The intersection of colonialism and mass atrocities is one of the most exciting insights of the past years of genocide studies. But most people...

The intersection of colonialism and mass atrocities is one of the most exciting insights of the past years of genocide studies. But most people don’t really think of the Soviet Union and the American west as colonial spaces. But while there are limitations to this, both fit well into a kind of geography of colonialism.

This is why Edward Westermann‘s new book Hitler’s Ostkrieg and the Indian Wars: Comparing Genocide and Conquest (University of Oklahoma Press, 2016)is so interesting. Westermann teaches at Texas A & M University at San Antonio. Prior to this work, he wrote a well-regarded volume on the German police battalions on the Eastern Front in the Second World War. Before joining the university world, he was an officer in the US military, and he brings his training and experience to a study of the strategy and tactics of the armies which fought in each space. In doing so, he sheds new light on how each army behaved. He’s particularly good at understanding how tactics and military culture drove the American army to act in ways that killed women and children without that being their goal. But he’s also good at analyzing the broader cultural climate that informed policy makers in each society. His discussion of the regional splits in policy toward American Indians was noteworthy. It’s a book that made me think about the American west in a new light.


Kelly McFall is Associate Professor of History at Newman University in Wichita Kansas, where he directs the Honors Program. He is particularly interested in the question of how to teach about the history of genocides and mass atrocities and has written a module in the Reacting to the Past series about the UN debate over whether to intervene in Rwanda in 1994.

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