Polar Bear: German Nazis were capable of evil in an intelligent Bond villain way but Ukrainians seem to behave as animalistic brutes.
I don’t want to let the Wehrmacht off the hook but there was a reason that the extermination project was farmed out to the Einsatzgruppen and the SS, the reason being that ordinary soldiers were simply incapable of carrying out the project because their morals and maybe their stomachs prevented it.
This led to the odd circumstance where only a small core of highly ideologized Nazi fanatics were actually involved in the extermination project. God knows what your average solider or civilian thought though there is evidence that German civilians knew what was going on but they displayed willful ignorance.
Combined with a meticulous effort to cover up the extermination project and not even leave any incriminating documents behind, this lends a rather surreal nature to the extermination aspect of the Nazi project, which was only one aspect of the goals they wanted to achieve. It was as if they knew what they were doing was wrong and they wanted to cover it up and not even let their own troops in on it much.
I’m not trying to acquit your average German civilian either, but let’s just say that this is a complicated matter like so many things in life.
Nazis with Moral Qualms and Sensitive Stomachs, or Perhaps Mass Murder Is Only for the Few
Look, a lot of those men were just drafted into the army. Sure, quite a number of them were unrepentent Nazis even after the war, but if I’m not mistaken, there were quite a few German soldiers who didn’t give two shits about Jews. I know that by 1920, hardcore antisemitism was near ubiquitous in German society, but I’m not sure what it was like in 1939. I know Hitler saved his Jewish physician because he liked him, so he gets one tiny baby point in the midst of his bottomless depth of his evil. Sort of like Ghosticism but far worse than that.
Yes, the Wehrmacht was not necessarily an evil formation. I told you that in the beginning they had Wehrmacht soldiers shooting Jews who were lined up against the wall. Goebbels of all people came and saw it and got so freaked out that he had a total breakdown right on the spot. He had no objection to exterminating Jews of course, but as a proper civilized German, he wanted it done in a proper civilized way.
Then I believe they were just lining Jews up and shooting them in the camps. Goering went out to one of the camps where many prisoners were killed. They had been buried on the grounds of the camp and Goering was out inspecting the area one day and the very ground started rising up and down, almost heaving. This was because of the process of decomposition in the bodies where they become bloated with gases soon after death.
Goebbels was told why the Earth was moving and he had a total breakdown again, crying and carrying on. He thought that was sickening. See he was a civilized man and while he agreed with the extermination project, he wanted it done in a clean, antiseptic, bureaucratized manner befitting such a highly civilized people as the Germans.
I think later they went to gas vans but that didn’t work very well for some reason, so they decided on gas chambers. The Jewish capos would be ordered to go in and clean up the bodies and throw them in the incinerator so the Germans running the camps didn’t have to deal with all those gross dead bodies. You see how finicky and weird they were?
At first they had the Wehrmacht capturing Jews on the front. They were ordered to murder them, I guess in terrible ways. In one case they sliced 20-30 Jews up with knives or bayonets. Some of the guys who did it or watched it freaked out and became PTSD casualties. There was a high rate of PTSD in soldiers doing this and a lot of them were starting to defy orders and refuse to do it. So they’d get other guys.
The ones who saw the Jews chopped to pieces wrote home about it and were all broken up and totally freaked out. They said it was disgusting, sick, etc. After a while the PTSD rate was so high that they had to stop having soldiers do it. This is when they started either the Eisantzgrupen or the SS. I believe they were different formations.
These were heavily ideologized troops who were extremely antisemitic, anti-Gypsy, and even anti-Russian (which really meant anti-Communist because Russians and Communists were the same thing to Nazi thinking. One reason they killed so many of them. Jews were also tied in with Communism. Nazism was first and foremost an anti-Communist movement. Yes it was antisemitic but that was a lot wrapped up in “Judeo-Bolshevism.”
The Einsatzgruppen were ideological Nazis sort of parallel to the SS. They formed murder squads on the Eastern Front and massacred Jews, Gypsies, and Communist apparatchiks. They just lined people and shot them firing squad-like.
They probably lined them up in front of ditches, shot them and let the bodies fall in the ditches. The Soviets never did this one time in history, which is one more reason Katyn was a German crime, not a Soviet one. They were basically shooter squads who lined people up and killed them with firing squads.
I guess later the SS were formed.
The Wehrmacht definitely committed some serious war crimes at various times and places, but it was not an ideologically evil military. It was more professional than anything else. Quite a few soldiers, even officers and generals, barely gave two shits about Jews.
In Ukraine and Belorussia, the Wehrmacht was appalled at the viciousness of the Ukrainian and Belorussian nationalists. They liked to chop people up, behead them, and impale them with farm implements. They killed everyone, men, women, children, old people.
In some cases, the Wehrmacht turned camps of Jews being held by Ukrainian nationalists over to themselves, basically to protect the Jews if you can believe that. I suppose they were taken away later, but it’s still a gesture.
I know that in Belorussia, word got out that the Belorrusian nationalists, who acted like the Banderites, had marked one village for extermination. The villagers went to the local Wehrmacht officer in control of the area and told him, and he freaked out and stationed a unit in the village to stop them.
When they were rounding up Jews in Poland, I know that one general volunteered to house 2-3,000 Jews. I don’t know his ideology but I doubt he was a crazy antisemite. They kept them in a huge factory and treated them pretty well.
He heard that the SS was coming and he gathered the Jews together and told them that the SS was coming in a couple of days. He said nothing else. The Jews were smart and got the hint and took off. They all escaped, at least for a while anyway. The SS came and he said the Jews had already been sent off to the camps.
This man was an officer in the Nazi military but I have a hard time saying he was a bad person. Later he tried to save another 3,000 Jews and he got caught and executed.
Nazis, Unrepetant, Apathetic, and Otherwise
Goering famously was not a personal antisemite at all, but he did implement policies that resulted in a lot of Jews getting killed because he was “just following orders.” In which case I’m not sure his personal feelings about Jews mattered.
Rudolf Hess flew to the UK on an bizarre peace mission and was captured. He had implemented the Nuremberg laws, but after the start of the war he hadn’t done a lot. He was part of Hitler’s war cabinet. By August 1940 he wasn’t much involved in the war or even the duties of his government post, which had mostly been taken over by his deputy Martin Borrman.
He fled to the UK in August 1941. He was convicted at Nuremberg and sentenced to life. The last ten years of his life were spent in Spandau Prison in Germany. At the time, the 600 bed prison housed only Hess, which seems ridiculous. A lot of people petitioned for his release but he died in prison. Considering what he had actually done and the fact that he fled his post and essentially defected, I thought it was excessive.
That said, like Eichmann he was an unrepentent Nazi and vicious antisemite until his death although he was up front about it, unlike Eichmann, who was so circumspect that many assumed that he was hardly antisemitic. Books were written about the “accountant” who “was just following orders.” Nevertheless tapes have now been released of his interrogations at Nuremberg and they show that he was an utterly vicious antisemite, as bad as Hitler. His only regret about Nazi policy towards Jews was that they hadn’t killed all of them!
The Jewish Bolshevism Bullshit
Which is why you really need to give the side eye to anyone equating Jews and Communists. First of all, it’s false. In the election right before the Bolsheviks took power, 70
So yes many Bolsheviks were Jews, but so what? The vast majority of Jews wanted nothing to do with Bolshevism and were not even interested in socialism for that matter. The Bolsheviks cracked down hard on antisemitism for the first time in Russian history and to be honest this is why many Jews signed onto them. Just raw, naked self interest.
The part about wealthy Jewish bankers funding Bolshevism is bullshit. It’s a rare rich man who is also a Communist. There have been cases but they are few and far between and they are not usually businessmen. Some just inherited a lot of money. The Social Democrats also pledged to crack down hard on antisemitism, and yes, some wealthy Jews did fund parties like that because they were not a threat to these people’s money and power.
They say that while five out of ten radicals might be Jews, maybe one in ten Jews is a radical. So at any given time in a capitalist society, maybe 10