7 June, 2009 – MRZine – Monthly Review
Dietrich Eichholtz. Krieg um Öl: Ein Erdölimperium als deutsches Kriegsziel 1938-1943. Leipzig: Leipziger Universitätsverlag, 2006. 141 pp. ISBN 978-3-86583-119-4; EUR 19.90 (paper), ISBN 978-3-86583-119-4.
Dietrich Eichholtz does not mince words. From the first page of this powerfully argued book, his underlying argument is clear: ‘The imperialist interest in oil played a role in the occurrence, course, and outcome’ of the Second World War (p. 7). More specifically, ‘[f]rom September 1939, petroleum was a short- and long-term war aim, as well as one of the most important means of waging the war itself’ (p. 15). At the same time, in Eichholtz’s telling, this is not a hair-raising tale about a dystopia that might have been; the Third Reich does not appear as an unstoppable juggernaut hurtling from one victory to another and narrowly, just narrowly, failing to secure not only world domination, but also a ‘great German oil empire’ (p. 45). On the contrary, ‘in reality, the military and politicians found themselves caught up, on the one hand, in the myth of their own invincibility, in their delusions of world conquest, and in their ideological megalomania, and on the other hand in the world of raw facts, the impossibility of enforcing their hybrid strategic visions, and their military and political failures and disappointments’ (p. 41). At the heart of this book lies a forceful demonstration of the great gap between so-called German elites’ grandiose plans and their inability to overcome the mundane, but exigent, obstacles to realizing them.