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tungskrieges 1941“1944, Ausstellungskatalog, 398“409. S. I. Drobiazko, Pod znamenami
vrage: Antisovetskie formirovaniia v sostave germanskikh vooruzhennykh sil, 1941“1945
(Moscow: Exmo, 2005). It is usually argued that the Wehrmacht units did not have a “tail.”
The reality is that they had an invisible one, which was not counted because it consisted of
“Slavic” auxiliaries.
Bernhard Chiari, “Grenzen deutscher Herrschaft: Voraussetzungen und Folgen der Besatzung
155

der Sowjetunion,” in Das Deutsche Reich und der Zweite Weltkrieg, Vol. 9/2, Ausbeutung,
Deutungen, Ausgrenzungen, ed. Militargeschichtliches Forschungsamt (Munich: Deutsche Ver-
¨
lagsanstalt, 2005), 877“976.
States of Exception 379

efforts.156 On top of all this were extra requisitions, surtaxes, and a host of
restrictions that de¬ned the situation on the ground: the wasteful neglect of
the colonial fantasies of 1941 gave way to ever more unconstrained and out-
right vicious forms of exploitation and spoliation that covered everything and
everybody and made a mockery out of professions of prudence. By 1942“3,
the comprehensiveness and severity of exploitation ran well ahead of all but
the most hard-core ideological imagination “ again not everywhere and all the
time, but enough to taint German rule forever.157
Systematic and violent coercion became the pervasive feature of exploitation.
If pillage, living off the land, was the political and economic end of violence, it
merged increasingly with the sheer physical destruction of people and habitat
in the war against partisans. Antipartisan warfare has received a great deal of
attention, which tends to focus on the gradations of brutality.158 As it turns out
even the most unrelenting commanders in the antipartisan effort had second
thoughts and units acted according to their own judgment of the situation more
or less brutally.159 But differential brutality only matters inasmuch as it occurs
in a spectrum of violence, which overall shifted dramatically. We discover in the
context of antipartisan warfare that there is a distinct “grammar” of extreme
violence.
Again, we need to recapitulate the situation in 1941. Even then the danger
of partisans was not entirely made up by the German conquerors.160 Mostly
undermanned German security forces, which were primed to ferret out racial
enemies, faced huge numbers of armed men in an situation in which they were
incapable of controlling the conquered territory. Himmler™s famous notation
of 18 December 1941, “Jewish question/exterminate as partisans,” shows the
racialized intent of partisan warfare.161 Himmler and others like Heydrich,
quite typical for the Berlin leadership, indeed thought that they could use the
war as subterfuge for their ¬nal solution of the Jewish problem. But these ideas
also exuded a sense of superiority and control that was even fantastic in 1941
and was slipping away in 1941“2 and was completely gone in 1943. As we



Hamburger Institut fur Sozialforschung, ed., Verbrechen der Wehrmacht: Dimensionen des
¨
156

Vernichtungskrieges 1941“1944, Ausstellungskatalog, 361“428.
Chiari, Alltag hinter der Front: Besatzung, Kollaboration und Widerstand in Weißrußland
157

1941“1944; Berkhoff, Harvest of Despair: Life and Death in Ukraine under Nazi Rule.
Shepherd, War in the Wild East; Timm C. Richter, “Die Wehrmacht und der Partisanenkrieg
158

in den besetzten Gebieten der Sowjetunion,” in Erster Weltkrieg“Zweiter Weltkrieg: Krieg,
Kriegserlebnis, Kriegserfahrung in Deutschland, eds. Bruno Thoß and Hans-Erich Volkmann
(Paderborn: Ferdinand Schoningh, 2002), 837“57.
¨
Lieb, “Tater aus Uberzeugung? Oberst Carl von Andrian und die Judenmorde der 707. Infan-
¨
159

teriedivision 1941/42”; Sheperd, “Hawks, Doves and Tote Zonen: A Wehrmacht Security
Division in Central Russia, 1943.”
Hill, The War behind the Eastern Front: The Soviet Partisan Movement in North“West Russia,
160

1941“1944; Slepyan, Stalin™s Guerillas, 5“59.
Richter, “Die Wehrmacht und der Partisanenkrieg in den besetzten Gebieten der Sowjetunion,”
161

845.
Mark Edele and Michael Geyer
380

discovered, the “Jewish question,” notwithstanding Himmler™s comment to
that end, was not resolved as a partisan issue.
In turn, the partisan question gained urgency in its own right “ and it was
resolved with an all-out war of terror against partisans and increasingly against
the entire civilian population in partisan-controlled or endangered territories.
By and large the commanders of the rear security forces were keenly aware of
the dilemma they faced. They depended on the goodwill of the population, but
goodwill, which was already tested by requisitioning, labor recruitment, and
corv´ es, was undermined by brutal antipartisan tactics.162 The more prudent
e
commanders resolved the problem by prohibiting excess, disciplining arbitrari-
ness and brutality. But they were moving “ and driven by Fuhrer directives
¨
in 1942 “ to ever harsher measures all the same. Directive 46 of 28 October
1942 stated unequivocally: “In the entire eastern territory the war against the
partisan is a ¬ght for the complete extermination.” Therefore it had to be
fought with “utter brutality,” which was made possible by granting complete
immunity in the ¬ght against partisans.163
In 1942“3 antipartisan warfare became the quintessence of what we call
the “radicalization of war.” Harshness de¬ned as “complete extermination” is
certainly one feature. But there is more. First, all Germans on site (and collab-
orators, although the use of local forces remained a divisive issue) irrespective
of function and status were called upon to partake in partisan warfare. Second,
partisan territory and its entire population were made into targets of German
all-out attacks. That is, partisans were killed, the population deported, animals
and foodstuffs were requisitioned, and villages, towns, as well as infrastructure
were destroyed. The end result, particularly in the partisan-controlled areas of
Belorussia, was so-called Tote Zonen, dead zones, which were stripped bare and
¨
made uninhabitable. The term for this, Verwustung (deserti¬cation), is telling
and entirely appropriate. Under these circumstances paci¬cation was impos-
164

sible and was no longer even intended. This was extreme violence, in which
the winner took all “ all male and female labor, all foodstuffs, all animals, all
¨
shelter “ and fought the enemy “without restraint (ohne Einschrankung) also
against women and children with every means.” 165

In February 1943, Himmler suggested that all males suspected of partisan
activities should be deported as forced labor; in summer 1943 Hitler ordered


Hamburger Institut fur Sozialforschung, ed., Verbrechen der Wehrmacht: Dimensio-
¨
162

nen des Vernichtungskrieges 1941“1944, Ausstellungskatalog, 461“505; Ruth Bettina
Birn, “˜Zaunkonig™ an ˜Uhrmacher™: Große Partisanenaktionen 1942/43 am Beispiel des
¨
¨
˜Unternehmens Winterzauber,™” Militargeschichtliche Zeitschrift 60, no. 1 (2001): 99“118.
¨ ¨
Walther Hubatsch, Hitlers Weisungen fur die Kriegfuhrung 1939“1945: Dokumente des
163

Oberkommandos der Wehrmacht, unabridged ed. (Munich: Deutscher Taschenbuch Verlag,
1965), 207“9.
Hamburger Institut fur Sozialforschung, ed., Verbrechen der Wehrmacht: Dimensionen des
¨
164

Vernichtungskrieges 1941“1944, Ausstellungskatalog, 386“95, 421“8.
Quoted in Richter, “Die Wehrmacht und der Partisanenkrieg in den besetzten Gebieten der
165

Sowjetunion,” 854.
States of Exception 381

the full-scale evacuation of the “partisan-infected” territory of the northern
Ukraine.166 Such “evacuations” of entire territories had been practiced by the
retreating Red Army in 1941 and they had become a German tactic in the ¬rst
Soviet counterattack in winter 1941“2. Again, we have the typical warnings
over a lack of discipline, arbitrary plunder and pilfering, and the “by now
customary burn-offs.”167 But practice pointed in the opposite direction, the
ever more comprehensive and encompassing use of scorched earth tactics that
aimed at utter spoliation and deserti¬cation of the country left behind. The
forced evacuation “ in September 1943 of 900,000 in the area of Army Group
Center “ and destruction left behind a territory that was made uninhabitable,
populated by the weak and unproductive, who were pushed toward the enemy
and were lucky if they were not used as human shields. In 1943, radical partisan
warfare and scorched earth retreat combined in a conduct of war that only
knew survivors and vanquished.
The year 1943 is the culmination point of a war that was started as the
ideological fantasy of colonial conquest and ended in the extreme violence of
a deliberately chosen life-and-death struggle, a war by all means against an
entire territory and its people. It is in this situation that the distinction between
brutalization and radicalization of war collapses (much as it collapsed in the
Holocaust). Brutality had become an aspect of the grammar of war. There
was no escape and little room for decency. It was the German conquerors and
their collaborators against the rest of the population and against the Soviet
regime “ and it was the German side that set out to eradicate sustainable life
on their retreat. This war was won by the Soviet regime “ and not simply in a
metaphorical sense. When ¬nally on 22 June 1944 (Operation Bagration), three
years after the war began with the German conquest, Soviet forces smashed
through Army Group Center in the greatest victory of Soviet forces, the ground
was prepared by Soviet partisans who effectively destroyed the communications
and transportation infrastructure, blinding the enemy, and thus liberated Soviet
territory from the German yoke. There was still a long way to Berlin, but now
the de¬nition of the exception lay in Soviet hands. The question, therefore,
was whether there would be survival for the defeated Germans “ life which the
Germans had denied to their enemy ¬rst in a bout of ideological overkill and
subsequently in a pragmatic radicalization of war into a life-and-death-struggle,
which the Nazi leadership ¬rmly believed could only end in the complete
destruction of one or the other and, hence, prepared for self-destruction.168


Ibid., 856.
166

Bernd Wegner, “Die Aporie des Krieges,” in Das Deutsche Reich und der Zweite Weltkrieg.
167

Vol. 8, Die Ostfront 1943/44, ed. Militargeschichtliches Forschungsamt (Munich: Deutsche
¨
Verlagsanstalt, 2007), 211“76, here 259.
Bessel, Nazism and War, 170“981; Michael Geyer, “Endkampf 1918 and 1945: German
168

Nationalism, Annihilation, and Self-Destruction,” in No Man™s Land of Violence: Extreme
Wars in the 20th Century, eds. Alf Ludtke and Bernd Weisbrod (Gottingen: Wallstein, 2006),
¨ ¨
35“68.
Mark Edele and Michael Geyer
382


passions of war
We noted above that the Soviet leadership immediately radicalized the war
into an all-out war of defense, that the propaganda apparatus as well as hard-
core cadres were ready for this kind of a war and enacted it. However, this
does not explain yet how the majority of the population was made to ¬ght “
the regime™s approach was one thing; compliance and cooperation of the major-
ity of Soviet citizens in this project another one altogether. The cadres of totali-
tarian violence, after all, formed only the inner core of a destructive movement
that still had to draw in less radical layers of society “ including many victims of
Stalinism. Propaganda, even good propaganda, does not simply work because
it is there. It needs to be appealing and those addressed by it need to react to its
message. Most did, in the end, respond to the call; most did ¬ght, and fought
hard and brutally, breaking the Wehrmacht™s back. Why? One explanation
focuses on political religion.169 “Today it is fashionable,” wrote the former
paratrooper Grigorii Naumovich Chukhrai in 2001, “to remember that when
we went to ¬ght we yelled ˜For the Motherland, for Stalin!™ . . . I went through
the whole war and just cannot remember that cry. I remember curses [mat].
But the main point is not what we yelled when we attacked “ many of us
really were Stalinists.”170 This son of a communist, a party member himself,
who fought in an elite unit took his own experience pars pro toto for Soviet
soldiers in general. At the same time, however, his recollections “ full of desert-
ers,171 people who wound themselves to escape ¬ghting,172 and people who
try to get away from heroic frontline service by getting into a “Red Army song
and paratrooper dance ensemble”173 “ undermine these claims at universality.
He meets a heavily wounded soldier, son of a kulak, who spent much of his
life under false identity, hated the collective farms, and thought that Stalin
was a demon or, quite possibly, the antichrist himself (“instead of toes he has
grown hoofs”).174 In this episode clashed two cultures “ the urban Bolsheviks
and the rural civilization they abhorred. It illustrates the huge diversity of the
Soviet ¬ghting forces, who were “divided by everything from generation to
class, ethnicity, and even politics.”175 Young fought next to old, victims of

Robert W. Thurston, “Cauldrons of Loyalty and Betrayal: Soviet Soldiers™ Behavior, 1941 and
169

1945,” in The People™s War: Responses to World War II in the Soviet Union, eds. Robert
W. Thurston and Bernd Bonwetsch (Urbana and Chicago: University of Illinois Press, 2000),
235“57; and Weiner, “Saving Private Ivan;” more nuanced: id., “Something to Die For.”
Grigorii Chukhrai, Moia voina (Moscow: Algoritm, 2001), 281. For similar recollections by
170

other veterans see also Merridale, “Culture, Ideology and Combat,” 317.
Chukhrai, Moia voina, 170“2.
171

For the “small minority” of samostrel™tsy see Chukhrai, Moia voina, 284.
172

For the intriguing ansambl™ krasnoarmeiskoi pesni i pliaski vozdushno-desantskikh voisk, see
173

Chukhrai, Moia voina, 228“9.
Chukhrai, Moia voina, 194“6.
174

Merridale, Ivan™s War, 211; also: id., “Culture, Ideology and Combat,” 307; Glantz, Colossus
175

Reborn, 620; and Mark von Hagen, “Soviet Soldiers and Of¬cers on the Eve of the German
Invasion: Toward a Description of Social Psychology and Political Attitudes,” in The People™s
War, 186“210.
States of Exception 383

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