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.
Top Customer Reviews
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.Read more ›
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.Read more ›
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.Read more ›
Most recent customer reviews
Considering this was a very interesting subject, and there are good solid facts, I was somewhat disappointment at the negative bias. Read morePublished on Jan. 4 2014 by Amazon Customer
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 morePublished on March 8 2013 by I. Stegner
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 morePublished on Aug. 16 2003 by Dan Schobert
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 morePublished on June 19 2003 by Jay Smith
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 morePublished on March 31 2003
Who would have thought?
Many soldiers serving in the Wermacht during World War II were Jewish--or at least part Jewish. Read more
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 morePublished on Jan. 7 2003 by J
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. Read morePublished on Dec 4 2002 by Matt Libby
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