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Der NS-Gau Thüringen 1939–1945. Eine Struktur- und Funktionsgeschichte, by Markus Fleischhauer. Cologne: Böhlau Verlag, 2010. 403 pp. $64.50. €49.90.
Markus Fleischhauer’s Ph.D. dissertation evaluates a topic which until now has often been neglected by historical research on the Nazi Regime. He provides a structural analysis of the inner administration of a single Gau (an area encompassing several districts) during the Second World War. His example is the region of Thuringia, which is known, for example, for its Wartburg located next to Eisenach and its famous literary tradition of Goethe and Schiller, but also for the Nazi Concentration Camp of Buchenwald in which more than 55,000 people, including 11,000 Jews, were killed. Fleischhauer is not interested in Nazi extermination policies, but in institutional change, administrative integration, and economical mobilization in the period between 1939 and 1945. His major question refers to the Gau’s functional role in establishing and stabilizing the Nazi Regime at the regional level. With this, he puts himself into the tradition of historians like Martin Broszat, who described the foundation and development of the Third Reich’s internal structure. But two major differences remain: Fleischhauer shifts away from the central to the regional level and from the pre-1939 period to the Second World War.
His book is divided into five parts. The author starts by analyzing Thuringia’s administrative structure between 1933 and 1939, followed by a close examination of Nazi evacuation policies directed to maintain the German population’s morale, weakened by allied air raids. Then he evaluates the Gau’s economic administration and its structural changes after the installation of a Gau economic chamber and the Reich Defense Commissioner Fritz Sauckel in November 1942. The last chapter is dedicated to the strategies of mobilization implemented by the regional apparatuses of the Reich Ministry of Armament and War Production. A close reading of all relevant sources from the German Federal Archives in Berlin, the Military Archives in Freiburg ,and the Thuringian State Archives in Weimar leads Fleischhauer to four interrelated hypotheses. First, the inner administration’s territorial boundaries were continuously adjusted to the Gau territory so that Thuringia turned into a homogeneous administrative unit serving as a blueprint for the so-called Reich medium instance (Reichsmittelinstanz). Second, a process of intense networking was established in which the regional Nazi Party’s, the Wehrmacht’s, and the inner and the economic administration’s offices participated. This new divison of labor, third, helped to shape mobilization and integration as the Gau’s key competences since 1942. This rationalization, fourth, in Thuringia led to a remarkable increase in the Nazi Regime’s efficiency. According to the author, during the Second World War the Gau’s structures and functions became interdependent.
Fleischhauer’s results will have a certain impact on research about the Nazi Regime’s administrative history because he replaces the older concept of polycracy and conflict with a new notion on division of labor which, to me, seems far more adequate for analyzing modern bureaucracies. Despite that, there are some objections to be raised. Fleischhauer is so heavily engaged in structural analysis that, in contrast to the title of his book, he neglects all functional aspects of regional Nazi administration, for example the question of how ordinary Germans were integrated by institutions and organizations. His study is completely lacking the administrative staff’s biographical sketches so that the perpetrators, their aims and motives, remain silent. Additionally, the author does not reply to the question of terror inflicted on thousands of foreign slave workers or Concentration Camp’s inmates. For Fleischhauer, mobilization is an effort primarily directed towards material sources and institutional change. He fails to work out that forced labor and mass murder formed an integral part of Nazi mobilization and served as a precondition for what he calls its growing efficiency. Without “extermination through labor” (Vernichtung durch Arbeit), for example, the Nazi Regime would have been destabilized much earlier than 1944/45. But these points do not affect the value of this study. It is a must for all historians interested in the Nazi Regime’s inner stability and, therefore, will be an important guideline for further research.