Book Review

JEAN-PIERRE LEGENDRE, LAURENT OLIVIER & BERNADETTE SCHNITZLER. L'archéologie nazie en Europe de l'Ouest. 496 pages, 216 b&w & colour illustrations. 2007. Paris: Infolio; 978-2-88474-804-9 hardback €28.

Review by Bettina Arnold
University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, USA

Arnold image

This volume is the timely product of an international roundtable entitled 'Blut und Boden: National Socialist Archaeology in the Occupied Countries of the Western Reich', organised by Jean-Pierre Legendre, Laurent Olivier and Bernadette Schnitzler at the 2004 annual European Archaeological Association meeting in Lyon. It is one of the first publications on this topic to cross nation-state boundaries with contributions by archaeologists from a wide range of European countries: Germany, France, Belgium, the Netherlands, Denmark and Austria. The eighteen contributors range from academics to museum and historic preservation professionals, including five women, one graduate student and an independent scholar, whose varied perspectives illuminate a complex topic.

The volume consists of four parts: Part 1 focuses on archaeology in Germany during the Third Reich; Part 2 examines archaeological research conducted in the occupied or annexed territories of France, Luxemburg and Austria; Part 3 presents an overview of archaeology in the Netherlands and Belgium during this period; and Part 4 provides three perspectives on the influence of National Socialism on archaeological research in Scandinavia. The Introductory essay by the editors is bookended by a Postscript that discusses National Socialist archaeology and the 'germanisation' of Western Europe. The Preface by Lindenberg places the volume in a more general socio-historical and theoretical perspective and lauds its contribution to the de-mystification of the National Socialist period (p. 9). Image captions are bilingual, and summaries in French, German and English are included in an Appendix (pp. 467-484).

The last decade has seen the appearance of several volumes dedicated to some aspect of National Socialist archaeological research in western Europe, ranging from compendia of biographical profiles of prominent archaeologists and organisations to studies of the impact of politically controlled research on particular regions or the interpretation of specific sites. This is a welcome development after decades of silence on the part of prehistoric archaeologists in the post-war period, although it comes almost too late to take advantage of the information that might have been available from interviews with individuals with first-hand knowledge of archaeological research in Europe between 1933 and 1945. Gunter Schöbel illustrates the significance of this loss especially well in his exposé (pp. 61-92) of the rediscovery in Rochester, New York, of a set of photographic negatives chronicling Nazi party visits to the open air museum at Unteruhldingen on Lake Constance as well as the excavation of the Hohmichele burial mound by the SS-Ahnenerbe; without the testimony of the photographer, who had just had a stroke when Schöbel discovered his identity but recovered sufficiently to be interviewed, it would have been difficult if not impossible to piece together the whole story of this valuable photographic archive, now digitally available through the collaborative efforts of the Eastman Kodak Company Archives and the Unteruhldingen Museum.

In spite of the loss of such oral histories, the end of the Cold War has made archival sources that contain a wealth of documentary and visual data accessible and available for systematic analysis and publication. Leube presents the results of his archival work here in two essays, one synthesising the archaeological activities of the Ahnenerbe in the occupied countries of western Europe between 1940 and 1945, the other a biographical sketch of Wolfram Sievers, the highest-ranking Ahnenerbe official controlling archaeological research in the Third Reich. Other contributors present biographical research on pivotal figures: Hans Reinerth of the Rosenberg Office (Schöbel); Jean Fromols and archaeology in the Champagne region (Vanmoerkerke); Jean-Jacques Thomasset (Olivier and Legendre); Gerhard von Tevenar, Secretary of the Deutsche Gesellschaft für keltische Studien (Schnitzler); the 'Germanomaniac' Herman Wirth (Löw). Other contributions focus on the impact of National Socialism on regions, institutions or sites, such as Trier (Kuhnen); the activities of the so-called Kunstschutz bureau in France (Olivier); archaeology in Lorraine (Bardies-Fronty); archaeology in Kärnten, Austria (Jernej); excavations at the Merovingian cemetery of Ennery, the Iron Age hillfort of Mont Sainte-Odile, and the hillfort of Aleburg near Befort (Legendre, Schnitzler, and Gatzen respectively). Essays on the effects of National Socialism on theoretical developments include those of Halle on the Netherlands and Belgium; Derks on the concept of Westforschung; Fehr on early medieval archaeology in France and Belgium; Gob on the 1942 exhibition 'Deutsche Grösse' (German grandeur) in Brussels; Eickhoff on prehistoric archaeology in the occupied Netherlands between 1940 and 1945, and Pedersen and Stensager on German archaeology in occupied Denmark.

The decision to include individual chapter bibliographies as well as footnotes is a welcome one, making it much easier to quickly identify sources without needing to hunt through the volume (although for some reason the Kuhnen essay only has footnotes). The many black-and-white and colour images include numerous new and unusual images of excavations, artwork and other documents published here for the first time. On the other hand, there are some editorial problems, particularly with the bilingual captions for the images, which in several cases are incomplete in one of the two languages. Some of the English language contributions by non-native speakers are poor translations and could have used more rigorous editing. Other editorial oversights include deviations in the spelling of names, accents that appear in some places and not in others and inconsistencies in citation.

More of a concern is the fact that a number of contributions paraphrase but do not cite large sections of several early publications in English and Norwegian that first synthesised and highlighted trends in the archival material related to this period when it was still difficult for academics in European countries other than Scandinavia and Britain to publicly take a position on archaeology under National Socialism. Apart from the fact that such omissions represent poor scholarship, they also negate the contribution made by these scholars to the change in atmosphere that has made volumes like this one possible. The publication history of scholarship on archaeology under the aegis of the Third Reich is part of the story of how such political systems stifle critical or dissenting voices, and it is important for the post-war influences of this censorship to be acknowledged.

Such reservations aside, this volume should reach a wider audience than previous publications on this subject because of the efforts of its editors to include contributions in several languages. The wide range of sources to be found in each chapter's bibliographies will make it an indispensable resource for scholars interested in the social history of this period.

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