Nazis after Hitler: How Perpetrators of the Holocaust Cheated Justice and Truthby Donald M. McKale
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This deeply researched and informative book traces the biographies of thirty "typical" perpetrators of the Holocaust—some well known, some obscure—who survived World War II. Donald M. McKale reveals the shocking reality that the perpetrators were only rarely, if ever, tried or punished for their crimes, and nearly all alleged their innocence in Germany's extermination of nearly six million European Jews during the war. He highlights the bitter contrasts between the comfortable postwar lives of many war criminals and the enduring suffering of their victims.
The author shows how immediately after the war's end in 1945, Hitler's minions, whether the few placed on trial or the many living in freedom, carried on what amounted to a massive postwar ideological campaign against Jews. To be sure, the perpetrators didn't challenge the fact that the Holocaust happened. But in the face of exhaustive evidence showing their culpability, nearly all declared they had done nothing wrong, they had not known about the Jewish persecution until the war's end, and they had little or no responsibility or guilt for what had happened. In making these and other claims denying their involvement in the Holocaust, they defended the Nazi atrocities and anti-Semitism. Nearly every fabrication of these war criminals found its way into the mythology of postwar Holocaust deniers, who have used them, in one form or another, to buttress the deniers' biggest lie—that the Holocaust did not happen. The perpetrators, therefore, helped advance Holocaust denial without having denied the Holocaust happened.
Written in a compelling narrative style, Nazis after Hitler is the first to provide an overview of the lives of Nazis who survived the war, the vast majority of whom escaped justice. McKale provides a unique and accessible synthesis of the extensive research on the Holocaust and Nazi war criminals that will be invaluable for all readers interested in World War II.
By first describing the careers of Holocaust perpetratorswhether famous, like Hermann Goering, or known primarily to specialists, like Werner Bestand then recounting their fate in the postwar years, McKale provides the reader with an opportunity to follow their lives and the real or non-existent pursuit of justice. The context of German and Austrian societies largely eager to forget, judiciaries reluctant to take horrendous crimes seriously, and Cold War shifts on both sides toward leniency and even employment of perpetrators is thoughtfully described. The initial interest of the Americans and the reluctance of the British to conduct trials, the early and the routinized trials by the Soviets, the contrast between a few trials in Poland and the pogroms there against Jews trying to return to their homes, and the lengthy efforts by a tiny number of concerned individuals to find and bring to trial those like Eichmann and Mengele, who had escaped to Syria and South America, are all covered here on the basis of comprehensive research.
The author makes a point of showing that essentially all who had played an active part in the killing of vast numbers whose only crime had been their birth never expressed the slightest degree of regret or remorse. They had done what they were supposed to do, and they thought it either entirely proper or of no moral significance. McKale also suggests that the general indifference to the issue at the time contributes to the maintenance and revival of virulent anti-Semitism into the present time. Anyone interested in a major horror of the twentieth century and how so many who played significant roles in it came to live out their lives in a way they had denied to their victims will find an enlightening but sobering account here.
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Nazis after HitlerHow Perpetrators of the Holocaust Cheated Justice and Truth
By Donald M. McKale
ROWMAN & LITTLEFIELD PUBLISHERS, INC.Copyright © 2012 Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc.
All right reserved.
Chapter OneWorld War II and Allied Promises
Before delving into the repulsive figures that make up this book, a brief word is in order about the historical background of World War II that so shaped what happened—or did not happen—to them after the war. At least initially, in the wake of the war's end in Europe in May 1945, the Allied victors captured some leading Nazi officials. The British, Americans, and Russians did so despite the fact that during the war they had made relatively few preparations to identify, among the huge number of German prisoners they held in 1945, either Holocaust perpetrators or other war criminals.
Previously, as the war had dragged on since 1939 with its profligate expenditure of treasure and lives, little support had existed anywhere on the Allied side for assisting Europe's Jews or others, the objects of widespread Nazi racial hatred and persecution. This Allied reluctance to help held especially true before 1943 and 1944, when Allied armies found themselves on the defensive nearly everywhere—in both Europe and the Far East—against the Axis forces.
Early on the morning of September 1, 1939, Germany had invaded Poland, beginning the war. Two days later, Great Britain and France tried to save Poland by declaring war on Germany, but soon Poland lay conquered and divided by Germany and the Soviet Union. A previous Nazi-Soviet pact had helped to seal Poland's fate. In 1940 Hitler's war machine had then turned toward northern and western Europe, conquering Norway, Denmark, the Netherlands, Belgium, Luxembourg, and France. The Nazi armies appeared unstoppable. In late July, Germany launched a massive air assault on Great Britain.
During 1941 the war expanded into a global conflict. Germany overran Yugoslavia and Greece and fought alongside Italy against the British in North Africa. On June 22, Hitler's Wehrmacht and Germany's European allies invaded the Soviet Union, breaking the Nazi-Soviet agreement. From that date until the war's end, the majority of fighting in the entire war happened on the massive Eastern front. More people would fight and die there than on every other front in World War II combined. Hitler, despite his having signed an agreement with the Soviet Union, had for a long time hated the Russians or Slavs, claiming they were an alleged inferior and decadent race, ruled by supposedly corrupt and even more wretched "Jewish-Bolsheviks." He intended to conquer the vast Soviet lands for more living space for the racially "pure" Germans. In December 1941, the Japanese attacked the American naval base at Pearl Harbor in Hawaii, beginning the war in the Pacific; shortly thereafter, Germany declared war on the United States.
As early as December 1942, amid increasing reports of mass killings by German armed forces of prisoners of war and civilians in Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union, the Western powers and Soviet government had promised—publicly—swift and sweeping retribution for war crimes committed by the Axis powers. The Allies specified the Nazi attempt to "exterminate the Jewish people in Europe." The announcement clearly warned the Germans: the Allies wouldn't repeat the failed trials that had plagued the aftermath of World War I, when the German Supreme Court had acquitted all but nine of the 896 persons that the Allied powers had charged with war crimes.
On October 30, 1943, Allied foreign ministers meeting in the Soviet capital signed the Moscow Declaration, which confirmed the Allies' intention to hold the Germans responsible for their war crimes and to bring them to justice. In Moscow the Allies agreed on the need to force Germany to surrender and then to implement massive programs of disarmament and denazification there. Simultaneously, Britain, the United States, and fifteen other Allied nations had established the United Nations War Crimes Commission (UNWCC). But by then, historian Gerhard Weinberg reminded the world in 1993, the Germans had exterminated "[a]bout 95 percent of those Jews killed in the 'Final Solution,'" victims of the Holocaust who "came within reach of the Germans only because of the war."
During the winter of 1941–1942, the Soviet government had taken its own steps to deal with perpetrators of such crimes on Soviet territory. By December 1941, German armies had pushed deep into the Ukraine, through the Baltic states to Leningrad, and to within thirty miles of Moscow. But a first major Red Army offensive west of the Soviet capital had stopped the German advance on the city in early 1942. Eventually Soviet military tribunals tried thousands of local Soviet residents, especially Ukrainians and Lithuanians, for collaborating with the invading Germans. A decree of April 19, 1943, directed that corpses of executed Germans and their collaborators should "be left on the gallows for several days so that everyone will be aware that [harsh] punishment will befall anyone who inflicts torture and carnage on the civilian [Soviet] population and betrays his Motherland."
From July to September 1943, military tribunals in Krasnodar, Krasnodon, and Mariupol held a series of open trials of local collaborators. The court in the Caucasus city of Krasnodar tried and convicted eleven collaborators with Einsatzgruppe D (a mobile German killing unit of SS and police forces operating in the southern Ukraine, Crimea, and Caucasus) charged with participating in German crimes in the region. The indictment rested on evidence provided by a special Soviet state commission for investigating German atrocities, witnesses' testimonies, and defendants' confessions. Defense lawyers were limited to pleading for leniency. Charged with high treason, eight of the defendants received death sentences (carried out publicly in a city square), and three were sentenced to hard labor.
The Krasnodar trial also revealed the German use of specially equipped trucks or vans to murder victims with the engines' carbon monoxide. A New York Times article reporting on the trial described "the motor-cars used in the suffocations." The paper provided one of the earliest accounts to reach the American public about atrocities committed by not only Einsatzgruppe D but also the three other Einsatzgruppen—A, B, and C—operating in Russia. While the Krasnodar court tried only Soviet citizens, both the prosecution and media charged local German commanders, as well as the German military and government, with direct responsibility for the atrocities perpetrated in the region.
On December 18 and 19, 1943, a military tribunal in Kharkov convicted three Germans—officials of the field police, military counterintelligence, and SS—as well as a Soviet collaborator of war crimes. All were executed. Some forty thousand spectators watched the public hanging of the four men. The tribunal declared the three Germans guilty of the "executions of tens of thousands of Soviet people" and stressed the culpability of the entire German army in war crimes.
Tellingly, Soviet press reports of both the Kharkov and Krasnodar trials mentioned nothing of the Nazi murder of Jews. Although by 1943 the Soviet government had full knowledge of the Holocaust and possessed massive evidence of the scope of the genocide, the tribunals referred to the executions of Jews as "massacres of Soviet citizens." The indictment in Kharkov termed the vast German ghettoization of Jews the "forceful resettlement of Soviet citizens" to the outskirts of the city.
Such trials contributed to the view that spread among Germans late in the war that if their country failed to win the struggle, they could expect severe treatment from the Soviet Union and, to a lesser degree, from the Western Allies. In the war's final months, vast numbers of Germans, including most war criminals, fled westward to escape the Red Army advance through much of Eastern Europe and into Germany and to evade the Soviets' relentless, merciless reckoning.
Why else had the Allies failed during the war to focus on, identify, and bring to justice Nazi and other war criminals who had carried out the Holocaust? In part, the answer rested with the Allies and the world's general, deeply rooted lack of concern for Jews and for the whole subject of war crimes. Among the Allies, Russia had the most intense, violent history of anti-Semitism, while Western powers (i.e., government officials, the media, and the public) doubted the numerous reports arriving in Switzerland, London, and the United States, all of which confirmed the ever-increasing Nazi atrocities. Similarly, neutral countries such as the Vatican, Sweden, and Switzerland did almost nothing to assist the Jews.
Widespread anti-Semitism, ranging from indifference toward Jews to outright hatred, existed among many officials in the Anglo-American governments, armed forces, and public. Anti-Jewish attitudes permeated both the U.S. Department of State and the British Foreign Office. In the latter, the influential Alexander Cadogan, the permanent under-secretary of state, called the Russians in January 1944 "the most stinking creepy set of Jews I've ever come across.... They are swine!"
The State Department's official responsible for refugees, Breckenridge Long Jr., was a paranoid anti-Semite. He believed Hitler's Mein Kampf "eloquent in opposition to Jewry and to Jews as exponents of Communism and Chaos." The U.S. secretary of war, Henry Stimson, talked about an alleged Jewish problem in the United States and at no time during the war expressed any strong feelings about the sufferings of Europe's Jews. Before and during the war, few Americans saw Jews from other parts of the world as people for whom to fight and die. Hardly surprising, these laissez-faire views and widespread anti-Jewish sentiments, so embedded in the country's denizens, carried over to the U.S. army. Many officers associated Jews with both Nazism and Communism; the attitude of one of the most well-known generals, George C. Patton, whom a historian in 2000 termed "the crudest sort of racist anti-Semite," was not unusual.
It's unclear how much anti-Semitism—in whatever degree—may have guided the Western Allied decision in 1944 not to bomb Auschwitz. During and after the war a storm of controversy erupted over whether the Allies could have obstructed or mitigated the mass killings of the Jews by aerial bombings of Auschwitz and the railroad lines leading to the death camp. Despite numerous Jewish appeals during the spring of 1944 that the Allies attack the camp in such a fashion, none did so. Disingenuously, many Allied leaders maintained (then and later) that such relief or rescue efforts would divert airpower from military purposes.
But by 1943 and early 1944, the tide in World War II had turned against Germany. This resulted from a combination of factors—the vastly larger industrial, military, and manpower resources of the United States and Soviet Union; the breaking by the British of secret radio codes of the German navy, air force, and police and, after mid-1941, of the Italians; the anti-German guerrilla war fought by partisans in the Soviet Union and Yugoslavia; and the winning by the Anglo-Americans of the wars at sea in the Atlantic and in the air over Western and Central Europe.
During 1943 Soviet armies won massive battles at Stalingrad and Kursk that drove the Germans back on the central portion of the Eastern front. In the West, the Anglo-Americans removed the German and Italian armies from North Africa, forcing the Italians out of the war in September 1943. The Americans and British attacked German-held France beginning on D-Day in June 1944, while the Red Army launched huge offensives along the Eastern front. During the summer and fall, Soviet troops smashed through much of Poland. In Italy, the Western Allies continued their difficult fight against the Germans occupying the country.
Amid the Anglo-American advance toward Germany through France and the Low Countries, Hitler's last-ditch efforts to halt it, using the Nazis so-called miracle weapons—the V-1, a small pilotless plane that carried nearly a ton of explosive, and V-2, a liquid-fuel rocket with a one-ton warhead—and launching the Battle of the Bulge in Belgium, failed. During the spring of 1945, the Allies invaded Germany, the Anglo-Americans in the west and the Red Army in the east. On April 30, just as Soviet forces were about to conquer Berlin, Hitler committed suicide in his bunker below the city. A week later, Germany—amid widespread ruin, devastation, hunger, and disease at home, the legacy of its people fighting and following Hitler to the bitter end—surrendered, finally halting the war in Europe. The war in the Pacific continued until the United States, seeking to end the fighting, dropped enormously destructive atomic bombs on Japan; the Japanese surrendered on September 2.
At the Yalta Conference in February 1945, the Allies had decided that the Allied Control Council—the agency that would coordinate the postwar division of Germany, including Berlin, into Allied zones of occupation—would set the policy for the denazification of the defeated Reich. But only during April and early May, with the British and Americans confronted by ghastly stories emanating from the Nazi concentration, labor, and death camps liberated by the Allies, did the public insist that the Allies punish those responsible for the crimes committed at the camps.
In the United States, mass-circulation magazines such as Newsweek and Life as well as newsreel films shocked the public with images showing British and American troops uncovering the mass death and persecution at camps in western and central Germany. Many Americans demanded the summary execution of Nazi leaders. In Britain, the government (Whitehall) reflected a similarly popular opinion. As late as April 12, 1945, the British War Cabinet, supporting Prime Minister Winston Churchill's longtime view, continued to argue "that it would be preferable that the Nazi leaders should be declared world outlaws and summarily put to death as soon as they fell into Allied hands."
But President Franklin Roosevelt, who died that very day, had long opposed summary execution of captured German leaders. He and the U.S. government countered that such a policy would lead to charges equating the Allies with the Nazis. Instead, they pressed for postwar trials of Germans involved in wartime atrocities and criminality. By May 1945, the Allies—including the Soviet Union and its leader, Josef Stalin—had agreed to the American proposal and begun extremely belated preparations for trying war criminals.
During the lengthy Allied conference in London, which began on June 26, 1945, the war's victors, now including France, reached an agreement on holding the International Military Tribunal (IMT). The court would try "major" war criminals on charges that the tribunal would prosecute and based on procedures that it would follow.
The resulting charter of the IMT—annexed to the so-called London Agreement of August 8—imbued the tribunal with complete jurisdiction to try individuals charged with
1. crimes against peace, that is, initiating "invasions of other countries and wars of aggression in violation of international laws and treaties";
2. war crimes (atrocities "constituting violations of the laws or customs of war" against civilian populations of occupied territory and prisoners of war);
3. crimes against humanity (atrocities "including but not limited to, murder, extermination, enslavement, deportation, imprisonment, torture, rape, or other inhumane acts committed against any civilian population, or persecutions on political, racial or religious grounds"); and
4. participation in "a common plan or conspiracy to commit any of the foregoing crimes."
In addition, the charter indicted six former organizations of the Germans: the leadership corps of the Nazi Party; the SS, along with the Security Service (SD) as an integral part; the Gestapo; the SA; the general staff and high command of the armed forces; and the Reich Cabinet. The Allies agreed as well that they would independently try suspected criminals captured in their respective zones of occupation in Germany and Austria and that criminals involved in atrocities committed in a single region or country would be returned there for trial.
Excerpted from Nazis after Hitler by Donald M. McKale Copyright © 2012 by Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc.. Excerpted by permission of ROWMAN & LITTLEFIELD PUBLISHERS, INC.. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Meet the Author
Donald M. McKale is Class of 1941 Memorial Professor and Professor Emeritus of History at Clemson University, where he taught from 1979 until his retirement in 2008. He received his Ph.D. from Kent State University in 1970 and taught during the 1970s at what is now Georgia College & State University. He spent 1975–1976 teaching at the University of Nebraska–Lincoln. While at GC&SU and Clemson University, he earned both institutions’ highest faculty awards for his teaching, research, and service to school and profession. In 1988 he received a titled professorship, named in honor of the fifty-seven members of Clemson University’s Class of 1941 who died in World War II.
McKale’s research has ranged widely, exploring the history of subjects such as World War I, the Nazi party and German diplomacy, the Holocaust and World War II, and the postwar myth that Adolf Hitler survived the war and defeat of his Nazi regime. The most recent of his seven books, Hitler’s Shadow War: The Holocaust and World War II, was a 2003 main selection of the History Book Club. His War by Revolution: Germany and Great Britain in the Middle East in the Era of World War I (1998) received the Charles Smith Book Award from the European section of the Southern Historical Association. During his career, McKale received research grants from the National Endowment for the Humanities and German Academic Exchange Service. Several film and television companies in the United States, the United Kingdom, and Europe have employed him as a consultant. He lives in Clemson, South Carolina, with his wife, Janna.
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