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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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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 433 pages
  • Publisher: Univ Pr of Kansas (May 6 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0700611789
  • ISBN-13: 978-0700611782
  • Product Dimensions: 3.8 x 15.9 x 22.9 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 953 g
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (37 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #347,600 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

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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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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Db Katz on Sept. 11 2002
Format: Hardcover
A pet hobby of mine has been to discover the impact of Jewish soldiers in the World armies of the twentieth century. One of the more interesting stories was of the Jewish Finns in World War Two who fought courageously in defense of their homeland. Some were even decorated by no less than the SS when saved by Jewish Finns on an occasion. The story is that they refused the decorations. I must say that these ironies of history fascinate me. I enjoyed the fact that Gen Chernekovsky the youngest Soviet Group General in Russian history and a Jew, was one of the most able generals on the Soviet side. General Monash a good Jew is claimed by many to be the finest general of the Great War. The more I have studied the more I have come to realise that many Jews have made a contribution to the armies of the world far in excess to their demographic representation. Previous to my investigations I have held the incorrect belief that Jews are rather reluctant contributors in the martial arena, being of a more studious and anti-secular nature. It is a fact that Jews have sometimes made an impact in the more controversial and unpopular (with hindsight) causes. The book certainly provoked my sense of irony of Jews contributing to the very organisation that sought to exterminate them.

My first thoughts were that Mr. Riggs' findings should have been obvious given the fact that German Jews had a long and distinguished history in the service of the German army. In my naivety I assumed that all Jews no matter how distantly "tainted" with Jewish blood were rounded up and shoved into concentration and death camps. The book taught me that Jews would often fight to earn the respect of their non-Jewish hosts and to protect their families. How human and how tragic.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Socol Anna, 9-th grade on April 30 2003
Format: Hardcover
The book is about the phenomenon of people of partial Jewish descent (mischlinge in German) that served in the German military (Wermacht) during the World WarII. The book is the result of a ten years' study including 430 interviews with mischlinge that had served in Wermacht. The book is very serious: for example, index and references comprise one third of the volume. The author claims that about 150,000 mischlinge (probably, about half of them - halachic Jews) served in Wermacht.
The first chapter discusses the question: who is a Jew? Several points of view are presented. The Halacha says that person born to a Jewish mother is also a Jew; and also one that converts to Judaism (makes "giyur"). However, many Jews believe that Jewishness means "ethnic allegiance". Reform Jews believe that "paternal descent" is also enough to be a Jew. The author mentions that this problem (who is a Jew) in modern Israel is "second only to Israel's preoccupation with problems of peace and security."
The second chapter explains who were mischlinge and how they felt in Nazi Germany. In most cases, mischlinge felt themselves as Germans. Part of them felt like second-class Germans, and many of them made their best to be considered as Aryans (i.e. pure Germans).
The third chapter is about the assimilation in Germany and Austria, and also about Jews serving in German Military prior to WWII. The assimilation rate in Germany and Austria was very high: for example, between 1901 and 1929 ther were over
36,000 mixed marriages in Germany alone. And from all the facts we see that many Jews served in the German army during WWI and afterwards. They felt united to fight for Germany.
The next three chapters give the historical background. When Hitler came to power, he started the racial policy.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Stephen A. Bailey on Sept. 19 2002
Format: Hardcover
In this wonderfully written and painstakingly researched work, Bryan Mark Rigg manages to dig beneath the astonishing statistics presented, to find the stories of human conflict and frailty. Thank goodness these first hand accounts were recorded before it was too late! I was moved over and over again with each new story of the tumultuous lives that partial Jews (Mischlinge) lived during WW II. We all know about the tragedy of the Holocaust and the Death Camps, but Rigg breaks new ground when telling the stories of quarter and half Jews serving in Hitler's armed forces. Even Rigg cannot explain Hitler's reasons for making certain choices (although he does a respectable job of explaining why Hitler continually changed his mind about what should be done with the Mischlinge), but he gives great insight into the reasoning behind why partial Jews did not leave the country and even fought for the Third Reich. Whether they were hiding in the army, attempting to save their families by fighting or simply defending the Fatherland as proud Germans, the result of Dr. Rigg's personal interviews and years of research is both fascinating and heartbreaking. A must read for serious historians and anyone concerned with the human condition.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Dr. Victor S. Alpher on Aug. 14 2002
Format: Hardcover
For those of you who never considered that a book about persons of Jewish ancestry in WWII could change your views about the war, the 18th-20th centuries, the nature of prejudice in America, and do so with alarming alacrity, specificity, and clarlity, this book will astound you. Considering current problems in the Middle East, this volume, based on primary research interviews with "Mischlinge" (persons of Jewish ancestry who probably didn't consider themselves anything but good Germans), will break every assumption you can make about the War. You'll see the major figures, including Hitler, in a vastly different light--that is, he is merely one figure in a problem with its roots going back to the free German states of the 1700s, at least. Dr. Rigg goes to great lengths to show how the figures of the number of half and quarter Jews reported by the state don't add up at the beginning of the global war, that there were many ways that these individuals dealt with racial laws and their service to the Fatherland and Hitler, and that following the war they have struggled with intense psychological pain and inner conflict about their activities.
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.
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