Life in space, space in life: Nazi topographies, geographical imaginations, and Lebensraum

Paolo Giaccaria, Claudio Minca

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Citations (Scopus)


This article focuses on the pivotal role the notion of Lebensraum played within the Nazi spatial mindscape. Tracing the complex and contradictory genealogies of Lebensraum, we note how geographers’ engagement with Geopolitik has only made modest reference to the role Lebensraum played in shaping the biopolitical and genocidal machinery implemented by Hitlerism and its followers. Moreover, most of this literature highlights a clear discontinuity between the Lebensraum concept formulated by German academic geographers and the Nazis respectively. Rather than emphasizing the divide between German Geopolitik and Nazi biopolitics, we claim that the Third Reich incorporated Lebensraum by merging its duplicitous meaning, as living/vital space and as life-world. Equality important were both Nazi ‘functionalist’ understandings of Lebensraum as well as its ontological merging of Lebens and Raum in which the racialised German nation is conceived as a spatial organism whose expansion is the essential expression of life. As such, we approach the Nazi Lebensraum grand imagery as a truly geo-bio-political dispositif, in which life and space matched with no gap, no residues. The attempted realisation of this perfect coincidence, we argue, contributed in a crucial way to produce spaces of eviction and displacement and, ultimately, genocide, and annihilation.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)151-171
Number of pages21
JournalHolocaust studies
Issue number2-3
Publication statusPublished - 2016
Externally publishedYes


  • Lebensraum
  • Geopolitik
  • Hitlerism
  • biopolitics
  • Nazism


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