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Lecture 6

HI364 Lecture 6: HI364 Lesson 6 Perpetrators

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Wilfrid Laurier University
Eva Plach

HI364 Lesson 6: Perpetrators What & Who Facilitated the Holocaust Nazis & Nazi ideology • Territories, resources, geopolitical advantage • Anti-Semitism/anti-Bolshevism Hilberg’s “machinery of destruction” • Pre-existing bureaucrats, government agencies • “Normal” society Collaborators • Individuals and states/regimes Individual perpetrators • 200,000 rank-and-file Nazis • Variety of “types” Four different types of perpetrators: #1 Nazi True Believers & Ideologues Individual leaders (i.e. Hitler, Himmler, Heydrich) • Most significant powerful Nazis • Responsible for in effect masterminding or directing or organizing the high level elements of the Final Solution • Not necessarily individuals who operated gas chambers – didn’t pull the trigger • Responsible for mobilizing the machinery of destruction and setting into motion what ultimately happens to the Jews of Europe Adolf Hitler • Is Hitler the prime instigator of the war? Or was he a “weak dictator”? o He had all of these strong persons around him who were making the decisions, OR did he do it all? o What role did Hitler play in masterminding the Final Solution and to what extent was he in control of all the parts? Intentionalist Functionalist • Early 1950s interest in Hitler was limited • 1980s functionalists got into the question • Regarded as important, but his role was of what Hitler’s role was seen through totalitarian structures • What kind of dictator was he? • Rather than through him as an individual • Believed that Hitler (although important) with a particular ideology and particular worked alongside an with a whole bunch experiences and decision-making power of other parts of the bureaucracy and individuals • The Final Solution developed incrementally through a variety of different stages • Invasion of Soviet Union was really important for radicalizing the entire affair • Functionalists emphasize polycratic structure of the regime – there were a lot of different power centers, organizations, individuals who did their part • It wasn’t all just Hitler who was doing everything and making all of the decisions Biographies of Hitler: Alan Bullock 1952: • First biography of Hitler • Intentionalist • Hitler was important enough, but focus is on those around him • Trying to explain totalitarianism as a system that Hitler was just a part of • Different from looking at Hitler as an individual, who was the leader of it all Ian Kershaw 1998 & 2000: • Published in 2 volumes • Brings attention back to Hitler as the prime instigator of the Holocaust • Focuses on Hitler’s own anti-Semitism and on the important role that anti-Semitism plays in Nazism more broadly • Coins the phrase “working toward the Fuhrer” to explain the ways in which there were many individuals involved in the Nazi state, and the machinery of destruction • Unofficial system in place where everybody tried to please Hitler, do what he wanted, come up with strategies/solutions that would be consistent with what they thought they knew of what Hitler wanted • Together this created a very powerful structure that led to the Holocaust Volker Ullrich 2013 & 2016: • Translated in many different languages • Tries to “normalize” Hitler • To say that it’s problematic to understand Hitler or any perpetrator as just a “madman” o Let’s normalize him in order to understand just how profoundly abnormal it was that he did and what happened in Nazi Germany o Help to underscore the terror/horror of what happened there • Interested in looking at the elements of Hitler’s background, of his incredible mobilization of modern forms of media manipulation, demagoguery, emphasis on Hitler as a leader who was enormously successful at winning people’s hearts and minds Heinrich Himmler • Widely regarded as the “architect of genocide” • Second in command after Hitler • Joined the Nazi party in 1920s – there with Hitler from the beginning • Part of the SS in 1925 Reinhard Heydrich • Himmler’s right hand man • Chief of RSHA – part of the SS • Responsible for the big level plans for the Final Solution • Dies in 1942 #2 Professionals & Experts German Bank • Used stolen wealth that was acquired from occupied territories from Jews in particular • Funded EGN in occupied east Industrialists • Assorted German companies that benefitted directly from forced labour activities at its disposal • Set up camp in concentration camps/death camps • Used labour produced at those facilities in order to promote/extend their own business interests Academics, scientists • Created and confirmed Nazi ideology • Helped put all the pieces together • Worked on population policy • Created ideas of racial hierarchies, Jewish economic influence on Germany • Work used by the Nazis in order to frame their own thinking about what the problems were and what could be done about them Medical professionals • Role in T4 (euthanasia) • Role in sterilization I.e. SS Captain Dr. Joseph Mengele • Medical professional who capitalized on the opportunities that Nazism provided • Experimentation permitted • Ways in which scientific data could be acquired • Late 1930s working with a doctor who was doing assorted studies on twins and on the balance between environmental effects on health and hereditary effects • Comes to the war with that experience and background as a medical doctor and researcher • Goes to Auschwitz in May 1943 as a medical doctor • Becomes chief camp physician • Known by may survivors as the “Angel of Death” o Frequent presence on the death camp selection ramps o He decided between work or death • Medical professionals like him were an important resource for the Nazis • Their expertise was used by the Nazis to make quiet determinations about who was healthy enough to work and who wasn’t • Also personally interested in continuing some of the experiments from the 1930s on twins o At Auschwitz with a research lab o Conducting the research in different contexts with a different level of permissibility of what was allowed to happen o Artificial specific zones set up in Auschwitz, where regular rules and laws didn’t apply o Experiments continued in Auschwitz on twins • Post-war life in South America o Many Nazis did too o Dies in Brazil in 1979 (never having been brought to legal reckoning) #3 Lower-Level Government Bureaucrats I.e. railway officials, municipal workers • Most common and most difficult to get a clear read on • Railway officials, train conductors • Individuals who accommodated the death trains and organizing the logistics of the transport • Municipal workers in different localities o Took the Jewish property, organized it, packaged it, sent it to Germany, redistributed it as was needed • Different types of perpetrators and different levels of culpability associated with different types “Banality of evil” • Hannah Arendt, Eichmann in Jerusalem 1963 trial • Eichmann’s self-constructed image: he was just following orders • Eichmann tries to hide behind this level of a lower-level government bureaucrat o Just a small guy o Doing his job for an institution that he didn’t have any attachment to or affinity for • Perhaps more applicable to the lower-level bureaucrats • Arendt really meat by banali
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