Lives of Hitler's Jewish Soldiers : Untold Tales of Men of Jewish Descent Who Fought for the Third Reich
Overview - They were foot soldiers and officers. They served in the regular army and the Waffen-SS. And, remarkably, they were also Jewish, at least as defined by Hitler's infamous race laws. Pursuing the thread he first unraveled in Hitler's Jewish Soldiers, Bryan Rigg takes a closer look at the experiences of Wehrmacht soldiers who were classified as Jewish. Read more...
More About Lives of Hitler's Jewish Soldiers by Bryan Mark Rigg
They were foot soldiers and officers. They served in the regular army and the Waffen-SS. And, remarkably, they were also Jewish, at least as defined by Hitler's infamous race laws. Pursuing the thread he first unraveled in Hitler's Jewish Soldiers, Bryan Rigg takes a closer look at the experiences of Wehrmacht soldiers who were classified as Jewish. In this long-awaited companion volume, he presents interviews with twenty-one of these men, whose stories are both fascinating and disturbing.
As many as 150,000 Jews and partial-Jews (or Mischlinge) served, often with distinction, in the German military during World War II. The men interviewed for this volume portray a wide range of experiences-some came from military families, some had been raised Christian--revealing in vivid detail how they fought for a government that robbed them of their rights and sent their relatives to extermination camps. Yet most continued to serve, since resistance would have cost them their lives and they mistakenly hoped that by their service they could protect themselves and their families. The interviews recount the nature and extent of their dilemma, the divided loyalties under which many toiled during the Nazi years and afterward, and their sobering reflections on religion and the Holocaust, including what they knew about it at the time.
Rigg relates each individual's experiences following the establishment of Hitler's race laws, shifting between vivid scenes of combat and the increasingly threatening situation on the home front for these men and their family members. Their stories reveal the constant tension in their lives: how some tried to hide their identities, and how a few were even "Aryanized" as part of Hitler's effort to retain reliable soldiers--including Field Marshal Erhard Milch, three-star general Helmut Wilberg, and naval commander Bernhard Rogge.
Chilling, compelling, almost beyond belief, these stories depict crises of conscience under the most stressful circumstances. Lives of Hitler's Jewish Soldiers
deepens our understanding of the complex intersection of Nazi race laws and German military service both before and during World War II.
Publishers Weekly Reviews
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Several thousand Jews and over 100,000 others of Jewish descent served in the Wehrmacht from 1939 to 1945. Rigg dips into material he mined for Hitler's Jewish Soldiers to present a selection of personal histories. Many enlisted to protect their families, often in vain; Rigg tells heartrending stories of soldiers risking their lives in battle as relatives disappeared into extermination camps. When police grew suspicious of his forged papers, Karl-Heinz Löwy enlisted in the elite Waffen-SS, apparently its only Jewish member, and fought heroically. Helmut Krüger and Karl-Heinz Schleffler were serving faithfully when Hitler ordered all half-Jews discharged in 1940. Although they and the others discharged spent much of the war in dreadful labor camps, far more of them survived than thousands who appealed successfully to remain in service. Readers expecting expressions of shame will be surprised—most felt proud of their wartime experiences. Few admitted knowing of the Holocaust, but all knew Jews were being mistreated and felt helpless to change matters. As Rigg compellingly shows, these were men dealing with crushingly stressful circumstances as best they could. 64 photos. (Mar. 3)