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Nazi Spatial Theory: The Dark Geographies of Carl


Schmitt and Walter Christaller
a b c
Trevor J. Barnes & Claudio Minca
a
Department of Geography, University of British Columbia
b
Cultural Geography Department, Wageningen University
c
Department of Geography, Royal Holloway, University of London

Available online: 23 Mar 2012

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Nazi Spatial Theory: The Dark Geographies of Carl
Schmitt and Walter Christaller
Trevor J. Barnes and Claudio Minca

Department of Geography, University of British Columbia

Cultural Geography Department, Wageningen University; and Department of Geography, Royal Holloway, University of London

The concern with space and, more fundamentally, the formulation of a larger, guiding spatial theory, was central
to achieving Nazi objectives during the Third Reich. We disclose critical elements of that theory, focusing on
two contributions: the first by the jurist and international legal and political theorist Carl Schmitt (18881985)
and the second by the geographer Walter Christaller (18931969). Applying the perverted biopolitical logic of
National Socialism required the military accomplishment and bureaucratic management of two interrelated spa-
tial processes: deterritorialization and reterritorialization. Deterritorialization involved moving non-Germanized
Germans (mainly Jews and Slavs) off conquered Eastern lands to create an empty space that was then reter-
ritorialized by the settlement of legitimate Germans (although often not German citizens). Although many
German academics were involved in designing and implementing these spatial strategies, we single out two. Carl
Schmitt provided a politico-judicial justification for reterritorialization involving the geographical expansion
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of the Third Reich: Groraum (greater space). Conceived four months before Germanys Blitzkrieg invasion
of Poland that triggered World War II, Groraum provided the (literal) grounds for Nazi reterritorialization.
Walter Christaller brought his peculiar spatial imaginary of formal geometry and place-based rural romanti-
cism in planning the empty space of the East after non-Germanized inhabitants were removed. His central
place theory re-created the Nazis territorial conquests in the geographical likeness of the German homeland.
Key Words: Carl Schmitt, Nazism, reactionary modernism, spatial theory, Walter Christaller.

La preocupacion con el espacio y, mas fundamentalmente, con la formulacion de una teora espacial orienta-
dora, de mayor alcance, fue muy importante para alcanzar los objetivos nazis durante el Tercer Reich. Des-
glosamos los elementos crticos de aquella teora, concentrandonos en dos contribuciones: primera, la del jurista
y teorico poltico y legal internacional Carl Schmitt (18881985), y segunda, la del geografo Walter Christaller
(18931969). Aplicar la perversa logica biopoltica del Nacional Socialismo requirio el logro militar y manejo
burocratico de dos procesos espaciales interrelacionados: deterritorializacion y reterritorializacion. La deterrito-
rializacion involucraba el desplazamiento de alemanes no germanizados (principalmente judos y eslavos) de las
tierras conquistadas en el este para crear un espacio vaco que sera luego reterritorializado con asentamientos
de alemanes legtimos (que a menudo no eran ciudadanos alemanes). Aunque muchos academicos alemanes
se vieron involucrados en disenar e implementar estas estrategias espaciales, nos referiremos solamente a dos.
Carl Schmitt se encargo de dotar a la reterritorializacion de una justificacion poltico-judicial que implicaba la
expansion geografica del Tercer Reich: el Groraum (el espacio mayor). Concebido cuatro meses antes de la
invasion Blitzkrieg de Alemania a Polonia, con la que se dio comienzo a la Segunda Guerra Mundial, el Groraum

Annals of the Association of American Geographers, 00(0) XXXX, pp. 119 C XXXX by Association of American Geographers
Initial submission, December 2010; revised submission, May 2011; final acceptance, July 2011
Published by Taylor & Francis, LLC.
2 Barnes and Minca

literalmente aporto el terreno para la reterritorializacion nazi. Walter Christaller contribuyo su peculiar imagi-
nario espacial de geometra formal y un romanticismo rural basado en la idea de lugar para la planificacion del
espacio vaco del este, despues de que sus habitantes no germanizados fueron expelidos. Su teora de las plazas
centrales sirvio para re-crear las conquistas territoriales de los nazis en semejanza geografica de la tierra natal
alemana. Palabras clave: Carl Schmitt, nazismo, modernismo reaccionario, teora espacial, Walter Christaller.

A
nglo-American human geography has been Socialisms Crown Jurist. Increasingly he sought both
mainly silent about the constitution of the legally and politically to justify Fascism, the Fuhrer, and
geographies of Hitlers empire. The relatively concomitant violent deeds, including political murder.4
few although often excellent contributions to the For our purposes, most germane was Schmitts geograph-
topic have sparked only limited interest (Bassin 1987; ical imaginary, which entered into the larger Nazi dis-
Charlesworth 1992, 1994, 2003, 2004a, 2004b; Cole course and was represented most readily by Groraum
and Graham 1995; Clarke, Doel, and McDonough (greater space).5 Groraum provided a spatial justi-
1996; Doel and Clark 1998; Cole 2003, 2009; El- fication for the National Socialist state expansion, for
den 2003, 2006; Keil 2005; Charlesworth et al. 2006; Germany to dominate a larger geographical region, and
Gregory 2009).1 In contrast, in history, philosophy, so- for the Nazis to take over the world.
ciology, and political theory, critical examination and Walter Christaller (18931969), in comparison, was
debate about the Nazi project and its theories have a petty bureaucrat and a technician. But he was no less
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been energetic and widespread (see, among many oth- a producer of dark Nazi geographies. With the opposite
ers, Herf 1984; Burleigh 1988, 2000; Bauman 1989; academic trajectory to Schmitt, intermittent, slow, and
Agamben, 1998, 2005; Browning 2004). Not in Anglo- often unsuccessful,6 he finally completed his doctoral
American geography, however, where even the recent dissertation at the Geography Department, University
interest in genocide, and in the writings of Agamben of Erlangen, Die zentralen Orte in Suddeutschland (Cen-
and Schmitt (Geografiska Annaler B 88(4), 2006; and tral Places in Southern Germany; Christaller 1966), the
Legg 2012), has done little to provoke disciplinary dis- same year Schmitt became professor in Berlin. Initially
cussion about the spaces of Nazism. This article is an fearful of the Brown Shirts, by 1940 Christaller, like
attempt at remediation, concerned with outlining some Schmitt, had become a Party member. He worked for
of the elements that made up Nazi spatial theory, by ex- a key administrator in Himmlers SS,7 Konrad Meyer,
ploring the works of two Nazi academics who influenced Professor of Agronomy at Berlin University. Meyer
directly and indirectly postwar human geography: the headed several branches of Nazi bureaucracy, including
legal theorist Carl Schmitt and the geographer Walter the Planning and Soil Department (Hauptabteilung Pla-
Christaller. Of the two, Schmitt (18881985) is better nung und Boden) in which Christaller worked and that
known and over the last decade or so has received con- fell under the Himmler-led Reichs Commission for the
siderable attention across the range of human sciences, Strengthening of Germandom (Reichskommiseriat fur die
including geography.2 Festigung deutschen Volkstums, or RKFDV). Christallers
As a youth, Schmitt was a brilliant law student, task was to reconfigure the internal geography of Ger-
completing his second dissertation, the Habilitation, in manys newly acquired territories. His particular charge
1916, just before enlisting in the German army to fight was Poland, invaded by Germany in September 1939.8
in World War I.3 Postwar he taught at a variety of Like Schmitt, Christaller brought his own geographi-
German universities, which culminated in his appoint- cal imaginary to the task, a curious mixture of spatial
ment as Professor of Law at the University of Berlin geometrical formalism and place-based rural romanti-
in 1933. On 1 May of that same year he joined the cism. But, as we argue, it was a geography that perfectly
Nazi party. During the 1920s, Schmitt was a prolific fitted the Nazi ideological agenda that we characterize
writer, concerned with the constitutional legitimacy of following Herf (1984) as reactionary modernism.
the Weimar Republic (Kennedy 2004). Although even Our discussion of Schmitt and Christaller does not
then, as Vinx (2010) said, Schmitts declared aim [was] exhaust the full list of contributors who produced Nazi
to defend the Weimar constitution . . . at times [it was] spatiality. At least within the Anglo-American geo-
barely distinguishable from [his] call for constitutional graphical literature, the person typically singled out as
revision towards a more authoritarian political frame- a key architect of that geography is Karl Haushofer
work. With the end of Weimar, and the beginning (18691946), Professor of Geography at Munich Uni-
of the Third Reich, Schmitt was appointed National versity, promoter and practitioner of geopolitics (Heske
Nazi Spatial Theory: The Dark Geographies of Carl Schmitt and Walter Christaller 3

1987; O ` Tuathail, Dalby, and Routledge 1998, Section predicated on the development of a set of wider spaces
I; Herwig 1999; Kearns 2009, ch. 1). He is attributed and spheres of influence, each associated with one of
with introducing to Hitler Freidrich Ratzels work on a select group of countries that included Germany. For
Lebensraum (living space), which found its way into Schmitt (2003) the worst fate that could befall the
Mein Kampf. In 1923 Haushofer visited both Hitler and world would be the emergence of a political void, a
his secretary, Rudolf Hess (who served under Haushofer spaceless global politics resulting from failing nation
during World War I and was subsequently his student states. In those circumstances the void must be filled;
in Munich), when both men were imprisoned follow- otherwise, anarchy would be loosed on the world. The
ing the Beer Hall Putsch. According to Kearns (2009), void would be filled by Groraum, producing a stable
Haushofer visited on a score of Wednesdays, staying international spatial order. The third section is about
all day with them supervising their reading in classics in what to do with the resulting spaces of the German
German political geography, notably, the second edi- Groraum. According to Christaller, the focus of the
tion of Friedrich Ratzels Political Geography (17). The section, they were to be reterritorialized according to
exact effects of those visits on Hitler, and the subse- the hexagonal lines of central place theory. But the
quent course of German geopolitics, continue to be filling in of that space (reterritorialization) was only
debated (see, e.g., skeptical assessments by Heske 1986, possible because of a prior emptying out of that same
1987, and especially Bassin 1987). We do not intend to space (deterritorialization); harmony of the hexagons
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take sides, but we do not want to dismiss Haushofers im- was achieved by the discordance of a past erasure. Fi-
portance. Our larger argument is that many people con- nally, our extended conclusion reflects on how rational
tributed to the geographical vision of Nazism. Lebens- academics like Schmitt and Christaller were not only
raum was an important component, which we discuss, caught up in, but also perpetuated, even amplified, the
but there were other components, too. One of them irrationalities of the Nazi regime and its geography.
was Schmitts notion of Groraum, and another was
Christallers triangulation of space, society, and com-
munity in western Poland as part of Himmlers project Theories of Space and Nazi Ideology: A
to rewrite large swathes of an expanding greater Ger- Reactionary Modernist Geography
mandom as Aryan space. Haushofers geopolitics played
a role, but the Nazi plan for a German empire founded The Nazi project was necessarily a geographical
on a new biopolitics9 required more than the mobiliza- project (Schlogel 2003, 2734). It was about cre-
tion of only Haushofers work, as important as that was. ating a new world in the image of the perverted
Other geographical concepts were mobilized and pro- logic of National Socialism, a logic that Herf (1984)
vided by theorists like Schmitt and Christaller. Collec- dubbed, reactionary modernism. Herf (1984, 1)
tively, they allowed the Nazis to impose a new and vio- wrote, reactionary modernism attempted to affect a
lent relationship between people and space, and which reconciliation . . . between the antimodernist, roman-
is our intention to delineate. tic, and irrationalist ideas present in German national-
The article is divided into four substantive sections. ism and the most obvious manifestation of meansend
The first sets out a general framework for understand- rationality, that is, modern technology.11 On the one
ing Nazi spatiality based on Herfs (1984) notion of hand, National Socialism embraced modernity and in-
reactionary modernism. Two central spatial processes strumental rationality; something found, for example,
of Nazi geography, deterritorialization and reterritorial- in the Nazi emphasis on engineering, eugenics, exper-
ization,10 respectively an emptying out of space and its imental physics, and applied mathematics. They were
refilling in a different form, were shaped by the Nazis also exemplified in the Nazi technologies of governance
own oxymoronic combination of modernism and anti- around the economy, population, planning, and settle-
modernism. The second section discusses the work of ment (examples of the former are found in Renneberg
Schmitt and, in particular, his idea of Groraum first and Walker [1994], and Szollosi-Janze [2001a, 2001b];
set out in 1939. Groraum justified the dominance of and of the latter in Fehl [1992]; Rossler [1994]; Rollins
Germany over a large regional sphere. Because of the [1995]; Kay [2006]). On the other hand, cheek-by-jowl
breakdown of both the sovereign nation state and the was National Socialisms other embrace: a dark anti-
existing global order based on Ius Publicum Europeum, modernity, the anti-Enlightenment. Triumphed were
Schmitt (2003) argued that it was necessary to create tradition, a mythic past, irrational sentiment and emo-
a new world political order. In particular, it would be tion, mysticism, and a cultural essentialism that turned
4 Barnes and Minca

easily into dogma, prejudice, and much, much worse Frank in October 1940; Cole 2003). From June 1941
(Pringle 2006). it became the Final Solution (the six death camps in
Reactionary modernism necessarily entered the geo- what was Poland, which killed up to 22,000 people a
graphical marrow of the Nazi regime. That geography day at each site; Koehl 1957; Kamenetsky 1961; Aly and
was defined by two interrelated spatial processes: de- Heim 2002). In the process, millions of people forcibly
territorialization and reterritorialization (Clarke, Doel, left their homes, creating Hitlers Volksloser Raum in
and McDonough 1996; Doel and Clarke 1998; Gre- the East.
gory 2009; for a discussion of the larger concepts see Whereas the end of empty space was thoroughly re-
Raffestin 1980; Raffestin, Lopreno, and Pasteur 1995). actionary, the means by which the Nazis realized it
First, reactionary modernism expunged what previously were rationally modern. They relied on the latest tech-
was there (deterritorialization). Mostly the erasure was nologies, such as data card readers, teletext, the most
of the existing population, but it could also include efficient trains and rolling stock, and the most up-to-
the physical form of the landscape, literally bulldozed. date scientific forms of bureaucratic management and
Second, however, reactionary modernism determined decision making, including statistical analysis, organi-
the form of reconstruction that came after (reterrito- zational and flowcharts, and ledgers of neatly recorded
rialization). That could mean importing a new outside numbers (Burleigh 1988; Bauman 1989; Black 2001).
population or designing a new urban landscape (which The rankest antimodernism and the highest forms of
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is where Christaller came in). The point is that the two modernism were joined to make faceless office-based
oxymoronic halves of reactionary modernismthat is, bureaucrats as deadly as any Gestapo officer or SS
its rationality and irrationalityoperated within both storm trooper. At the limit, the bureaucrats became
deterritorialization and reterritorialization. desk killers (Schreibtischtater, literally a desk criminal
Deterritorialization unambiguously exhibited a dark or thug; Milchman and Rosenberg 1992). Perhaps the
antimodernity, taking the form of a mordant racism. most famous was the SS officer Adolph Eichmann, in
With Hitlers turn Eastwards enormous numbers of charge of the transportation of death camp victims (Ce-
people were forced from their homes by the Nazis sarani 2006). He was eventually tried and executed in
(Burleigh 1988). Certainly there was pervasive anti- 1962 by a special Israeli court following his abduction
Semitism, but many other ethnic groups suffered mor- from Buenos Aires to Jerusalem by the Israeli secret ser-
tal Nazi prejudice, too. The racism was long standing vice, the Mossad (Arendt 1977). In his defense, Eich-
(Bassin 1987), with the Nazis asserting an indissolv- mann gave a paper-pusher response: I sat at my desk
able link between race and space, captured famously and did my work (Papadatos 1964, 29). That was no
by Darres (1930) slogan, Blut und Boden, or blood defense, however, given what he actually did at that
and soil. There were those who belonged to a particu- desk. As Gideon Hausner, Israels Attorney General
lar spaceGermanized Aryans in Germandomand and chief prosecutor of Eichmann, said in his opening
those who did notnon-Germanized, non-Aryans. remarks in court:
Those who did not belong were removed, excluded,
and separated, subject to Entfernung (Clarke, Doel, and In this trial we shall . . . encounter a new kind of killer, the
kind that exercises his bloody craft behind a desk. . . . It
McDonough 1996; Doel and Clarke 1998). Entfernung
was [Eichmanns] word that put the gas chambers into
means expulsion, removal, or just distance. Set against
action; he lifted the telephone, and railway cars left for
Nazi racial politics, Entfernung implied geographical pu- the extermination centres; his signature it was that sealed
rification, a space made into the isotropic plain of ethnic the doom of thousands and tens of thousands.12
homogeneity.
In a 1937 secret speech, Hitler demanded the cre- In this interpretation, the Final Solution was an ex-
ation of empty space (Volk ohne Raumliterally peo- treme form of deterritorialization. It was directed to the
ple without space) in the East for the settlement of creation of a judenfrei, a purified greater German space.
Germans (see Grimms [1926] book with the same title; The removal of the German Jews from the territories of
Rossler 1989). Creating empty space was the ultimate the Reich to the General Government, the successive
intent of Entfernung. That process first began in the integration of Governor Hans Franks General Gov-
1930s with pogroms, of which Kristallnacht was the best ernment into the Reich (Burleigh 2000; also Aly and
known. By 1940 it had become materialized as forced Heim 2002; Housden 2004), and the projected extra-
marches and ghettoization (Warsaws is the best doc- European final destination imagined for the expelled
umented case, established by Governor General Hans European Jews (Madagascar, but also the Dominican
Nazi Spatial Theory: The Dark Geographies of Carl Schmitt and Walter Christaller 5

Republic, the Philippines, Australia, and even Alaska; Germany must find the courage to gather our people and
see Jennings 2007), formed part of a broader concept their strength for an advance along the road that will
of space, which we argue was taken up by Christaller lead this people from its present restricted living space
and Schmitt, although in different ways and at different [Lebensraum] to new land and soil. . . . [I]t is not in colo-
scales. Auschwitz and the archipelago of concentration nial acquisitions that we must see the solution of this
problem, but exclusively in the acquisition of a territory
and death camps that stretched across those same ter-
for settlement.13
ritories were fully embedded within this broader Nazi
imperial spatiality. It was simultaneously a Faustian
project to create a German paradise amid Polish perdi- Haushofer said he had no influence over the writing of
tion, as Van Pelt (1994, 94) put it, a newly conceived Mein Kampf (Walsh 1949, 15). Father Walsh disagreed,
German and Aryan greater space associated with the however, suggesting that especially Chapter XIV on
destruction of European Jewry and the translation of German policy in Eastern Europe, from which the pre-
Himmlers geopolitical ambitions into practical policies ceding quote was taken, showed precisely the effects of
of resettlement (Van Pelt 1994, 10405). the materials that Haushofer brought Hitler and Hess
Deterritorialization by Entfernung was only the first (Walsh 1949, 41).
step, however. It was followed by reterritorialization Whereas Haushofers exact influence on Hitler
and shaped according to the same reactionary mod- remains unclear, the National Socialist ambition of
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ernist principles that produced the emptying of the territorial expansion is very clear. The natural living
East. The new East would be reterritorialized by and for space for Germans, as well as an estimated 30 million
Germanized people, Aryans. The justification was partly Volksdeutsche, people of German ancestry not living in
through Lebensraum and partly through Groraum. We Germany (Berger 1994), required the enlargement of
discuss Groraum in a separate section later, confining Germanys borders; that is, it necessitated Germanys
our attention here to Lebensraum. reterritorialization. That process began in 1935 with
Ratzel first made use of the term Lebensraum in the Germany reintegrating the Saar Basin (occupied and
1890s. It meant the surface area required to support a governed for fifteen years by Britain and France as a
given population and mode of existence (Smith 1980, result of the 1919 Treaty of Versailles), marching into
53). Ratzels unit of analysis was the Volk, which for Austria in 1938 (the Anschluss), moving the same year
him continually needed to colonize new (rural) living into Sudentenland, and in early 1939 occupying the
space to thrive and prosper (Smith 1980, 5455). The rest of Czechoslovakia. In September 1939, Poland was
Swedish political scientist Rudolf Kjellen took up the invaded and reterritorialized, in the process provoking
idea, turning it into the political project of geopoli- World War II. Finally, in June 1941 Blitzkrieg (lightning
tics (Holdar 1992). Haushofer, already familiar with war) was waged against the Soviet Union.14 The high
Ratzels work, then further developed Kjellens new field water mark was German troops reaching the outskirts
of study. That was the reason that Haushofer brought of Moscow. But after that, it was an ebbing tide, with
to Munichs Landsberg prison a copy of Ratzels Politis- reterritorialization going into reverse.
che Geographie to instruct Hitler and Hess. As Bassin Clarke, Doel, and McDonough (1996) argued that
(1987, 124) wrote: in the early years of World War II Lebensraum was not simply about acquiring physical
[Haushofer] proudly recounted how he had left a well- space but socializing it as German space and marking it
read copy of Ratzels Politische Geographie behind him Aryan space. This point speaks to the reactionary part
after a visit in 1924 . . . where from his cell Hitler was of reactionary modernism. Again following the discus-
busy dictating the first draft of Mein Kampf to his as- sion of Entfernung, this reactionary end was achieved
sistant, Hess. After the War was over, it was rather by the most modernist means and sensibility. There
a different story. In the interim, Haushofer had been was the cutting-edge military strategy and technology
incarcerated in Dachau and his son executed by the of warfare permitting speed and rapid victory in the
Gestapo (Low 1996). Haushofer told Father Edmund acquisition of territory. Poland surrendered less than
Walsh (1949, 8), who interviewed him in 1945 for pos- four weeks after the German invasion began. Just as
sible prosecution at Nuremberg, that Hitler had mis- important, though, was the managing bureaucracy and
understood his teachings, seizing on only catchwords, the meansend rationality deployed. Reterritorializa-
producing half-baked ideas. But one of those catch- tion involved much bureaucratic work and enormous
words was Lebensraum. As it appeared in Mein Kampf planning. Germans, or more likely Volksdeutsche, were
published in 1925: brought to the new empty spaces of the East. To
6 Barnes and Minca

do so, though, criteria were needed to establish who sity of Berlin), promoted a theory of urban design that
counted as German. Four levels of German authentic- matched Himmlers vision of urban rearticulation of
ity were recognized: from the top tier, pure and politi- the newly conquered territories (Schenk and Bromley
cally clear, to the lowest tier, renegades (Berger 1994, 2003). Feders was one of the most radical interpreta-
572). Once identified, Volksdeutsche were transported tions of the Nazis calculative rationality translated into
from where they were locatedin Poland, Czechoslo- real space. His research concerned the ideal size of a
vakia, Romania, the Baltic states, The Netherlandsto Nazi city (20,000 inhabitants) and its concomitant eco-
the empty spaces sometimes a thousand kilometers nomic and productive structures based on a hierarchy of
away. This operation was followed by a process of re- nested scales. Despite its rational impetus, Feders spa-
settlement and reeducation (many Volksdeutsche had tial imagination was also inspired by mythic images of a
long lost their ability to speak German, in some cases bucolic pre-modern Germany (Bruggemeier, Cioc, and
200 years previously; Burleigh 1988). This is the larger Zeller 2005). Exactly that same tension was present
point: Reterritorialization was an enormous bureau- in Christaller. As Dwork and van Pelt (1996, 240)
cratic project that, although motivated by reactionary wrote:
beliefs, could be completed only by modernist organi-
zational forms (Hertz 1997). It was Christaller . . . who informed Himmler of the proper
relation between a town and the surrounding countryside.
A second aspect to reterritorialization turns on how
Like so many others in Hitlers Reich, Christaller was in-
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empty space was reconstructed and relandscaped,


spired by the medieval settlement pattern in which urban
both in the country and in the city, to meet the eco- and rural life had been balanced in healthy symbiosis.
nomic, political, cultural, and aesthetic requirements The industrial revolution had destroyed that harmony,
of Nazism (Lower 2005). This issue speaks to the role the countryside was no longer valued by the town, and
played by Christallers boss, the SS academic Konrad the latter lost its identity as a result.
Meyer. In spring 1941, Meyer was charged by Himmler
with redesigning the conquered territories of the East. The premodern image of the Reich, then, was to be real-
Employing in his Berlin office at Dahlem planners, ar- ized by a high modernist rationality. This same contra-
chitects, and geographers, Meyer drew up rational and dictory logic that lay behind Christallers spatial plan-
systematic plans to convert the empty lands of the ning was also found in Schmitts conceptualization of
East into the image of reactionary modernism. The reac- Groraum to which we now turn.
tionary part was represented by the Germanic romantic
myth of a people and land bonded. Its anchor was the
farm, tied to the local community and materialized as Schmitts Grand Geographies
the Hauptdorf (main village). The modernist part was to Carl Schmitt, the Making of a Nazi
use urban and rural planning to create an ordered land-
scape in which Hauptdorfs, and surrounding farms, were Trained in law during the waning years of the Wil-
hierarchically and rationally connected to the highest helmine Empire, Carl Schmitt became a leading le-
achievements of metropolitan modernity (Fehl 1992). gal and constitutional scholar and a political theo-
Rural areas and associated Volksgemeinschaften (peoples rist in the Weimar Republic (19191933). Initially
communities) would be rationally integrated with the a professor of constitutional law at Bonn, during the
urban pinnacles of modernity: Dortmund, Dusseldorf, 1920s he published in rapid succession a series of vol-
Essen, and the ultimate, Berlin. umes on Weimars constitutional and political status
The larger point is that Nazi processes of deterri- (Schmitt 2004, 2005, 2008). That preoccupation ended
torialization and reterritorialization were tethered to abruptly in January 1933, with the appointment of
particular conceptions of space (Mullin 1981; Rossler Hitler as Chancellor. In March 1933, on a trip to Rome,
2001). According to Van Pelt, it was Konrad Meyer Schmitt got the call. Johannes Popitz, freshly appointed
who convinced Himmler that a speedy Germaniza- Reich Commissar for the Prussian Ministry of Finance,
tion of the area around Auschwitz was of the highest asked Schmitt to serve as Prussian Councillor of State.
priority to make Auschwitz a paradigm of the set- Schmitt immediately accepted. At that same time,
tlement in the East (Van Pelt 1994, 106). Or again, Schmitt was in communication with Martin Heideg-
Gottfried Feder, a key player in Nazi urban plan- ger, who urged him to join the revolution (Muller
ning, while occupying the Chair of Urban Design at 2003, 37). Quickly, then, Schmitt found himself at
the Technische Universitat Berlin (Technical Univer- the center of Nazi power, in his case also enjoying the
Nazi Spatial Theory: The Dark Geographies of Carl Schmitt and Walter Christaller 7

patronage of Hermann Goring, deputy to Hitler from Knives. He delivered an anti-Semitic speech at a 1936
1941 after Hess flew to Scotland. In May 1933 Schmitt conference in Berlin that concluded following Hitler
joined the Nazi Party and in November was appointed with the words: By fending off the Jew, I struggle for
President of the National Socialist Jurists Association. the work of the Lord (in Muller 2003, 39). According
He remained a member of the Party as well as Professor to Schmitt, racial homogeneity (Artgleichheit) made
of Law at the University of Berlin until the end of the judicial decision determinate, as both judges and the
war in May 1945. At that point he was detained by the people were part of an overall concrete order pre-
Allies but was never charged at Nuremberg with war served by the Fuhrer. There was complete identification
crimes (Strong 2005, viiviii). He refused denazifica- of the people with the leader because they were of the
tion, though, and consequently was denied any future same substance. Species sameness was a substitute for
appointment at a German university (Schmitt 2000). the categories of identity and representation (Muller
Schmitt operated across many different fields, from 2003, 39).
law to politics to philosophy and the history of ideas. Despite these public manifestations of allegiance, in
Muller (2003) argued that because of his expertise in 1936 Schmitt was virulently attacked by the SS for his
political and legal theory and his institutional position relative distance from volkish ideology, his skepticism of
within National Socialism (including who he knew and a biological interpretation of the political, his Catholi-
who offered him protection), Schmitt was more com- cism, and his alleged past association with Jewish schol-
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plicit within Nazism than other German intellectuals ars (Galli 2008, 41). Schmitt fended off these attacks,
who were also drawn into National Socialism (such buttressed with support from Hermann Goring, but from
as Heidegger). This is what makes Schmitts Nazi then on he prudently decided to abandon commenting
episode so crucial but also so controversial (Dyzenhaus on domestic political issues and instead focused his work
1998; Ojakangas 2006; Shapiro 2008; Hooker 2009; on international relations and international law. It is in
Slomp 2009; Vinx 2010). this context that his theorization of space and, in par-
Schmitts Nazified political theory most immedi- ticular, Groraum as applied to German expansionism
ately stemmed, according to Balakrishnan (2002, 179), in the East, was formulated.
from the wave of enthusiasm that swept over large
parts of the [German] population following Hitlers Schmitt, Space, and Nazi Academia
rise to power. It was beginning to look to [Schmitt]
like that formless, mass acclamation of a sovereign In March and April 1939, Schmitt attended two con-
nation . . . could turn any usurpation into an authen- ferences at the Christian Albrecht University of Kiel.
tic revolution. The People became core in his new Here he presented his new political agenda and spa-
formulation, a People conceived as a multitude living tialized understanding of global geopolitical ordering.
in the shadow and under the protection of the Fuhrers Those Kiel conferences, Balakrishnan (2002, 234) ar-
political order (Balakrishnan 2002, 185). The polit- gued, provided a new model of participation for German
ical was conceived as pure intensity, a substance, a academics sympathetic to the Nazis. They enabled Ger-
total way of life, a national and racial project (Kennedy man scholars to generate and circulate ideas, concepts,
2004, 22). It was precisely the lack of distinction be- and justifications for the benefit of the Nazi regime; that
tween the State and the People that made this new is, to integrate the academic and the political. While
regime revolutionaryand fully German: in Hitler, all Hitlers military marched across Europe to Germanize
the lessons of German history are alive, and all justice the continent, German scholars would provide the in-
originated in him. He decides what is right and law- tellectual rationale for the Nazis will to power. This
ful, and he is also the last judge in every case. Hitler is was certainly Schmitts aim in putting forward his spa-
also sovereign; he decides what is an emergency and, in tial theory of Groraum.
accordance with his positions as the source and judge Admittedly, Schmitt had an ambiguous relationship
of law, what shall be done (Schmitt 1934 in Kennedy to geography. Although he acknowledged the work of
2004, 24). MacKinder and Ratzel, often he was dismissive of a
Accused on many occasions of being an oppor- geographical understanding of space and spatial the-
tunistic late-comer to the Party, Schmitt did whatever ory (Schmitt 2003). But although he might not have
he could to dismiss such allegations, publishing, for realized it, Schmitts work rested fundamentally on a ge-
example, an infamous article in support of Hitler (The ographical sensibility. Key here was Schmitts ideas of
Leader Protects the Law) after the Night of the Long land signification and appropriation (Schmitt 2003,
8 Barnes and Minca

48). Both were foundational acts of every community, Elden (2012) suggests that we should understand
the sources of all forms of order and ordering, the ori- Schmitts conception of Groraum not only as liter-
gins of all categories adopted to inhabit the world. This ally greater space but also in the sense of a sphere
Nomos of the Earth was conceived by Schmitt as the of influence and geopolitical space. Interpreted as
original spatialization, a crucial element of the German such, Schmitt was describing an area or region that
peoples right to existence and their will to power. went beyond a single state (i.e., a specific territory) to
He believed that global politics were inevitably mov- comprehend much larger scale spatial orderings, com-
ing toward spatial formations of spaces exceeding the plexes, and arrangements. Hannah (2012, 28) argued
territory of the State. In this situation, which political that Groraum has been translated in a range of ways:
and juridical order could secure peace? To use his term,
Schmitt was terrified by the opening up of a spaceless all of which have in common, first, the idea of a territorial
global politics (Schmitt 2003, 78) due to the decline expanse exceeding the geographical boundaries of a single
state, and second, the idea that a single hegemonic power
of the formerly hegemonic Ius Publicum Europeum (see
actually or at least potentially dominates this region
Dean 2007; Odysseos and Petito 2007; Chandler 2008).
politically despite the nominal independence of states
It was a spacelessness, he thought, that originated from within its sphere. Thus territorial sphere of control,
a dangerous ontological void created by the dismissal sphere of influence, global region are all possible
of the Eurocentric Nomos of the Earth (Schmitt 2003). translations.
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All of Schmitts speculations around the spatial con-


cepts of Groraum, Reich, and Nomos were ultimately In light of the preceding, we maintain the original term,
linked to his ontological preoccupation of filling up broadly treating it as greater space.
space with politics. The German nation was con- For Schmitt, the new international legal order based
ceived as a spatial organism aimed at realizing a his- on Groraum was to replace the principle of the equality
torical destiny: the joining of a people and a unified, of sovereign states with a hierarchy of Reichs, or empires,
endlessly perfectible German space. The essential rela- based on culture, space, and ideology (Muller 2003, 43).
tionship between friend and foe, as famously described For Schmitt, the Reich rested on a specific concept of
by Schmitt ([1932] 1996) in his The Concept of the Politi- Groraum. Defined by global politics, the Reich was
cal, therefore must be understood as a spatio-ontological constituted by a set of hierarchies between hegemonic
one, based on a spatialization that was defined and pro- and subjugated states in different macroregions of the
duced by the true body politic of the German people. earth. Although this scenario was formally exempt from
It is precisely in the formulation of this essential rela- the bio-centric understanding of Lebensraum so popular
tionship that we find an implicit justification for the among many core Nazi ideologues of the day, Schmitts
invasion of Poland and for Germanys search for an formulation of international politics could nonetheless
appropriate European Groraum. be comfortably adjusted to a set of implicit or explicit
racial categories. Muller (2003, 44), in his seminal Carl
Schmitt: A Dangerous Mind, suggested that whereas for
Schmitt and Nazi Groraum other National Socialist theorists the Volk was the ex-
clusive organizing principle and the basis for Groraum,
Schmitts ideas about Groraum were first expressed for Schmitt, Volk was too imprecise, too disorderly
in his 1939 book Volkerrechtliche Groraumordnung mit and undisciplined a concept. . . . The concept of Volk
Interventionsverbot fur raumfremde Machte: Ein Beitrag on its own did not provide a sufficiently new princi-
zum Reichsbegriff im Volkerrecht. The book was published ple to overcome the nineteenth century idea of nation
just before the declaration of the MolotovRibbentrop state and create a new order (Schmitt 1934, cited in
Pact, the nonaggression treaty between Germany and Muller 2003, 44). Schmitt argued that the holistic no-
the Soviet Union signed in August 1939 that rec- tion of Volk was insufficient as a concept that could
ognized geographically distinct German and Soviet frame a new international legal order because it relied
spheres of influence (Balakrishnan 2002, 237). Schmitt on a supposedly natural racial and national character-
announced in his book the deep crisis of the European istics for the new ordering of the earth, Muller (2003,
state, a crisis due to many factors, including the new 44) insisted.
technologies of warfare and communication that were For Elden (2012), while Schmitts Reich would in
undermining conventional understandings of national practice include German-speaking peoples, and there-
territories and their borders. fore linked to the substantial presence of a Volk, it was
Nazi Spatial Theory: The Dark Geographies of Carl Schmitt and Walter Christaller 9

not necessarily dependent on the Blut und Boden ele- the invasion of the East appear as if it were a contri-
ments of mainstream racialized discourses. It was rather bution to a better and more stable world order (Muller
the basis of a legalistic argument, suggested Elden, that 2003, 43). What is more, as Muller and many others
came close to arguments made about a land without noted, the empires at the core of each greater space
people that should be filled with people withoutor envisaged by the legal theorist were based on a particu-
without sufficientland. Despite this important lar civilized, superior people, and distinguished by a sub-
difference, there is widespread support in the related lit- stantial degree of internal homogeneity: For Schmitt,
erature for the idea that Schmitts theories were in line Eastern Europe, excluding the Jews, constituted part of
with, and at times supportive of, Hitlers grand geopolit- such a homogeneous Groraum (Muller 2003, 45).
ical plans for the East. According to Muller (2003, 43), Returning to the main argument, for Elden (2012)
for example, Schmitts conceptualizations were clearly the line cut through Poland established by the
aimed at legitimizing Hitlers policies of conquest: MolotovRibbentrop pact was a division between dif-
ferent Groraume, with Central and Eastern Europe
It is not by chance then that just two weeks after Hitler
assigned to Germanys natural sphere of influence.
had invaded what remained of Czechoslovakia and just
Schmitt would later declare that the new world war
four months before the invasion of Poland, Schmitt un-
veiled a new theory of Groraum to supersede the system of needed to be understood as a Raumordnungskrieg, a war
nation states. At a time when the Third Reich had taken for spatial ordering (Schmitt 1995, 433). In Schmitts
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actions which could not possibly be justified in terms of a analysis, insisted Elden (2012), the Groraum cannot
necessary revision to the Versailles treaty or the protec- be reduced to the Reich, but it is the Reich that will dom-
tion of ethnic Germans in eastern Europe, Schmitt, the inate it. . . . If this means his position has some distance
foremost proponent of Geojurisprudenz, provided concepts from a policy of explicit annexation, this is of little
and categories to legitimise Hitlers decision. comfort. While some of the lands seized by Hitler were
annexed to the greater Reich, and some were occupied,
Here is how Schmitt ([1939] 2012) expressed this very
other countries were simply subjugated while retain-
same argument in two key passages:
ing nominal independence. The occupation of Poland
The arguments of the Fuhrers address of 28th April 1939 was the obvious consequence of such a vision of global
have with one blow put an end to this entire confusion. politics, part of a formal plan for a newly constituted
They have cleared the path to the restoration of the true German Groraum, the result of a Schmittian Mon-
and original Monroe Doctrine. Mr. Roosevelt will in this roe doctrine, a spatial theory that Hitler was prompt
case . . . surely appeal to the Monroe Doctrine and reject to adopt to declare the invasion a genuine European
such a challenge as interference in the internal affairs of politicalterritorial context. It is important to recall,
the Americas. We Germans advocate exactly the same as did Galli (2008, 144), that Schmitts vision was
doctrine for Europe, but in any case for the region and the
contested by high-ranking officials in the Nazi Party
affairs of the Great German Reich.
as too respectful of other peoples outside of Europe
The thought of a neat and peaceful distinction between and openly skeptical of a biological interpretation of
Groraume is expressed in simplest sobriety and the con- geopolitics, but it is equally important to remember
fusion removed with which an economic imperialism had how Schmitts speculations on space, and especially on
enveloped the Monroe Doctrine in fog, in that it bent the right to Groraum on the part of the German na-
[the latters] reasonable logic of spatial separation into an tion, flirted implicitly, and at times explicitly, with the
ideological claim to world interference. It would be termi- political elite that prepared the invasion of Poland and
nological hair-splitting if one now wanted to ask whether the conquest of the Farther East. Nazi geopolitics was
this amounted to the declaration of a German Monroe
a discursive formation in which theories of space played
Doctrine, or ifas has already happened oncea fur-
ther discussion were inaugurated about whether and to
a crucial role, and Schmitts grand vision was a contri-
what extent it is permissible to speak at all of a German, bution to its success.
a Japanese or any other sort of Monroe Doctrine.

Whether Schmitts argument effectively gave the Third Christallers Spatial Dream
Reich free reign in the East is open to discussion. What Spatial Theory
is clear, however, is that Schmitt offered a broad theo-
retical (and spatial) justification to explain why West- If anyone in human geography is associated with spa-
ern powers had no right to intervene in the Groraum tial theory it is Christaller. He might have been the very
that the Nazis were establishing. Schmitts theory made first spatial theorist in human geography, at least for the
10 Barnes and Minca

modern period in which the discipline was institution- old schoolboy growing up in the Bavarian Black For-
alized. Christaller was part of a long tradition of formal, est (Christaller 1972, 601). As Christaller (1972, 601)
rationalist German location theorists that dated back to recalled, When I saw the atlas on the gift table, and
von Thunens ([1826] 1966) Isolated State, and that in- its many-coloured maps, I was quite bewitched. I didnt
cluded Weber ([1909] 1929), Losch ([1940] 1954), and play ball or walk on stilts, but rather was only engrossed
Predohl (1928). But none of them was a geographer ex- in the study of my atlas. He went on to say, eerily
cept for Christaller (1966), who completed his doctoral anticipating his later spatial activities as an adult, I
dissertation, Central Places in Southern Germany, at the drew in [on the atlas] new railroad lines, put a new
Department of Geography, University of Erlangen, in city somewhere or other, or changed the borders of the
1932 (for a discussion of German location theory, see nations, straightening them out or delineating them
Blaug 1979; Ponsard 1983; Barnes 2003). along mountain ranges. . . . I designed new administra-
Right from the start of his dissertation, Christaller tive divisions and calculated their populations (602).
framed his work as modernist, scientific, and rational. He became upset only when his father refused to buy
He began not with descriptive statements but with a him a statistical handbook to add veracity to his map
general and purely deductive theory (Christaller 1966, doodling. His spatial dreaming continued later when
4). His aim was to find a general explanation for the he served in the trenches during World War I. After he
sizes, number, and distribution of towns (Christaller was wounded at the front and taken to Stralsund mili-
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1966, 2) and which was to be formulated as special tary hospital, he told his mother that the only thing he
economic geographical laws (3). Special economic geo- wanted as he recuperated was the Perth pocket atlas
graphical laws were not so inexorable as natural laws (Christaller 1972, 602). He took it back with him to
(3), but they were almost as good. Similar enough, at the front when he rejoined his regiment.
least, that Christaller (1966, 4) concluded, it does not Wartime service severely disrupted Christallers uni-
seem senseless to search for such laws. He did, and he versity education. He had first become a student in
thought he found them. 1913, but it took him seventeen years with stints at the
Later, others in human geography thought the same. Universities of Heidelberg, Munich, Berlin, and Erlan-
Christallers quest for laws, his shunning of initial de- gen before finally he was awarded a Diploma in Eco-
scriptive statements, and his full embrace of deduc- nomics at Erlangen (equivalent to a masters degree).
tive theory, from the mid-1950s onward increasingly His plan was to continue with a PhD in economics,
led to his celebration by especially a group of North but because no economist would take on either him or
American geographers who were keen to put human his spatial dream (Hottes, Hottes, and Scholler 1977,
geography on precisely a modernist, rational, and sci- 11), he went to the University of Erlangens Geography
entific footing (Barnes 2001, 2003). Key to that move- Department to work with Robert Gradmann, a regional
ment was central place theory, and Christallers work in cum biogeographer. His doctoral thesis was a return to
particular. As Robic (2003, 387) wrote, owing to [cen- his earlier games with maps, drawing straight lines,
tral place theorys] spatial oriented view, its theoretical and in his case seeing six-sided figures (hexagons)
aim, and its focus on urban issues, it became during the emerge on the southern German topographic landscape
1960s the central point of reference for the new geogra- that he studied (Christaller 1972, 607). His thesis was
phy. Christaller was duly feted, receiving awards and completed in nine months (Christaller 1972; Hottes,
medals from the Association of American Geographers, Hottes, and Scholler 1977, 1112), and formally pub-
the Royal Geographical Society, and even the King of lished in 1933 in Jena as Die zentralen Orte in Suddeutsch-
Sweden (Hottes, Hottes, and Scholler 1977). Never land (translated in English in 1966 as Central Places in
mentioned in the citations, however, was Christallers Southern Germany; Christaller 1966).
membership in the Nazi Party or that his spatial dreams Of course, 1933 was also the year that Hitler and
that began as a child were a nightmare for millions in the Nazis took over power in Germany. As a former
Eastern Europe by the time he was as an adult. socialist, and a Social Democratic Party (SPD) member,
Christaller had reasons to fear the rise of Hitler and the
Walter Christaller: A Nazi in Spite of Himself Nazis. The National Socialist government banned the
SPD the same year they took power. The next year
In a reminiscence, Christaller tells about receiving Christaller was so nervous that he mounted his bike
an atlas as a Christmas present. It was given to him and rode to France, staying there as a political refugee
by his well-to-do aunt when he was an eight-year (Christaller 1972; Binder Johnson 1978, 97), but he
Nazi Spatial Theory: The Dark Geographies of Carl Schmitt and Walter Christaller 11

was not there for long. Luring him back to Germany come action (quoted in Renneberg and Walker 1994,
was geographical work, and for the Nazis. 17). Action was to be effected by applying modernist
On 1 July 1940, shedding his earlier trepidation, planning principles along with the associated bureau-
Christaller officially joined the Nazi Party. He worked cracy of experts and practitioners. Once land and re-
for Konrad Meyer at the Planning and Soil Department. sources were acquired, permitting Germany to fulfill the
With other academics such as planner Joseph Umlauf, imperatives of Lebensraum and Groraum, those spaces
rural sociologist Herbert Morgen, and geographer An- would be Germanized by bringing in people of Aryan
gelika Sievers, Christaller was concerned with planning heritage. The Plan estimated resettlement would re-
Germanys newly acquired Eastern territories, including quire more than 4.5 million Volksdeutsche over a thirty-
Czechoslovakia and Poland, and by the second half of year period (later revised upward to 10 million). In
1941 an increasingly large portion of the Soviet Union. contrast, Entfernung was the fate of most of the original
All were to be incorporated into the Third Reich either Eastern European inhabitants, Slavs and Jews, who did
through annexation, justified by Lebensraum, or by com- not fit the Nazi Germanic ideal racial type. That could
ing under Germanys sphere of influence as Groraum. mean being left bereft on a train station somewhere in
In either case, they were to be managed and planned Generalgouvernement, expulsion to the Warsaw ghetto,
according to Generalplan Ost. incarceration in a slave labor or concentration camp,
forced inclusion on a death march, or execution by
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The Geography of Generalplan Ost firing squad, mobile gaswagen, or at one of the six Nazi
death camps, all of which were located in the East, ei-
Generalplan Ost was top secret, produced and over- ther in annexed Poland (two) or Generalgouvernement
seen within the SS (Burleigh 1988; Rossler 1989; Aly (four; Gregory 2009). The numbers of planned expul-
and Heim 2002). Much of the plans documentation sions varied from a low of 30 million to a high of 65
was burnt just before the end of the war for fear million (Burleigh 2000, 547).
of its prejudicial character. In spring 1941, Himmler
charged Meyer with planning Polish territories annexed
by Germany (Madajczyk 1962, 34). The invasion of Christaller and the Empty Spaces of the East
Poland by Germany, on 1 September 1939, resulted
in the country being divided into three regions: west- Christallers doctoral thesis, and his later 1938
ern Poland was incorporated into the Third Reich, be- Freiburg Habilitation dissertation on rural administrative
coming the provinces of Wartheland (later known as planning (Rural Settlement Patterns in the German
Warthegau) and Danzig West Prussia; central Poland Reich and Their Relationship to the Organization of
became a German military occupied territory known as Local Government),16 were ideal for the Nazi project,
General Government (Generalgouvernement); and east- explaining why he was recruited by Meyers office.
ern Poland (Galicia) was ceded to the Soviet Union Both Rossler (1989, 1994, 2001) and Preston (1992,
as part of the MolotovRibbentrop Pact signed a week 2009) have searched the German Federal Archives
before the occupation of Poland. Himmler was pleased (Bundesarchiv) for Christallers wartime contributions
by Meyers Polish planning efforts; so, taking an oppor- and found memos, and especially plans and drawings,
tunity to impress again, Meyer submitted to Himmler that have his initials. He also contributed to journals
three weeks after the German invasion of the Soviet including the house publication of the Planning and
Union in June 1941 an even more expansive plan that Soil Department, Spatial Research and Spatial Planning
applied not only to Poland but to all subsequent Ger- (Raumforschung und Raumordung; Rossler 1989, 425).
man Eastern conquests (Madajczyk 1962, 4).15 Himmler On the basis of these contributions, Preston (2009, 6)
approved, ordering Meyer in January 1942 to set out the concluded that:
full legal, political, and geographical foundations nec-
Christallers [main] war research was . . . to develop a
essary for the reconstruction of the East, which he did theoretical foundation and plan for a hierarchical sys-
on 28 May 1942 (Burleigh 2000, 547). tem of urban centred administrative and planning re-
Generalplan Ost involved the two spatial pivots of the gions that facilitated the centralized control of political
Nazi regime: deterritorialization (Entfernung) and reter- and socioeconomic planning programs sought by the
ritorialization (Lebensraum and Groraum). As Meyer Nazis. . . . This research contributed directly to plans fa-
said in a speech on 28 January 1942, The Ostaufgabe cilitating German Lebensraum (search for living space)
(task in the East) is the unique opportunity to realise the policy, on the one hand, and Himmlers RFKDV [strength-
National Socialist will, and unconditionally to let it be- ening of Germandom], on the other.
12 Barnes and Minca

Christallers work brought three contributions to Na- wrote, the Nazi aim was the transformation of the
tional Socialism. First, it was a modern spatial the- East into German land and as a German landscape.
ory and thus spoke to a key dimension of the Nazi That was exactly what Christallers hexagonal diagrams
project. Specifically, the theory rested on a formal ge- aimed to achieve.
ometry of equilateral triangles, joined to create a hexag- That task began in annexed Poland, specifically
onal grid on which different-sized settlements (central Warthegau. Warthegau would be the workshop for
places) were organized. The resulting set of hexago- the Reich as Joseph Umlauf, a colleague of Christallers
nal nets integrated into a single national urban system in Meyers Planning and Soil office, put it (quoted in
all settlements from the smallest country town sur- Fehl 1992, 96). This was Christallers view, too. Writing
rounded by individual farms to the largest, most mod- in 1940, he said:
ern metropolis jam-packed with shops and factories
Because of the destruction of the Polish state and the
(Christaller 1966, 59). Urban settlement in Lebensraum
integration of its western parts into the German Empire,
and Groraum Germany, which even on a 1944 map everything is again fluid. . . . Our task will be to create in
drawn by Christaller still spread into the heart of Russia a short time all the spatial units, large and small, that
(Preston 2009), would operate as a single spatial sys- normally develop slowly by themselves . . . so that they
tem, reflecting the fundamental laws of geographical will be functioning as vital parts of the German Empire as
ordering (Christaller 1966, ch. 1). soon as possible. (Christaller 1940, translated and quoted
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Second, although Christallers theory had trappings in Preston 2009, 23)


of modernist thoughtit was rational, scientific, or-
derly, law-seeking, the futureit came with an under- A year later Christaller was more strident and more
tow of tradition, community solidarity, nostalgia, and specific:
the past. That is, like the larger Nazi regime, central The aim of regional planning . . . is to introduce order into
place theory was colored by reactionary modernism. impractical, outdated and arbitrary urban forms or trans-
The reactionary part derived from the theorys empha- port networks, and this order can only be achieved on
sis on the initial building block of the urban system, the the basis of an ideal planwhich means in spatial terms
country town (hauptdorf) and what produced it, the sur- a geometrical schema. . . . [C]entral places will be spaced
rounding farms and associated rural community (Volk) an equal distance apart, so that they form equilateral tri-
rooted in the soil. The German urban system might angles. These triangles will in turn form regular hexagons,
with the central place in the middle of these hexagons
have modern urban industrial behemoths like Dort-
assuming a greater importance. (Christaller 1941, quoted
mund, Dusseldorf, and Essen, but functionally and geo- in Aly and Heim 2002, 97)
graphically they remained connected to a rural bedrock,
to blood and soil, to Volksgemeinschaft. Consequently, parts of Warthegau were redesigned,
Finally, central place theory was a planning tool, completely changing the face of the countryside as
a technology for practicing instrumental rationality. Himmler had demanded in 1940 (quoted in Aly and
Christaller recognized three planning principles in his Heim 2002, 74). For example, the district of Kutno, in
doctoral thesis: K = 3 (marketing principle), K = 4 northeast Warthegau, was made over, on paper at least,
(transportation principle), and K = 7 (administrative according to Christallers geometrical schema.
principle). Later they were further refined in his Ha- Clearly, though, there was work to do in making the
bilitation and refined yet again in the work he under- world conform to the ideal plan. Christaller wrote in
took at Meyers office. As Bauman (1989) persuasively the same 1941 planning document just quoted, where
argued, the Nazis were able to achieve all they did it seemed absolutely essential . . . that a new town of at
in part because they applied modernist principles (al- least 25,000 inhabitants be built, then a new town
beit to achieve reactionary ends). Primary among those would be created from scratch (Christaller 1941,
principles was rational planning and an associated bu- quoted in Aly and Heim 2002, 97). If Upper Silesia
reaucracy that at the top was composed of academic needed a Dusseldorf or Cologne of 450,000 people
managers and administrators. Meyer, of course, was an to provide a cultural centre then so be it (quoted in
example but so, too, was Christaller. Consequently, fig- Aly and Heim 2002, 97). If Posen . . . has the power
ures, maps, and blueprints were quickly produced, allow- and potential to develop into a town of 450,000 [from
ing the bulldozers to be brought in and the conquered 350,000], it should (quoted in Aly and Heim 2002, 97).
territories of the East to be converted into Central More specifically, Christaller planned for Warthegau
places in Southern Germany. As Rossler (1994, 134) thirty-six new Hauptdorfs. Each one came, as Rossler
Nazi Spatial Theory: The Dark Geographies of Carl Schmitt and Walter Christaller 13

(1994, 134) wrote, with a National Socialist celebra- that the ultimate purposes of the German nation would
tion hall, buildings for the Hitler Youth or a central be realized by adopting specific forms of spatial thinking.
parade square, in other words the visible buildings of Schmitts greater spaces were a Wilsonian vision of
the model for National Socialist society. multipolarism and spheres of influence projected over
Before this vision could happen, though, many of Europe as a whole; at the same time, they were an at-
the non-Aryan existing residents had to go560,000 tempt to imagine a possible and ideal territorial unity for
Jews and 3.4 million Slavs. Only 1.1 million of the the German people. This same end of a greater Nazi and
existing population were thought Germanized enough German space was also Hitlers and Himmlers, even
to stay. Given the large expulsion, 3.4 million Ger- though the unity they had in mind was to be achieved
manized German settlers needed to be brought in. This by biological purification and not through Schmitts
was a second task of Christallers to assist in the mi- cultural and ethnic selection. When interrogated in
gration of Volksdeutsche from various places in Europe Nuremberg, accused of influencing Hitlers geopolitics,
so as to strengthen Germandom (which now included Schmitt forcefully rejected the charge (Schmitt 2000);
Poland). As Christaller put it, this was another reason however, although Schmitts influence on Hitler might
to construct a new central place system: to give settlers not have been decisive, Schmitt was behind the dis-
roots so they can really feel at home (Christaller 1942, cursive production that rendered the idea of a greater
quoted and translated by Preston 2009, 23). Germany not only conceivable but acceptable as a po-
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litical and judicial entity. Schmitts 1933 speech on


the ethnic definition of a properly German juridi-
Conclusion: Lessons for and from cal body of magistrates, his infamous attempt to pro-
Geography vide National-Socialism with a constitutional basis
(Schmitt 1933), and his writings on Groraum were
Nazi spatial theory simultaneously combined ratio- explicit contributions to making a German greater
nal (modernist) and mystical (antimodernist) elements. space that culminated in the extermination of millions
On the one hand, rational principles were pivotal to of people.
the Nazi agenda that connected space and population, Christaller, although less influential than Schmitt,
drawn often from mainstream economic and demo- was an active member of Meyers team of experts.
graphic theories (Aly and Heim 2002). On the other Christaller provided an explicit geographical contribu-
hand, an antimodernist racism intertwined and over- tion to the realization of the Nazi dream of a Greater
lapped with these theories and spaces, creating an ex- Germandom. When Konrad Meyer went on trial at
traordinary and untenable tension (Pringle 2006). Key Nuremberg,17 several members of his staff, including
was space itself. Schlogel (2003) argued that National Christaller, were required to provide character refer-
Socialism was literally obsessed with space and spatial ences. Those witnesses justified the plans for Poland
categories. For the Nazis, space had its own fetishistic as merely a scientific exercise, an innocent laboratory
logic and power, and entered into the very integuments experiment. One of them, the planner Erhard Mading,
of reactionary modernism. Questions of living space, of even claimed that the plan was good for the Poles,
empty or overpopulated space, of measured space and directed towards improving the living standards of the
its content, of the philosophy and operation of space, inhabitants including the resources that the Polish peo-
and of the imagination of space (especially of Oriental ple could draw on (quoted in Heinemann et al. 2006,
space) kept busy an army of Nazi academics, experts, 34). Of course, what those character witnesses failed
technicians, opinion makers, politicians, and military to mention, including Christaller, was that the spatial
personnel. Both Himmler and Hitler believed that an reorganization of Poland took place often at the fa-
as yet unrealized space (a theoretical space) would his- tal expense of the Jewish and Slavic populations who
torically recoup the Nazi reactionary modernist project lived in Warthegau and Danzig West Prussia before
(and, as discussed earlier, embodied in Schmitts no- the rule of experts from Konrad Meyers Planning and
tion of Groraum). It would reach back, guiding the Soil Department was applied. Overlooked was that the
mission of the Third Reich, becoming the geographi- real and imagined geometries of central place theory
cal site of inhabitation. Within this macabre dance of represented a key element in the final integration of
theories and human beings, Carl Schmitt and Walter a judenfrei Warthegau and Danzig West Prussia in the
Christaller imagined, drew, and designed those spaces. Reich, an integration in which only a limited number
Both men, along with Himmler and Hitler, believed of the Poles were included after being Germanized.
14 Barnes and Minca

Schmitt and Christaller probably never met; most stance and definition. As a spaceless people, the Jews
likely, Schmitt might have never heard of Christaller; represented an incumbent and immediate danger. In
however, their deployment of spatial theories, albeit at contrast, the German people were not simply a peo-
different scales, shared three important features. First, ple but a people having common histories, language,
their spatial theories became one of the bases for the and (fixed) space (Balakrishnan 2000, 206208). This
Nazis in creating a new German nation led by a master explains why his somewhat ambiguous use of the con-
race. Second, the flirting of their theories with Nazi cept of Groraum, especially considering the political
geopolitics and biopolitics represented for both men a circumstances in which it was elaborated, wasin our
disturbing compromise between their personal ambition viewimplicitly related to the emergence of a con-
and an intellectual and academic commitment to their cept of Lebensraum supported by ideas of supremacy of a
ideas. In both cases, Aly and Heims (2002, 6) more master race.
general assessment resonates: career-minded [German] In this context both Christaller and Schmitt
technocrats and academics . . . regarded Europe . . . as a elaborated their views based on the assumption
drawing board on which to work out their grand de- that societyfor the formerand politicsfor the
signs. For them Eastern Europe was one vast wasteland lattershould be conceived in spatial terms and that
crying out for readjustment and reconstruction. Fi- the objective of spatial theory was to allow for pro-
nally, Schmitt and Christaller both emphasized a spa- duction and the establishment of a form of territo-
Downloaded by [Trevor Barnes] at 09:17 23 March 2012

tially determined and unified concept of community. rial order that corresponded to a stable and proper
For Christaller, this was a community created by a hier- social, cultural, economic, and political arrangement.
archy of central places that connected everyone, from Whereas Schmitt was largely preoccupied with ques-
individual farmers in deepest rural Bavaria to the haut tions of greater space, and Christaller was busy with
bourgeoisie in the swankiest parts of Berlin. For Schmitt the details of geographical prescription, both became
it was an indivisible national political community. Both part of the more general discursive formation that fed
Schmitt and Christaller took for granted the possibil- into geopolitical and biopolitical Nazi ideology. Nec-
ity, even the necessity, of a united and internally con- essarily, both ended up entangled within the latent re-
sistent human consortium. All social, cultural, politi- actionary modernist tensions inherent within the Nazi
cal, and economic spaces were conceived as the result spatial project. They were both caught (and so were
of, or as a potential means toward, this hypothetical their careers) in between a Nazi Geopolitik with its
unity. unmanageable spaces and a Nazi biopolitics of racial
For Christaller, the end of a unified community of irrationalities.
beings is not much discussed in his work but is simply It is their association with Nazism that makes it so
accepted as a fact of economic and social life. It is the important to return to these two authors. We believe
natural unfurling of a central place hierarchy, which it is important to investigate their silences about, and
he literally drew out at an early age on his Christmas- their coimplication with, the Nazi regime. But we also
present atlas. Most of Schmitts work, even parts ap- believe it is important to reflect on the geographical
parently unrelated to spatial thinking, is based on the nature of the Nazi project to which they contributed.
search for a fundamental united or unified community, The Nazis attempted to realize a pure, perfect, rational,
a community that implicitly represented the starting community in place and space but in conjunction with
point for all his categorizations of the political, as a millenarian, mystical, and nonrational history and
well as his arguments about constitutional legitimacy temporal horizon. Christaller and Schmitt were victims
and his theory of the exception (Schmitt [1932] 1996; of their own decision to participate in this project in-
see also Agamben 1998). Like many other conservatives tended to change the world. But in the process, with
of his time in Germany, Schmitt was obsessed with the its cocktail of extreme rationalism and apocalyptic and
idea of cultural and political unity. For Schmitt, unity gross irrationalism, that project displaced and murdered
signified order and identity, the two pillars ensuring a millions of human beings.
political entitys future. For this reason, unity was to be Schmitts ideasin spite of his attempts to adjust
obtained and maintained at all costs. Not incidentally, them to the ever-changing zeitgeist of the regimewere
according to Strong (2005, xiv), Schmitt blamed the progressively dismissed by the Partys elite. Christallers
destruction of the idea of a unified political realm on geometrical modeling was likewise never systematically
the Jewish and Eastern Europeans. For Schmitt, the applied because Ostplan was increasingly nullified by
Jew was the enemy, lacking spatial and territorial sub- the German military retreat. In both cases, however,
Nazi Spatial Theory: The Dark Geographies of Carl Schmitt and Walter Christaller 15

their geographical imaginations were indelibly stained 3. Biographical details about Schmitts life up until 1945
by the biopolitical violence perpetrated by the Nazis in are found in Bendersky (1983), Balakrishnan (2002),
and the entry on Carl Schmitt by Vinx (2010).
those territories about which both men theorized. The 4. Schmitt famously said that the executions committed
spatialities of genocide must thus be read in light of con- by the SS and Gestapo during the Night of the Long
tributions made by rational and enlightened academics, Knives between 30 June and 1 July 1934 represented the
among whom we must include Schmitt and Christaller. highest form of administrative justice (hochste Form
With their spatial speculations, they both tried to find administrativer Justiz; quoted in Adams and Dyson 2003,
180).
privileged spaces within the dark geographies of Hitlers 5. Although it is intuitive to translate Groraum as large
empire. The history of the coimplication of geographi- space or great space, for reasons we discuss later we
cal thought and of spatial theory in the extermination think a better translation is greater space. We thank
perpetrated by the Nazis continues to be written. one of the referees and Matt Hannah for persuading us of
the significance of this subtle but important difference.
6. Christaller began his studies in 1913, attending five dif-
ferent universities before he completed his Geography
Acknowledgments PhD in Erlangen in 1933. His intention after he com-
pleted his Diploma in Economics was to carry on for
We would like to thank Derek Gregory for reading his doctoral degree in the same field, but the Economics
Department refused him, and he ended up in Geography
the article and Matt Hannah for his help with the Ger- instead (Hottes, Hottes, and Scholler 1977).
man and many other things, too. The editor and the ref-
Downloaded by [Trevor Barnes] at 09:17 23 March 2012

7. The Schutzstaffel (SS) was first named in 1925 and ini-


erees provided an excellent set of comments for which tially formed as a Praetorian guard to protect Adolph
we are very grateful and that significantly improved the Hitler. Once Himmler was appointed head in 1929,
the SS grew enormously and by the wars end con-
article and its use of terms. Trevor Barnes would like to sisted of almost 1 million members, operating as a quasi-
thank the Peter Wall Institute for Advanced Studies, autonomous unit of government.
University of British Columbia, where he was Distin- 8. Christallers involvement with the Nazis has been doc-
guished Scholar in Residence when he wrote his portion umented by a number of scholars. The details of his
of the article. Claudio Minca would like to thank the involvement, as well as biographical information, are
found in the following English-language sources: Aly and
Dipartimento Interateneo Territorio of the Universita Heim (2002); Fehl (1992); Hottes, Hottes, and Scholler
di Torino and the Politecnico di Torino where he was (1977); Preston (2009); and Rossler (1989, 1994, 2001).
Visiting Full Professor when he wrote his part of the 9. Our use of the term biopolitics comes from Foucault, who
article. meant by it how the state and other institutions govern,
regulate, and discipline the population at large as well as
individual bodies. The National Socialist state both in
Germany and in its conquered territories implemented
Notes a horrifying biopolitical regime. On Nazi biopolitics see,
among others, Agamben (1998) and Esposito (2008);
1. In addition to these works by Anglo-American geog- also, in relation to geopolitics, see Giaccaria and Minca
raphers, German scholars have recognized the system- (2011a, 2011b).
atic involvement of German wartime geographers in 10. The concepts of deterritorialization and reterritorializa-
theorizing and planning the Nazi geographical world. tion are most associated with the writings of Deleuze
Much of that literature is in German, but some of it and Guattari ([1972] 2004, [1980] 2004) in their analy-
is written in English, including works by Heske (1986, sis of Capitalism and Schizophrenia. A densely com-
1987); Rossler (1989; 1994, 2001); Sandner (1988); plex work in which terms vary in meaning over the
Fahlbusche, Rossler, and Siegrist (1989); Rossler and course of the texts, deterritorialization is generally de-
Siegrist (1989); and Sandner and Rossler (1994). fined as a loosening up, a decontextualization, an un-
2. The recent interest in Schmitts work is linked to three ravelling. It is applied by them to economic states and
major factors (Minca 2012). The first and foremost is psychic ones but rarely to geographical regions. Reter-
Agambens reliance on Schmitts theory of sovereign ex- ritorialization is the necessary twin to relative deterri-
ception and his concept of the nomos (Agamben 1998, torialization, involving reassembling, recontextualizing,
2005) and a crucial starting point in Agambens critical and re-creating. Whereas Deleuze and Guattaris work
analysis of contemporary biopolitics. The second is the is in the background of our use of the terms deterrito-
engagement with Schmitts understanding of the polit- rialization and reterritorialization, our most immediate
ical in so-called postfoundational political theory and understanding of territorialization derives from the work
in political philosophy (Mouffe 1999, 2005; Ojakangas of Swiss geographer Claude Raffestin (1980, 1984; also
2006; Marchart 2007). Finally, Schmitts grand claims Fall 2007).
about friend and enemy, as well as his antiliberal stance, 11. Herfs notion of reactionary modernism clearly resonates
have appealed to many popular (and sometimes pop- with Adorno and Horkheimers ([1947] 2002) Dialectic
ulist) interpretations of the unstable global geographies of Enlightenment, which argued that the Wests rational-
following 11 September 2001. ity had become irrational, that the progress of reason
16 Barnes and Minca

had regressed (Lambert 2011). The historical context of Agamben, G. 1998. Homo Sacer: Sovereign power and bare life,
their claim was precisely the rise and consequences of trans. D. Heller-Roazen. Stanford, CA: Stanford Uni-
Nazism, leading both men to leave Germany to become versity Press.
political refugees in the United States. Horkheimer even . 2005. State of exception. Chicago: University of
joined the U.S. Office of Strategic Services (forerun- Chicago Press.
ner of the Central Intelligence Agency), getting into a Aly, G., and S. Heim. 2002. Architects of annihilation:
fight with the geographer Richard Hartshorne, chair of Auschwitz and the logic of destruction, trans. A. G. Blun-
the Research and Analysis Branchs Project Commit- den. London: Weidenfeld and Nicolson.
tee, who made the final decisions about Branch publica- Arendt, H. 1977. Eichman in Jerusalem: A report on the banality
tion (Barnes 2006). We would like to thank one of the of evil. Harmondsworth, UK: Penguin.
referees for pointing out the importance of the connec- Balakrishnan, G. 2002. The enemy: An intellectual portrait of
tion between Herfs work and Adorno and Horkheimers Carl Schmitt. London: Verso.
work. Barnes, T. J. 2001. Lives lived, and lives told: Biographies of
12. The court transcripts for the entire Eichmann trial are geographys quantitative revolution. Society and Space:
available online at http://www.nizkor.org/hweb/people/ Environment and Planning D 19:40929.
e/eichmann-adolf/transcripts/. The quotation is from . 2003. The place of locational analysis: A selective
Attorney General Hausners opening remarks, session and interpretive history. Progress in Human Geography
number 6, 17 April, 1961; http://www.nizkor.org/hweb/ 27:6995.
people/e/eichmann-adolf/transcripts/Sessions/Session- . 2006. Geographical intelligence: American geogra-
00600700801.html. The case of Eichmann is dis- phers and Research and Analysis in the Office of Strate-
cussed by Arendt (1977) in her famous book, Eichman gic Services 19411945. Journal of Historical Geography
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in Jerusalem, with its equally famous subtitle, The Ba- 32:14968.


nality of Evil. Evil is banal precisely because it has been Bassin, M. 1987. Race contra space: The conflict between
bureaucratized, carried out in Lewiss (1982) depiction German Geopolitik and National Socialism. Political Ge-
by quiet men with white collars and cut fingernails and ography Quarterly 6:11534.
smooth-shaven cheeks who do not need to raise their Bauman, Z. 1989. Modernity and the Holocaust. Ithaca, NY:
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13. From Hitlers (1926) Mein Kampf, chapter 14, East- Bendersky, J. W. 1983. Carl Schmitt: Theorist for the Reich.
ern Orientations or Eastern Policy. An English Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.
translation of the two volumes is available online Berger, D. L. 1994. The Nazi concept of Volksdeutsche and
at http://www.crusader.net/texts/mk/index.html, from the exacerbation of anti-Semitism in Eastern Europe.
which this quote is taken. Journal of Contemporary History 29:56982.
14. For a review of the academic support to this operation Binder Johnson, H. 1978. Walter Christaller: Another per-
see Kay (2006). sonal memoir. Ontario Geography 12:93101.
15. Various versions of Generalplan Ost existed from 1940 Black, E. 2001. IBM and the Holocaust: The strategic alliance
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incarnations the more practiced Meyer got the job poration. New York: Crown.
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Correspondence: Department of Geography, University of British Columbia, 1984 West Mall, Vancouver, BC, V6T 1Z2, Canada, e-mail:
tbarnes@geog.ubc.ca (Barnes); Cultural Geography Department, Wageningen University, Droevendaalsesteeg 3, Building number 101, 6708
PB, Wageningen, The Netherlands, e-mail: claudio.minca@wur.nl (Minca).