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March 01, 2003

Hitler's Jewish soldiers

In 2002, University of Kansas Press published an intriguing book called Hitler's Jewish soldiers. I have been meaning to get hold of it but haven't yet, and being in Australia, am not aware of what general reception and coverage of this book in the US has been like. I'd certainly be interested to hear from any readers who have followed this. The book, from what I've read about it in articles like this certainly documents one of the most interesting quirks in history:

Germans of mixed Jewish descent, the so-called Mischlinge, suddenly found themselves in limbo. As many as 3 million Germans, at least 25 to 50 percent Jewish by descent, fell into this category. Many had no idea they had a Jewish ancestor until the Nazis told them.

Suddenly second-class citizens, thousands sought to “redeem” themselves as Germans through service to the party in the Wehrmacht. They were eager to demonstrate they were Germans first in a Germany where it was a crime to be Jewish at all.

Rigg points out that “These Mischlinge internalized Nazi standards.... Many behaved the same way as Aryans…out of loyalty to Germany, belief in the Nazi government, because they were scared to act otherwise, for opportunistic reasons or, most commonly, out of a mixture of all four.”

Sympathy with Hitler’s goals for Germany was apparently very common among Mischlinge. Rigg was told by more than one of his interviewees, “If not for my [Jewish] grandmother, I could have been a Nazi.”

Wehrmacht policy on Mischlinge varied depending upon which service one was in (it was best to be in the Luftwaffe or the Kriegsmarine) and whom one knew (a high party official or military officer with access to Hitler or the Reich Chancellery was best), as well as upon whose desk a particular soldier’s file landed. Despite pressure from the Nazi Party to eject all partial Jews from the service, Wehrmacht officers were largely willing through the end of the war to retain the services of those Mischlinge in whom the Reich had invested money and time in training and who proved good and tested comrades in battle. A very select few of high-ranking and talented individuals never had to worry.

The book alleges that one of these 'Mischlinge' was the Nazi war criminal Erhard Milch.

There's an excerpt from the book here.

And here's another great irony - this picture of 'Mischlinge' soldier Werner Goldberg was used by a Nazi propaganda newspaper, and captioned 'The ideal German soldier'.

Here is the 'Mischlinge' Luftwaffe General Helmut Wilberg who was 'Aryanised' by Hitler in 1935.

Apologies in advance to all German readers but this stuff doesn't exactly disabuse me of the prejudice that Germany was one screwed-up nation. ("Oh, he's Jewish but he's a decent chap, a good killing machine. We'll spare him") And just what the hell were these 'Mischlinge' soldiers thinking??? Was this German nationalist madness so infectious that it could overcome family feeling?

Posted by jason_s at 03:37 AM




In September 1935, the German government passed the Reich Citizenship Law which effectively limited citizenship of Germany to only those of "German and related blood who through their behavior make it evident that they are willing and able faithfully to serve the German people and nation." Jews and other non Germans were reclassified as aliens and denied German citizenship.

The Blood Protection Law, proclaimed on the same day, forbade all sexual relations between Germans and non Germans, based on citizenship. This effectively forbade marriages between Germans, Jews and Nonwhites alike.

To address the issue of already existing marriages and children, the law defined a Jew as a person who had two (out of the four) Jewish grandparents - less than that and the person was classed as a German, and allowed to marry other Germans - a Nazi concession to the fact that many European Jews were to all practical purposes European in racial make-up.

In fact, the Blood Protection Law specifically forbade such "one quarter Jews" from marrying other "one quarter Jews" - this was done to promote the further dissolution of Jewish genes, conversely to prevent the strengthening of any Jewish gene pool in Germany which might result from such unions.

Contrary to propaganda surrounding the Third Reich, many of these one quarter Jews served the new German government faithfully, serving in all areas of the Reich's administration, including in the armed forces, without persecution of any sort.

Posted by: Subrato at March 1, 2003 04:02 AM


And just what the hell were these 'Mischlinge' soldiers thinking??? Was this German nationalist madness so infectious that it could overcome family feeling?

Should it really be that surprising that ideas can come before family or race? If I believed otherwise I would be a white nationalist. You quoted 4 common reasons for their behavior:

Rigg points out that “These Mischlinge internalized Nazi standards.... Many behaved the same way as Aryans…out of loyalty to Germany, belief in the Nazi government, because they were scared to act otherwise, for opportunistic reasons or, most commonly, out of a mixture of all four.”

That a jew could come to hold the same paranoid theories about jews that many nazi germans did is not too shocking to me (though still interesting). After all, they all shared roughly the same cultural environment where those ideas were formed. Many American slaves used to believe that they were supposed to be slaves too (though most didn't, not even the so-called "uncle toms").

Posted by: Jason Malloy at March 1, 2003 12:11 PM


JM
I realise that but you're forgetting that in the case of the half-Jews we're talking about literally being complicit in sending their grandparents to the death camps *in addition* to the fact that this particular 'idea' was so repulsive to broader notions of humanity that many non-Jews refused to have anything to do with it. We're talking about soldiers in the Wehmarcht - these people *knew* what the Final Solution was. Notwithstanding the mixture of self-interest in their complicity, if it was purely opportunism it would be a lot more understandable. But these people bought the whole 'idea' willingly. Not even the officers who attempted to assassinate Hitler bought the idea - why didn't more of them end up on that side, if not in act, at least in thought ?(even though these officers were not free of antisemitic prejudices, their motivation for trying to kill Hitler was at least consistent with a certain German nationalism and patriotism that held that what Hitler was doing was besmirching the honour of Germany)

Posted by: Jason Soon at March 1, 2003 02:24 PM


I'm not supposed to be posting this week, but anyway.

The fathers of my two oldest friends left Germany to escape Hitler. One family was totally secular and assimilated; as it happens, the grandfather had fought in WWI and had even earned an Iron Cross there. The grandfather was warned by an old friend in the miltary that "things were getting very serious".

The other did not know he was "Jewish" and was even a member of Hitler Youth. Once he got to the US he was drafted and sent back to Germany as an American soldier. All I know other than that is that he was a wifebeater and abandoned my friend and his mother.

Fuzzy set theory is actually a well-developed and useful area of math. (It's used to program computers to identify things which are not quite perfect). I realize that I'm going against the premise of this board, but the application of fuzzy-set theory to ethnicity and race would make the world a much better place.

When our President talks about fuzzy math, incidentally, he reinforces his reputation as an idiot. He actually uses that phrase to attack any math at all, because he's always playing to the peanut gallery. And his budget numbers are totally unreal, and quite deserving of the label he applies to others' numbers. And third, there really is something called fuzzy math, which he knows nothing about.

Posted by: zizka at March 1, 2003 03:37 PM


I don't think it is exactly uncommon for assimilated, secularized "outsiders" in a culture to develop a pathological hatred for their less seamlessly integrated fellows. The thing to remember about prewar Germany is that it was perhaps the European society with which Jews integrated most successfully (and was the greatest beneficiary, certainly, of their gifts). One can surely imagine, without spraining the imagination or sharing the sentiment, how a "Mischling", a Jew who prided himself on his Germanness, might have felt contempt and embarrassment in walking past an old-fashioned Jewish neighbourhood.

Yes, nationalist madness is very powerful--from my reading of history I cannot but conclude that it is the *most* powerful social force known to man. More powerful, when stirred to life, than religion, family feeling, economic self-interest--and certainly more so than ordinary human kindness.

Posted by: Colby Cosh at March 2, 2003 09:52 PM


- We're talking about soldiers in the Wehmarcht - these people *knew* what the Final Solution was.

Actually, most germans, even those serving in the Wehrmacht didn't know. In the SS, some obviously knew, but the half and quarter-jews were generally excluded from the SS. Everyone knew about the concentration camps, but all the major powers in WWII, with the exception of britain had concentration camps for civillians. None of the death camps were even in germany; they were all in german controlled territory to the east of germany.

Posted by: ja at May 4, 2003 05:27 AM