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Week 11 Meridian notes

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University of Toronto Scarborough
Neville Panthaki

1. The Bureaucracy of Annihilation by Raul Hilberg Ÿ Hilberg emphasizes the administrative smoothness and impersonal quality of the killing operations Ÿ nearly every element of German society was involved Ÿ the Holocaust was a vast network of bureaucratic tasks: organizing financing, maintaining rail schedules, keeping statistical accounts Ÿ Hilberg says that much in destruction of Jews is familiar and even commonplace in context of contemporary institutions and practices Ÿ basically, the Jews were destroyed as a consequence of a multitude of acts performed by a phalanx of functionaries in public offices and private enterprises, and many of these measures, taken one by one, turn out to be bureaucratic, embedded in habit, routine, and tradition Ÿ the machinery of destruction was the organized German society, its ministries, armed forces, party formations, and industry Ÿ in Nazi Germany every organization moved on a track of self-assertion Ÿ the apparatus was able to advance unerringly, because there was an inner logic to its measures Ÿ a decree defining the term “Jew”, expropriations of Jewish property, the physical separation and isolation of the victims, forced labour, deportation, gassings—these were not random moves, instead, each was a stage in the development Ÿ neither the preliminary nor the concluding phases of the destruction process could be traversed without difficulties and complications Ÿ the Jewish communities had all been emancipated and they were tied to the Gentile population in countless relationships, from business contacts, partnerships, leases, and employment contracts, to personal friendships and intermarriages Ÿ two large bureaucracies have remained obscure, even though they operated at very scene of death: German railroads and Order Police Ÿ in the chain of steps that led to the extinction of millions of Jewish victims, the Reichsbahn, as the German railways were known, carried the Jews from many countries and regions of Europe to the death camps, which were situated on occupied Polish soil Ÿ of course, these transports were but a small portion of the Reichsbahn’s business Ÿ Germany depended on its railroads to carry soldiers and civilians, military cargo and industrial products, throughout the war Ÿ passenger concept was essential, in order that the Reichsbahn could collect the fare for each deported Jew in accordance with applicable tariffs, and to preserve internal prerogatives and divisions of jurisdiction—the passenger specialist would remain in control Ÿ passenger trains were either regular, moving at hours stated in published schedules, or specials, assembled and dispatched upon demand Ÿ Jews were transported in special and the procurement and scheduling of such trains was a lengthy and involved procedure that had to be administered at the regional level, particularly in the General Directorate East Ÿ one thinks of railroads as providing a service—what they produce is “place utility”, and in this case they contributed their industriousness and ingenuity to the possibility of annihilating people, by the thousands at a time, in places where gas chambers had been installed Ÿ the Order Police, like the Reichsbahn a major apparatus of the Third Reich, was also needed over a long period of time in a wide geographic area, and its utility manifested itself in several stages of the destruction process, from concentration to killings Ÿ the Security Police, in which the Gestapo was the predominant element, could be regarded as a new institution, whereas the conventional Order Police was old and established in Germany Ÿ Security Police—spread out over a continent—were relatively few; Order Police were clearly more numerous Ÿ in most of the occupied countries, including France and the General Government of Poland, where German Order Police personnel served only in units, an indigenous police force remained in place to carry out its own tasks and to assist the Germans in theirs Ÿ the sheer geographic expanse of the Order Police is in fact the principle clue to its function in destructive operations Ÿ to be sure, neither the railroads nor the Order Police fit ay preconceived notion of an ideological vanguard Ÿ for that very reason, however, their heavy participation in relentless acts of mass destruction should engage attention of people Ÿ the all-encompassing readiness for action of the diverse machinery of public and private agencies is one of the key phenomena of the bureaucratic destruction process—it resulted, in the case of several professions, in complete reversals of time-honoured roles Ÿ an obvious example is furnished by the physicians who performed medical experiments in camps, or who, as public-health officials, urged the creation of hermetically sealed ghettos for the ostensible purpose of preventing the spread of typhus from Jewish inhabitants to the surrounding population, or who, as specialists in psychiatry, administered the euthanasia program, which was transformed in the General Government into a network of camps to kill approximately 1.5 million Polish Jews Ÿ second illustration of such negation in planning by offices in occupied Poland, labelled “Population and Welfare”, of deportation of ghetto Jews to death camps; third instance of goal transformat
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