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Hitler's Jewish Soldiers

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Hitler's Jewish Soldiers

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Hitler's Jewish Soldiers
The Untold Story Of Nazi Racial Laws And Men Of Jewish Descent In The German Military
By Bryan Mark Rigg
University Press of Kansas: 2004
ISBN: 0700613587

Book Description:

An Amazon.com Review
Working in newly opened archives and reexamining old evidence, historian Bryan Mark Rigg turns up a surprising wrinkle in the history of Nazi Germany: the presence of part-Jewish soldiers not only in the ranks but also in the upper echelons of the German military. One such soldier recalled, "I served because I wanted to prove Hitler's racial nonsense wrong. I wanted to prove that people of Jewish descent were indeed brave and courageous soldiers." By Rigg's estimate, as many as 150,000 soldiers, sailors, and airmen of partial Jewish descent (Mischlinge, in Nazi terminology) served in Adolf Hitler's forces--some, such as field marshal and war criminal Erhard Milch, placed in high positions by Hitler himself even as he tightened the noose on the Jews of Europe. Rigg considers the role of these men as they negotiated the confusion of the monolithic, racist state in dealing with Germans of partial Jewish descent. "[Their] experience clearly demonstrates the complexity of life in the Third Reich," writes Rigg. His book sheds light on a difficult subject in the face of certain controversy, and it merits discussion. --Gregory McNamee

On the murderous road to "racial purity" Hitler encountered unexpected detours, largely due to his own crazed views and inconsistent policies regarding Jewish identity. After centuries of Jewish assimilation and intermarriage in German society, he discovered that eliminating Jews from the rest of the population was more difficult than he'd anticipated. As Bryan Mark Rigg shows in this provocative new study, nowhere was that heinous process more fraught with contradiction and confusion than in the German military.

Contrary to conventional views, Rigg reveals that a startlingly large number of German military men were classified by the Nazis as Jews or "partial-Jews" (Mischlinge), in the wake of racial laws first enacted in the mid-1930s. Rigg demonstrates that the actual number was much higher than previously thought--perhaps as many as 150,000 men, including decorated veterans and high-ranking officers, even generals and admirals.

As Rigg fully documents for the first time, a great many of these men did not even consider themselves Jewish and had embraced the military as a way of life and as devoted patriots eager to serve a revived German nation. In turn, they had been embraced by the Wehrmacht, which prior to Hitler had given little thought to the "race" of these men but which was now forced to look deeply into the ancestry of its soldiers.

The process of investigation and removal, however, was marred by a highly inconsistent application of Nazi law. Numerous "exemptions" were made in order to allow a soldier to stay within the ranks or to spare a soldier's parent, spouse, or other relative from incarceration or far worse. (Hitler's own signature can be found on many of these "exemption" orders.) But as the war dragged on, Nazi politics came to trump military logic, even in the face of the Wehrmacht's growing manpower needs, closing legal loopholes and making it virtually impossible for these soldiers to escape the fate of millions of other victims of the Third Reich.

Based on a deep and wide-ranging research in archival and secondary sources, as well as extensive interviews with more than four hundred Mischlinge and their relatives, Rigg's study breaks truly new ground in a crowded field and shows from yet another angle the extremely flawed, dishonest, demeaning, and tragic essence of Hitler's rule.

This book is part of the Modern War Studies series.


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