.. s, and were cognizant and comfortable with the actions of the battalion. Following a particularly successful operation of hunting down and murdering Jews, the Battalion would put up score sheets of their prowess. To be taken on a mission to kill Jews was often considered to be a reward. Many genocidal missions were to be staffed voluntarily by the members of the Battalion.
These missions never suffered from lack of volunteers. The members of the battalion simply enjoyed these operations, and they did it for the future of Germany. Chapter 9:Police Battalions: Lives, Killings, and Motives This is the authors attempt to understand the actions of battalion members when they were not engaged in activities of genocide. the men enjoyed times of leisure spent swimming, playing tennis and reading. Their personal involvement in the slaughtering of thousands of Jews apparently did not deter them from enjoying their free time.
The killers were not robotic killing machines, but independent individuals that were allowed to discuss and consider the horrors which they perpetrated. Later in the chapter, Goldhagen lists a number of killing operations, and the reported numbers of victims. The battalions were given a lot of operational freedom when ordered to clear a Ghetto or when on Search and Destroy missions seeking runaway Jews. The men were allowed to complete their missions as they saw fit. Many of these men, however, saw fit to torment their victims before deporting them to the Death Camps or dispatching the Jews themselves.
The men would often require their victims to remain motionless for hours in the hot sun. If a movement was detected, the perpetrator would be quickly dealt with. Goldhagen recounts the story of how one German officer took delight in dispatching several Jewish children that were unable to remain still. Part IV: Jewish Work is Annihilation Chapter 10: The Sources and Patterns of Jewish Work During the Nazi Period Here, Goldhagen attempts to answer the perplexing question of why the Germans put Jews to work. Did the Germans employ the Jews for some rational, economic purpose? According to Goldhagen the answer is no.
Goldhagen believes the Germans employed Jews because prior to the Nazis rise to power, the Jews were seen as a race of parasites, living off the work of Germans. Hitler simply wanted to see the Jews work. It was an achievement in itself, regardless of the worth of the product, Jewish work was to be done for its own sake. Even while in the midst of a severe labor shortage, Nazi Germany did not mobilize it incarcerated Jewish population. Instead, the Germans utilized French and Polish POWs to supplement the shortage. In the Jewish work camps, the prisoners were often instructed to Build walls, only to demolish them at the end of the day.
Even when employed in munitions factories, assisting the Nazi war machine, Jews were not safe. On November 3-4, 1943, over 43,000 Jews were shot during Operation Harvest Festival. Chapter 11: Life in the Work Camps Goldhagen focuses on life in Majdanek work camp in the District of Lublin. This work camp had a mortality rate surpassed by only Auschwitz and the other four extermination camps. Death in Majdanek was caused by gassings or shootings, or by starvation and disease.
According to Goldhagen, the fatality rate was 100%. Although a work camp, Majdaneks inmates were subjected to unproductive work. The inmates would be ordered to fill a sack with rocks, carry it across the room, empty it, and then do it again. The purpose of Majdanek was devoted to tormenting and killing its inmates. Such atrocities occurred at other work camps such as Lipowa. Jews were not the only detainees at these camps.
Poles were also employed at these camps, however, the Polish mortality rate per month was less than 5%, while the Jewish mortality rate was 100%. The work camps were just as effective genocidal institutions as their sister extermination camps. Chapter 12: Work and Death Goldhagen restates the German irrationality when considering Jewish production. Jewish work was destruction itself. The phenomenon of Jewish work was a triumph of Nazi ideology, politics and will over economic interests.
The real meaning of Jewish work was expressed at the Wannsee Conference of January of 1942 by Heydrich. The Jews will be conscripted for labor ..and undoubtedly a large number of them will drop out due to natural wastage. The rest would be killed. (Goldhagen, 322) Part V: Death Marches: To the Final Days Chapter 13: The Deadly Way The long distance marching of Jews began at the beginning of the war and continued until its conclusion. Most of the marches occurred during the final year of the war, and they are the focus of this chapter. The final phase of the war required the Germans to either move the prisoners or lose them to the advancing armies. The purpose of these of the march was to dispose of the Jewish prisoners. This chapter has several eye-witness accounts of these genocidal marches.
Special attention is given to the 195 mile long Helmbrechts Death March. The march composed of 580 Jewish prisoners and 590 non-Jewish prisoners. The 22 day march claimed the life of around 275 Jews, while the non-Jew fatality rate was Zero. Chapter 14: Marching to What End? This chapter attempts to answer the seemingly unanswerable, What sense did the death march make? We can assume Dorr (the camp commander) was under standing orders to avoid capture. His orders directed him to move the prisoners to Dachau, however Dachau had already been captured by the Americans, so Dorr instead marched to Austria.
Goldhagen, again, recounts the details of the Helbrechts Death March. The women guards are spoken of being particularly harsh upon the prisoners. Goldhagen also relays the story of Germanys final death march, Sandbostel. To the very end, the ordinary German willfully, faithfully and zealously slaughtered Jews. The Germans did so even when they were risking capture.
The Death Marches were not a misnomer, the entire manner in which they were carried out by the Germans suggested to the Jews they intended death. Part VI: Eliminationist Anti-Semitism, Ordinary Germans, Willing Executioners Chapter 15: Explaining the Perpetrators Actions: Assessing the Competing Explanations The German anti-Jewish policy had always been an expression of eliminationist anti-Semitism. For an entire society to kill another large group of people, the ethical and emotional constraints that would normally inhibit the adoption of such a radical measure, must be lifted. Something profound must occur that would allow an entire society to become mass murderers. However, these perpetrators took pride in their accomplishments.
If they had indeed disproved of the genocide, then why would they take photos of them triumphantly standing over the bodies of their victims? The fact is, the complicity of the ordinary German is contingent upon the belief that all of Germany wished to rid itself of the Jewish Problem. Chapter 16: Eliminationist Anti-Semitism as Genocidal Motivation German political culture had evolved to the point where an enormous number of ordinary, representative Germans became Hitlers Willing Executioners. The rabid anti-Semitism which was ingrained in German society, allowed an eliminationist ideology to take hold, and become a state sanctioned goal. On occasion after occasion, ordinary Germans took pride in their genocidal activities. What magical thinking could make a reasonable 20th Century society take delight in such horrors.
The answer, to Goldhagen is simple. Germanys historical anti-Semitism was motivation enough. Epilogue: The Nazi German Revolution The Nazi German revolution was the most brutal and barbarous revolution of modern western history. The symbol of this barbarism is the camp. the camp proves to be an emblematic institution of the Nazi period. Just as the Nazi revolution was one of sensibility and practice, so to was the establishment of the camp system. To the ordinary German, a Jews life should be a living hell, devoid of comfort.
In these camps, ordinary Germans were the willing instruments of genocide. They welcomed the chance to rid Germany of her Judenfrage. They were willing to perpetrate these atrocities in order to save Germany from the ultimate danger — Der Jude. Goldhagen draws from a large number of primary source documents to support his arguments. From eyewitness accounts, to official reports from camp and police battalion personnel to the testimony of former Nazis, his sources are beyond reproach. However, what may come into question is his interpretations of these sources.
Several of his academic peers have begun to disagree with his interpretations of these sources. Goldhagen writing remains lucid and lively throughout the book, but one can detect a certain level of anger. Goldhagen is obviously a biased individual, and I believe he allows his biases to come through in his work. His blanket condemnation of all of German society seems almost childish. Goldhagen has prepared a excellently edited manuscript.
His dissertation was awarded the American Political Science Associations 1994 Gabriel A. Almond Award for best dissertation in the field of comparative politics. Goldhagen has spent ample time in covering his work for spelling, grammatical and punctuation errors. No glaring errors came to my attention. His footnotes are equally accurate and adequate.
The note section alone is 130 pages, and in this section he expands the readers familiarity with the subject at hand. Goldhagen also has spent ample time in writing appendixes to assist the reader. I particularly found the Appendix 2:Schematization of the Dominant Beliefs in Germany very interesting. Goldhagens Table of Contents, and Index are also sufficient. In conclusion, Hitlers Willing Executioners is a well written book, however I find fault with the authors thesis. Goldhagen constantly and repeatedly asks Why did the Nazis treat the Jews so terribly? This question seems to be naive for a scholar of Goldhagens caliber.
I also find fault with his indictment of all of German society. I realize the German peoples complicity was required in order to enact an efficient system of genocide, but I cannot not agree with the notion that the Nazis simply provided an outlet by which ordinary Germans were allowed to act on their evil desires. The vast majority of the German people were not willing executioners. However, these people were guilty for failing to protest Hitlers murderous intentions and policies while there was still time, and for this, they should be ashamed. European History.