jens-uwe guettel on american frontiers and the nazi east


Jens-Uwe Guettel, ”The US frontier as rationale for the Nazi east? Settler colonialism and genocide in Nazi-occupied Eastern Europe and the American West, Journal of Genocide Research 15, 4 (2013).

Many scholars of German and Native American history and the field of genocide studies argue that during World War II the Nazis’ genocidal attempt to turn vast portions of Eastern Europe into Lebensraum [living space] for Aryan settlers was connected to the near-extinction of America’s Native Peoples during the ‘conquest’ of the American west by the United States. In their view, there exist direct historical continuities between settler colonialism and genocide in the American west and Eastern Europe between 1939 and 1945. This article denies the actuality of straight links between American west and Nazi Germany’s eastward expansion and argues that the Nazis did not use the settlement of western North America as a model for their occupation, colonization and extermination policies. In addition, this study shows that at least on the ground in the Soviet Union, German soldiers were not under the impression that they were carrying out a colonialist land-grab exercise. As a result, this article also challenges the notion of the existence of straight links between Western colonialism and Nazi eastward expansion. By looking at both official documents and the writings of German soldiers, the following analysis shows how and why it was by and large impossible for the Nazis to utilize the American west as a concrete model for their regime’s colonial plans in Eastern Europe.

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