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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]

Bryan Mark Rigg
4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (37 customer reviews)
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Book Description

May 6 2002 Modern War Studies
On the murderous road to "racial purity" Hitler encountered unexpected detours, largely due to his own crazed views and inconsistent policies regarding Jewish identity. After centuries of Jewish assimilation and intermarriage in German society, he discovered that eliminating Jews from the rest of the population was more difficult than he'd anticipated. As this study shows, nowhere was that heinous process more fraught with contradition and confusion than in the German military. It reveals a startlingly large number of German military men were classified by the Nazis as Jews or "partial-Jews", in the wake of racial laws first enacted in the mid-1930s. This book documents that many of these men did not consider themselves Jewish, had embraced the military and were patriots eager to serve a revived German nation.


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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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Customer Reviews

4.7 out of 5 stars
4.7 out of 5 stars
Most helpful customer reviews
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Important or Interesting Sept. 11 2002
By Db Katz
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
5.0 out of 5 stars Assimilation... 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
5.0 out of 5 stars Educational and Moving 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
5.0 out of 5 stars GREAT book, highly recommended! Dec 4 2002
Format:Hardcover
After seeing the Dateline NBC feature on "Hitler's Jewish Soldiers," I ordered the book that night. It was abseloutly fascinating. I thoroughly enjoyed even minute of it. Dr. Rigg's extensive work put into the production of this book paid off! Im only 15 years old, a freshman in high school, and thought it was a wonderful, so young guys shouldn't hesitate to pick this one up. Even if you're not a huge fan of WWII novels, I'd strongly recommend checking it out. Missing out on this one would be tradgic. I hope this helped, enjoy your reading.
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Most recent customer reviews
3.0 out of 5 stars Great subject
Considering this was a very interesting subject, and there are good solid facts, I was somewhat disappointment at the negative bias. Read more
Published 6 months ago by Nims
3.0 out of 5 stars Planned Genocide of German Peoples
I first have to admit that, so far, I only read parts of the book. However, what I object to in the book is this 'Nazi Racial Law' part, based, as it seems, more on 'political... Read more
Published 17 months ago by I. Stegner
5.0 out of 5 stars Ideology
For anyone wishing to understand the confusion of Nazi Germany, this book by Rigg is a must read. The work is the end of a ten year project, one that began pretty much by... Read more
Published on Aug. 16 2003 by Dan Schobert
4.0 out of 5 stars Professional Soldiers They Were
As many of you read these reviews will note, OTHER personal reviews written here use this book to somehow VERIFY that "regular" (sic) Germans DID NOT KNOW THE HOLOCAUST was... Read more
Published on June 19 2003 by Jay Smith
4.0 out of 5 stars Refutes One Major Holocaust Myth
Typically, the Jewish victims of the German Nazis are exclusively featured in educational Holocaust materials while the tens of millions of non-Jewish victims are either ignored or... Read more
Published on March 31 2003
5.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating and Well Written
Who would have thought?
Many soldiers serving in the Wermacht during World War II were Jewish--or at least part Jewish. Read more
Published on March 1 2003 by Lauren S. Kahn
5.0 out of 5 stars Thought-Provoking Book
I think that this book is very thought-provoking in that it explores another dimension of how people with Jewish ancestry was treated in the third reich. Read more
Published on Jan. 7 2003 by J
5.0 out of 5 stars Informative and Educational
As a huge fan of World War II (and with history being my planned major for college), I found this book totally informative. Read more
Published on Nov. 30 2002 by Jason A. Heppler
5.0 out of 5 stars A Must read!
This book is about Hitler's perspective on race and blood and the thousands of Jewish people who actually fought for the Reich. Read more
Published on Aug. 29 2002
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