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Hitler's Jewish Soldiers: The Untold Story of Nazi Racial Laws and Men of Jewish Descent in the German Military Hardcover – May 6, 2002
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Working in newly opened archives and reexamining old evidence, historian Bryan Mark Rigg turns up a surprising wrinkle in the history of Nazi Germany: the presence of part-Jewish soldiers not only in the ranks but also in the upper echelons of the German military. One such soldier recalled, "I served because I wanted to prove Hitler's racial nonsense wrong. I wanted to prove that people of Jewish descent were indeed brave and courageous soldiers." By Rigg's estimate, as many as 150,000 soldiers, sailors, and airmen of partial Jewish descent (Mischlinge, in Nazi terminology) served in Adolf Hitler's forces--some, such as field marshal and war criminal Erhard Milch, placed in high positions by Hitler himself even as he tightened the noose on the Jews of Europe. Rigg considers the role of these men as they negotiated the confusion of the monolithic, racist state in dealing with Germans of partial Jewish descent. "[Their] experience clearly demonstrates the complexity of life in the Third Reich," writes Rigg. His book sheds light on a difficult subject in the face of certain controversy, and it merits discussion. --Gregory McNamee
From Publishers Weekly
What the Nazis called partial Jews, or mischlinge, served in the Wehrmacht during World War II, often joining to prove their loyalty and becoming decorated soldiers. Rigg, who received a B.A. from Yale in 1996, studied at Cambridge and currently teaches at the online American Military University, estimates their numbers to have been in the range of 150,000. He begins by carefully describing Nazi racial law and recounting the assimilation and military service of "/ Jews" (among other categories) in the German and Austrian states in the two centuries before WWI. Moving on to the Nazi era, Rigg details the exemptions to Aryan law that allowed mischlinge to serve. The extent to which the mischlinge knew of the regime's true character is a constant theme, and feelings of helplessness in the face of knowledge of the Holocaust are vividly illustrated with numerous examples, such as the mischling soldier who visited Jewish relatives the night before they were deported to an extermination camp not knowing then that "deportation" meant "death." Interviews with some surviving mischlinge (including former chancellor Helmut Schmidt, who served in the Luftwaffe), along with quotations from memoirs and diaries, help to enliven an otherwise dry, academic style. By 1944, many of the loopholes in the racial purity laws were closed, and many military mischlinge perished in the camps. Those who survived were later often rejected by the Jewish community because of their service in the German armed forces.
Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information, Inc.
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There is little doubt that there are many Americans suffering with similar problems. I won't detail them here--but the reader won't have any trouble finding the parallels. This book is amply documented, and Dr. Rigg's primary research materials, gathered at great expense and diligence in the 1990s, as the so-called Mischlinge were dying off daily, is a great testament to a work of great urgency, done carefully and presented systematically. His analysis is dispassionate--yet each page speaks with the passion of a the participants, their families and relatives. There is such irony here, such as the origin of the photo on the cover--the "poster boy" of the Aryan Wehrmacht (Army) soldier.
This is a timely period in our understanding of the World Wars, and the Cold War, as material involving the progenitors becomes available and declassified. This book will be an essential volume in the library of the sophisticated reader, war buff, and serious student of the 20th century. It is about so much more than the fate of Jews or partial Jews in the "thousand year Reich"...and makes all writing about the Wannsee Conference seem like a hornbook or primer rather than the defining word about the "Final Solution" (Endloesung) of the "Jewish Question" in Nazi Germany and its spheres of influence. In that regard, I strongly recommend the reader consider viewing the HBO DVD titled "Conspiracy" or the German Film "The Wannsee Conference" (with English subtitles). One cannot possible fathom the problems inherent in the today's Middle East and America without considering the implications of Dr. Rigg's work.
gives more needed insight into an interesting topic of WWII.
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By Bryan Mark Rigg.
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