Question: In their essays, Christopher Browning, Omar Bartov. and Robert Jay Lifton investigate the motivations that drove different groups of Germans to murder Jewish people. How do their conclusions

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Question: In their essays, Christopher Browning, Omar Bartov. and Robert Jay Lifton investigate the motivations that

drove different groups of Germans to murder Jewish people. How do their conclusions compare to one

another – are they similar or different? Why? What do you see as the primary factor driving these

perpetrators to kill?

1. The essay should be 1–3 pages single-spaced.

2. Please be as specific as possible and be sure to include critical names, dates, and concepts in your answer. Your answer

should include an introduction, summary/discussion, and conclusion.

Question: In their essays, Christopher Browning, Omar Bartov. and Robert Jay Lifton investigate the motivations that drove different groups of Germans to murder Jewish people. How do their conclusions
PROBLEMS IN EUROPEAN CIVILIZATION SERIES The Holocaust Problems and Perspectives of Interpretation Fourth Edition Edited by Donald L. Niewyk Southern Methodist University * WADSWORTH t * CENGAGE Learning- Australia • Brazil • japan • Korea • Mexico • Singapore • Spain • United Kingdom • United States 76 Omer Bartov Omer Bartov Hitler’s Army [A] detailed reconstruction of life at the front . . . demonstrates the effects of the immense material attrition on the troops’ physical condition and state of mind. It stresses that as of winter 1941-42 the majority of Germany’s soldiers were forced into trench warfare highly reminiscent of the Western Front of 1914-18, while facing, however, an increasingly modernized enemy. Unable to rely on its hitherto highly successful Blit/.krieg tactics, the Wehrmacht accepted Hitler’s view that this was an all-or-nothing struggle for survival, a “war of ideologies” which demanded total spiritual commitment, and thus tried to com- pensate for the loss of its technological superiority by intensifying the troops’ political indoctrination. This in turn opened the way for an ever greater brutalization of the soldiers. . . . The demodernization of the front had several important conse- quences. First, it led to such heavy losses among combat units that the traditional backbone of the German army, the “primary groups” which had hitherto assured its cohesion, were largely wiped out. Sec- ond, in order to prevent the disintegration of the army as a whole which might have resulted from the breakup of the “primary group,” the Wehrmacht introduced and ruthlessly implemented an extremely harsh disciplinary system, to which was given not merely a military, but also an ideological legitimation. Yet draconian punishment did nol suffice in cases where fear of the enemy was greater than fear of one’s superiors. Thus in compensation for their obedience, and as a logical conclusion of the politicization of discipline, the troops were in linn given license to vent their anger and frustration on the enemy’s Mildin-, ,ni(l i-i ili;mv The demodernization ol I lie Ironl consequently greatly enhanced the brutalization of the troops, and made the sol- diers more receptive to ideological indoctrination and more willing to implement the policies it advocated. This process was possible, however, only because a large proportion of the Wehrmacht’s officers and men already shared some key elements of the National Social- ist world-view. Confronted with a battlefield reality which no longer From Hitler’s Army by Omer Bartov. Oxford University Press. Copyright © 1992 by Oxford University Press. Reprinted with permission. Hitler’s Army corresponded to their previous image of war, and with an enemy who could not be overcome by employing familiar military methods, German soldiers now accepted the Nazi vision of war as the only one applicable to their situation. It was at this point that the Wehrmacht finally became Hitler’s army. . . . [I]t was the unprecedented harsh discipline of the Wehrmacht which kept the units together at the front. However, the soldiers’ sub- mission to a disciplinary system which led to the execution of some 15,000 men was closely tied to the troops’ own conduct toward enemy soldiers and civilians. While many of the army’s criminal activities were directed from above, the troops went unpunished even when they to- tally disregarded orders forbidding plunder and indiscriminate shoot- ing. By allowing unauthorized actions against individuals considered as mere “subhumans,” the army created a convenient safety valve which made it possible to demand strict combat discipline. Cohesion came to depend on a perversion of the moral and legal basis of martial law. Nevertheless, when terror from the enemy became greater than fear of one’s superiors, breakdowns did occur. Complete disintegration was prevented not merely by discipline, but by creating a commonly shared view of the war which made the prospect of defeat seem equivalent to a universal apocalypse. . . . [A]t critical moments, when terror from the enemy became even greater than fear of one’s superiors, incidents of breakdown among combat units did occur, and no amount of disciplinary brutality could prevent them. But what is most important about these incidents is that although they were far from infrequent, at no stage of the war save for the very last weeks did they threaten the cohesion of the army as a whole. Thus it was shown that just as brutal discipline could be ac- cepted by the troops only because they had been taught to believe in the ideological arguments on which it was based, so too this ideological cohesion of the troops assumed a major role in preventing the organizational disintegration of the army when the disciplinary system crumbled. Paradoxically, while discipline was aimed at instilling into the troops’ fear of their superiors, indoctrination increasingly terror- ized the soldiers by horror tales about what they could expect from the “Judeo-Bolshevik” and “Asiatic flood” threatening the cradle of culture. Thus precisely when fear of the enemy in one point of the front over- came fear of punishment and caused local breakdowns, the overwhelm- ing terror from the ultimate consequences of a Soviet victory rapidly 77 78 Omer Bartov isolated this incident; rather than the breakdown spreading across the front, the reaction of nearby units was to steel themselves once more and make yet another effort to halt the demonic hordes advancing from the East. Mutiny and disintegration tend to have a contagious effect on armies and to spread with remarkable speed; the Wehrmacht protected itself from most breakouts by harsh discipline, but completely inocu- lated its troops from a panic epidemic by huge counter-injections of ter- ror from the enemy. Indeed, one can say that the typical Landser was a very frightened man, scared of his commanders, terrified of the enemy; this is probably why he seems to have enjoyed so much watching others suffer. The photographs of smiling Wehrmacht troops, each with his little camera, busily taking pictures of hanged “partisans,” or of piles of bulchcrcd Jews. . . can only be understood as the ultimate perversion of the soldiers by a terroristic system of discipline, backed by a murderous ideology, which achieved its aim of preserving cohesion at the price of destroying the individual’s moral fabric and thereby making possible the extermination of countless defenseless people. The troops’ percep- tion of reality and understanding of their actions was distorted by the conditions and circumstances of their existence. Yet it must be empha- sized that it was the years of premilitary and army indoctrination which molded the soldiers’ state of mind, prepared them for the horrors of war, and instilled into them such determination and ruthlessness. . . . [Yjears of premilitary and army indoctrination distorted the sol- diers’ perception of reality. The Wehrmacht’s propaganda relied on a radical demonization of the enemy and on a similarly extreme deifica- tion of the Fiihrer. The astonishing efficacy of these images is shown by rcliTence to a wide array of evidence, ranging from analyses of soldiers’ opinions by the regime’s own agencies and leaders, to the views of its opposcrs, the memoirs of former generals and soldiers, the oral testimo- nies ol workers and youths, and the private correspondence of troops from tin- Iront. It is particularly in the latter case that we find how sol- diers preferred to view the reality they knew best through the ideologi- cal filters of the regime. . . . The correspondence from the Eastern Front provides us with a particularly good opportunity to observe the manner in which German troops internalized some of the central notions of National Socialism and employed them to rationalize their predicament at the front, legitimize their criminal actions, and fortify their spirits. Natu- rally, much of what the soldiers wrote was heavily influenced by the Hitler’s Army Wehrmacht’s propaganda. But it is extremely revealing that they incor- porated these arguments in their private correspondence, given the fact that censorship was concerned with incidents of criticism, not with the absence of Nazi phraseology. The soldiers’ letters reflected the distor- tion of reality among the troops in two significant spheres: first, the de- humanization and demonization of the enemy on political and racial grounds, with a particular reference to the Jews as the lowest expres- sion of human depravity; and, second, the deification of the Fiihrer as the only hope for Germany’s salvation. Intermixed with these central themes were notions regarding battle as a supreme test of character and manhood, as well as of racial and cultural superiority, and a view of the war as a holy crusade for a better future and against an infernal host of enemies sanctioned by God, who among the more pious and philosophically inclined at least partially replaced Hitler as the arbiter of German and universal destiny. Anti-Semitic sentiments among the troops increased as conditions at the front worsened and as soldiers were no longer merely exposed to racist propaganda but also observed and in some cases participated in mass murders of Jews. Whereas concerning the Russians soldiers occasionally expressed pity, the fate of the Jews only enhanced the feel- ing that this was a “race” which indeed deserved total annihilation, particularly as it might otherwise take revenge on the Germans for its destruction. But from the very first weeks of “Barbarossa” many soldiers’ letters revealed the impact of years of anti-Semitic indoctrination and deeply rooted prejudices. Lance-Corporal Paul Lenz maintained early on in the campaign: “Only a Jew can be a Bolshevik, for this blood-sucker there can be nothing nicer than to be a Bolshevik…. Wherever one spits one finds a Jew. … As far as I know . . . not one single Jew has worked in the workers’ paradise, everyone, even the smallest blood-sucker, has a post where he naturally enjoys great privileges.” In early August 1941 Lance-Corporal Herbert Nebenstreit wrote of his impression of Russia: “Only in Poland have I seen so much filth, mire, and rabble, especially Jews. I think that even there it was not half as bad as here.” Private Reinhold Mahnke furnished a detailed description of Bolshevik-Jewish atrocities against the Lithuanians. Not only did they eject them from their houses and then burn them down, they also “cut off their feet and hands, tore out their tongues. . . . They even nailed men and children to walls. Had these criminals come to our country,” Mahnke now realized, “they would have torn us to pieces and mangled 79 80 Omer Bartov Hitler’s Army 81 us, that’s clear. But the Lithuanians have taken revenge,” he concluded, referring to the anti-Jewish pogroms conducted by the local population with the encouragement of the Einsatzgruppen and under the observ- ing eye of the Wehrmacht. Lance-Corporal Heinrich Sachs similarly noted “how the Jewish question was solved with impressive thoroughness under the enthu- siastic applause of the local population.” He then went on to quote Hitler’s speech before the Reichstag threatening the Jews with destruc- tion if they caused a war against Germany, and added that the “Jew should have known that the Filhrer was serious and must now bear the appropriate consequences.” Captain Hans Kondruss, writing from Lvov (Lemberg) in mid-July had discovered ample evidence to show that “here clearly a whole people has systematically been reared into subhnmanity. This is clearly the most Satanic educational plan of all times, which only Jewish sadism could have constructed and carried through.” The fact that the municipal library contained the Talmud, and that among the massacred civilians there were allegedly no Jews, was to his mind “indicative of the real originators.” He too was satisfied to note that the “wrath of the people has however been turned upon this people of criminals.” Indeed, he asserted: “It will be necessary radically to scorch out this boil of plague, because these ‘animals’ will always constitute a danger.” The Jews had turned the population away “from everything which to us human beings has been eternally holy,” for their goal was “the brutalization [Vertierung] of a whole people, in order to make use of it as an instrument in the war for Judas’ world domina- tion.” Lance-Corporal Paul Rubelt agreed that the “Jews were for the most part the evil doers” in the Lvov massacres, and noted that now the1 “culprits are shot.” Indeed, Corporal K. Suffner, who maintained Ihr “Bolsheviks and the Jews have murdered 12,000 Germans and 11 kmii nans in a beastly manner,” reported that “the surviving Ukraini- ans arrested 2000 Jews and exercised frightful revenge.” He concluded: “We swear that this plague will be eradicated root and branch.” Lance- Corporal Hans Fleischauer expressed similar sentiments: “The Jew is a real master in murdering, burning and massacring. . . . These bandits deserve the worst and toughest punishment conceivable.” The conse- quences he drew from his experience with Jewish atrocities were far from untypical: “We all cannot be thankful enough to our Ftihrer, who had protected us from such brutalities, and only for that we must follow him through thick and thin, wherever that might be.” Private von Kaull believed that “international Jewry,” already in control of the capitalist world, had taken “as a counter-weight this proletarian insanity” as well: “Now these two powers of destruction have been sent to the field, now they are incited against Europe, against the heart of the West, in order to destroy Germany.” He was impressed with the scale and significance of the conflict: “Such a huge battle has never before taken place on earth. It is the greatest battle of the spirits ever experienced by human- ity, it is waged for the existence or downfall of Western man and the highest values which a people consciously carries on its shield.” Conse- quently: “We must give our all to withstand this battle.” Private Gregor Lisch asked his family in the rear to “be happy that the Bolsheviks and the Jews had not come to us,” for “the Jews have destroyed these poor people.” And Private Fallnbigl, while stressing that “we should be happy that we have not had this scourge of humanity in our own country,” was convinced that “the German world would not be prepared for such hei- nous deeds even after years of preparation.” As the war dragged on, soldiers progressively embittered by the endless fighting readily accepted the propagandistic line that the Jews were to blame. As one lance-corporal exclaimed in April 1942: “These swine of human creatures. They have clearly brought us this outrage of a war.” Typical of the inversion process common among the troops and the sense that the murderous treatment of the Jews merely confirmed their inhumanity was the following letter sent in July 1942: About events in the East concerning the Jews one could write a book. But it would be a waste of paper. You can be sure that they come to the right place, where they will no longer oppress any peoples. The frustration caused by partisan activities also contributed to anti- Semitic sentiments among the troops. It was the Wehrmacht’s policy to execute large numbers of civilians in retaliation for any attack on military personnel, and the Jews were clearly the most convenient tar- get, especially as the local population itself was often also strongly anti- Semitic. The soldiers were quick to draw the conclusion that not only did the Jews constitute the main support of “Bolshevism” in Russia and had been about to overtake Germany as well, but that they were also directly responsible for the growing number of “terroristic” guerrilla attacks. One NCO wrote home in July 1942 that 82 Omer Bartov the great task given us in the struggle against Bolshevism lies in the destruction of eternal Jewry. Once one sees what the Jew has done in Russia, one can well understand why the Fiihrer began the struggle against Jewry. What sorrows would have come to our homeland, had this beast of a man had the upper hand? . . . Recently a comrade of ours was murdered in the night. He was stabbed in the back. That can only have been the Jew, who stands behind these crimes. The revenge taken for that act brought indeed a nice success. The population itself hates the Jews as never before. It realizes now, that he is guilty of everything. 11 is interesting to note that the encounter with real Jews seemed to eonfirm even the most pornographic and malicious anti-Semitic pro- paganda produced in the Third Reich. Thus while it is true that initially it was easier to create hatred and fear of an abstract enemy, once this image had been internalized soldiers applied it to real living human be- ings, apparently believing that they actually resembled the caricatures of “the Jew” in Nazi newspapers. As one corporal wrote, although in the course of this war a little more light will have been cast on the Jewish question even for the most pigheaded philistine ISpieser], it is nevertheless still of the utmost importance that this question be fur- ther put in the necessary light, and here the “Stunner” has, thank God, still remained true to its old positions. Just as the Eastern Jew now re- veals himself in all his brutality, so have all this vicious lot, no matter whether in the West or in the East. . . . Increasingly during the last two years of the war, the troops at the front came to see themselves as the missionaries of the entire German nation, indeed of Western civilization as a whole. Rational evaluation and clear perception of events were replaced by intense Ic liom and rage against a faceless, monstrous enemy, which in linn only enhanced the men’s desperate clinging to their faith in I lilU’i’s ability In avert the apocalypse and lead the Reich to the i’.udnieg over the forces of evil. It was at this period, just as Germany was accelerating even further the implementation of its genocidal policies, that the view of the Wchrmacht as the protector of human- ity gained increasing force. Paradoxically, the soldiers’ awareness of the regime’s criminal actions (at least at the front) made them fight Hitler’s Army 83 with even greater determination for its survival by intensifying their ;. fear of the consequences of defeat. Note the following letter by a Wehrmacht captain written in mid-February 1943: May God allow the German people to find now the peace of mind and strength which would make it into the instrument needed by the Fiihrer to protect the West from ruin, for what the Asiatic hordes will not destroy, will be annihilated by Jewish hatred and revenge. The belief at the front is unshakable, and we all hope that, as Goring has said, with the rising sun the fortunes of war will again return to our side. This was, indeed, the core German troops’ ideological motivation, a combination of prejudices and phobias which made them so much into Hitler’s soldiers. God was with the Fiihrer, and the German people were God’s instrument, whose goal was to save the West from Asiatic barbarism and Jewish revenge. The danger was great; but as long as belief in Hitler remained unshakable, victory was certain to come. Iron- ically, even men who claimed that the “time of fanaticism and intoler- ance of other views is over,” and that “if we want to win the war, we must become more rational” concluded that all this was necessary “so that we will not be delivered to the revenge of the Jews.”

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