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This book focuses upon German racial policy as instituted with the establishment of the Nuremberg Laws of 1935 and for the duration of the Third Reich under Adolf Hitler until 1945. It shows how this policy and collective mindset amongst the German officer corps and the supreme leadership hindered the development of an effective, timely, and unilateral counterinsurgency policy for the German armed forces in the Soviet Union, as well as their violations of applicable international laws which governed the conduct of the war in the east.
The reader will become quite familiar with the terms "counterinsurgency" and "insurgent." Counterinsurgency is, simply put, the efforts by conventional military or paramilitary forces to counter the activities of "irregulars" (civilians operating in a paramilitary or terrorist role), whether they be "partisans," "terrorists" or "guerrillas" (see Colin D. Heaton, German Anti-Partisan Warfare in Europe, 1939-1945 for these legal distinctions) and to establish an environment of perceived stability according to existing civil or military law.1
The ruthless nature of the National Socialist racial policies and propaganda contributed heavily to the military's perception of the conquered Soviet peoples; their ingrained belief in the Rassenfeind (racial enemy) and German superiority were both factors which contributed to a false sense of security, thereby providing the military with a flawed self-perception and sense of invincibility.
The failure of the German military to address the core issues sparking insurgency actions against their forces, during both the initial invasion and the occupation that followed, were primarily due to theever-conflicting policies of segregation, forced labor, extermination, and the socially-accepted Untermenschen mentality which permeated the ranks of the Wehrmacht from top to bottom.
Whilst discussing certain portions of the German military and paramilitary actions and their contributions to the Holocaust in areas of immediate concern to this book (only in relation to counterinsurgency), this book does not focus upon the Holocaust in particular, but rather will provide new insights into the failure of the NSDAP 2 and Wehrmacht on a macro-scale to comprehend the problem of civilian unrest due to German policies, and adequately alter its overall operational methodology regarding the handling of the populations in resistance.
These failures in providing overt legitimacy for their actions and stabilizing the regions provided the necessary impetus for the continued and escalating resistance, forcing the Germans to re-evaluate their methods on a micro-scale in the field. This approach apparently met with some success, as opposed to the overall Armed Forces High Command macro-scale approach to reducing the threats through alternative yet conflicting actions. This book utilizes specific primary and secondary sources in the research, as well as examining German conduct towards these military and civilian populations under the existing international laws of the respective Hague and Geneva Conventions, which were both applicable. Most of the historians quoted in this book are cited for the relevance of their specific areas of research.
One major historian cited is Alexander Dallin, whose works on the German occupation of the USSR (in particular the Ukraine) constitute one of the most authoritative collections within the literature. However, while Dallin discusses specific examples during the occupation, such as Odessa, 1941-1944: A Case Study of Soviet Territory under Foreign Rule, he does not delve deeply into the legal aspects of German actions and thus is not cited as thoroughly as many others.3 Another author briefly noted is Daniel Jonah Goldhagen. Judging from small excerpts of his research, Goldhagen again does not approach the international legal aspect, which is the primary focus of this research. Goldhagen is more focused upon moral and social aspects of German anti- Semitic policy as opposed to the salient military and legal considerations.
This book also incorporates oral testimony from various subjects who were interviewed over the last twenty years, and who were themselves active during the war in the counterinsurgency as well as conventional military roles, thus providing individual perspectives from both Allied and Axis participants. This book also frequently cites the thesis of Dr. Benjamin Shepherd, which traverses similar terrain regarding German actions against insurgents.4 Where this work differs is in its extensive focus upon the existing international laws and its comparative analysis of German abrogation of those laws, as well as in the use of oral testimony as a supportive element to supplement the published sources.
The use of interviews in writing and researching history has proven itself important in the fact that the testimony of participants, when supported by primary source evidence, and the mutually corroborating testimony from other sources, often provides previously unknown details. This method assists in either corroborating or challenging previously-held beliefs, which may have a great impact upon historical understanding. It is important to remember that the interview itself is only as viable as the source, since memories fade and the interviewed subjects will often not provide self-incriminating evidence regarding their actions. Thus the very select nature of the interviews included within this book.