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  • Versorgung der Haupstadt der Bewegung: Infrastrukturen und Statgesellschaft im Nationalsozialistischen München [Supplying the capital of the movement: Infrastructures and urban society in national socialist Munich] by Mathias Irlinger
  • Jens Ivo Engels (bio)
Versorgung der Haupstadt der Bewegung: Infrastrukturen und Statgesellschaft im Nationalsozialistischen München [Supplying the capital of the movement: Infrastructures and urban society in national socialist Munich]
By Mathias Irlinger. Göttingen: Wallstein Verlag, 2018. Pp. 432.

This book is the published version of a doctoral thesis defended at the University of Munich. It is a contribution to both the history of the Nazi regime and the history of technical infrastructures. Mathias Irlinger highlights the main argument from the very beginning: "Infrastructures . . . contributed to the population's assent to the Nazi regime" (p. 9). In other words, the author interprets urban infrastructures as instruments of power, stabilizing the regime until the very last weeks of the Third Reich. Infrastructure is not completely new to Third Reich studies—historians have [End Page 1243] already shown the symbolic role of highways and the importance of rail for the logistics that enabled the genocide of the Holocaust, for example. Yet, there is still much work to do in this area.

The book is a case study of the city of Munich. As the Nazi Party started here and Adolf Hitler kept a private apartment in the city, the local government considered this "capital of the [Nazi] movement" as one of the leading European metropolises of the time. Urban and infrastructure development plans were therefore particularly ambitious. Irlinger focuses on communal infrastructures such as traffic (including road building and tramway systems), energy, and leisure (municipal swimming pool).

Irlinger's book is divided into four sections. Irlinger uses the terminology known from scholarship on "large technological systems." In the first chapter he explains the "system management" of infrastructures in Munich under the Nazis, underlining that "system building" had been completed before. It stresses the ties between Nazi ideology and the ambitions of local politicians to improve public infrastructure. In the second chapter he outlines the development of some major projects, including debates of the time on the technical risks of gas provision and a subway scheme for Munich. In perhaps the most interesting part of the book, the author then analyzes multiple interactions between the users and the management of the infrastructure systems, including advertising campaigns, users' complaints or de-mands, and infrastructure as a space for "racial" exclusion of Jews and other minorities (chapter 3). The last chapter is devoted to the links between warfare and local infrastructure, including efforts to improve the logistics of the defense industry; to mobilize women and forced workers for operation purposes during the war; and above all else to mitigate damages or functional limitations due to the war in order to minimize impacts on the individual users.

Although the author cites some of the relevant research on infrastructure and power and elucidates the phenomenon of "Eigensinn" (obstinacy, Alf Lüdtke), his conception of power relations is slightly simplistic. In his presentation, the regime was stabilized by the sheer existence of infrastructures in the city. The problem with that idea is another argument put forward in the same book: Irlinger emphasizes that Munich's newly established Nazi city government did a poor job in infrastructure management compared to their predecessors in the Weimar Republic. He asserts that they failed to implement highflying ambitions in infrastructure development. Why then should it have stabilized the regime?

The author stresses important propaganda efforts aimed at concealing these failures. He explains that the majority of the population benefited from the increasing exclusion of specific groups, like Jewish inhabitants, from access to the infrastructure. In the war, the exploitation of forced labor contributed to the maintenance of services at a moderate price. During the last years and months of the regime, when important parts of Munich lay in [End Page 1244] ruins, the city government kept on privileging private consumer interests in energy provision and managed to repair public transport to a certain extent. All these efforts would have strengthened the ties between "governors" and governed. This interpretation is in line with seminal interpretations of the Nazis' welfare and consumer...


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