Hitler's Death Squads: The Logic of Mass Murder

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Texas A&M University Press, 2004 - History - 232 pages
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In the preparations for the German invasion of the Soviet Union, special units known as the Einsatzgruppen were formed with the special charge of executing Jews, communists, and members of other targeted groups. Drawn from the S.S., the S.D., and the Gestapo, members of the Einsatzgruppen had the reputation of being the most cold-blooded of all Nazi killers.

After the war, the German government investigated 1,770 former Einsatzgruppen members and brought 136 of these men to trial. Helmut Langerbein has systematically examined the trial evidence in search of characteristics shared by these mass murderers. Using a much broader data base than earlier studies had access to, Langerbein identifies a number of factors that could explain their actions, illustrating each with a particular person or group of officers.

Particular traits and degrees of anti-Semitism, self-aggrandizement, sense of duty to obey superiors, and peer pressure may have played a role in the cases of individual officers, but Langerbein concludes that the only characteristic common to all his subjects was the war itself. It was the extraordinary circumstances and brutality of the Eastern Front that shaped their behavior. Given the extent of its database, its detailed analysis, and its careful conclusions, Hitler’s Death Squads: The Logic of Mass Murder will push historians and psychologists toward a reappraisal of the Nazi killing machine, the behavior of the men behind the battle lines, and the overwhelming power of circumstances.

Langerbein’s chilling conclusions challenge the leading theories explaining why people commit mass murder and will be of intense interest to those concerned with World War II, the Holocaust, Eastern Europe, warfare, war crimes, genocide, and human behavior.
 

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User Review  - Shrike58 - LibraryThing

Through the lens of German judicial records, Langerbein's examination of the "atypical" men who led the Nazi einsatzgruppen has several ends. Besides providing an indepth examination of the ... Read full review

Contents

1 THE HISTORY OF THE EINSATZCRUPPEN
15
2 THE CONFIRMED KILLERS
51
3 THE OFFICERS FROM THE EASTERN BORDERLANDS
76
4 THE SPECIALISTS
103
5 THE ACQUITTED
128
6 THE OFFICERS WHO OBEYED
153
7 ATYPICAL MEN EXTRAORDINARY SITUATIONS
181
AFTERWORD
188
NOTES
195
German Terms and Abbreviations
213
BIBLIOGRAPHY
219
INDEX
225
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Page 11 - Today I will once more be a prophet. If the international financiers inside and outside Europe should again succeed in plunging the nations into a world war the result will not be the Bolshevization of the earth and thus the victory of Jewry, but the annihilation (Vernichtung) of the Jewish race throughout Europe.
Page 8 - Obedience, as a determinant of behavior, is of particular relevance to our time. It has been reliably established that from 1933-45 millions of innocent persons were systematically slaughtered on command. Gas chambers were built, death camps were guarded, daily quotas of corpses were produced with the same efficiency as the manufacture of appliances. These inhumane policies may have originated in the mind of a single...
Page 14 - I myself do not believe that the Fiihrer needs to be asked again in this matter, especially since at our last discussion with regard to the Jews he told me that I could proceed with these according to my own judgement'.57 This judgement had already, in fact, been to recommend to Himmler the 'special treatment' (that is, killing), of 100,000 Jews in the Warthegau - the start of the 'final solution...
Page vii - Reports. immutable and eternal. Any injury . . . done with the intention of extermination, mutilation or enslavement against the life, freedom of opinion . . . the moral or physical integrity of the family ... or the dignity of the human being, by reason of his opinion, his race, caste, family or profession, is a crime against humanity.
Page 11 - Europe should succeed in thrusting the nations once again into a world war, then the result will not be the Bolshevization of the earth and with it the victory of Jewry, but the...

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About the author (2004)

Helmut Langerbein is an assistant professor of history at the University of Texas at Brownsville.

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