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Das Rußlandbild des ˜kleinen Mannes™: Gesellschaftliche Pragung und Fremdwahrnehmung in
Feldpostbriefen aus dem Ostfeldzug (1941“1944/45) (Munich: Osteuropa-Institut, 1998).
Bernard R. Kroener, “Auf dem Weg zu einer ˜nationalsozialistischen Volksarmee™: Die

soziale Ordnung des Heeresof¬zierkorps im Zweiten Weltkrieg,” in Von Stalingrad zur
Wahrunsgreform: Zur Sozialgeschichte des Umbruchs in Deutschland, ed. Martin Broszat
(Munich: Oldenbourg, 1988), 651“82; Kuhne, Kameradschaft: Die Soldaten des national-
sozialistischen Krieges und das 20. Jahrhundert.
Hellmuth Stieff, Briefe, ed. Horst Muhleisen (Berlin: Siedler, 1991), 140.

Johannes Hurter, Hitlers Heerfuhrer: Die deutschen Oberbefehlshaber im Krieg gegen die

Sowjetunion 1941/42 (Munich: Oldenbourg, 2006), 318“50.
States of Exception 375

winning? Surviving is everything!”137 Stieff™s response marks in an exemplary
fashion the end point of a process, in which experience and expectation had
been adjusted, within the bounds of common prejudice, in the rapidly escalat-
ing violence of Operation Barbarossa. His comment was an early sign of things
to come. German soldiers increasingly fought without hope for a future “
and with few escapes. Survival was the rule of the game “ and now the old
rule did apply: Not kennt kein Gebot. Alas, it still mattered who de¬ned the
The winter panic, while important for reshuf¬‚ing the military leadership and
putting Hitler in command of the army, was momentary. The more important
aspect was the replacement of the programmatic overkill of Operation Bar-
barossa, by what many historians quite correctly perceive as a more pragmatic
conduct of war.138 The only problem is that “ contrary to the meaning of
pragmatism “ this more pragmatic approach also turned out to be the far more
radical one.139 In 1941“2 Nazi Germany and, in this context, the Army of the
East, entered a phase of extermination warfare. Three dimensions of this war-
fare require our attention: the war against the Jews, which reached its apogee in
1942“3; the war with and against the Soviet population, which climaxed in the
same two years; and the systematic pursuit of scorched earth tactics in 1943“4.
In these years, war radicalized “ in actual fact was radicalized “ by a series
of German decisions that de¬ned the exception as a murderous life-or-death-
struggle across the entire territory of the Soviet Union.140 This three-pronged
radicalization was the distinctly German imprint on the war. When the Red
Army ¬nally gained the upper hand in summer 1944, war continued to be
exceedingly cruel in the subjection of German civilians. It was certainly dead-
lier than ever for the German forces, but it ceased to be a life-and-death struggle.
Germany and the Germans, contrary to what Nazi ideologues believed, would
suffer grievously under Soviet control, but they would survive.141

Comment of an ordinary soldier, quoted in Christian Hartmann, Halder: Generalstabschef

Hitlers 1938“1942 (Paderborn: Ferdinand Schoningh, 1991), 294.
¨ ¨
Oldenburg, Ideologie und militarisches Kalkul: Die Besatzungspolitik der Wehrmacht in der

Sowjetunion 1942.
On German casualties, Rudiger Overmans, Deutsche militarische Verluste im Zweiten

Weltkrieg (Munich: R. Oldenbourg, 1999). On Soviet casualties, see above.
For a similar argument, see Hew Strachan, “Time, Space and Barbarisation: The German

Army and the Eastern Front in Two World Wars,” in The Barbarization of Warfare, ed.
George Kassimeris (New York: New York University Press, 2006), 58“82. See also Omer
Bartov, “From Blitzkrieg to Total War: Controversial Links between Image and Reality,”
in Stalinism and Nazism: Dictatorship in Comparison, eds. Ian Kershaw and Moshe Levin
(Cambridge and New York: Cambridge University Press, 1997), 158“84; Christian Gerlach,
“La Wehrmacht et la radicalisation de la lutte contre les partisans en Union Sovi´ tique,”
in Occupation et r´ pression militaire allemandes: La politique de “maintien de l™ordre” en
Europe occup´ e, 1939“1945, eds. Ga¨ l Eismann and Stefan Martens (Paris: Institut historique
e e
allemand, 2007), 71“88.
Norman M. Naimark, The Russians in Germany: A History of the Soviet Zone of Occupation,

1945“1949 (Cambridge, MA: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 1995).
Mark Edele and Michael Geyer

The strategic background for this transition was the recognition that the
Soviet Union would not fall and that the Nazi-Soviet war would continue. It
was equally shaped by the fact that, beginning in December 1941, the Third
Reich fought a global war. The main consequence at home was a reluctant
mobilization of the civilian population.142 This mobilization was accompa-
nied by an initially hesitant reconsideration of the industrial labor and, more
unwillingly, the military value of populations in the East, including prisoners
of war.143 Ideological reluctance, foremost expressed by Hitler, was bested
by crude ef¬ciencies. Women were mobilized; “Slavic” auxiliaries were used in
the Wehrmacht and recruited by force for work behind the front (Organisation
Todt), as well as for industry and agriculture in the Reich.144
We ¬nd a parallel recalibration of the conduct of war “ from a Barbarossa-
type overkill to the systematic pursuit of extermination of all those whom the
Nazi (and military) leadership de¬ned as their deadly enemies. What emerged
from this recalibration of war was a thoroughly racialized and mobilized Nazi
“community of fate.” This war of extermination was fractured into many
microtheaters. Systematic destruction bent to local circumstances. But effec-
tively a military and eventually a German “community of fate” fought war
as an all-out life-and-death struggle, a war of bare life as it were, on both an
external and an internal front.145 This was not a war imposed on Germany.
Typically, it was a war the military and political leadership chose to ¬ght “ and
chose preemptively to ¬ght in a situation in which they were no longer in full
control of their future, although the possibility of defeat was still far off.
The key to the recalibration of war was the extermination of any and all
Jews in the German sphere of control.146 Indications for this radicalization
of the war against the Jews were omnipresent in October/November 1941 “
with the mass killings of Jews as hostages in Serbia, mass executions of entire
communities (men, women, and children) in Galicia, the beginning deportation

Adam Tooze, The Wages of Destruction: The Making and Breaking of the Nazi Economy

(New York: Viking, 2006).
Ulrich Herbert, Hitler™s Foreign Workers: Enforced Foreign Labor in Germany under the Third

Reich (Cambridge and New York: Cambridge University Press, 1997).
Bernhard R. Kroener, “˜Menschenbewirtschaftung,™ Bevolkerungsverteilung und personelle

Rustung in der zweiten Kriegshalfte (1942“1944),” in Das Deutsche Reich und der Zweite
¨ ¨
Weltkrieg, Vol. 5/2, Kriegsverwaltung, Wirtschaft und personelle Ressourcen 1942“1944/45,
ed. Militargeschichtliches Forschungsamt (Munich: Deutsche Verlagsanstalt, 1999), 777“995.
A critical study on the Organisation Todt is still missing. Franz Wilhelm Seidler, Die Organisa-
tion Todt: Bauen fur Staat und Wehrmacht, 1938“1945 (Koblenz: Bernard & Graefe, 1987).
Martin Dean, “The German Gendarmerie, the Ukrainian Schutzmannschaft and the ˜Second

Wave™ of Jewish Killings in Occupied Ukraine: German Policing at the Local Level in the
Zhitomir Region, 1941“1944,” German History 14, no. 2 (1996): 168“92.
Christopher R. Browning, “The Euphoria of Victory and the Final Solution: Summer“Fall

1941,” German Studies Review 17, no. 3 (1994): 473“81; Tobias Jersak, “Die Interaktion von
Kriegsverlauf und Judenvernichtung: Ein Blick auf Hitlers Strategie im Spatsommer 1941,”
Historische Zeitschrift 268, no. 2 (1999): 311“74; Klaus Jochen Arnold, “Hitlers Wandel im
August 1941: Ein Kommentar zu den Thesen Tobias Jersaks,” Zeitschrift fur Geschichtswis-
senschaft 48, no. 3 (2000): 239“50.
States of Exception 377

of German Jews into eastern ghettos, and not least the establishment of camps
designed for the purpose of murdering people en masse.147 This turn was ¬rmed
up in December 1941 with explicit reference to the strategic situation and,
subsequently, worked into a bureaucratic modus operandi under the leadership
of Himmler and his security apparatus at the Wannsee Conference in January
1942.148 What matters about these deliberations is the recognition by the Nazi
leadership that the “¬nal solution” of the “Jewish problem” could not wait
until after victory. “In the ¬nal analysis,” Hermann Goring made clear, the war
“is about whether the German and Aryan prevails here, or whether the Jew
rules.”149 Therefore, the comprehensive and systematic campaign against the
Jewish populations in Europe was fought, as a war on the interior front, in its
own theater of war, and it was fought as a war of extermination, the killing of
any and all. It reached its high point in 1942, when nearly one-half of all Jews
killed in the entire war were murdered. But the campaign did not let up until the
Third Reich was defeated and conquered.150 This was neither extermination
under the guise of war nor extreme violence accompanying “ethnic cleansing.”
Rather Jews were identi¬ed as “the most perilous enemy” in a war that the
Nazis fought to the death.151 The campaign for the extermination of the Jewish
population also proved to be the most lethal campaign of the entire war.
It is no coincidence that the ¬rst people killed in the new extermination facil-
ity in Auschwitz were politically suspect Soviet prisoners of war. The destruc-
tion of the social institutions and agents of the Soviet regime had been the war
plan for the campaign against the Soviet Union all along. But in late 1941 this
war began to stretch and was fought without fronts. While the war planners had
a highly developed sense of racial (and political, ethnic, religious) differences
and while the theaters of war were institutionally subdivided between security
forces and military forces, all enemies of the Third Reich and any conceivable
form of overt or covert opposition came under attack in a war that covered
with increasing ferocity and lethality all fronts and stretched from the zone of
“combined” (military and security) operations all the way back to Germany
with its millions of slave laborers. In this war “pragmatism,” the concentra-
tion on military functionality, proved to be the crooked path to hell, because

Longerich, Politik der Vernichtung: Eine Gesamtdarstellung der nationalsozialistischen Juden-

verfolgung, 352“400, 441“60.
Christian Gerlach, “The Wannsee Conference, the Fate of German Jews, and Hitler™s Decision

in Principle to Exterminate All European Jews,” Journal of Modern History 70, no. 4 (1998):
759“812. Somewhat different readings by Browning and Matthaus, The Origins of the Final
Solution: The Evolution of Nazi Jewish Policy, September 1939“March 1942, and by Peter
Longerich, The Unwritten Order: Hitler™s Role in the Final Solution (Stroud and Charleston,
SC: Tempus, 2001).
Quoted in Peter Fritzsche, Life and Death in the Third Reich (Cambridge, MA: Harvard

University Press, 2008), 187.
With the proper emphasis on 1942“4: Longerich, Politik der Vernichtung: Eine Gesamtdarstel-

lung der nationalsozialistischen Judenverfolgung.
Ibid., 221.
Mark Edele and Michael Geyer

pragmatism was always already front loaded.152 Hell was a place, in which
small “communities of fate,” outmatched frontline troops, undermanned secu-
rity forces in the rear areas, and an increasingly brutal security force in the
occupied territories as well as overage police forces at home, did whatever it
took to terrorize an unruly enemy population into submission and to keep the
Red Army at bay by all means available.
There was always concern that more violence, an even harsher regime of
¬ghting, could only worsen the situation by strengthening resistance.153 Starva-
tion plans were modi¬ed; collaboration was encouraged. The German appeals,
much to the chagrin of the more ideologically committed leadership (above
all Hitler), met with considerable success even in 1943“4. Stalin™s fears about
the unreliability of Soviet peoples were quite warranted because collaboration
proved essential for the German war effort (and is still understudied). The
Army of the East alone came to use more than a half-million Soviet workers,
and likely many more, and that does not account for all those who were dra-
gooned into labor services for the armed forces behind the front and in the
rear.154 But none of this altered the fact that the war at the front and in the rear
became not less, but more destructive. Indeed, it turned into a war of exter-
mination in its own right. The ideologically preplanned subjection of the local
populations, the use of selective terror to deter resistance was “radicalized”
into a pervasive regime of massacre, starvation, and spoliation.
The Wehrmacht and the rear administration had every reason to be more
prudent in their treatment of the local population “ and this is what many
frontline and rear formations set out to do, only to push themselves ever
deeper into a quagmire of their own making.155 There was never enough
food for everyone. Because locals resisted labor recruitment and demand
increased exponentially, German authorities turned ever more violent in their

This is the dilemma that generated military opposition. Hurter, “Auf dem Weg zur

Militaropposition: Treskow, Gersdorff, der Vernichtungskrieg und der Judenmord: Neue
Dokumente uber das Verhaltnis der Heeresgruppe Mitte zur Einsatzgruppe B im Jahre 1041,”
¨ ¨
Ben Shepherd, “Hawks, Doves and Tote Zonen: A Wehrmacht Security Division in Central

Russia, 1943,” Journal of Contemporary History 37, no. 3 (2002): 349“69; Peter Lieb, “Tater
aus Uberzeugung? Oberst Carl von Andrian und die Judenmorde der 707: Infanteriedivision
1941/42,” Viertaljahrshefte fur Zeitgeschichte 50, no. 3 (2002): 523“57.
Franz Wilhelm Seidler, Die Kollaboration, 1939“1945 (Munich: Herbig, 1995); Hamburger

Institut fur Sozialforschung, ed., Verbrechen der Wehrmacht: Dimensionen des Vernich-


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