Posts Tagged ‘Nazi’

German cops warn of Nazi violence

Monday, September 10th, 2012

German police are warning that the neo-Nazi movement is under pressure and terror attacks against foreigners and Jewish targets were a growing threat.

Investigators said extremists were coming under increasing pressure by law-enforcement and could lash out “to prove their own ability to act with violence.”

The report, which was obtained by Der Spiegel, was issued in July by the Federal Office of Criminal Investigations about a year after the extremist group National Socialist Underground was found to be responsible for the slayings of a police officer and nine men of Turkish and Greek origin.

The report also warned that extremists were well armed and could target German politicians and police officers, the Local.de said Sunday.

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The Diary of Anne Frank Coming Out as Interactive App

Tuesday, September 4th, 2012

“The Diary of Anne Frank” is being released next month as an interactive app, The London Telegraph reported.

The Anne Frank app, which will be released on October 18, will feature the full text of “The Diary of a Young Girl,” alongside dozens of extra features, including audio extracts, facsimile copies of the original diary pages, exclusive archive materials,footage from the Anne FrankFoundation and an introduction with Buddy Elias, Anne’s first cousin.

The app from Penguin’s Viking imprint and digital developer TradeMobile has been authorized by the Anne Frank Foundation, which was founded by Otto Frank following the death of his daughter Anne in the Nazi death camp of Bergen-Belsen in March 1945.

It will cost approximately eleven dollars.

It has since been published in 60 languages and is seen as a key document of the Holocaust.

“Seventy years since Anne began her diary, it remains one of the most beloved books of all time,” said Viking Publishing Director, Venetia Butterfield. “With the support of theAnne Frank Foundation we are privileged to bring her story to readers in such an inspiring and sympathetic way.”

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‘Hitler’ shop sends India shockwave

Monday, September 3rd, 2012

“Hitler” covers the black store front in large white letters – a red swastika dotting the “i”. The name of the new men’s clothing store has caused a stir in India‘s Ahmedabad city.

Ignorance over Adolf Hitler’s dark history, or a tasteless shock-advertising scheme? That’s the question being asked after Rajesh Shah named his shop after the Nazi dictator, who took over Germany in the 1930s and then tried to conquer Europe.

The small Jewish community in Ahmedabad in western Gujarat state – numbering less than 500 – is up-in-arms and demanding he change the name. But Shah says to do so would bite into his profits.

“If the Jewish community wants the name to be changed, they should pay for it. I have spent too much on the logo … the brand,” Shah told Al Jazeera, refusing to divulge how much it would cost.

Unlike most countries in the world, in India it is not uncommon for the name Hitler to represent businesses, movies, TV programmes, and even people’s names – a strange reality to outside observers, but one that is accepted without much thought by ordinary Indians. The swastika, meanwhile, was used as a Hindu symbol long before the Nazis adopted it.

One academic, however, warns the growing use of the name Hitler and what it represents is a dangerous development.

“With the rise of right-wing parties in India, Hitler has made a huge comeback in India,” says professor AF Mathew who teaches sociology, cultural and cinema studies at the India Institute of Management Kozhikode. “This is a matter of great concern. Fascism is morally wrong and to see some neo-Nazi parties making waves in Europe and India is extremely worrying.”

Orna Sagiv, Israel’s consul general in Mumbai, told Al Jazeera she was “very surprised and shocked” to hear the clothes shop was named Hitler after it opened in August.

“We believe that in this case, the choice of the name ‘Hitler’ does not derive of anti-Semitism, but from pure ignorance. Nevertheless, it still strongly hurts the sentiments of the local Jewish community, as well as the feeling of Jews around the world and in Israel.”

A ‘catchy’ name

Jewish members from the city have approached Shah urging him to rename the store. So far he has refused.

“They call the German leader a monster. [But] no other people have complaints. I have not hurt any sentiments of the majority Hindu community,” Shah says. 

So why did Shah choose the German despot’s moniker? Because that was the name of the co-owner’s grandfather, he says.

“Frankly speaking, I did not know anything about Hitler before approving the name for the shop. My partner’s father gave us a suggestion that the shop be named after his father,” he says. “My partner’s grandfather was nicknamed Hitler after he acted the role in a college play.” 

Later Shah learned of the name’s significance, but decided to use it because it looked “catchy and different”.

“Customers … tell us that they came in seeing the shop name,” says Shah. “So far, business is good.” 

Esther David is a prominent Jewish-Indian writer, artist and sculptor who lives in Ahmedabad. “It comes as a shock that a name like this can be used for marketing purposes,” she told Al Jazeera. “There is a lack of sensitivity and maybe the social structure had rotted in such a way, that people do not realise the implications of using such a name for a shop.”

The clothing store is one of a handful of Indian businesses named after the Nazi dictator. Owners seem to have picked it more for shock value than as an embrace of or admiration for Nazism.

In 2006, a Mumbai restaurant owner called his café “Hitler’s Cross” and used the swastika as a logo. Eventually, he agreed to change it after protests by the Israeli embassy, Germany, and the US Anti-Defamation League.

“Hitler’s Den”, a pool parlour in Nagpur, also ruffled feathers in 2011. Owner Baljit Singh Osan said he was looking for something “different, something that had recall value”. He told Al Jazeera the name has attracted patrons and popularised his business.

Osan refused to change the name when the Jewish community protested. “I did not sympathise with the German dictator or his beliefs,” he says.

Professor Mathew says a sense of history has disappeared, and there’s a need to teach students what the Nazis and Hitler were responsible for, including the carnage of World War II and the extermination of six million Jews.

“There is a wrong notion among people that Hitler was a great leader,” Mathew told Al Jazeera. “The disappearance of history has resulted in such notions and given birth to right-wing ideologies in India.”

Historic and cultural ties to Hitler

Mohandas Gandhi, the father of the Indian nation and a symbol of peace, wrote a letter to Hitler on July 23, 1939 urging him not to wage war. The two men had a common enemy: the British Empire. Bollywood released the drama Gandhi to Hitler in 2011 that depicted India’s move away from British colonial rule.

A Punjabi romantic-comedy film, Hero Hitler in Love, was also released in 2011.  

The small screen has also employed the Führer’s name. A television series on Zee TV about a dictatorial woman was launched in 2011 called “Hitler Didi“, or “Hitler Sister”. It was renamed “General Didi” in the United States after the Anti-Defamation League in New York protested.

Curiously, Mein Kampf - in which Hitler set out his racist theories – continues to be a bestseller in India, where business students view the book as an important guide for management strategies. More than 10,000 copies were sold in six months in New Delhi alone in 2009.

There is even a member of India’s ruling-coalition from northeastern Meghalaya state named “Adolf Hitler”.

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When It’s OK to Be a Racist

Saturday, September 1st, 2012

The New York Times responded to the attack in the Sikh temple by claiming that hate crimes are under-reported:

Attorney General Eric Holder Jr. told the Senate in 2009 that “we have a significant hate crimes problem in this country.” The recent murders at the Sikh temple in Wisconsin have raised this issue in the public consciousness.

The Times is worried that a lot of hate crimes are prosecuted as if they were ordinary crimes and don’t show up in the statistics.  The Times ignores the fact that a significant number of hate crimes are fakes.  Theyargue that we need to find more hate crimes to punish, specifically hate crimes committed by white people.

The shooting rampage on Sunday that killed six people and wounded three others at a Sikh temple in Wisconsin exposed the continued dangers of white power extremism in our midst. The shooter, Wade M. Page, was affiliated with a range of neo-Nazi skinhead groups, and during the last decade, he played in several prominent bands in the white power music scene.

The Times would have us believe that thousands of neo-Nazis thrive in the “white power” music scene, downloading Aryan music and chatting online about offenses committed by non-whites.

Law enforcement and anti-racist activists should pay close attention to the scene as a motivating force for hate crime because when extremist ideas endure, so does the potential for extremist actions.

The Times believes that police should pay disproportionate attention to white groups which sing certain Aryan songs because of the “potential for extremist actions.”

What About Black Hate Songs?

Has the Times never heard of rap?  These lyrics are by “artists” who’ve won Grammy awards, the music industry’s highest honor.

“Kill the white people; we gonna make them hurt; kill the white people; but buy my record first; ha, ha, ha”

“Kill d’White People”; Apache, Apache Ain’t Shit, 1993, Tommy Boy Music, Time Warner, USA.

“I kill a devil right now … I say kill whitey all nightey long … I stabbed a fucking Jew with a steeple … I would kill a cracker for nothing, just for the fuck of it … Menace Clan kill a cracker; jack ‘em even quicker … catch that devil slipping; blow his fucking brains out”

“Fuck a Record Deal”; Menace Clan, Da Hood, 1995, Rap-A-Lot Records, Noo Trybe Records, subsidiaries of Thorn EMI; called The EMI Group since 1997, United Kingdom.

It doesn’t take much googling to find a great many “hate songs” urging black people to commit violence against whites.  The Times assumes the tiny handful of  white people who sing songs about murdering non-whites will commit murder and therefore ought to be watched.  The Times’ own statistics say that the average black person is 20 times more likely to commit a violent crime than a white person.  Why not watch black people who sing songs about black people murdering whites, particularly when there are so many more of them and, unlike totally obscure white-power music, violent rap songs are blasted across the public airwaves from coast to coast?

If the Times were serious about monitoring singing groups to forestall violence, they’d look at black groups who sing about murdering whites.

The Black Crime Wave

The Wall Street Journal reports that the black murder rate is increasing even though overall crime rates are dropping.

More than half the nation’s homicide victims are African-American, though blacks make up only 13% of the population.  Of those black murder victims, 85% were men, mostly young men.

An average black is more than 4 times more likely to be murdered than a white.  The article reports that 6% of black murder victims are killed by whites whereas 14% of white murder victims are killed by blacks.  Blacks kill twice the fraction of white murder victims as whites kill black murder victims; if the writers of white-power music are trying to incite whites to violence against blacks, they’re nothing like as successful as rap artists doing the same thing in reverse.

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German court fines far-right parliamentarian

Friday, August 17th, 2012

The administrative court in Schwerin, the capital of Mecklenburg West Pomerania state, ruled that Pastörs was not protected by freedom of speech nor privilege for parliamentarians when he denied Nazi Germany’s murder of six million Jews in what it called his “diatribe” on January 28, 2010 when parliament remembers the victims of Nazi tyranny.

The court ordered him to pay his fine to Schwerin’s city library for children’s books and slapped him with an eight-month suspended jail term.

In the state’s regional assembly in Schwerin, 59-year-old Pastörs leads a minority parliamentary group of the anti-immigrant National Democratic Party (NPD). The party also has a few seats in another eastern German state, Saxony, but no seats at the federal level.

The presiding judge in Schwerin said Pastörs’ use of prepared notes in parliament showed a premeditated use of significant “criminal energy” that could only be interpreted as Holocaust denial. In his speech, Pastörs had described parliament’s ceremony as a “cult of guilt.”

Pastörs already has a conviction for inciting hatred against Jews and Turks in 2010 during a NPD party gathering in the western German state of Saarland. For that, he was fined 6,000 euros and handed a ten-month suspended jail term.

German mainstream considering NPD ban

Groups with explicit neo-Nazi ideology are banned in Germany. Federal and regional state authorities are considering submitting a fresh application to ban the NPD to Germany’s constitutional court in Karlsruhe.

A similar bid failed in 2003 because the top court said the presence of high-place informers had tainted evidence. But public pressure to outlaw the NPD has mounted further since a neo-Nazi cell, the National Socialist Underground (NSU), was exposed in November. The cell is alleged to have killed eight ethnic Turkish shopkeepers, a Greek man and a German policewoman between 2000 and 2007.

Latest figures indicate that the NPD has about 6,600 members.

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Joining the Hitler Youth

Tuesday, August 7th, 2012

Finally, my tenth birthday was near. Two events were about to occur; I could join the Hitler Youth organization and start high school.

With the arrival of my tenth birthday, I became eligible to join the Hitler Youth, or better, I should say, join the Young Folks’ (Jungvolk) movement. The Young Folks were a junior extension of the Hitler Youth for boys aged 10 to 14. After I had my parent’s permission to join, nothing could stop me from fulfilling my dreams of joining. I became a proud member of the Hitler Youth Young Folks.

Now, not only did I need a full uniform with all its paraphernalia, but I also needed camping accessories. My wish list included a backpack with a blanket, a pup tent canvas, a mess kit, a compass and more importantly a knife in a sheath with a Young Folks’ symbol.

During our weekly Young Folks’ meetings, older Hitler Youth members organized and conducted our get-together. There was no question that they impressed on us the importance of the Third Reich�s future, highlighting the need for purity and social improvements of an upcoming generation. The indoctrination emphasized love of one’s country, respect of spiritual and ethical values and unquestioning loyalty to our Führer.

Most of our meetings started with the singing of our national anthem which began, “Germany above all�” followed by a National Socialist Party song, “Raise high the flag�” One of us youngsters would stand at attention next to the lectern holding on to a pole displaying the swastika flag. We had to learn at least one new marching song every time we got together. Group singing was highly enjoyable, and once we started marching it never failed for the group leader to call for a song. Besides singing, we received lectures about good sanitation and cleanliness of body and mind. We were enlightened to the fact that our Führer depended on us to strengthen and perpetuate the Third Reich.

In addition to the more or less boring subjects, we planned outdoor adventures like camping trips, playing hide and seek between red and blue teams and finding your way after being lost in the wilderness. We played games and the comradeship was evident and enjoyable.

The words of the songs we learned would not have won today’s Pulitzer Prize, but the message came through loud and clear. Sacrifice yourself, if necessary, for the good of the country and hold honor and courage in high esteem. Every so often, we would go on overnight outings in the countryside. We learned to pitch tents and how to build campfires. Some very subtle political indoctrination was unavoidable, and especially the message concerning Adolf Hitler was clear. Our leader, the supreme commander�s words and actions, were irrefutable.

In recent years, I heard controversy about a particular song we had learned. That song had words stating that only Germany hears us now, but tomorrow the whole world will. The German words of that part in the song were as follows: Denn heute da hört uns Deutschland und morgen die ganze Welt. Not gehört which means belonging. That was the way I learned the song. Some scholars have suggested that we sang: “tomorrow the whole world will belong to Germany” instead of the world will hear us. I am sure that we, the youth, did not communicate suggestions through this song that Germany would own the world.

My sister also belonged to a youth movement, called the Bund Deutscher Mädchen (Organization of German Girls). I heard only scant words from my sister, but it appeared that honor and love for the country appeared to be their central message also. The Führer expected the girls, so they said, to remain pure, pledge in marriage only to Aryan boys, and create many babies for the Fatherland.

Early in 1938, with my primary schooling completed, I looked forward to attending high school. My parents made it perfectly clear that I had to quit fooling around and get down to studying. School homework, customarily handed out for most subjects, now received preferential treatment over any other activity.

Our class size normally consisted of 24 to 30 boys. Within an assigned classroom, we had the freedom to select our seat location. I preferred a seat about in the middle, not liking to sit right in front of the teacher, but close enough to read the blackboard clearly. Most of the time our school started at 8 o�clock and most classes lasted 90 minutes. We had 4 classes per day, 5 days a week, and 3 classes on Saturday. The teachers would come to our room instead of the students going to a teacher’s room. Almost all teachers would hand out homework, and I had no problems keeping up with the assignments except for a couple of subjects.

Luckily, during the first two years, we had no language classes but I had history classes taught by a disagreeable teacher, Mr. Lustig. I found out that I had problems memorizing historical dates, especially Mr. Lustig�s. Looking back, I am sure that his presentation also lacked some continuity or whatever.

Anyway, it appeared boring to me, and soon my history grades sank. Had I not excelled in mathematics and physics, I would have been in significant trouble. I strongly disliked Herr Lustig, my history teacher. He had a half-inch diameter, three foot-long bamboo cane. Standing in front of me, he would ask me what happened in Germany on April 24, 1547. Sure, ask another question. I had not the faintest idea. He would then whack that cane merciless on my upper arm while bombarding me with other dates and events. Even if I had known any of the answers, I surely would have been unable to handle any answers under those circumstances. This teacher’s behavior haunted me for many years, especially when I had to take a test.

Political propagandizing from our teachers was not on the curriculum. Even during my first year in the Hitler Youth movement, political indoctrination was relatively benign, with some mentioning of how the Jews were destroying our country.

All that changed on the night of November 9/10, 1938. I was now 11 years old and had one year of lectures from the Hitler Youth movement behind me. I was convinced of my leader’s wisdom, and believed in the goodness of the Nazi doctrine.

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The Wannsee Conference

Monday, August 6th, 2012

On January, 20, 1942, Reinhard Heydrich, Himmler‘s second in command of the SS, convened the Wannsee Conference in Berlin with 15 top Nazi bureaucrats to coordinate the Final Solution (Endlösung) in which the Nazis would attempt to exterminate the entire Jewish population of Europe, an estimated 11 million persons.

“Europe would be combed of Jews from east to west,” Heydrich stated.

The minutes of that meeting have been preserved but were edited by Heydrich substituting the coded language Nazis used when referring to lethal actions to be taken against Jews.

“Instead of emigration, there is now a further possible solution to which the Führer has already signified his consent – namely deportation to the east,” Heydrich stated for example when referring to mass deportations of Jews to ghettos in occupied Poland and then on to the soon-opened death camps at Belzec, Sobibor, and Treblinka.

“…eliminated by natural causes,” refers to death by a combination of hard labor and starvation.

“…treated accordingly,” refers to execution by SS firing squads or death by gassing – also seen in other Nazi correspondence in a variety of connotations such as “special treatment” and “special actions” regarding the Jews.

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Hitler becomes Führer

Saturday, August 4th, 2012

By the summer of 1934, the elderly German President, Paul von Hindenburg, lay close to death at his country estate in East Prussia. He had been in failing health for several months, thus giving Adolf Hitler and the Nazis ample opportunity to make plans to capitalize on his demise.

Reich Chancellor Hitler planned to use President Hindenburg’s death as an opportunity to seize total power in Germany by elevating himself to the position of Führer, or absolute leader, of the German nation and its people.

On August 2, 1934, at 9 a.m., the long awaited death of 87 year old Hindenburg finally occurred. Within hours, Hitler and the Nazis announced the following law, dated as of August 1…

“The Reich Government has enacted the following law which is hereby promulgated.
Section 1. The office of Reich President will be combined with that of Reich Chancellor. The existing authority of the Reich President will consequently be transferred to the Führer and Reich Chancellor, Adolf Hitler. He will select his deputy.
Section 2. This law is effective as of the time of the death of Reich President von Hindenburg.”

Following the announcement of this (technically illegal) law, the German Officers’ Corps and every individual in the German Army swore a personal oath of allegiance to Hitler.

A nationwide vote (plebiscite) was then scheduled to give the German people a chance to express their approval of Hitler’s unprecedented new powers.

Meanwhile, Hindenburg’s last will and testament surfaced. Contrary to Hitler’s intentions, Hindenburg’s last wishes included a desire for a return to a constitutional (Hohenzollern) monarchy. These last wishes were contained in the form of a personal letter from Hindenburg to Hitler.

Hitler simply ignored this and likely destroyed the letter, as it was not published and has never been found.

However, the Nazis did publish Hindenburg’s alleged political testament giving an account of his years of service with complimentary references to Hitler. Although it was likely a forgery, it was used as part of the Nazi campaign to get a large “Yes” vote for Hitler in the coming plebiscite.

On August 19, about 95 percent of registered voters in Germany went to the polls and gave Hitler 38 million votes of approval (90 percent of the vote). Thus Adolf Hitler could claim he was Führer of the German nation by direct will of the people. Hitler now wielded absolute power in Germany, beyond that of any previous traditional head of state. He had become, in effect, the law unto himself.

The next day, August 20, mandatory loyalty oaths were introduced throughout the Reich…Hitler watching festivities at Nuremberg - 1934

Article 1. The public officials and the soldiers of the armed forces must take an oath of loyalty on entering service.
Article 2
1.
 The oath of loyalty of public officials will be:
‘I swear: I shall be loyal and obedient to Adolf Hitler, the Führer of the German Reich and people, respect the laws, and fulfill my official duties conscientiously, so help me God.’
2. The oath of loyalty of the soldiers of the armed forces will be:
‘I swear by God this sacred oath: I will render unconditional obedience to Adolf Hitler, the Führer of the German Reich and people, Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces, and will be ready as a brave soldier to risk my life at any time for this oath.’
Article 3. Officials already in service must swear this oath without delay according to Article 2 number 1.”

These oaths were pledged to Hitler personally, not the German state or constitution. And they were taken very seriously by members of the German Officers’ Corps with their traditional minded codes of honor, which now elevated obedience to Hitler as a sacred duty and effectively placed the German armed forces in the position of being the personal instrument of Hitler.

In September, 1934, at the annual Nuremberg Nazi Party rallies, a euphoric Hitler proclaimed, “The German form of life is definitely determined for the next thousand years. The Age of Nerves of the nineteenth century has found its close with us. There will be no revolution in Germany for the next thousand years.”

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Downfall of Adolf Hitler

Friday, August 3rd, 2012

All of his life, Adolf Hitler had been obsessed with the musical works of German composer Richard Wagner. As a teenager living in Austria, Hitler was deeply inspired by Wagner’s operas and their pagan, mythical tales of struggles against hated enemies. One time, back in 1905, after seeing Wagner’s opera Rienzi, young Hitler professed he would someday embark on a great mission, leading his people to freedom, similar to the opera’s story.

Now, some 40 years later, after failing in his mission as Führer of the German People and Reich, another of Wagner’s operas hearkened, and it was Hitler’s favorite – Der Ring des Nibelungen. It concerns a magic Ring granting its possessor the power to rule the world. In the last part of this opera, entitled Götterdämmerung, or ‘Twilight of the gods,” the hero Siegfried, betrayed by those around him, loses the Ring and winds up on a funeral pyre while the fortress of Valhalla burns and the kingdom of the gods is destroyed.

The dream of Germania–capital of Greater Germany as envisioned by Hitler in his scale model of a postwar Berlin. Below: Reality–the muck and mire of bombed out Berlin in the spring of 1945.

This essentially was the ending Hitler inflicted upon himself, his People and his Reich.

Piece by piece, it all came together over the last ten days of his life, beginning on Friday, April 20, 1945. That day Hitler met for the last time with his top Nazis. The occasion was Hitler’s 56th birthday, a dreary celebration inside the Führerbunker in Berlin. Present were Joseph Goebbels, Hermann Göring, Heinrich Himmler, Joachim Ribbentrop, Albert Speer and Martin Bormann, along with military leaders Wilhelm Keitel, Alfred Jodl, Karl Dönitz, and Hans Krebs, the new Chief of the General Staff.

At first, those present tried to convince the Führer to leave doomed Berlin for the relative safety of Berchtesgaden, the mountain area along the German-Austrian border where he had his villa. From there he could continue the fight, supported by troops positioned throughout the impenetrable Alpine mountains of western Austria and southern Bavaria. Such a move might prolong the war indefinitely and improve the odds of a favorable outcome for Germany, one way or another.

But Hitler brushed aside this suggestion, knowing that any journey outside the bunker brought great risk of capture. And above all, the Führer did not want himself, alive or dead, to wind up prominently displayed by his enemies, particularly the Russians. However, he did give his bunker personnel permission to leave. Most of his staff therefore departed for Berchtesgaden via a convoy of trucks and planes, still hoping the Führer would follow. Only a handful of Hitler’s personal staff remained with him, including his top aide Martin Bormann, a few SS and military aides, two private secretaries, and his longtime companion, Eva Braun.

Hitler’s choice to remain in the Führerbunker to the very end amounted to his final decision of the war. It was made known to the German people via a special radio announcement in the hope that his presence in the Nazi capital would inspire all remaining Wehrmacht, SS, Volkssturm and Hitler Youth units in Berlin to hold out to the end as well.

Although the war was lost, Hitler nevertheless took pride in the knowledge that he had not allowed another repeat of November 1918, when the German Army had meekly asked the Allies for armistice terms to conclude the First World War. This was all Hitler had left. Just a few years earlier, the Führer had been regarded by most German’s as their greatest-ever military leader. Now, all that remained of his military legacy was the fact he had refused to give up no matter what.

The Führer’s stubborn pride insured that thousands of German soldiers, Hitler Youths and civilians would needlessly lose their lives in the streets of Berlin, where advance units of the Red Army were already probing. Inside the bunker, Hitler told General Jodl, “I will fight as long as I have a single soldier. When the last soldier deserts me. I will shoot myself.”

However, the Führer’s fatalism was not shared by his two oldest comrades, Hermann Göring and Heinrich Himmler, who had both scooted away from Berlin just hours after Hitler’s birthday gathering. Göring made it safely to Berchtesgaden where he had his own villa, bringing along truckloads of artworks looted from museums all over occupied Europe. For his part, Himmler headed in the opposite direction, staying for the moment in a small town northwest of Berlin.

Both men were spurred to act on their own in the aftermath of the Führer’s shocking behavior during the military conference held in the bunker on Sunday, April 22nd. To everyone there that day, it seemed the Führer had suffered a total mental and physical breakdown, completely losing control while letting loose a shrieking denunciation of the Army, then collapsing into a chair. News of the Führer’s appalling condition spread like wildfire among the top Nazis outside Berlin, including Göring and Himmler.

Hermann Göring (center) with Hitler in early April 1945, mingling with German troops during one of their last public appearances together. Below: SS-Reichsführer Heinrich Himmler (left) visits an SS Panzer Corps on the Western Front in 1944.
Below: The United States Army arm-in-arm with the Soviet Red Army at Torgau, Germany.
Below: Russian Shturmoviks in action over Berlin in April 1945 as the Red Army’s main attack commences.

Göring, the Führer’s designated successor, now pondered whether or not to announce he was the new leader of the Reich, since Hitler was presently cut off from the rest of Germany in besieged Berlin, and apparently incapacitated. But the inherent danger of such a move, even at this late stage, gave him pause for concern. And so Göring put off a decision and instead sent Hitler a carefully worded telegram the next day, Monday, April 23rd, trying to feel him out:

“My Führer! In view of your decision to remain in the fortress of Berlin, do you agree that I take over at once the total leadership of the Reich, with full freedom of action at home and abroad as your deputy, in accordance with your decree of June 29, 1941? If no reply is received by 10 o’clock tonight, I shall take it for granted that you have lost your freedom of action, and shall consider the conditions of your decree as fulfilled, and shall act for the best interests of our country and our people…”

Göring didn’t know that Hitler had since rebounded from his meltdown and regained a measure of composure. Therefore, Hitler’s response to Göring’s telegram, prompted by Martin Bormann, was that the Reich Marshal had committed “high treason.” Although this carried the death penalty, Göring would be spared if he immediately resigned all of his titles and offices – which Göring promptly did. Next, Bormann, a longtime behind-the-scenes foe of Göring, transmitted an order to the SS near Berchtesgaden to arrest Göring and his staff. As a result, just before dawn on Tuesday, April 24, Göring was put under house arrest. Thus ended the long career of the man who would be Führer.

In contrast to Göring’s cautiousness, Himmler took a much bolder approach. At the very moment that Hitler was reading Göring’s telegram, Himmler was secretly proposing the surrender all German troops in the West to General Eisenhower.

Himmler had traveled to the city of Lübeck in northern Germany to meet with Count Folke Bernadotte of the Swedish Red Cross. Himmler’s idea was to have Bernadotte contact Eisenhower regarding the surrender in the West, while at the same time Germany would continue fighting the Russians in the East, soon to be joined by the Americans and British. Playing a key role in this new German-American-British alliance would be the leader of post-Hitler Germany, Heinrich Himmler himself.

His proposal got nowhere. By now, Himmler’s name, and that of the SS organization he headed, was already synonymous with mass murder.

Meanwhile, the military situation continued to deteriorate. On Wednesday, April 25th, Russian and American soldiers greeted each other face-to-face at Torgau on the Elbe River, seventy-five miles south of Berlin, effectively severing Nazi Germany in two. The next day, Russian artillery fire made the first direct hits upon the Reich Chancellery buildings in Berlin and the grounds directly above the Führerbunker.

A German tank officer described the scene in his diary: “We retreat again under heavy Russian air attacks. Inscriptions [I see] on house walls [say]: ‘The hour before sunrise is darkest’ and ‘We retreat but we are winning.’…The night is fiery red. Heavy shelling. Otherwise a terrible silence…Women and children huddling in niches and corners and listening for the sounds of battle…Nervous breakdowns.”

By Friday, April 27, Russian bombardment of the Reich Chancellery buildings had reached its peak with numerous direct hits, causing Hitler to send frantic telegrams to Field Marshal Keitel demanding that Berlin be relieved by now non-existent armies.

For Hitler, the worst blow of all came the next day when BBC news radio reports concerning Himmler’s surrender negotiations were broadcast from London and picked up by Goebbels’ Propaganda Ministry. According to eyewitnesses in the bunker, Hitler “raged like a madman” with a ferocity never seen before when informed of the betrayal. Himmler had been at his side since the beginning, earning the fond nickname Der Treue Heinrich (Faithful Heinrich) through years of murderous, fanatical service to his Führer. Now, Hitler wanted to have him shot.

Since Himmler was nowhere to be found, Hitler ordered his personal liaison in the bunker, SS-General Hermann Fegelein, shot instead. Fegelein was already under suspicion, having been nabbed the day before trying to sneak out of Berlin in civilian clothing. After some brief questioning, he was taken up to the Chancellery garden above the bunker and summarily executed.

In the meantime, advance units of the Red Army had smashed through the German defenses in Berlin and were only a few miles away from the bunker. Hitler was informed there was perhaps a day or two left before the Russians arrived at his doorstep.

Now, at long last, Hitler reconciled himself to defeat, and began preparations for his own death.

First, he married Eva Braun, as a reward for her ceaseless devotion, during a relationship in which she had spent nearly all of her time at Berchtesgaden waiting for him to show up. They were married in a brief ceremony about an hour past midnight, early Sunday, April 29, with Goebbels and Bormann in attendance. Everyone was then invited into the Führer’s private quarters for a wedding breakfast featuring champagne and fond reminisces by Hitler of better days gone by, followed by a bitter accounting of the recent betrayal by his two oldest comrades. Those who listened were moved to tears. Shortly thereafter, Hitler excused himself, bringing along his staff secretary, Traudl Junge, to whom he dictated his last will along with a two-part political testament.

In his will he left his possessions to the Nazi Party and also revealed his fate: “I myself and my wife – in order to escape the disgrace of deposition or capitulation – choose death. It is our wish to be burnt immediately on the spot where I have carried out the greatest part of my daily work in the course of twelve years’ of service to my people.”

His political testament recited familiar themes first stated in his book Mein Kampf back in 1925. In addition, he blamed the Jews for everything, including the war. He cited the extermination threat he had made on January 30, 1939, followed by a veiled reference to the gas chambers, labeling them a “humane means” of making the Jews atone for the guilt of causing the war.

In the second part of his political testament, he expelled both Göring and Himmler from the Nazi Party and appointed Admiral Karl Dönitz as his successor, not as Führer, but as President of the Reich. Dönitz was to preside over a government with Goebbels as Chancellor and Bormann as Party Minister. After completing his dictations, Hitler went off to bed, having been up all night.

While the Führer slept, the Battle of Berlin raged in the streets above him, with the Germans fighting fanatically to defend every inch, just as Hitler hoped they would. Above all, they tried to knock out the Russian T34 tanks now rolling toward Hitler. A Russian tank driver recalled: “There were a lot of Panzerfausts [anti-tank grenade launchers] in Berlin. They were lying in every basement. Mostly the operators were old men or boys.”

Casualties on both sides were high. But the Russians pressed forward relentlessly, blasting through anything in their way. The Red Army under Marshal Zhukov, after a journey of some 1500 miles that had begun back in Stalingrad, was now close to victory. When the Führer awoke about noontime, he was told that Russian troops were only a mile from the bunker.

The Chancellery garden with entrance to the Führerbunker on left and adjacent ventilation tower as seen in 1947. Below: Portrait from 1942 of Eva Braun and Hitler with his dog Blondi.

Realizing their Führer intended to self-destruct, four of his remaining military adjutants asked for permission to leave the bunker, on the excuse that they wanted to check on the status of a relief column supposedly being led by General Wenck. Hitler granted their requests. He also took this opportunity to give his Luftwaffe adjutant, Colonel Below, one last Führer message to be hand delivered to the Army High Command:

“The people and the armed forces have given their all in this long and hard struggle. The sacrifice has been enormous. But my trust has been misused by many people. Disloyalty and betrayal have undermined resistance throughout the war. It was therefore not granted to me to lead the people to victory. The Army General Staff cannot be compared with the General Staff in the First World War. Its achievements were far behind those of the fighting front. The efforts and sacrifices of the German people in this war have been so great that I cannot believe that they have been in vain. The aim must still be to win territory in the East for the German people.”

Thus the last official words of the Führer contained both a final insult of the Army leadership along with a repetition of the Lebensraum theme for the East.

Shortly thereafter, the final bit of news from the outside world ever to reach Hitler told of the death of his oldest political ally, Benito Mussolini. The one-time dictator of Italy had tried to flee along with his mistress, but had been captured by Italian partisans, executed, hung upside down and then thrown into the gutter. Hitler’s only reaction was an expressed determination not to suffer a similar fate.

Hitler never heard the other news that day from Italy. SS-General Karl Wolff, formerly Himmler’s chief aide, had successfully negotiated the unconditional surrender of all German forces in Italy to the Western Allies.

Hitler’s sole concern right now was to ready himself for the moment of death. He had in his possession several small glass capsules containing liquid cyanide poison. All one had to do was bite down on the glass and painless death would follow in seconds. But since the capsules had been supplied by the now-traitorous Himmler, the Führer worried they might not be the real thing. Hitler therefore ordered one tested on his favorite dog, Blondi, which killed the animal instantly. After this, he handed out the cyanide capsules to his female secretaries, apologizing that he did not have better parting gifts for them. The capsules, he told them, were theirs to use when the Russians stormed the bunker.

As Sunday evening wore on, Hitler asked everyone to stay up. They waited for hours, for what they sensed would be a final goodbye. It came about 2:30 a.m., early in the morning of Monday, April 30th, when Hitler came out of his private quarters into the dining area. The remaining members of his staff lined up to receive him. With glazed eyes, Hitler shook each hand, muttering a few inaudible words quietly, then retired back into his quarters. His secretary, Traudl Junge, recalled the moment: “He looked like a shadow. He looked emotionless, and very gray and pale, like a broken old man…his movements were very slow. He was not the dictator anymore, and the impressive, fascinating man he was earlier.”

Following the Führer’s departure, his staff mulled over the significance of what they had just experienced. Strangely, the tremendous tension of preceding days seemed to suddenly evaporate upon their realization that the end was near. A lighthearted mood surfaced, followed by spontaneous displays of merry-making even including dancing. At one point, they had to be told to keep the noise down.

At noontime on April 30th, Hitler attended his last-ever military conference and was told the Russians were a block away. Two hours later, Hitler sat down for his final meal, a vegetarian lunch. His wife had no appetite. In the meantime, his chauffeur was ordered to deliver 200 liters of gasoline to the Chancellery garden.

Hitler, accompanied by his wife Eva, now bid a last farewell to Bormann, Goebbels, Generals Krebs and Burgdorf. Hitler and his wife went back into their private quarters while Bormann and Goebbels stood quietly nearby. A few moments later, about 3:30 p.m., a gunshot was heard. Bormann and Goebbels hesitated at first, then entered the room. They saw the body of Hitler sprawled on the sofa, dripping with blood from a gunshot to his right temple. He had killed himself with the same small revolver he once used to fire a warning shot into the ceiling back during the Beer Hall Putsch in November 1923 – a gun he had kept ever since. His wife, Eva, had died from biting into one of the cyanide capsules.

Russian soldiers in Berlin gaze upon a Nazi eagle fallen from the Reich Chancellery building. Below: Germans POWs from Berlin are escorted by Russians.
Below: Hitler’s successor, Karl Dönitz, now a prisoner of the British along with Albert Speer and General Alfred Jodl.

As Russian artillery shells exploded nearby, the bodies were carried up the stairs to the Reich Chancellery garden, placed in a shell crater, doused heavily with gasoline and burned while Bormann and Goebbels stood by silently, with arms extended in a final Nazi salute. Over the next three hours, the bodies were repeatedly doused until there were only charred remains, which were swept into a canvas, laid in a different shell crater and buried anonymously.

Back inside the bunker, with the Führer now gone, people lit cigarettes, a practice Hitler had forbidden in his presence. Next, they began to organize themselves into groups to flee the bunker and hopefully escape the Russians.

For Joseph Goebbels, life without Hitler was not worth living for himself, his wife and their six young children. On Tuesday, May 1st, Goebbels and his wife therefore poisoned their six children, aged 12 and younger, whom they had brought into the bunker. Next they went up into the Chancellery garden and each bit into a cyanide capsule. After collapsing and dying, they were shot in the head by an SS man as Goebbels had requested. Their bodies were then burned, but only partially, and were not buried. The macabre remains were discovered by the Russians the next day and filmed, with the grotesquely charred body of Goebbels becoming an enduring symbol of the legacy of Hitler’s twelve-year Reich.

At 10 p.m. on May 1st, a special radio announcement told the German people their Führer had died “fighting with his last breath for Germany against Bolshevism,” and also announced Dönitz as his designated successor. By now, the Russians were already combing through the wreckage of the Reich Chancellery looking for any sign of Hitler’s body.

With the Führer dead and the German nation in ruins, Dönitz and surviving leaders of the Wehrmacht had just one thing in mind – stall for time to allow as many troops and civilians as possible to flee from the Russians and make it into western zones occupied by the Americans and British.

Thus it wasn’t until Saturday, May 5th, when a military representative, Admiral Hans von Friedeburg, was sent by Dönitz to General Eisenhower’s headquarters at Reims, France. He was then joined by General Jodl. Even now, the Germans tried to stall the proceedings by suggesting a piecemeal surrender limited to the West, thereby allowing even more troops to flee the Russians. But Eisenhower saw through this ploy and demanded the Germans quit stalling and sign an unconditional surrender for all fronts.

And so, in the early morning hours of Monday, May 7th, with authorization from Dönitz, General Jodl signed the unconditional surrender document. The signing was, as Winston Churchill put it, “the signal for the greatest outburst of joy in the history of mankind.” Huge crowds gathered to rejoice in London, Paris, New York and Moscow.

The guns across Europe were silent. Nazi Germany was finished.

The German people, who had once cheered mightily for Hitler and enthusiastically embraced Nazism, now faced a stark and uncertain future. A German woman summed up the dilemma: “There won’t be any more dying, any more raids. It’s over. But then the fear set in of what would happen afterwards. We were spiritually and emotionally drained. Hitler’s doctrines were discredited. And then the desperation set in of realizing that it had all been for nothing, and that was a terrible feeling. Surviving, finding something to eat and drink, was less difficult for me than the psychological emptiness. It was incomprehensible that all this was supposed to be over, and that it had all been for nothing.”

For Jews and others, who had been targeted by Nazis, a great sense of relief was felt at outlasting Hitler. One woman who survived the Final Solution reflected: “During the five terrible war years, we could not indulge in simple pleasures that life offers to normal people. All our efforts were directed towards fighting the enemy and surviving. Now, for the first time since September 1, 1939, we could unwind and be normal again – to walk the streets without the fear of hearing the hated “Halt!” without the fear of being rounded up by the Germans and pushed into military trucks. No more “Achtung, Achtung!” coming down from the street loud-speakers. No more ghettos, no more starvation, typhus, gas chambers, Einsatzgruppen [killing squads]. The intense fear and persecution were over.”

The Germans themselves had paid dearly for Hitler’s war, suffering four million civilian and three million military deaths. Hitler’s nemesis, Soviet Russia, had suffered staggering losses including seven million soldiers and an estimated 16 million civilian deaths. Throughout Europe and Russia, six million Jews had been systematically murdered by Nazis.

For the victorious Allies, with images of recently liberated concentration camps still fresh in their minds, the question of justice now arose. Fortunately for the Allies, the rapid demise of Nazi Germany had resulted in the wholesale capture of gigantic document archives from all branches of Hitler’s government along with secret papers, conference reports and private diaries.

The Nazis had kept meticulous written records of their activities, from mass murder of the Jews, to Hitler’s private talks. In addition, captured Nazi officials and high ranking military officers underwent lengthy interrogations. With all of the evidence at hand, the Allies decided to prosecute. The place chosen for the trial was Nuremberg, the now-ruined city that had once hosted annual rallies glorifying Hitler and Nazism

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Mass Murder in the East

Thursday, August 2nd, 2012

The quest for Lebensraum in the East was a carefully contemplated, step-by-step, process. First, the land was forcibly seized by Hitler’s armies from its rightful inhabitants. Secondly, Heinrich Himmler‘s SS, with the knowledge and cooperation of the Wehrmacht, moved in to conduct special actions in accordance with the racial policies of the Führer. After this, Nazi political authorities moved in to administer and exploit the conquered lands in cooperation with the SS and Wehrmacht.

Poland was the first such conquest. Hitler loathed the neighboring country which had been set up by the victorious Allies at the end of the First World War. He ordered every facet of Polish culture and national identity obliterated and the people reduced to slave laborers.

Upon its conquest in September 1939, Himmler and his second-in-command, Reinhard Heydrich, quickly set up SS execution squads known as Einsatzgruppen to rid the population of all educated and prominent Poles. Trailing behind the Wehrmacht, the SS squads combed through cities and villages, shooting whomever they pleased, including Polish political leaders, land-owners, gentry, ex-army officers, business owners, professors, artists and intellectuals. Simply wearing eyeglasses was enough to get one shot, since it implied a person was educated.

Next, all higher education was abolished so the Poles would degenerate into a population of ignorant, obedient laborers. A memorandum Himmler wrote in May 1940 provided the details: “The non-German population of the eastern territories must not receive any education higher than that of an elementary school with four grades. The objective of this elementary school must simply be to teach simple arithmetic up to 500 at the most, how to write one’s name, and to teach that it is God’s commandment to be obedient to the Germans and to be honest, hard working, and well-behaved. I consider it unnecessary to teach reading.”

Polish nationals are expelled from their homes to make room for incoming Germans. The Germanic-looking youngster would likely attract the attention of the SS. Below: Nazi police escort Polish Jews during their deportation from Włocławek, southward toward Lodz.

The model for Lebensraum, as outlined by Hitler, included large-scale resettlement of conquered territories by pure-blooded Germans at the expense of the people already living there. Over a million Poles were therefore forced out of their homes and farms which were confiscated along with shops, businesses, gold, artwork, raw materials, food and anything else of value – including children.

SS men were instructed by Himmler to keep an eye out for any blond-haired, blue-eyed children. When spotted, such children were kidnapped on the spot by the SS and sent off to Germany to be raised as Nazis. Parts of Poland had been settled by Germans in the past, and so Himmler wanted all 6 to 10-year-old Poles physically examined by Nazi racial specialists “to sort out those with valuable blood and those with worthless blood.” Those considered worthless were condemned to a life of slave labor under their German masters, or worse, if they happened to be Jewish.

Poland was also home to about three million Jews, the largest population of any country in Europe. Following its conquest, Hitler appointed an old comrade, Hans Frank, his longtime Nazi lawyer, to oversee the large southeastern portion of occupied Poland that was not annexed into the Reich. Much to the annoyance of Frank, Himmler used this area, known as the General Government, as the dumping ground for all of the unwanted Jews and Poles. As the number of Jews in the General Government continued to swell, Frank repeatedly expressed his dismay to Hitler and began advocating for some kind of alternative.

At this point, both Hitler and Himmler were still pondering a future “solution of the Jewish problem.” In the meantime, as a temporary measure, Heydrich proposed rounding all up the Polish Jews in the General Government and placing them in SS-run ghettos at places such as Lodz, Cracow and Warsaw. Inside these walled-in ghettos, Heydrich explained, the Jews would be cut off from the outside world and squeezed into overcrowded areas where malnutrition and disease would naturally diminish their numbers. 

Millions more Jews came under Nazi control as Hitler’s armies swept across Russia beginning in June 1941. For Hitler and Himmler, the existence of so many of these unwanted people in the vast tracts of newly acquired Lebensraum was a pressing dilemma, requiring some thought.

Meanwhile, in compliance with Hitler’s Commissar Order to liquidate all Russian political officials, Himmler unleashed his SS in Russia, creating four new Einsatz groups, totaling 3,000 men, which followed behind the German Army. At first, they only targeted Russian political officials, shooting them on sight. But SS field commanders soon enlarged the definition of a political official to include all Jewish men, in accordance with Hitler’s belief that the Russian political system was the embodiment of Jewish-Bolshevism and therefore all Jews were implicated. The next step occurred in August 1941, when Himmler further expanded the task of the Einsatz units to include the shooting of Jewish families as well. This marked the beginning of a systematic, coordinated effort by the Nazis to murder all of the Jews in the East.

For the SS in Russia, the task ahead was huge. Throughout the vast countryside, there were hundreds of isolated little villages called shtetlspopulated exclusively by Jews. Into each village, truckloads of SS troops would arrive unannounced. The commanding SS officer would promptly summon the town’s leading citizens and inform them the entire population was to be immediately resettled. With no time to think, the men from the village were rushed into the trucks and taken off to a secluded site, followed a short time later by the women and children.

Portrait of SS-Brigadeführer Otto Ohlendorf–a well educated, cultured German who resorted to mass murder of the Jews without hesitation. Below: Close-up of an SS-Einsatz report listing the precise tally of Jewish men, women and children (Judenkinder) killed at each locale.

Otto Ohlendorf, an Einsatz group commander, explained what happened at the execution site: “They were ordered to hand over their valuables to the leader of the unit, and shortly before their execution to surrender their outer clothing. The men, women and children were led to a place of execution which in most cases was located next to a deeply excavated anti-tank ditch. Then they were shot, kneeling or standing, and the corpses thrown into the ditch.”

Einsatz leaders such as Ohlendorf kept a precise tally of executed Jews so the number could be reported back to Himmler. Soon a competition arose among the four Einsatz groups to see who could report the highest tally, and so they dashed from place to place in search of ever-more Jews.

As Hitler’s armies plunged deeper into Russia, the massacres grew in size, culminating in late September 1941, when 33,771 Jews in the Ukraine were rounded up and killed over two days in the Babi Yar ravine outside Kiev.

One of the few survivors, Dina Pronicheva, recalled: “It was dark already…They lined us up on a ledge which was so small that we couldn’t get much of a footing on it. They began shooting us. I shut my eyes, clenched my fists, tensed all my muscles and took a plunge down before the bullets hit me. It seemed I was flying forever. But I landed safely on the bodies. After a while, when the shooting stopped, I heard the Germans climbing into the ravine. They started finishing off all those who were not dead yet, those who were moaning, hiccupping, tossing, writhing in agony…They started covering the corpses over with earth. They must have put quite a lot over me because I felt I was beginning to suffocate…Then I decided it was better to be shot than buried alive. Using my left arm I managed to move a little way up. Then I took a deep breath, summoned up my waning strength and crawled out from under the cover of earth. It was dark…I was lucky enough to crawl up one of the high walls of the ravine, and straining every nerve and muscle, got out of it.”

Curious about the whole process, Himmler ventured into Russia and watched an Einsatz squad execute a hundred Jews at Minsk. As the squad fired upon the first set of lined-up people, Himmler appeared on the verge of fainting. When a second set of Jews went before the same firing squad, the shots failed to kill two women, greatly upsetting Himmler, who cried out for the women to be put out of their misery. After this emotional experience, Himmler settled on the idea of trying gas as an alternative to firing squads, believing it would spare his SS men the ordeal of shooting women and children.

Newly developed gas trucks were then introduced for experimental usage. Each of these mobile vans contained an airtight rear compartment into which the engine’s exhaust fumes were fed to asphyxiate the 15 to 25 people inside while it was driven toward a mass grave. The vans, however, presented their own problems. The amount of time it took for people to perish from the carbon monoxide in the fumes varied widely causing some to arrive at the grave site still alive. Removal of the bodies from the rear of the van also became a gruesome sight for the SS men involved.

Although the vans were troublesome, the idea of gassing took hold. SS officials began experiments using air-tight chambers in concentration camps with exhaust fumes piped in from a diesel engine mounted just outside the chamber. Additional experiments involved the usage of a commercial pesticide called Zyklon-B, which gave off deadly cyanide fumes when exposed to air. While the gassing experiments were underway, mass shootings of Jews continued all over occupied Russia with a tally that soon surpassed 630,000 persons.

By November 1941, Hitler’s armies had conquered most of western Russia and stood on the outskirts of Moscow. By this time, Soviet leader Josef Stalin had issued a decree for all-out guerrilla warfare behind the lines. Hitler reacted to this new development with glee, privately telling his Nazi overseers for the East: “The Russians have now given out the order for a partisan war behind our Front. This partisan war again has its advantage: it gives us the possibility of exterminating anything that opposes us.”

Russian civilians mourn the loss of a man who has just been hanged by Nazis, accused as a partisan.

Thus began a spiral of death in occupied Russia in which all semblances of civilized behavior and traditional military protocol vanished and human life itself had no value. For Germans behind the lines, revenge became the order of the day. Wherever anti-Nazi partisans attacked, the Wehrmacht and SS responded with astounding brutality, killing a hundred hostages for every dead German – sometimes picking a village at random and killing all of the inhabitants.

But over time, this only deepened the resolve and hatred of the entire population. In Russia, everywhere the Germans went they made instant enemies. All opportunities to win people over were squandered, despite the fact that some ethnic regions, such as the Ukraine longed for independence from Stalin and his oppressive Soviet regime. Although the German invaders were initially welcomed upon their arrival in the Ukraine and other independence-minded communities, they treated everyone in Russia as Slavic sub-humans. Erich Koch, Nazi administrator for the Ukraine, summed it up: “We are a master race, which must remember that the lowliest German worker is racially and biologically a thousand times more valuable than the population here.”

Koch and fellow overseers in Russia also viewed the population as a limitless pool of slave labor. Regular roundups soon began in which civilians of all ages were packed into railroad box cars and shipped off to Germany to toil in mines, fields and factories.

Those left behind focused their wrath on all things German, requiring whole divisions to be pulled from the Eastern Front to restore order behind the lines at a time when every available soldier was needed elsewhere. Too late, an observant Nazi official in the East would note: “The Russian fights today with exceptional bravery and self-sacrifice for nothing more or less than recognition of his human dignity.”

Nazi contempt for Russian civilians also applied to the millions of now-helpless prisoners of war. Although the Eastern Front had become static by the end of 1941, till then each day saw thousands more Russians added to the tally of prisoners. On the long marches to the rear, they were denied all food and water and were subsequently penned up in giant outdoor stockades, left to starve or perish from the winter weather. Ultimately, half of all Russian POWs, some three million men, would die in German captivity.

On the surface, Hitler remained confident about the war in Russia, anticipating victory sometime in 1942. But his failure to achieve victory by the autumn of 1941, as originally planned, had unforeseen consequences. A quick victory over the Russians would have allowed Hitler to confront the lonely British with a fate-accomplished in Europe, forcing them to humbly negotiate for peace, or so he had believed.

But by now, British Prime Minister Winston Churchill had squarely allied himself with Stalin and the Russians. Additionally, both the Russians and British were bolstered by their alliance with Hitler’s newest enemy, the United States of America.

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