Doris Bergen has written a concise history of war and genocide. Examining the critical issues of the Holocaust in the world and international history.
Doris Bergen historical analysis of the Holocaust positions the socio-political culture in a military context. Doris Bergen’s treatments of the Holocaust examines the expansion goals of the Nazi for living space in which the persecution of the Jews and other undesirables became the program of conquest and genocide for the purification of the Aryan race. Bergen’s explanation of racial Nazi policies takes the position that Hitler’s Mein Kampf played the determinant role in Nazi ideology. Tracing a line of congruency from Hitler’s Nazi Germany’s to the foreign policies in the 1930s and 1940s. At the same time, she calls attention to the motivations behind ordinary Germans’ participation in atrocities.
All the while enforcing one important detail. No dictator can act without the support of his people. Bergen points to the deafening silence of the Germans population viewing the atrocities executed by the regime.
Bergen writes, “Should we say ‘Nazis’ or ‘Germans’ when referring to the people of Hitler’s Germany? To Bergen, the term ‘Nazis’ is misleading. The author argues that this term is one and the same. Hitler’s supporters were Germans and to say they were untouched by Nazism is simply untrue. Bergan writes, “There is no escaping the fact that Nazism was a German movement, that Nazism had the support of the vast majority of Germans, and that WWII and the Holocaust were German initiatives and German acts. In addition, Nazism was preceded by centuries of German supremacist thinking.
See the third-posted comment under this review”. But this does not mean that all Germans followed in lockstep chanting Heil Hitler. German Jews had a very different opinion of the movement. Bergen also addresses the centuries of racist rational about the inferior Slavic population. Bergen positions the Holocaust in the context of war. She relates European Jewish genocide perpetrated by the Nazi regime as yet another step towards race and space. Bergen highlights that the first large-scale systematized killings by the Nazi regime were the disabled, Roma and Sinti, otherwise known as Gypsies, and Slavic peoples. Her discussion on the victimization undesirables contributed to shaping wartime Polish–Jewish relations.
Bergen emphasizes the victimhood within Nazi racial thinking and persecution. Bergen’s recurring theme of “race and space” is tantamount to the promulgation of the hierarchy of superior and inferior races. Bergen contends that the Nazis’ genocidal practices were an intricate part of the war and how it was waged. The principal context argues that historical surveys of the Holocaust do not include descriptions of main battles with analysis of how the war “did not alter the goals of the German leaders but did transform what it was possible for them to achieve”. Bergen makes clear, the of victims of ethnic cleansing and expansion would not have fallen at the hands of the Nazi machine. Moreover, she specifies the way war and genocide had been intertwined in Nazi domestic policies, all of with a focus on race and space. That quest had two sides: “attack on people deemed undesirable and advancement of those considered Aryan.
” Although each battle of the war is not a focus, Bergen builds the case of a relentless Hitler searching for space. Hitler’s annexation of Austria, the Sudetenland, and eventually Poland, and the start of World War II. Bergen describes the barbaric cultural landscape of the Germanic population and the direction of genocide took when no protest was heard. With no protest, Hitler started the isolation and segregation of Jews and other undesirable groups. I must admit, the death toll is staggering, given the boundaries of WWII.
The Nazi regime along with the Soviets murdered 3 million Polish Christian and Jews. The death toll is so staggering in this section that it’s hard to believe that as much 90 % of the Pole’s Jewish population was eradicated. Plans for Lebensraum called for the removal of Slavic peoples.
In fact, General Plan East called for the eventual murder of most ethnic Poles. Bergen states, “Tens of millions of Poles, Ukrainians, Russians, and others were to be forced into less desirable areas, allowed to die of starvation, disease, or killed. A small percentage would be kept as slaves for the German empire.” One of the more puzzling accepts of the genocide was how willing the undesirables were willing to police other undesirables. Poles and Slavic were permitted to police those considered beneath them namely Jews, Gypsies, and homosexuals. The issue of undesirables, in the context of a perfect Aryan race, become even more convoluted when addressing homosexuality. Bergen writes Nazis ideology regarded homosexuality as a threat to Aryan racial health.
The health of the nation revolved around the ability to reproduce military personnel for the Fatherland. Nazi theorist were confused whether homosexuality was biological or acquired and whether homosexuals were racial enemies or merely in need of reeducation. Even by the undesirable standards of the Third Reich, some five to seven thousand homosexuals died at the hands of Nazi genocide. Bergen jibes, “In 1933 Himmler had estimated there were between one and four million homosexually inclined men in Germany but even the homophobic Himmler never mounted a systematic effort to wipe out homosexuality as such.
Instead, police made arrests on the basis of denunciations and raids.” Bergen’s concluding chapter addresses the chilling aspects of a losing regime. She writes, Hitler once said, if Germany was to lose then he would bring with them a world in flames. The lasting effects of Nazism even in the face of defeat saw a regime intensify their genocidal practice of Jewish extermination. Hungarian collaborators worked in tantum with the Germans to transport a large proportion of Hungarian Jewish population to Auschwitz – Birkenau to be killed.
She stresses the degree to which the horrors released by the Nazis could not be curtailed directly by Allied forces. Some twelve thousand Hungarian Jews per day were exterminated at the end of the war. We also start to see conflicts arise within the camps themselves. Passive prisoners began to fight back. Fighting barehanded, with improvised weapons and blowing up a Crematorium, the Jews were fighting for their selves. The resistance was short-lived many still died.
In the final days of the war in German lands, the Third Reich marched tens of thousands to their death. As Bergen states, “The Nazi revolution had promised a new awakening. Instead, it brought destruction and death far beyond the borders of Germany”. Tragically even though liberated from a concentration camp, many were too sick to survive. Liberation came but what now for these poor souls that have nothing. Refugees wandered aimlessly, many of whom found themselves alone facing an uncertainty.
A future without family or community for help support or a place to call home and reunions became bittersweet. Bergen makes clear, the struggles these inmates faced at the hands of their oppressors did not stop after liberation. The legacy of the war did not prevent future atrocities. Many went home to find their homes occupied by others and treated with disdain. One form of oppression had been replaced by and other.
Even former victims of the Nazis discrimination and persecution faced postwar discrimination. Roma and Sinti that managed to live through Nazi assault now found themselves unwelcome in many places. The Christian morals had been lost and replaced by the corporal need for expansion at all cost. From a nation that was the birthplace of Martin Luther, Philipp Melanchthon and spiritual reform it’s hard to believe that God no longer had a place in the hearts of the German population.