The term Europe was omnipresent in the Third Reich during the Second World War. An abundance of primary sources attests to the German interest in a new European order. Nevertheless, historiography is in disagreement on the Europeanness of this New Order and on its actual relevance for National Socialist policies. This study argues that these differing appraisals are the result of a mistaken understanding of the National Socialist New Order.
National Socialist Germany did not pursue a single, stable, and clear-cut notion of Europe-to-be, but constantly kept negotiating its war aims and the future of Europe under the heading New Order . By means of a discourse-analytical approach, this thesis reconstructs this New Order and shows that its defining dimensions were long-standing and well-established knowledge and belief systems: the idea of European economic cooperation and völkisch beliefs. Depending on the military situation and the scope of the German sphere of influence, the discursive weight of these interpretive frames varied during the war. Nevertheless, they produced temporarily stable visions of Europe-to-be. Contrasted with this development, an analysis of German policies clearly demonstrates that the New Order discourse did matter. A hermeneutical approach which draws on discourse-analytical concepts of power relations makes clear that the New Order discourse was powerful. It defined the permissible ways of thinking and speaking about the future of Europe and it endowed the activities of German occupation authorities and private companies with meaning.
Thus, this study and its innovative perspective shed new light on the New Order and broaden our understanding of National Socialist wartime policies. Its findings suggest that the National Socialist Europe must not be dismissed as anti-European. National Socialist Germany discursively constructed and realised its own ideals of Europe-to-be. This völkisch and economic reorganisation not only guided the policies of German occupation policies and informed the actions of private businesses, but it also fits well into the German tradition of European thinking.
A Doctoral Thesis. Submitted in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the award of Doctor of Philosophy of Loughborough University.