Hitler’s Willing Executioners Fifty years after Adolph Hitlers failed attempt to exterminate the Jews of Europe, there still remains no consensus upon the causes of this event. Daniel Jonah Goldhagen, author of Hilters Willing Executioners, attempts to provide a new approach and new explanations to the perplexing questions left in the aftermath of 1945. Upon its publication, Goldhagens thesis came under much scrutiny by his academic peers. Goldhagens argument is that the usual historical explanations of the Holocaust do not add up. The Holocaust was not perpetrated by a small band of Nazis but by ordinary Germans in the hundreds of thousands.
The abrupt transformation of Germans from bakers, bankers and bureaucrats to mass murderers was due to a particularly virulent strain of anti-Semitism. Goldhagens indictment focuses on the citizenrys complicity in three of Nazi Germanys institutions of mass killing; the Ordnungspolizie (the Nazi Police Battalions), the work camps where Jews were incarcerated, and the death marches from the those camps led by prison guards and their charges near the end of the war. While Goldhagen efficiently states the thesis to his dissertation writing service his organizational style leaves much to be desired. One of the primary problems with his style is its irritatingly repetitive nature. Goldhagen simply reiterates his position, particularly in the opening chapters. In these chapter, on no less than five occasions, he states the need for academicians to reconceive our understanding of modern German anti-Semitism by applying the theoretical and methodological prescriptions enunciated here, including the dimensional framework, to a more specific analysis of the history of anti-Semitism in Germany prior to the Nazi period, and then to an analysis of anti-Semitism in Germany during the Nazi period itself.
Read full info here https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hitler%27s_Willing_Executioners
(Goldhagen, 47) The immense size of the book does not provide continuing evidence to support the thesis, rather it redundantly applies the same information. Goldhagens work consists of an introduction, six parts composed of 16 chapters and an epilogue: Introduction: Reconcieving Central Aspects of the Holocaust The Introduction begins with a compelling narrative regarding Captain Wolfgang Hoffman, the commander of one of the three companies of Police Battalion 101. In this narrative, Capt. Hoffman expresses his contempt for an order that commanded members of his company to sign a declaration which obligated the soldier not to steal, not to plunder, and not to buy without paying. (Goldhagen, 3) Goldhagen points out that if an officer could refuse an order of this nature, there was precedence to refuse the orders requiring genocidal activities. The remainder of the Introduction sets the guidelines for his dissertation.
Part I: Understanding German Anti-Semitism: the Eliminationist Mind-Set Chapter 1: Recasting the View of Anti-Semitism: A Framework for Analysis Goldhagen suggests we disregard the notion that Germans were more or less like us. (Goldhagen, 27) Instead, to gain a better insight to the anti-Semitism which provided the genesis of genocide, we should study Nazi Germany from a anthropological viewpoint. An examination of Germany would reveal some similarity with our society, however there would be several differences. Namely, the conclusion that German anti-Semitism was integral to the beliefs to the ordinary German. Goldhagen purports the universal conceptualization of the Jews by German society constituted the eliminationist ideology.
Chapter 2: The Evolution of Eliminationist Anti-Semitism in Modern Germany This chapter is Goldhagens attempt to provide a historical understanding of the anti-Semitic ideology of the German people, and the subsequent genocidal actions which occurred. The consideration of Judaism as a corollary of Christianity is imperative to understand the inherent anti-Semitic nature of Germany. Jews and their faith were seen as an affront to Christianity. If the Jews, the people of God , shunned the promised messiah, then something was awry. Either the Jews were right, and Jesus was a false prophet, or the Christians were right, and the Jews had been led astray.
This theological impasse provided the initial antagonism between the two religions. However, the Christians conceived of their religion as superseding Judaism. Therefore, Jews..ought to disappear from the Earth. (Goldhagen, 47) Goldhagen continues his historical evolution of anti-Semitism alluding to the concept of Jews as Christ-killers, as minions of Satan, as usurers and as malevolent and corrosive members of society. It was these church inspired misconceptions of the Jews which would be ultimately responsible for the anti-Semitic fervor of the ordinary German Volk.
Chapter 3: Eliminationist Anti-Semitism: The Common Sense of German Society During the Nazi Period This chapters discussion deals with the analysis of the relationship of German anti-Semitism during the Nazi period to the measures that the Germans took against the Jews. The concept of the Judenfrage (the Jewish Problem) required a solution. Some fundamental change in the nature of Jews or in their position in Germany was necessary and urgent. With the rise of the NSDAP, a systematic persecution of Jews began, with the full support from the State. With the adoption of the Nuremberg Laws in September of 1935, this state sanction stripped the Jews of German citizenship and forbade them from marrying German citizens.
The systematic removal of Jews from German society had begun. Additionally, Goldhagen relates German complicity during Kristalnacht. This German complicity culminates in the forced relocation of the remaining German Jews to camps throughout the German and Polish countryside to await the Final Solution. Part II: The Eliminationist Program and Institutions Chapter 4: the Nazis Assault on the Jews: Its Character and Evolution With the dawn of the Nazi Party, the eliminationist ideology was inherent, but the way to attain the systematic removal of the Jew from Germany was still unclear. The German policies would have to: 1) Turn the Jews into socially dead beings, and 2) Remove the Jew as thoroughly and permanently from social and from physical contact with the German people. To attain the desired affect, the German government instituted these polices and measures: (in chronological order) 1) Verbal Assault 2) Physical Assault 3) Legal measures to isolate the Jew 4) Driving them to emigrate 5) Forced deportation and resettlement 6) Physical separation in the Ghettos 7) Killing by starvation and disease 8) Slave Labor as a surrogate for death 9) Genocide by mass shooting, gassing, etc.
10)Death marches Chapter 5: The Agents and Machinery of Destruction In this chapter, Goldhagen attempts to define a perpetrator of genocidal killing. He arrives at the connotation, that a perpetrator is anyone that worked in an institution of genocidal killing, all those that took the lives of Jews , all those that facilitated the murder of Jews, including those church officials that identified persons as Jew or non-Jew, the Schreibtischtater (the desk murderer) that established the transport schedules, all railroad workers that sent the trains to their ominous destinations, and the indictment continues.. In fact, Goldhagen suggests that the list of perpetrators may run into millions due to the ordinary Germans complicity during the Holocaust. In conclusion, the complicity of the ordinary German can be best witnessed in the genocidal institution of the Ordnungpolizei, the Police Battalions. Part III: Police Battalions: Ordinary Germans, Willing Killers Chapter 6: Police Battalions: Agents of Genocide The Police Battalions served as an integral part to the commission of the Holocaust.
Goldhagen asserts that the members of these battalions are best representative of a killing institution which employed the services of ordinary Germans. A large percentage of the membership of these Police Battalions comprised of German men incapable of active service in the Wehrmacht. While these men were not particularly Nazified, they are representative of the Nazified German society. These units were initially responsible to police, regulate traffic flow, guard installations and transfer populations in occupied territories. These were poorly trained and equipped units. The men of these units were often older with established family and professional lives. By age, family situation and disposition, these were formed of men more personally independent than what was the norm in Germany.
From this common stock, arose an efficient institution of mass killing. The remainder of this chapter recounts actions taken by Police Battalion 65 throughout Poland, Russia and other occupied territories. In conclusion, Goldhagen accuses these ordinary German units responsible for between one and three million deaths. Chapter 7: Police Battalion 101:The Mens Deeds Goldhagen chooses to focus on the actions and the men of Police Battalion 101. All Police Battalions were comprised of members from the same geographical region of Germany. Police Battalion 101s home was Hamburg. It initially was ordered to Poland to pacify the populace and restructure the subjugated areas in December of 1939.
In May of 1941, the entire battalion was re-comprised of new recruits. Goldhagen then goes into extreme detail recounting the make-up of the battalion. He separates each member into occupational sub-groups and compares the ratios of the battalion to that of war-time Germany. For the most part, the composition of the battalion was very similar to that of Germany. Also, Goldhagen considers the ratio of NSDAP members in the battalion to that of Germany, again, these figures are very comparative. He thus supports his concept that the Police Battalions were very representative of ordinary Germans. Goldhagen then proceeds to supply information on actions undertaken by the battalion throughout the occupied territories. He recounts the testimony of battalion members during genocidal activities against the Jews.
The complicity of ordinary German in operation. Chapter 8:Police Battalion 101: Assessing the Mens Motives In this chapter, Goldhagen once again attempts to buttress his notion of ordinary German complicity by gruesomely detailing the genocidal operations undertaken by the battalion. During one of the battalions operations, the wife of a battalion Captain was witness to the genocide. The men of the battalion had no problem in murdering their victims while the young lady looked on in interest. Several women lived with their husbands within the confines of the barrack …