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Masters of Death: The SS-Einsatzgruppen and the Invention of the Holocaust

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Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 26 Customer Reviews
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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 11, 2004

    Disturbing. Lest We Forget.

    This chilling study brings home to the reader the reality of how the genocide of the Jews and others planned by the Nazis did not actually begin with the mass, 'industrial' exterminations in the gas chambers of the Concentration Camps at Auschwitz-Birkenau, Majdanek, Treblinka etc., but with small groups of murderers known as the 'Einsatzgruppen'. Units which were formed by Himmler and Heydrich immediately before the invasion of the East/Soviet Union and which followed the advancing German Armies. 'In depth' is a term that is perhaps sometimes mis-used, but it is deeply appropriate when applied here to this disturbing, detailed study of what can only be described as 'cold blooded murder' by these SS murder squads. This thoroughly researched and extremely well written book is at times a 'heavy' and 'difficult' read. Nevertheless it is indeed a major contribution towards the study of the Nazi Holocaust which describes the construction and utilisation of these Nazi murder squads. Units cited in this work as often consisting of many professional, 'educated' men such as lawyers, doctors, architects etc., and who participated in an acutely 'personal' manner of murder where some 1.5 million men, women and children were barbarically executed by shooting. The bodies of their victims described as then being disposed of in 'killing pits' (often anti-tank ditches, natural ravines or freshly dug pits). Many of the mass graves each containing many thousands of innocent victims, frequently shot one by one and buried layer upon layer. Many of these graves are still marked as memorials to this day. Photographs of some are included in this book. One such massacre described in the book is that at Babi Yar. A ravine where Jewish men, women, and children were systematically machine-gunned in a two-day orgy of execution. Here the Jews in their thousands, with such pathetic belongings as they could carry, were herded into barbed-wire areas at the top of the ravine, guarded by Ukrainian collaborators. There they were stripped of their clothes and beaten, then led in irregular squads down the side of the ravine. The first groups were forced to lie on the ground, face down, and were machine-gunned by the Germans who kept up a steady volley. Their bodies were covered with thin layers of earth and the next groups were ordered to lie over them, to be similarly murdered. To carry out the murder of 34,000 human beings in the space of two days in such a manner is difficult to comprehend. Indeed, much of this book is so disturbing that it is frequently only possible to read in small sections at a time. Photographs are provided showing how some of the 1.5 million innocent Jews and innocent Poles and Russians were marched to such 'pits' as these before being lined up and summarily executed. The task of these Units was to kill the Jews on the spot - but not only Jews; communists, Gypsies, political leaders, and the intelligentsia were also killed. The book also describes the beginning of the use of mobile gas 'killing vans' where the victims carried in sealed areas to the rear were subjected to the vehicles' exhaust fumes. The graphic detail provided in this work is in itself difficult to read and might upset many readers, but the author makes no effort to trivialise the suffering of the utterly defenceless victims and the cold blooded barbarity of their executors. Many eyewitness accounts and testimonies of those who participated in the slaughter have been uncovered and are used to provide an essential reference and authenticity to the context of this presentation. Early on in the book the writer provides a commentary on the nature of violence and how these 'ordinary' men became capable of carrying out such atrocities. The study further documents the impact of these mass murders on the individual perpetrators and the ensuing psychological traumas that many endured. Some readers might disagree with the conclusions drawn he

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 17, 2002

    Penetrating Albeit Frightening Look At Nazi Death Squads Along The Eastern Front!

    new book by Richard Rhodes is, in my opinion, a quite interesting attempt to exhaustively explore the terrible brutality of the S.S. Einsatzgruppen (Special Group) created under Heinrich Himmler's specific direction to carry out an loosely organized mass extermination of Eastern captive populations as the Wehrmacht pressed into Poland and the Soviet Union during the successive Eastern campaigns. I purposely have used the term "captive populations" to connote that it was a population much more inclusive of local residents, including communist collaborators, dissidents, gypsies, and other "undesirables", targeted for extinction rather than being limited strictly to Jews. It is, I believe, a demonstrable mistake to try to argue that the Third Reich was primarily interested in ridding itself of its Jewish population. Remember, the initial population of Jews so murdered were not deported German Jews, but rather indigenous Jews living in Poland, Estonia, and Lithuania, part of the captive populations. We do well to remember that the Nazis' stated purpose for conducting the entire Eastern campaign was to gain what Hitler often referred to as "Liebenstraum", or "living room" for future German expansion and colonization. Thus, the Third Reich intended from the onset of hostilities in one fashion or another to forcibly displace the native population through a combination of techniques, including extermination, sustained slave labor, and starvation. Historical questions regarding the etiology of the resulting Nazi policy of extermination of European Jews revolve around a single question: was it Hitler's intent from the beginning to do so, or did the policy evolve from pragmatic and existential circumstance? The first line of argument, what is often called the "intentionalist"premise, is that as he stated in "Mien Kampf", the Fuhrer always intended to wipe out the Jewish peoples of Europe, and that his campaign proceeded, cautiously and tentatively at first, more due to political and logistical considerations than with anything else. The opposing argument, regarded to the "functional' premise, finds the genesis of the policy of systematic genocide of the Jews in the welter of events and circumstances that arose from the onset of the Eastern campaign as early in the fall of 1939 when the Wehrmacht invaded Poland. This line of thought finds evidence in the Nazi's evolving efforts to employ ever more efficient and effective methodologies to deal with the captive populations of the East. Obviously, for either perspective to continue to have passionate adherants fifty years later indicates that both perspectives have considerable merit. Having said this, I find the so-called "functional" argument more persuasive and more consistent with the bulk of historical record. This perspective is not an fact attempt to attempt to argue that Hitler had no premeditation or predisposition regarding the eventual fate of European Jews and other targeted populations. Rather, it is more an argument as to how the Third Reich planned to capitalize best on the evolving existential circumstances to furhter its own immediate goals and objectives; as to whether it is more useful for the regime to temporarily enslave the subject population and work them to death, or to simply kill them quickly and dispose of them. What the historical record seems to show is that Hitler had given local area political subordinates considerable leeway in managing the dislocation process, especially in the first few months of occupation of Poland. It was the circumstances that arose and the difficulties associated with marshalling sufficient resources to feed, house, and surveil the indigenous captive populations that led to many of the initial efforts at systematic extermination. Otherwise, situations like those that led to the establishment, management, and horrors associated with the Warsaw Ghetto would never have come to pass. All that said, the book does indeed shed cons

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted June 24, 2011

    Unforgetable

    A well constructed and articulated piece which sheds light to a largely understudied facet of holocaust history. SS Einsaitzegruppen, a branch of the SS that was designated to liquidate European Jewry, were instrumental in the articulation of The Final Solution and mass murder in Eastern Europe. A prudent read to shape and contextualize the nature of holocaust history.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 15, 2003

    Disturbing. Lest we forget.

    This chilling study brings home to the reader the reality of how the genocide of the Jews and others planned by the Nazis did not actually begin with the mass, 'industrial' exterminations in the gas chambers of the Concentration Camps at Auschwitz-Birkenau, Majdanek, Treblinka etc., but with small groups of murderers known as the 'Einsatzgruppen'. Units which were formed by Himmler and Heydrich immediately before the invasion of the East/Soviet Union and which followed the advancing German Armies. 'In depth' is a term that is perhaps sometimes mis-used, but it is deeply appropriate when applied here to this disturbing, detailed study of what can only be described as 'cold blooded murder' by these SS murder squads. This thoroughly researched and extremely well written book is at times a 'heavy' and 'difficult' read. Nevertheless it is indeed a major contribution towards the study of the Nazi Holocaust which describes the construction and utilisation of these Nazi murder squads. Units cited in this work as often consisting of many professional, 'educated' men such as lawyers, doctors, architects etc., and who participated in an acutely 'personal' manner of murder where some 1.5 million men, women and children were barbarically executed by shooting. The bodies of their victims described as then being disposed of in 'killing pits' (often anti-tank ditches, natural ravines or freshly dug pits). Many of the mass graves each containing many thousands of innocent victims, frequently shot one by one and buried layer upon layer. Many of these graves are still marked as memorials to this day. Photographs of some are included in this book. One such massacre described in the book is that at Babi Yar. A ravine where Jewish men, women, and children were systematically machine-gunned in a two-day orgy of execution. Here the Jews in their thousands, with such pathetic belongings as they could carry, were herded into barbed-wire areas at the top of the ravine, guarded by Ukrainian collaborators. There they were stripped of their clothes and beaten, then led in irregular squads down the side of the ravine. The first groups were forced to lie on the ground, face down, and were machine-gunned by the Germans who kept up a steady volley. Their bodies were covered with thin layers of earth and the next groups were ordered to lie over them, to be similarly murdered. To carry out the murder of 34,000 human beings in the space of two days in such a manner is difficult to comprehend. Indeed, much of this book is so disturbing that it is frequently only possible to read in small sections at a time. Photographs are provided showing how some of the 1.5 million innocent Jews and innocent Poles and Russians were marched to such 'pits' as these before being lined up and summarily executed. The task of these Units was to kill the Jews on the spot - but not only Jews; communists, Gypsies, political leaders, and the intelligentsia were also killed. The book also describes the beginning of the use of mobile gas 'killing vans' where the victims carried in sealed areas to the rear were subjected to the vehicles' exhaust fumes. The graphic detail provided in this work is in itself difficult to read and might upset many readers, but the author makes no effort to trivialise the suffering of the utterly defenceless victims and the cold blooded barbarity of their executors. Many eyewitness accounts and testimonies of those who participated in the slaughter have been uncovered and are used to provide an essential reference and authenticity to the context of this presentation. Early on in the book the writer provides a commentary on the nature of violence and how these 'ordinary' men became capable of carrying out such atrocities. The study further documents the impact of these mass murders on the individual perpetrators and the ensuing psychological traumas that many endured. Some readers might disagree with the conclusions drawn h

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
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    Posted November 29, 2011

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    Posted August 9, 2011

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