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Indoctrination and the Need for a Cause

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Abstract

The war against the Soviet Union was described by the leaders of the Third Reich as a ‘Weltanschauungskrieg’, that is, a war of ideologies. In seeking the causes for the barbarisation of German troops on the Eastern Front it is therefore essential to examine the role played by political indoctrination among the combat elements of the army during the war. To what extent did National Socialist ideology motivate the individual soldier both in fighting the Red Army and in carrying out acts of brutality against POWs, partisans and civilians? Was there an essential difference between the war in the East and other fronts or other wars? In short, was this also an ideological, almost religious war from the point of view of the individuals at the front, and can this be seen as one of the major factors contributing to its ferocity and brutality?

Keywords

German People Nazi Party German Army Educational Officer German Soldier 
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Notes

  1. 1.
    BA-MA RH26–12/227, 1.5.40, which adds that since the beginning of the war over 20 000 radios had been sent to the troops at the front ‘from donations and former Jewish ownership’. See also E. Kris and H. Speier, German Radio Propaganda (New York, 1944); P. M. Taylor, ‘Propaganda in International Politics, 1919–39’, in K. R. M. Short (ed.), Film & Radio Propaganda in World War II (Knoxville, 1983) pp. 29–32; R. Taylor, ‘Gocbbels and the Function of Propaganda’, in Welch, Nazi Propaganda, pp. 39–40; Zeman, Nazi Propaganda, pp. 51–2: by 1939 some 3 500 000 Volksempfänger had been sold and 70 per cent of all German households owned a wireless set-the highest percentage anywhere in the world.Google Scholar
  2. 6.
    On films in the Third Reich, see D. Mollstein, Anti-semitische Filmpropaganda (Münchcn-Pullach, 1971); D. S. Hull, Film in the Third Reich (Berkeley: California, 1969); M. S. Phillips, ‘The German Film Industry and the New Order’, in Stachura, Nazi State; D. Welch, ‘Educational Film Propaganda and the Nazi Youth’, in Welch, Nazi Propaganda, pp. 65–87; D. Welch, ‘Nazi Wartime Newsreel Propaganda’, in Short, Propaganda, pp. 201–19.Google Scholar
  3. 53.
    These developments arc described at length in Bcrghahn, ‘Geistige Fuhrung’, and Messerschmidt, Die Wehrmacht, pp. 441–80. See also, G. L. Weinberg, ‘Dokumentation: Adolf Hitler unci der NS-Fülmmgsoffizier (NSFO)’, VfZ, XII (1964) 443–56.Google Scholar
  4. 58.
    Some of the most important works dealing with these issues are Berghahn, ‘Geistige Fiihrung’; Messerschmidt, Die Wehrmacht; Müller, Das Heer; O’Neill, The German Army. For a typical contemporary interpretation, see R. Donnevert (ed.), Wehrmacht and Partei (Leipzig, 1938).Google Scholar
  5. 64.
    II. Boberach (ed), Meldungcn aits dem Reich (Neuwied, 1965) pp. 47–8.Google Scholar
  6. 71.
    Apart from the works by Bramsted, Hagemann, Hale and Wulf quoted above, see also F. Sänger, Politik der Täuschungen (Wien, 1975). In 1933 the Nazis ran only 2.5 per cent of all German newspapers; by 1944, 82 per cent of the remaining 977 newspapers were controlled by them. See Zeman, Propaganda, p. 47.Google Scholar
  7. 87.
    BA-MA RH26–1005/47, 10.4.43. It is interesting to note how little of this fanaticism we find in post-war memoirs of German generals. Apart from works quoted in notes 1, 2 in Introduction (this volume), see also O. Blumentritt, Von Rundstedt (London, 1952); F. von Senger und Etterlin, Neither Fear nor Hope (London, 1963); as well as W. Görlitz (ed.), Generalfeldmarschall Keitel (Göttingen, 1961) and his Paultisund Stalingrad (Frankfurt/M., 1964); also D. Irving, Hitler’s War (London, 1977).Google Scholar
  8. 88.
    G. L. Mosse, The Crisis of German Ideology (New York, 1964); F. Stern, The Politics of Cultural Despair (Berkeley; California, 1961).Google Scholar
  9. 89.
    On the background of the new nationalism and some of its intellectual and political roots, see G. A. Craig, The Germans (New York, 1982) pp. 190–210; G. L. Mosse, The Nationalisation of the Masses (New York, 1975) and his ‘National Cemeteries and National Revival’, JCH, XIV (1979) 1–20; F. Stern, The Failure of Illiberalism (London, 1972).Google Scholar
  10. 90.
    For some recent works on anti-Semitism, see S. Almog (ed.), Antisemitism Through the Ages (in the Hebrew language, Jerusalem, 1980); L. Dawidowicz, The War Against the Jews, 3rd edn (Harmond-sworth: Middlesex, 1979); Gordon, ‘Jewish Question’; J. Katz, Anti-Semitism (In the Hebrew language, Tel-Aviv, 1979); I. Kershaw, Popular Opinion and Political Dissent in the Third Reich (London, 1983) pp. 224–77, 358–72; K. Kwiet, ‘Zur I listoriographischen Bchancl-lung der Judenverfolgung im Drittcn Reich’, MGM, I (1980) 149–92; E. Schulin (ed.), Die Juden als Minderheit in der Geschichte (Miinchen, 1981); S. Volkov, ‘On Anti-semitism and its Investigation’, Zmanint, II (in the Hebrew language, 1981). On German universities, see C. E. McClelland, State, Society and University in Germany (London, New York, 1980); F. K. Ringer, The Decline of the German Mandarins (Cambridge, Mass., 1969). On racism among leaders of the Second Reich, sec note 80, this chapter.Google Scholar
  11. 91.
    Apart from works quoted already, see also V. R. Bcrghahn, Der Stahthelm (Diisseldorf, 1966); F. L. Carsten,’ “Volk Ohne Raum”, A Note on Hans Grimm’, JCH, II (1967) 221–27; A. J. Nicholls, Weimar and the Rise of Hitler, 3rd edn (London, 1981); R. G. L. Waite, Vanguard of Nazism (Cambridge, Mass., 1952). On the communists, see E. Rosenhaft, Beating the Fascists? (London, New York, 1983).Google Scholar
  12. 93.
    Apart from works quoted previously, see further on the reactions and indoctrination of various groups in German society under the Nazis, in H. Becker, German Youth: Bond or Free (London, 1946); A. D. Beyerchen, Scientists under Hitler (New Haven, London, 1977); J. Caplan, ‘The Civil Servant in the Third Reich’ (Oxford Univ. D. Phil. thesis, 1973); II. Seier, ‘Der Rektor als Führer, zur Hochschulpolitik cles Reicliserzieliungsministcriiiins 1934–45’, VfZ, XII (1964) 105–46; G. Ziemer, Education for Death (London, 1941).Google Scholar
  13. 94.
    Most important on this issue are Kershaw’s Der Hitler-Mythos and Popular Opinion; see also, R. Cecil, The Myth of the Master Race (London, 1972); H. Hatfield, ‘The Myth of Nazism’, in H. A. Murray, Myth and Mythmaking, 2nd edn (Boston, 1969) pp. 199–220. On police tenor, see E. K. Bramstcd, Dictatorship and Political Police (London, 1945).Google Scholar
  14. 98.
    A report on the troops of Army Group Centre said that the men were interested in four main issues; wife, profession, party and religion. See Berghahn, ‘Geistige Führung’, p. 36. The 12.I.D. launched an investigation regarding a group of its officers alleged to have listened to a foreign broadcasting station. See BA-BA, RH26–12/233, 26.3.40. As far as propaganda was concerned, ‘immigration into the army’, discussed by Messerschmidt, Die Wehrmacht, pp. 245–58, can hardly have been useful.Google Scholar
  15. 99.
    Messerschmidt, Die Wehrmacht, pp. 326–36. The most comprehensive study of German propaganda towards the Red Army, including numerous documents and leaflets, is Buchbcnder, Das tönende Erz.Google Scholar
  16. 116.
    BA-MA RH26–12/89, 26.6.43. The same officer stressed, however, that ‘The bombing terror creates a great mental strain’: Ibid. On Hitler’s indifference to the bombing, see H. Trevor-Roper (eel.), The Goebbels Diaries, 2nd edn (London, 1979) p. 18; and his (ed.), Hitler’s Table Talk, 2nd edn (London, 1973) pp. 668–9; also A. Speer, Inside the Third Reich, 6th edn (London, 1979) pp. 408–9.Google Scholar
  17. 119.
    On the mutinies in the French army in 1917, see G. Pedrocini, Les Mutinerie dc 1917 (Paris, 1976); J. Williams, Mutiny 1917 (London, 1962). On the German collapse and revolution, see Nicholls, Weimar, pp. 1–19.Google Scholar
  18. 121.
    Propaganda and criminality among the Western allies were, of course, not completely absent; studying them, however, only further emphasises the difference between them and the Eastern Front. See, on propaganda, M. Balfour, Propaganda in War (London, 1979) and I. McLaine, Ministry of Morale (London, 1979); on discipline, morale and patriotism, Ellis, The Sharp End, pp. 212–66, 314–57; on Allied brutality, A. M. de Zayas, Die Wehrmacht-Untersuchungsstelle, 3rd edn (München, 1980); on Allied failure to bomb death camps, W. Z. Laqueiu, The Terrible Secret, 2nd edn (Harmondsworth: Middlesex, 1982) and D. S. Weiman, ‘Why was Auschwitz not Bombed?’, Zmanim, II (in the Hebrew language, 1981). As for the SS, it has indeed been pointed out recently that it served as ‘an alibi of a nation’, most of all, it would seem to me, regarding the Wehrmacht who could blame everything on the ‘black coats’. See R. L. Koehl, The Black Corps (Madison, 1983) p. 245.Google Scholar
  19. 129.
    Kershaw, Hitler-Mythos, pp. 90–1; and his Popular Opinion.Google Scholar
  20. 132.
    P. Fussel, The Great War and Modem Memory, 3rd edn (Oxford, 1979) p. 115.Google Scholar
  21. 135.
    Religious and pseudo-religious or ideological fanaticism have played an important role in motivating soldiers throughout history, both in Europe and in numerous others civilizations. Sec, for example, J. A. Aho, Religious Mythology and the Art of War (Westport, 1981); P. H. Merkl and N. Smart (eds), Religion and Politics in the Modern World (New York, 1983); and a highly original and interesting theory on the relationship between religion and violence, in R. Girard, Violence and the Sacred, 2nd edn (Baltimore, 1979).Google Scholar
  22. 136.
    Last Letters from Stalingrad (London, 1956) pp. 27–8. Also see A. Werth, The Year of Stalingrad (London, 1946). The need of the professional soldier, and particularly the German officer corps of the new Wehrmacht, to find a set of ideological principles as to ‘why we fight’ is analysed in M. Janowitz, The Professional Soldier (New York, 1960) pp. 401–3. Further on this point, see M. D. Feld, ‘Professionalism, Nationalism and the Alienation of the Military’, in J. van Doom (ed.). Armed Forces and Society (The Hague, 1968) pp. 55–70; and J. van Doom, ‘Political Change and the Control of the Military’, in J. van Doom (ed.), Military Profession and Military Regimes (The Hague, 1969) pp. 11–31.Google Scholar
  23. 140.
    Needhatn, Belief, p. 53. On the impact of the changing vocabulary in Nazi Germany as an essential aspect of the conversion of the population to National Socialism and the Fuhrer-Myth, see, apart from Klem-pcrer’s work, also C. Horning Vom ‘ Abstammungsnachweis’ zum ‘Zuchtwart’, Vokabular des Nationalsozialismtis (Berlin, 1964). Very revealing is the chapter ‘Ich Glaube an Ihm’, in Klemperer, Sprache, pp. 115–32.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Omer Bartov 2001

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.PrincetonUSA

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