Life Unworthy of Life: Racial Phobia and Mass Murder in Hitler's Germany

By James M. Glass | Go to book overview

SIX
THE PHOBIC GROUP AND THE CONSTRUCTED ENEMY

If one sees the Final Solution as the work of a group of petit-bourgeois thugs, then what Hitler and his henchmen said can be discounted. But if one regards the Nazi Party as an integral part of German society, representing the Kultur-group and its will, then what leaders said and did figures prominently into an accounting of motive behind the Final Solution. As late as April 1945, Martin Bormann referred in a conversation with Hitler to the need for the nation to free itself from the "Jewish poison." The regime that accomplished this would "earn eternal gratitude for exterminating the Jews in Germany and Central Europe."1

Raul Hilberg notes that the Volkssturm, the Austrian reserves who in February 1945 killed over 80 percent of Russian prisoners of war escaping the Mauthausen concentration camp, were "considered the laughing stock of the German armed forces, [consisting] of older men scratched together and sometimes armed with French rifles."2 The Volkssturm was another example of ordinary men who without hesitation killed thousands of Jews--in their case, Hungarian Jews being marched through the mountains surrounding Mauthausen. Is this passive acquiescence to orders? Physicians who before 1938 had led relatively normal lives claimed the right to make selections on the

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