Valuethinker wrote:Reading at least one review, I am not clear that the author manages to show that "everyone" knew what the fate of the Jews was? Millions yes, probably-- anybody involved in a senior government role or generally in the military and police, or who had exposure to the occupied territories to the east. But how would ordinary people know? Soldiers in other wars don't talk about the atrocities that they have seen, even in Democracies.
- the Nazi regime was brutal in putting down any kind of disloyalty or defeatist talk-- they executed something over 20000 (?) of their own soldiers for desertion. It was easier and safer to keep on fighting, rather than be arrested
Everyone is a big exaggeration, but the letters from soldiers to home were a lot more open and uncensored about the terrible things they had seen than I would have ever guessed. Soldiers at mass executions in the east took pictures and sent the film home to be developed. Many at home could see all the Jews being ordered to report to be loaded on trains and deported to the east in 1942, and their property subsequently being auctioned off. Hitler was giving public speeches with his "the Jew will be exterminated!" prophecy. Once the USA was in the war he evidently saw no reason to keep quiet about his plans.
The author also describes the Nazi regime as more carrot than stick in trying to keep up morale in both the Army and at home. Delivery of mail and care packages was felt to be very important, as was home leave. Food rationing was done well. Organizing housing for bombed out civilians got a high priority.
But take a look and see if you get the same overall impression I got.
Thank you that's very interesting. I knew a bit about the soldiers' photos and films. There was an exhibit "war crimes of the Wehrmacht" which travelled around Germany in the early 1990s, and blew away the notion widely held until then that the average German soldier (ie the Wehrmacht) did not participate in atrocities, that it was the Einsatzgruppen, SS etc. that did all the killing.
The majority of the killing *was* by the "special units" but that didn't mean the rest didn't know. British bugging of captured German officers included discussions of what they had seen. Given that some or many of the translators (to understand imperfectly recorded idiomatic German) were probably German Jews... this must have been very hard.
(at least and perhaps over half the killings in the Holocaust were done "retail" at the locations where Eastern European Jews lived rather than the wholesale form familiar to us from Auschwitz & Birkenau - Tim Snyder's "Bloodlands" is a chilling discussion of same).
I had thought that Germans comforted themselves that the Jews were simply being sent to the new eastern lands.. but maybe not.
I had heard about various German efforts to keep up morale. For the Wehrmacht, at least, and later the Volkssturm (the motley collection of boys, old men, men with physical issues, ex Luftwaffe and Navy personnel), the threat of execution for cowardice was very real, and often enforced.
Which reminds me of the USSR, where the MVD (KGB) divisions would be drawn up behind the front line, before a German or Soviet Offensive. "It takes a brave man to be a coward in the Soviet Army" as Stalin put it with his trademark dark humour.