Germans in their attempted invasion into Soviet Russia. Both powers took high losses and casulties, but after the failure of the operation, Germany lost hold over its overbearing influence in Russia. Russia was thus seen in a new light by the world as yet another victim of Germany’s atrocious crimes, thus the pact with Russia and the allied powers during the war.
Good discussion of the fundamentals of lebensraum, particularly the origins in post WWI austerity and nationalism.
The concept of lebensraum, translated to “living space”, was first discussed by German geographer Friedrich Ratzel in a 1901 essay where he defined the term as, the geographical surface area required to support a living species at its current population size and mode of existence. (Smith) This geographical surface area would always be expanding as the population of the species increased, creating confrontations with other populations for shared resources, leading to the concept of Social Darwinism which can be summarized in the phrase, “survival of the fittest”. Eventually this geopolitical ideology would become concrete as Germany tried to expand their living space in World War I but failed. The ideology of lebensraum would later be expanded upon by Adolf Hitler within his book, Mein Kampf, adding concepts of racism which supported the idea that the German people are the master race and must expand. Hitler’s ideology of lebensraum would be the backbone support for Germany’s reason to initiate World War II with the first expansions into Poland and France, leading to Operation Barbarossa.
On June 22, 1941, Germany began Operation Barbarossa, code for the invasion of the Soviet Union. Operation Barbarossa was composed of a three-part assault, attacking the north (Leningrad), center (Moscow), and south (Kiev) of the U.S.S.R. The left center image illustrates the invasion, showing just how far Germany could invade. Taking Leningrad would secure the Baltic States, Moscow would mean the capture of the capital of the Soviet Union, and taking Kiev would secure Ukraine and the southern resources of the area.
Pictured in the top right image are two children, most likely Russian, showing signs of starvation which is a result of these Soviet Union areas beginning to be conquered by the advancing German forces. As Germany forces control more land, they implement a strategy called the Hunger Plan, where food is seized from the population and given to the German soldiers ultimately starving the Soviet population which was seen as sub-humans under Hitler’s ideology of Lebensraum.
Another strategy that was practiced by both the advancing Germans and defending Soviets was Scorched Earth Policy. This called for the complete burning and destruction of all crops, livestock, homes, and industry. The two bottom images are examples of this method. The bottom left shows Germans using the policy to burn a home as they advance forward while the bottom right image shows the results of a stripped factory as the Soviets strategically moved all their industry and resources to the East while simultaneously destroying roads and bridges to slow the German advance.
The timeline for Operation Barbarossa was calculated incorrectly and Germany found itself still fighting the Soviet Union as winter approached. The German soldiers were not equipped to fight in the harsh cold which became one of the factors that helped the Soviet Union to turn back the German offense along with a massive counterattack at Moscow. The top left image is an example of this miscalculation as Soviet soldiers fight in the snow with proper equipment.
Smith, Woodruff D. “Friedrich Ratzel and the Origins of Lebensraum.” German Studies Review 3.1 (1980): 51. Web.
Good outline of the main points illustrated in the images.
The occurrence of operation Barbarossa is a clear example of the intend of super powers (in this case Germany) to expand the brand that they had already created through the expansion of their territory. German leader Adolf Hitler carried out this operation. A lot planning and resources were invested. The losses in lives and resources were tremendous.
In Dr. Davidsons’ previous classes we were able to examine how the expansion of brands by a super power took place without the necessity of having to kill or hurt thousands of people. Like it was the case of the French, the English, the Romans and the Ottomans, when they expanded their brands and territories.
When the aforementioned brands tried to expand theirs through the occupation of other territories, they did it because of the ease they had in creating technology that permitted them to do so. Besides, very well established brands and powers did not exist at that time.
The case of operation Barbarossa takes places in a totally different context. A context in which there was not only one power trying to expand its brand but other superpowers trying to do the same. Lebensraum was the main ideological component from the Germans for the creation and expansion of their brand. This nationalist ideology was created simply to gain the control over eastern territory with the objective of producing more agricultural surplus. For the Germans the fact of knowing that they were going to be able to have control over resources and people increased their sense of nationalism.
Through the expansion of their brand the Germans had the intention of bringing more people that looked like them to increase their population and territories, to make it more noticeable before the eyes of the international community and to create this sense of nationalism that everyone wanted to be part of.
With the intention of having a very well positioned sense of nationalism, the expansionist Germans did not care killing about thousands and thousands of Russians; even though international treaties like the Geneva Convention had been signed. The Geneva Convention was a treaty signed by the international community on the regulations of humanitarian treatment for people involved in war.
During operation Barbarossa through the Hunger Plan, the Germans cut food supply to their prisoners with the intention of reducing the population in some parts Russia. To populate these invaded areas with the people that they considered qualified to have their same physical characteristics. They kidnapped children in order to measure their nose, eyes, and the shape of their faces. The ones that passed the filter of a physical test that they had created specifically for that purpose could be part of the German populace and the ones that did not pass the filter were forced to work as slaves on agricultural lands.
Operation Barbarossa triggered the rage and the involvement of other international players in war operations in the region. The series of wars that took place in Eastern and Northern Europe at that time had a result thousand of dead people and the one of the worst barbarities committed in the history of wars.
Good discussion, although I would argue that the other colonizers (Britain, France etc.) killed plenty in their quest to expand.
An example of consequences of Ratzel’s Lebensraum concept of nationalism manipulated by Adolf Hitler is the Operation Barbarossa. Through in-situ expansion (invasion of neighbors) the Nazis believed that they could become an invincible force of paramount significance. They believed that Germany would only demonstrate and enjoy its due respect, power and leadership through expanding territoriality and by subjugating other nations.
These five images capture the essence of the events that unfolded during the operation between June 1941 and December 1941 when the Nazis invaded the Soviet Union. It is noted as one of the largest ever deployment of troops and aerial power in the World War II. Over four million soldiers, and over a million motor vehicles and horses were deployed.
The map in the image (center left) demonstrate the geopolitical importance of the German strategic plan. The focus of the plan is not Stalingrad where the actual battle took place but the Soviet capital and heart, Moscow. It establishes the significance that Hitler and his associates attached to the destruction of the Soviet Union and the enactment of Lebensraum ideology –not only territory but ultimate and absolute destruction of the opposing forces. The map illustrates the eastern expansion of the ‘master plan’ that advocates aggressive invasion on at least five main fronts with an overwhelming force and air power. Upon invasion of Ukraine, beyond Kiev, the focus would be set upon Stalingrad while in the north the focus will be on Moscow and Leningrad and beyond.
This war plan set the stage for the Nazi invasion of Soviet Union. Millions of soldiers fought or were forced to fight on either side. The warfare was still not as sophisticated and soldiers had to fight in trenches, self-improvised bunkers and later street-to-street especially in Stalingrad. The picture to the top left show soldiers fighting from behind a small wall not very far from the main town (in the background). The war lasted for over five months through the horrible northerly cold and resulted in immense sufferings, massive destruction, obliteration of towns and villages, imprisonment and torture of millions of soldiers and civilians on either side particularly the Jews who were specifically targeted by the Nazis.
Images to the right-center and right-bottom speak volumes about the tragic suffering of innocent civilians in the aftermath of the war-no place to go to and no one left to share pains of ones suffering. The basic facilities and infrastructure lay in absolute destruction and services are none. Let me say what I believe it teaches us. It teaches us that it takes years to build a life, a building, a road, or a friendship but it takes a fraction of a second to destroy it all. That’s what violence teaches and these pictures try to capture the human experience of the war.
The last image to the left-bottom shows a destroyed tank (probably of the Nazis) and burning buildings while soldiers are taking position around the tank. This image, I think, shows the shameful defeat that the Nazis faced and the beginning of their demise. However, the mark and the scar they have left on the world geopolitical history and human history is a dark one and the failure of an ideology that was founded upon bigotry, racism and subjugation of others.
Good discussion, especially the summary at the end.
Good discussion of the images, nice summary statement at the end.
Operation Barbarossa was the beginning of the German invasion into the Soviet Union during WWII. In June of 1941, Germany broke their economic pact with the Soviet Union, further escalating the war not only geographically but also politically, in the formation of the Allied powers. For the Germans, Operation Barbarossa fell perfectly in line with the German political school of thought, Lebensraum. Lebensraum was a more violent and radical interpretation of the Manifest Destiny ideology. It carried the idea of not only expanding the German state geographically, but also providing room for the growth of a superior ‘race’. This school of thought was inherently racist, most notably against the Slavic and Jewish ethnicities, which served to further strengthen the unity of the German political narrative by pitting the German nation against the ‘others’. These images show the violent excursion of the German army into the Soviet Union and illustrate the unfortunate fate of both countries involved.
The map image, located second from the top on the left side, demonstrates the direction and strategy of the German forces into the Soviet Union during Operation Barbarossa. The map clearly shows the very large geographic range of Russia in comparison to the German occupied states. This size difference was the instrumental, if not the fatal component, of the invasion that lead to the failure of the German army. The Lebensraum ideal of the Germans occupying all Eastern Europe and into central Asia was an unrealistic ideal geographically and economically. Though Lebensraum was thought to ultimately lead to a self-sufficiency (autarky), this would not occur since their expansion was solely based on the German economy of the time. Lebensraum was brought into German’s military strategy. Perhaps this ideal would have been accomplished had Germany become a colonial power sooner, but the young and aggressive state built on social Darwinist principles did not accurately account for the coming seasons of the harsh Russian landscape.
The months that followed Germany’s invasion were rife with deadly blows to both sides. The Soviet villages were routinely burned and prisoners taken. Simultaneously, German forces weakened under the long treks with dwindling supplies and the coming Russian winter. The image on the bottom left demonstrates the ruthless destruction of the Soviet land whilst the Germans pushed onward. Destroying the land and resources of the Soviet Union was a strategic tactic accomplished by the Nazis. Smaller towns and many civilians met the deadly fate of either a mass killing or prisoner of war camps that were effective in killing millions of soviets during the war. Soviet reaction was most effective during the winter months, as seen in the top image on the left. While the Germans advanced, the Russian took to the defense. Fighting in the bitter winter at least gave an advantage to the Soviets, but conditions were poor on both sides.
The desolation of the war in Russia is seen in both images on the right. The bottom right image portrays the sentiments towards Russia during Operation Barbarossa. The Soviet Union was seen as the victim of the Nazi forces. The demolished edifice on which Soviet propaganda is displaying a woman holding an injured/dead child perpetuates the helpless and vulnerable image of the Soviet Union, which called soldiers into action and neighboring forces into alliance. Starvation was the reality of many Slavic people. The emotional and relational devastation of the war is evident in the image on the top right. Whether of German or Slavic decent, the desperation of the war was felt among all the common people. As far as casualties and deaths, WWII ranks as one of the most fatal wars. The torture and mass killings that happened were some of the worst in history and many families were shattered through death, separation and work camps. This image also speaks to the many children who were taken from their families as part of selective breeding for the ‘Aryan’ generation, a tactic perpetuated by the Lebensraum ideal.
Neither Germany nor the Soviet Union are clear ‘winners’ of this war. Both countries walked away deeply scathed from the failed operation Barbarossa and the toxic mindset of Lebensraum.
Excellent discussion .
Hitler believed that in order to sustain a full range of resources necessary to keep up with a growing and increasingly self-sufficient Nazi population that they would have to annex more land one way or another. Germany’s western borders were occupied by well-equipped and allied countries, while to the east lay thousands of miles of farmland with little to no military presence. Thus began Operation Barbarossa to gain more “Lebensraum” for the self-declared superior race. These images reveal tragic realities of the invasion of western soviet territory began in 1940. The image center right depicts the general invasion routes of Nazi regiments which numbered in the millions. These troops were mobilized cross country primarily on foot and given a very low food supply for the ambitious venture. This had two primary purposes. The first was to decrease the carry load for faster travel, which would enable a swifter invasion that would be difficult for the Soviets to counter in their distal regions. Every step closer to the final destination is one more step your invasion force will not need to backtrack when resupplying. The second was to provide incentive for the soldiers to destroy as much of the occupied lands as possible. By forcing your men to scavenge for food and shelter on the warpath, all reasons for the resident population to stay are removed. Unfortunately, “removed” is the correct term for their goals for those they displaced. Instead of forcing them into their culture as is the norm in most European take-overs, the Nazis actually preferred them to get out or die off. Most frequently it was the latter. The Nazi soldiers’ march left a wake of total destruction; what they did not take, they burned. Whether by starvation or from being exposed to the elements without homes, soviet civilian deaths numbered in the millions due simply to Nazi disregard. The top right image (likely) shows a father and son despairing and puzzling over how they will survive now that Germans have occupied their town. The left top and bottom images show successful Soviet resistance in war zones, giving also clues to how the Soviets were eventually able to fend off the invasion. Probably the most historically recognized obstacle to the Nazis during this invasion was the cold. Notice the heavy hooded suits the Soviet infantry wear posted atop a building in the top left image in contrast with the light uniforms worn by the Nazi armor unit in the bottom left. Hard to accurately fire a submachine gun when you can’t feel your hands. The sullen aftermath of occupation is shown in the bottom right image, where a once proud structure has been reduced to brick and scaffolding, with a disheartening poster of a woman holding her dead child for remembrance. This visual collection reveals an overly ambitious dictator’s thirst for more with no regard for human life. Though Hitler may disagree with that statement, because to the Nazi ideology Slavs were not human; they were the larval stage of a corpse lying in their Lebensraum.
Good summary of the images, nice analogy at the end.
Hitler believed that in order to sustain a full range of resources necessary to keep up with a growing and increasingly self-sufficient Nazi population that they would have to annex more land one way or another. Germanys western borders were occupied by well-equipped and allied countries, while to the east lay thousands of miles of farmland with little to no military presence. Thus began Operation Barbarossa to gain more “Lebensraum” for the self-declared superior race. These images reveal tragic realities of the invasion of western soviet territory began in 1940. The image center right depicts the general invasion routes of Nazi regiments which numbered in the millions. These troops were mobilized cross country primarily on foot and given a very low food supply for the ambitious venture. This had two primary purposes. The first was to decrease the carry load for faster travel, which would enable a swifter invasion that would be difficult for the Soviets to counter in their distal regions. Every step closer to the final destination is one more step your invasion force will not need to backtrack when resupplying. The second was to provide incentive for the soldiers to destroy as much of the occupied lands as possible. By forcing your men to scavenge for food and shelter on the warpath, all reasons for the resident population to stay are removed. Unfortunately, “removed” is the correct term for their goals for those they displaced. Instead of forcing them into their culture as is the norm in most European take-overs, the Nazis actually preferred them to get out or die off. Most frequently it was the latter. The Nazi soldiers’ march left a wake of total destruction; what they did not take, they burned. Whether by starvation or from being exposed to the elements without homes, soviet civilian deaths numbered in the millions due simply to Nazi disregard. The top right image (likely) shows a father and son despairing and puzzling over how they will survive now that Germans have occupied their town. The left top and bottom images show successful Soviet resistance in warzones, giving also clues to how the Soviets were eventually able to fend off the invasion. Probably the most historically recognized obstacle to the Nazis during this invasion was the cold. Notice the heavy hooded suits the Soviet infantry wear posted atop a building in the top left image in contrast with the light uniforms worn by the Nazi armor unit in the bottom left. Hard to accurately fire a submachine gun when you can’t feel your hands. The sullen aftermath of occupation is shown in the bottom right image, where a once proud structure has been reduced to brick and scaffolding, with a disheartening poster of a woman holding her dead child for remembrance. This visual collection reveals an overly ambitious dictator’s thirst for more with no regard for human life. Though Hitler may disagree with that statement, because to the Nazi ideology Slavs were not human; they were the larval stage of a corpse lying in their Lebensraum.
As with most major powers within the world, the idea of expansion as a necessity was a driving force within German ideologies. The concept of Lebensraum or “living space” was political slogan introduced to unify Germany and to seek additional colonies to expand the empire. This concept was based on the success of the British and French empires expansion of colonies throughout the world. As Hitler came to power, the concept of Lebensraum moved toward the direction of enlarging Germany within Europe and not by just adding colonies.
“For it is not in colonial acquisitions that we must see the solution of this problem, but exclusively in the acquisition of a territory for settlement, which will enhance the area of the mother country, and hence not only keep the new settlers in the most intimate community with the land of their origin, but secure for the total area those advantages which lie in its unified magnitude. Adolf Hitler, Mein Kampf”.
Germany looked to the East for their Lebensraum and to eliminate the Soviet presence in eastern Europe. On June 22, 1941, Germany launched an invasion of the Soviet Union which turned out to the largest German military operation of WWII. As you can see in the map above, the objective of the German military was to take over the key economic stables of the Soviet Union which happened to be located on the eastern front. Hitler sent over 3 million soldiers as thousands of tanks ran through the frontlines but the Germans underestimated their opponents. The Germans had inadvertently opened a second front to which their army as a whole weren’t logistically prepared for the consequences.
Even though the Germans were moving forward they weren’t prepared to move any farther east than Moscow due to the lack of preparation of the harsh winter ahead. The failure of this operation was not only due to the Soviet defense and the harsh winter but it was also due to the degree of Lebensraum that Hitler wanted to introduce. Hitler did not plan to liberate these Slavic countries from the Soviet Union’s communistic ideologies but he wanted to enslave the populations and exterminate the Jewish communities therefore “cleansing” their newfound “living space”.
These photos above represent the mass destruction of these Slavic communities through pure force of the German army. The concept of Lebensraum is not a new one, we have seen movement for living space in other countries such as the concept of Manifest Destiny in North America, but nothing as severe and at such a magnitude as Germany’s invasion of the eastern front. This was the largest military operation in human history with more than half of the German military participating in the invasion. Even though the Germans deviated the large Soviet landscape and killed millions of Soviet people, they had failed to achieve what they want which was to change the political landscape of Europe and eliminate the Soviet regime. Instead of conquering these countries they left large gaps for the Red Army to fill in and helped unify the Soviet countries.
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