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Investigation and removal of Mischlinge from the military, however, was marred by the highly inconsistent application of Nazi law. Numerous "exemptions" were made in order to allow soldiers to stay within the ranks or to spare a soldier's parent, spouse, or other relative from incarceration or 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 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 new ground in a crowded field and presents yet another angle on the extremely flawed, dishonest, demeaning, and tragic essence of Hitler's rule. The thousands of pages of documents and oral testimonies (8mm and VHS video) the author collected for this study are now housed in the Bryan Mark Rigg Collection at the Bundesarchiv-Militararchiv in Freiburg, Germany.
Copyright © 2002 University Press of Kansas.
All rights reserved.
Who Is a Jew?
The question "Who is a Jew?" has sparked heated debate throughout the ages. Even today in Israel, the intensity of the preoccupation with this question is, according to law professor Asher Maoz of Tel-Aviv University, "second only to Israel's preoccupation with problems of security and peace. This is unsurprising as many regard both subjects as matters of national survival."
The Term "Jew"
The word "Jew" derives from the name of the tribe of Judah, named after one of the twelve sons of Israel (Jacob). The Jews descend from Aramean nomads who crossed the Euphrates into the land of Canaan under Abraham's leadership around 1850 B.C.E. They were called the Ivrim (Hebrews). Many today call Abraham the "first Jew" and the first monotheist. Some focus on the collective experiences of Jews during their bondage as slaves in Egypt and their eventual exodus out of Egypt that led to their becoming a nation. Others emphasize that God's chosen people officially became a nation of Jews when Moses received God's laws (the Torah) on Mount Sinai around 1200 B.C.E. soon after they left Egypt. This is when the people of Israel entered into a covenant (B'rit) with God, and the Torah was the "sacred writ of that covenant."
In biblical times, a child "inherited" his Jewishness from his father. According to one common interpretation, in the Book of Leviticus, a "half-caste Danite" man who had a Jewish mother but an Egyptian father was rejected as not "belonging." This example illustrates that at the time, Jewishness depended on descent through the father, contrary to today's practice. For example, Joseph's children are considered Jews, though their mother Asenath was the daughter of an Egyptian priest of On, and Moses' children, though their mother Zipporah was a Cushite from present-day Ethiopia. Before the giving of the Torah, Jewishness was a function of one's lineage, beliefs, and customs. For example, circumcision was an identifying factor for Abraham and his descendants. To join the Hebrews, one just had to adopt their culture; no formal procedure of conversion was required. In this sense, all of the Israelites prior to Sinai were Jewish. Only after Sinai was a formal procedure of conversion necessary.
Present-day Definitions of a Jew
Today, observant Jews look to the Tanach (Jewish bible) and Talmud (the oral Torah) to define Jewishness. According to rabbinical law (Halakah) today, a Jew is a person born of a Jewish mother or one who properly converts to Judaism. Orthodox rabbi and professor Jacob Schochet of Humber College commented, "The father's status is altogether irrelevant." The father does, however, play an important role in deciding whether a male child is of the priestly cast or not (i.e., a Cohen or a Levi).
Why do observant Jews follow the law of maternal descent? Most observant Jews simply say that is how God set it up. When asked why God did it this way, some suggest that this law probably was adopted because a child's mother could almost always be identified in biblical times. This humane law also may have served to protect children fathered by foreign soldiers in wartime by accepting them into Jewish society. Moreover, most Jews consider a child born of a Jewish mother Jewish regardless of the parents' future actions. For example, most Jews would consider a child Jewish even if the parents baptized the child at birth. The child's Jewishness is its birthright, which its parents cannot take away.
According to Halakah, once a person is born Jewish or properly converts to Judaism, that status remains forever. One might think that a Jew would no longer be Jewish if he professed another religion, but this is not the case. Orthodox rabbi Dovid Gottlieb remarked, "Once a Jew, always a Jew." For example, most consider that political philosopher Karl Marx, poet and writer Heinrich Heine, and composer and conductor Felix Mendelssohn-Bartholdy were all Jews, although they all converted to Christianity. Shlomo Perel, a Jew who served in the Wehrmacht (under the assumed name of Josef Perjell), wrote, "It's hard to be a Jew, but it's even harder to try not to be one [if you were born one]." The satirist Kurt Tucholsky, in Swedish exile in 1935, echoed Perel when he wrote, "I left Judaism in 1911," but then added, "I know that this is in fact impossible."
For many Jews, however, religion plays little or no role in defining their Jewishness. They believe Jewishness means first and foremost an ethnic allegiance (i.e., belonging to the Jewish people). They also hold certain ideals very dear to their hearts, such as education, family values, and charity. Religious beliefs are secondary. Many in the world who consider themselves Jews in every respect would deny that they have any religion at all.
Most Jews consider themselves part of a unique family. Every day, observant Jews say the Shema, the holiest Jewish prayer which comes from Deuteronomy 6:4. It reads, "Hear, O Israel! Adonai is our God. Adonai, the one and only." This prayer is a declaration to a nation, the people of Israel. Nicholas De Lange writes, "To be a Jew is thus to acknowledge an attachment to an historic experience. To become a Jew is essentially to join a people." Moses Hess, an early advocate of Zionism, said in 1862, "Jewry is above all a nationality; its history goes back several thousand years and marches hand-in-hand with the history of mankind."
The Jews are not a "race"; there are no genetic features that all Jews, and only Jews, share. Furthermore, because non-Jews have always been able to convert to Judaism, common physical traits could hardly be expected. Because Jews have spread throughout the world, they have taken on different ethnicities, cultures, and traditions. Nevertheless, they all have some attachment to Israel, and those who have remained observant share a spiritual allegiance to the Torah. In modern times, tensions sometimes arise when groups from the Diaspora immigrate to Israel. Israeli officials who have to define whether the people entering Israel are Jews sometimes have trouble addressing this delicate issue. Recently the arrival of destitute Ethiopian Jews (Falashas) in Israel sparked debate about who is a "kosher Jew." The government airlifted these persecuted people to Israel and gave them Israeli citizenship, homes, food, and education, but that did not automatically confirm their status as Jews. After discussing Ethiopians' cultural and religious differences, Israel's supreme court concurred with the chief Rabbinate's judgment that Ethiopian Jews "were doubtful Jews requiting a restrictive conversion (giyur lechumra) in order to qualify for [Jewish] marriage [author's italics]." Many religious leaders questioned these Ethiopians' Jewishness, maintaining that these African Jews only observed a form of "crypto-Judaism." Many Russian Jews are also looked upon as "doubtful Jews." Since the fall of the Iron Curtain, tens of thousands of Russian Jews have immigrated to Israel. Most have fled persecution and poverty in Russia. They view Israel as a land of hope where they can live a free and self-determined existence. However, the Rabbinate views some of these Russians' Jewishness skeptically, maintaining that many of these people have either falsely claimed to be Jewish to escape the poverty in Russia, have an imperfect understanding of what it means to be Jewish, or only have Jewish fathers.
The variations in cultural values and historic legacy among certain Jews can create confusion regarding how Jewish or Israeli they are perceived as being. Although the Israeli government uses a definition similar to the Halakic one to recognize a Jew — that is, one must be born of a Jewish mother or convert to Judaism and not belong to another religion (called the "Law of Return") — the nation of Israel is strongly split over the issue. For example, in 1998, two Russian-Israeli soldiers died in combat while stationed in Lebanon. The Rabbinate refused them a Jewish burial in a military graveyard because they had only Jewish fathers. They were not considered Jews. One would think that dying while serving in the Israeli army would prove that one felt Jewish and believed in the state of Israel, but the Rabbinate does not hold such actions and convictions sufficient to declare someone Halakically Jewish. The Rabbinate views Jewishness as a formal definition of status as opposed to one of self-perception or commitment to Israel or the Jewish people. A person could consider himself Jewish, be a dedicated Israeli citizen, and even an Israeli war hero, but not formally be considered Jewish. So for many, differences in religious belief, cultural background, ethnic makeup, and self-perception make the answers to the question "Who is a Jew?" Complex and unresolved.
Strong differences also exist between the Orthodox, Conservative, and Reform movements within Judaism. For example, the Orthodox and Conservative movements adhere to the Halakic law of maternal descent or conversion for one to be a Jew. Most Reform Jews believe paternal descent is also enough to be a Jew. While Conservative Judaism "affirms the divinity of Halacha but questions its immutability," Reform Judaism "denies the authority of both principles." Orthodox Judaism believes these two movements are not Halakically sound. The ideological differences between these three movements have caused heated debate. In Israel, the Orthodox passionately fight to keep Reform and Conservative organizations from establishing themselves. For example, for many Orthodox Jews, Jews in the Reform and Conservative movements, especially gentiles by birth who have converted into those movements, are not really Jews. The "Ministry of Religions" in Israel does not recognize people as Jewish who convert under non-Orthodox auspices. In fact, the ministry had been keeping lists provided by informers overseas or in Israel that registered some ten thousand immigrants whose Judaism was called into question. Although these people were not denied entrance into Israel under the Law of Return, many rabbis would not perform marriage ceremonies or Jewish burials for them. In other words, for Orthodox Jews, if a Reform or Conservative Jew does not have a Jewish mother or an Orthodox conversion, then he or she is "not Jewish, period." One of the Orthodox Jewish movement's objectives is to "de-legitimize the non-orthodox streams." These schisms cause many to worry about Israel's future. The conflict jeopardizes the entire social fabric of Israel and the unity of the nation. Different groups threaten one another and Israel with "boycotts, financial blackmail and sanctions." Orthodox Rabbi Schochet wrote, "Self-interest, arrogance and narcissism (on the individual and organizational levels) within our own people threaten to achieve what our worst enemies could not." With all the controversy surrounding the questions "Who is a Jew?" and "What is Jewish?" one can see the difficulties this study encountered when discussing issues of people's Jewishness. Quite often, to discuss Mischlinge and their Wehrmacht service, readers must first acknowledge their own prejudices and beliefs. The definition of Jewishness and "Who is a Jew" strongly influences how one reads this history. Ironically, the current problems in Israel often came up during this research, and that is why they are addressed in such detail.
Jewish Law (Halakah) and Mischlinge
Mischlinge were confused by these religious definitions. Some did not know what Halakah meant before it was explained to them during the interviews conducted for this study. Helmut Krüger complained that he is tired of some Jews trying to make him into a Jew. He struggled for twelve years to convince the Nazis he was not Jewish but rather a loyal German patriot. He survived the Nazi onslaught but never convinced them that he was fully "Aryan." Even now, observant Jews asked about his case unwaveringly state that Krüger is Halakically Jewish because he had a Jewish mother. Krüger insists that he had nothing to do with his mother's Jewishness. He was born German and raised as a Christian. Krüger dislikes being called a Jew, not because he is anti-Semitic but because he does not feel Jewish. Halakah means nothing to him. He added, "Should I be called a Nazi because my uncle, Hermann Krüger, was an Ortsgruppenleiter of the NSDAP? The answer is no just as much as it's no that I'm a Jew." Some rabbis claim that people like Krüger demonstrate Jewish self-hatred; they renounce their Jewishness because they are afraid to admit who they are. Krüger believes that he is just Helmut Krüger, born a German not by choice but by chance to a German-Jewish mother who, like many Jews, assimilated and shed her Jewishness to integrate fully into the dominant society. Krüger's opinion is common among Mischlinge. The vast majority do not know how to describe their own Jewish heritage and are confused when observant Jews tell them they are Jewish. Some feel Jewish in their own way, not because they have Jewish mothers but because the Nazis persecuted them for being partially Jewish. Their Jewish identity was born of persecution rather than religious or cultural heritage.
Eastern Jews versus German Jews
Examining the tragic conflict between German Jews and Eastern Jews (Ostjuden) before Hitler came to power helps explain the Mischlinge's confusion over what it meant to be Jewish. Prior to the rise of Nazism, many German Jews had unfortunately discriminated against Ostjuden. Many felt that the poor, culturally backward, and "dirty" Ostjuden gave the typically well-educated and cultured German Jeckes a bad name. Although many German Jews had contempt for the Ostjuden, some did help the Ostjuden philanthropically. They felt compassion for these Jews who left the East because of Communism, pogroms, and economic strife. Unfortunately, such German Jews who did help Ostjuden were a minority. Many German Jews felt that the Ostjuden lived in anachronistic ghettos and only learned "Polish Talmudic barbarism" in comparison to refined German Bildung (education). For German Jews, these "ghetto-Jews" from the East followed an irrational and superstitious religion of the Jewish mystics that no longer could function properly in a world based on a religion of reason and knowledge. Most Ostjuden felt that their heretical daitsch (German) brothers had left Yiddischkeit (Judaism) by shaving off their beards, adapting modern ways, and not keeping the Sabbath holy. Many of them denounced the Reform movement which had been started in Germany. In Austria, the situation was no different than in Germany. For example, many Viennese Jews also did not welcome Ostjuden and showed contempt for the "bearded, caftan-clad people."
Thus, many German Jews and Mischlinge thought Hitler based his anti-Semitic tirades on Ostjuden who had emigrated from the "land of Bolshevism." The Nazis reinforced this preconception when they issued decrees against Ostjuden in 1933 and later when they forced eighteen thousand of them to leave the Reich in 1938. Wolf Zuelzer, a 75 percent Jew, explained that German Jews maintained their prejudice against Ostjuden because of their cultural isolation and "primitive" lifestyle. Zuelzer wrote that "for the majority of German Jews, the Orthodox Ostjuden dressed in his caftan, fur hat and ritual side-locks was a frightening apparition from the Dark Ages." At the beginning of the twentieth century, "[m]any of the local Jewish communities in Germany refused to allow Eastern Jews to vote in community elections on the grounds that they were not German nationals." Dr. Max Naumann, a Jew and a retired World War I army major and founder of the militant right-wing organization of National German Jews, wrote Hitler on 20 March 1935 that he and his followers had fought to keep Ostjuden out of Germany. Naumann felt that these "hordes of half-Asian Jews" were "dangerous guests" in Germany and must be "ruthlessly expelled."
Excerpted from Hitler's Jewish Soldiers by Bryan Mark Rigg. Copyright © 2002 by University Press of Kansas. Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
|List of Abbreviations|
|List of SS and Wehrmacht Ranks|
|1||Who Is a Jew?||6|
|2||Who Is a Mischling?||19|
|3||Assimilation and the Jewish Experience in the German Armed Forces||51|
|4||Racial Policy and the Nuremberg Laws, 1933-1939||76|
|5||The Policy toward Mischlinge Tightens, 1940-1943||116|
|6||Turning Point and Forced Labor, 1943-1944||156|
|7||Exemptions from the Racial Laws Granted by Hitler||172|
|8||The Process of Obtaining an Exemption||199|
|9||What Did Mischlinge Know about the Holocaust?||247|
Posted February 13, 2006
I have always been more interested in Jews that were/are fighter than with the view of Jews as victims. Jews have been fighters since the days of the Maccabees thousands of years ago and even during the holocaust the Jews in the Warsaw Ghetto held off the German army longer than the entire country of Poland. That is also why Israel is so feared by Arabs and Muslims when they occupy prob less than 1% of the middle east. The Jews and Germans of Jewish ancestry who fought for the 3rd Reich were courageous men and had a double challenge on their hands. They saw them selves as Germans first just like the Jews of the US civil war who fought for the South. They were Southerners first and Jews 2nd. This has always been a difficult thing for both Jews and non-Jews alike to understand but I feel that Dr. Rigg's book has really bridged that gap. The book does have a textbook feel to it but the information and research that has gone into it will make it seem like you are reading the Da Vinci Code. I loved it!Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted August 16, 2003
It is interesting to observe that some 70 years after Hitler came on the scene, books show up helping to fill in the pieces of what took place in Germany. Rigg's book is a great addition to those who seek understanding of the horrors brought about by the Nazi regime. His book is the culmination of a ten year journey which started when he was working on a Yale University thesis. Through many interviews and plenty of research, Rigg presents a picture of the German military most of us have not considered, an armed force not made exclusively of 100% Aryan men. This should not come as a surprise given that through many years of German history men and women married, giving little attention to blood lines. Rigg adds a dimension to the Nazi picture which needs to be viewed. He spends not a little time discussing why it was that so many in Germany did not fight back. One army officer who was 75% Jewish said that they had been so caught up in the ideology that they became 'inhuman.' Many saw Hitler as the country's savior (especially after the devastation of WW-I) and couldn't or wouldn't see the evil he was working to express. They bought into his ideology and we know, today, the consequences of those ideas. As Richard Weaver wrote many years ago, 'Ideas have Consequences.' The ideas A. Hitler presented had serious consequences, bringing about the deaths of millions. Rigg goes down one road in which he looks at the various accounts that Hitler himself had Jewish blood. He points out an interesting thing about Hitler. Adolf, apparently worried about his own family background, did about everything he could to coverup his history, leaving an unanswerable question: Was Hitler a Jew? We may never know but his behavior seems to suggest some serious problems in his own background. Another avenue Rigg travels is to show how Hitler viewed Jesus Christ. The book is very worthwhile and should find its place on any historian's book shelf and in any classroom studying the holocaust. The book has over 100 pages of footnotes as well as a large bibliography making it a good source for those wishing to do more study on this important topic.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted April 3, 2003
Professor Bryan Mark Rigg provides an insightful, logical, and indepth findings of his research in this dynamic, well written book. As a graduate student, I discovered a side of the Dictator, Adolf Hitler, not often revealed by other authors. Rigg sets the stage and builds on the story of the Mischinling and their plight while residing in Nazi Germany. Clearly Rigg ties together the influence Hitler had over the Nazi Party and the German Army High Command. The fact that Hitler allowed half and quarter Jews to serve in a time of racial genocide shows a confliction of attitude within Hitler himself. Rigg has put together a very delicate and widely unknown topic in such a manner that it causes people to stop and reflect on what they thought they knew about Hitler, his regime, and the Holocaust. Professor Rigg should be applauded for his outstanding book. I have recommended it to all my military colleagues.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted December 4, 2002
After seeing the Dateline NBC feature on "Hitler's Jewish Soldiers," I ordered the book that night. It was abseloutly fascinating. I thoroughly enjoyed even minute of it. Dr. Rigg's extensive work put into the production of this book paid off! Im only 15 years old, and thought it was wonderful, so young guys shouldn't hesitate to pick this one up. Even if you're not a huge fan of WWII novels, I'd strongly recommend checking it out anyway. The unbelieveable, yet true, is one worth catching. Don't miss out! I hope this helped, enjoy your reading.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted September 19, 2002
In this wonderfully written and painstakingly researched work, Bryan Mark Rigg manages to dig beneath the astonishing statistics presented, to find the stories of human conflict and frailty. Thank goodness these first hand accounts were recorded before it was too late! I was moved over and over again with each new story of the tumultuous lives that partial Jews (Mischlinge) lived during WW II. We all know about the tragedy of the Holocaust and the Death Camps, but Rigg breaks new ground when telling the stories of quarter and half Jews serving in Hitler¿s armed forces. Even Rigg cannot explain Hitler¿s reasons for making certain choices (although he does a respectable job of explaining why Hitler continually changed his mind about what should be done with the Mischlinge), but he gives great insight into the reasoning behind why partial Jews did not leave the country and even fought for the Third Reich. Whether they were hiding in the army, attempting to save their families by fighting or simply defending the Fatherland as proud Germans, the result of Dr. Rigg¿s personal interviews and years of research is both fascinating and heartbreaking. A must read for serious historians and anyone concerned with the human condition.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted October 22, 2002
To the intelligent and appreciative commentaries above I would want to add only one particular point. Though these "mischlinge" seem, in the main, to have been quite distant from Jewish identity many of them seem also to have been deeply concerned with protecting their more Jewish parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles. And they may have, by their membership in the Wehrmacht, have provided some such protective cover temporarily. But it was Hitler's policy to avoid stirring up anti-governmental reaction during the difficult war years. Apparently he, or some around him, feared that ripping German Jews out of their German locations would arouse a fair amount of non-Jewish, but sympathetic, criticism. It was, after all, harder to hate the Jews that had been your neighbors than to hate the demonized "Ostjuden." Thus, it was not until most of east-european Jewry had been destroyed that, in late 1944 and into early 1945, the German Jews (including some of the parents of the mischlinge veterans) were shipped east and to their rapid murder. The protection bought for close relatives by serving in the Wehrmacht was not lasting. Nor was it the motivation of all or most of the "Jewish" military. Many of them clearly aspired to be "Echtdeutsch" and others were merely yielding to the draft which originally defined German half and quarter Jews as acceptable for required service. All in all, Rigg has done a very significant piece of historical research and writing. And with virtually no encouragement (in fact some discouragement) from his professors at Yale. I confess that I was once a very assistant professor there--long before Rigg arrived. Clearly he was better served by the Cambridge Dons.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted October 21, 2002
For those who are searching Jewish Genealogy, this book gives a clear and precise picture of the German Jews who fought with courage against discrimination and with a steadfast loyalty to Germany.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted July 11, 2002
Bryan Rigg has, through the course of his research uncovered a fact that was known to many of us yet not widely admitted enmasse by either historians or the Holocaust survivors. As an historian who has worked with Dr. Rigg and knows his honesty and integrity, this book may be read with little concern for embelishment or dramatization. What you see is definitely what you get. In addition, by examining the people who made up 'Hitler's Jewish Soldiers' the hypocrisy of the Nazi paradigm becomes even more clear; the ability for Hitler to personally classify someone as 'Aryan' for the good of the Reich. This was seen many times in the constant lowering of the racial criteria for foreign service into the ranks of the Waffen SS as the war continued, an area in which I work. Bryan's book validates my own research in many ways, yet it will also become a landmark book for those persons whose narrow minded view of Nazi Germany and its approach to race must be re-evaluated to address the realities that Rigg has uncovered. This is a powerful work, and should be read by everyone, historical enthusiast or not. Kudos to Bryan.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted May 23, 2002
Dr. Rigg has done humanity a valuable service. What interests me, as a survivor of several WW2 concentration camps, is that in 'Hitlers Jewish Soldiers' Dr. Bryan Mark Rigg has finally documented Hitler's personal responsibility for the murder of the Jews. Dr. Rigg shows, through his extensive well documented research, each of Hitler's signed 'Genehmigung' (or exemption) was truly a cancellation order for a death sentence. Hitler has given us in writing, following meticulous checking, his decision to save the lives of a few and by inference, as he had earlier instructed, left the murder of millions to his underlings. The book makes chilling but very informative reading. There is no further proof required for the fact that Hitler was the author and the executioner of the 'Final Solution' or murder of all the Jews during WW2. Once I started reading, I could not put the book down. The interviews by Dr. Rigg and case histories of the soldiers show how certain people performed acts unimaginable today to save their own lives and that of their closest relatives. It is impossible for me not to draw certain conclusions from this book that reflect on current events. For survivors of WW2 concentration camps, even today as certain 'Swiss Settlements' and 'German Foundations' are set up to compensate them, they see 'exemptions' or 'Genehmigung' being made to benefit those officiating and protect the perpetrators. It is hard for us not to draw a parallel, even if it is less deadly, how the traumatized victims are being forced again to continue living in their ruined mental and economic state from having survived Hitler's barbarism. Today's treatment of these victims are made possible only through the actions of so called benevolent self serving individuals in the U.S., such as a Jewish official in the U.S. State Department, a Jewish professor and attorney, a few class action lawyers, and a cold hearted uninformed Federal Judge. In fact these 'Settlements and Foundations', principally fulfill their own personal pathological needs and are socially unacceptable. This is a very timely and valuable book that sends a message for us all. Paul N. Frenkel New Preston, CTWas this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted June 3, 2002
The author describes and analyzes the fate of German soldiers of Jewish descent and their families during the 3. Reich. It especially looks at the conditions under which Jews and 'Mischlinge' according to Nazi racial definition could stay and serve in the Wehrmacht and how the process worked that led to an exemption. This book is in many respects a must read for everybody interested in the Holocaust. It is very well written and in my opinion a perfect blend between oral history and archival research. Therefore, it is both interesting for professional scholars and the broader public. The author's arguments are well documented by a large number of interviews with former German soldiers of Jewish descent and references to archival sources. The author gives an exemplary account of some of these men but at the same time also analyzes the broader implications of his findings. It is in the fate of these men where some evidence can be detected about what a possible future might have looked like in terms of anti-Jewish policy and in terms of further 'cleaning the Volkskoerper' if Germany had won the war. I also completely agree with Rigg's conclusion that given Hitler's personal involvement in any single exemption it is very hard to imagine that he was not in control of the general path of anti-Jewish measures including the extermination in the East. Therefore, Rigg is adding another important piece of evidence in answering the question whether Hitler personally gave the order for the extermination. Rigg further analyzes the question what these soldiers knew about the 'Final Solution'. Some of them were probably the only people who potentially had knowledge from the perpetrators' and the victims' side, and they were personally affected by the persecution. He concludes that most of those men had only a vague idea or did not know anything about the extermination camps and that the unthinkable was a very powerful barrier of thought even or especially in these instances. The book further demonstrates how much Jews had assimilated in German society and even in the military. It shows how these soldiers were torn apart between different identities but also that many were ashamed of their heritage and tried everything to get back into the mainstream of German society either to save themselves and their families but often also because they believed in the 'resurrection of the German nation' and wanted to contribute. Therefore, the book is a powerful reminder that if we study history closely, we will encounter many shades of gray.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted July 29, 2002
The well-written 'Hitler's Jewish Soldiers' documents many interesting facts of WWII never before printed. Before reading the book, I had never realized the large number of inter-marriages in German and Austrian society pre-WWII. In addition, I had never thought it possible that a Jew could serve under Hitler. However, Dr. Rigg describes the persecution that 25% Jews, people that did not even identify themselves as Jews, faced during the Nazi regime. The extensive research Dr. Rigg performed to document the evidence in the book is laudable and the writing style of Dr. Rigg deserves praise. This book is a contribution to the history of WWII and Holocaust memoirs.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted July 30, 2002
Dr. Rigg completed a revolutionary work that changes everything what we have been taught about W.W.II, life in Nazi Germany, and the Holocaust. Nobody would argue that inhumane Nuremberg Laws created by Hitler and his associates eventually caused many atrocities against Jews in Europe. However, 150,000 Jewish soldiers in Wehrmacht is a shocking figure. It would rather represent a rule than an exemption. Of course, many people heard about Luftwaffe Field Marshal Erhard Milch being a half-Jew, due to publications in ¿Der Stuermer¿. The chief editor Julius Streicher made Milch a target of his vicious anti-Semitic publications. Jewish ancestry of Reinhard Heydrich was widely discussed even among top Nazi and SS officials. The story of Colonel (Major at that time) Ernst Bloch, who was able to rescue Lubavitcher Rabbi Schneersohn should not be compared to the story of Oscar Schindler. Colonel Bloch rescued the religious leader of Hassidic community without having any personal gain. Some sources point out that he contacted SS Reichsfuehrer Himmler. not Admiral Canaris, to secure safe transfer of Schneersohn to Netherlands However those facts had been always considered as isolated episodes of war and practically were never mentioned. One should consider that the figure of 150,000 served in Wehrmacht, SS, Luftwaffe, and Kriegsmarine represent only male Jewish or Mischlinge of the age 18-45 or the top officers who were a little older. Dr. Rigg was able to contact and interview in person about 400 people almost fifty years after the war ended. Taking into consideration that most of Jewish soldiers probably died within last fifty years, the number of 150,000 appears to be accurate. Their personal testimonies shed more light on what was happening in reality in Nazi Germany. I believe that Dr. Rigg¿s work must be used by every person who is studying or teaching History of WWII to provide more accurate presentation of the subject.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted June 18, 2002
'Hitler's Jewish Soldiers' by Bryan Mark Rigg, is a unique World War II history. He has had access to government archives, private records, and personal interviews that most history buffs only dream about. Indeed, one must have a thorough background in the German National Socialist years and modern military history just to begin to appreciate the level of the research that went into the book. Apart from the unique breadth and focus of Mr. Rigg's research, his book stands out for its fresh and intriguing perspective. The author explores the various reasons why men who appear to have nothing to gain and everything to lose might find themselves in the German military. Their reasons often included elements of patriotism, considerations of personal safety by hiding in plain sight, desire for personal or career advancement, the hope that a soldier's family might benefit from his loyal service, and a sense of duty instilled by previous military training before the Nazis came to power. The German racial laws focused more on ancestry than choice of religion. There were significant numbers of Jews, half-Jews, and quarter-Jews in the German military. Although there were few Jews of pure ancestry, there were substantial numbers of the so-called mischlinge, or people of mixed heritage. Hitler's Jewish Soldiers analyzes the actions and motivations of people who could possess one of two extremely different points of view to explain what really went on in Germany in the Nazi era. A truly unique case history that Mr. Rigg references in his book is Bernhard Rogge. Rogge began his naval career in the Kaiser's navy, served the Reichsmarine of the post WW1 republic, then Hitler's navy to reach the rank of vice admiral, after Germany fell Rogge worked managing a shipping company, and finally he retired in the 1960's after serving as a vice admiral in the Bundesmarine. Rogge, as a quarter Jew married to a Jew was considered a full Jew under Nazi pronouncements. In 1939, his wife and mother in law, also Jewish, killed themselves to escape the persecution. Hitler gave Rogge an exemption from the Nazi racial laws. Hitler later personally awarded the Knights Cross with Oak Leaves to Rogge for his military accomplishments. Rogge served with humanitarian distinction in command of the auxiliary cruiser Atlantis, sinking or capturing 22 ships and remaining away from port for 655 days without any serious morale or discipline problems. Later in the war, his task group built around the Prinz Eugen supported the epic German evacuation in the Baltic Sea away from the Russian invasion in the east. Nobody will ever know how many German lives were saved. Certainly no Nazi, Rogge is just one example of a man of possessed of two heritages who is remembered for serving his country loyally and decently. The most common analytical shortcut taken by modern historians is to write of groups of people. Since it requires the collective efforts of thousands, and perhaps millions, of people to wage a modern war, it seems quite reasonable to assume that groups of people acted in accordance with a common goal and a unanimous conviction in their ideals. Although it may make perfectly good sense to approach the history of war and politics as a study of the conflicts among races, religions, and nations, the resulting oversimplification dilutes and obscures the real lessons of history. By exploring the individual motivations of men whose backgrounds fit neatly into neither of two competing groups, Mr. Rigg actually examines the whole concept of why men participate in war. It should be obvious that neither army in a conflict, and certainly no individual soldier, goes into battle with the intention of being remembered as the 'bad guy' in history. Unfortunately, modern writers frequently assume too many things and attribute commonly misunderstood purposes to the German soldiers, and such errors are the result of stereotyping. ManWas this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted May 3, 2002