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By Edward B. Westermann


The Montréal Review, December 2022



It was a cold Tuesday morning in January 1942 as a group of senior Nazi administrators arrived for a meeting at a lakeside villa on the Wannsee on the outskirts of Berlin.  The participants represented the highest echelons of power from within the SS, the Justice Ministry, the Foreign Ministry, the Interior Ministry as well as senior representatives from the occupied Eastern territories.  They came in response to an invitation by SS General Reinhard Heydrich, the Head of the Security Police and the Security Service and the right-hand man of Heinrich Himmler, the Reich Leader of the SS and Chief of the German Police. The meeting involved top secret deliberations concerning the implementation of the “Final Solution to the Jewish Question” or in plain speech the annihilation of the European Jews, a mission that had been entrusted to Heydrich.1  SS Lieutenant Colonel Adolf Eichmann, the head of the Gestapo office in charge of Jewish affairs, was charged with arranging the meeting to include preparing the invitations and editing multiple drafts of Heydrich’s opening remarks.2  The effort associated with Heydrich’s opening speech reflected his desire to establish the right tone for the meeting and to gain the support of these administrators for his leadership in the process of mass murder, a crucial requirement in a regime characterized by bureaucratic infighting and internecine contests for power.3

To the surprise and delight of Heydrich, the attendees not only enthusiastically supported his direction of the efforts, but they also provided specific recommendations for implementing these plans.  Eichmann subsequently observed, “These State Secretaries, in rare unanimity and joyful agreement, demanded accelerated action.”4 In fact, the deliberations concerning the destruction of the European Jews took less than two hours, a tangible expression of the group’s consensus and a clear affirmation of Heydrich’s principal role in the process.  After the meeting, the Nazi potentates gathered in small groups for personal discussions before heading back to their offices in central Berlin.5  A clearly ebullient Heydrich, despite the early hour, invited Eichmann and Heinrich Müller, Head of the Gestapo (Secret State Police), to join him near the fireplace for cigars and cognac to celebrate the success of the meeting.  Eichmann remembered that it was the first time that he had seen Heydrich “take any alcoholic drink in years,” but it would not be the last time as at some point in the following months he joined Heydrich for a “friendly get-together of the Security Service [SD] where . . . We sang a song, we drank, we climbed up on a chair and drank again, and then onto the table and down again, and so on—a type of merrymaking I had not known.”6

The picture of Heydrich and Eichmann, the key agents of annihilation, drinking, singing, and celebrating their work while standing on a table provides a vivid image of one way in which alcohol and celebratory ritual became incorporated into the process of mass murder by the perpetrators as they rejoiced in their accomplishments.  Indeed, any subsequent meeting after Wannsee between the two men, especially based on Eichmann’s role as junior subordinate, could have had only one purpose, and that would have been to update his boss on the progress toward achieving the destruction of the European Jews.  In this sense, the news must have been very good if it led to these SS comrades singing drunkenly from the top of a table.  This behavior was all the more remarkable as Heydrich carefully cultivated an image of “inner composure, masculinity, and strength” in which he avoided drinking in public especially in uniform.7

Over the course of the Third Reich (1933-1945), scenes involving alcohol consumption and revelry among the SS and police would become a routine part of rituals of humiliation in the camps, ghettos, and killing fields of Eastern Europe. Such celebrations were not anomalous events and extended from meetings of top SS and police leaders to the rank and file celebrating at the grave sites of the victims.  For example, SS Colonel Karl Jäger, the commander of a special killing detachment, Einsatzkommando 3 (EK 3), proudly reported to Berlin on December 1, 1941 that “I can determine today that the goal of solving the Jewish problem in Lithuania has been accomplished by EK 3.”8  In fact, Jäger and the men under his command had been responsible for the murder of almost 140,000 people since late June 1941, and despite the difficulty in gaining transportation and leave approvals, he would assemble his lieutenants for a weekend reunion celebration a year later in order to carouse and swap stories of their murderous accomplishment.9  Likewise, Franz Stangl, the SS Commandant at the Treblinka killing center, retired to his bed each night with a glass of cognac, a reward for a hard day’s work of mass murder.10

Figure 1: Members of Police Battalion 101 celebrating Christmas in Łódź, Poland in 1940.  This picture conveys the sense of group comradery that was incorporated into fellowship evenings throughout the SS and police forces in the East.  (Courtesy of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, Collection 1999.99.3)

SS and policemen involved with the destruction of the European Jews experienced a two-fold feeling of intoxication.  First, these men went East in an imperial campaign of mass murder during which they exercised power over life and death, a heady feeling of psychological supremacy over conquered and “inferior” subject populations.  For many Germans, an “almost intoxicating feeling of superiority” accompanied the process of conquest and eastern colonization.11  Second, the occupiers integrated drinking rituals into their daily routines in order to commemorate and celebrate masculine virtues of comradery and shared violence.  Under National Socialism, intoxication in both a literal and metaphorical sense became part of a “hypermasculine” ideal and part of “constellations of violence” in which manhood and male group solidarity was established and reaffirmed by the perpetrators in rituals of celebration and mass murder.12  In the case of Eichmann, his drinking bouts and prolific “sexual escapades,” became both a manifestation of the SS ideal of masculinity as well as a reflection of the “intoxication of power” (Machtrausch) expressed by his control over the life and death of millions.13As one Polish Jewish survivor testified after the war, this “intoxication of power and arrogance” was a trait shared by many SS men who used it to justify their murder of “completely innocent people.”14 The effects of such intoxication were not limited, however, to the perpetrators alone, but also found expression in the feelings and actions of the Nazi Party and the “Aryan” German population as a whole that experienced these feelings as part of people’s community bound together by ties of racial superiority, comradeship, and a colonial mission of conquest and ultimately genocide.15 

Power and Intoxication

In a diary entry of June 4, 1942, Victor Klemperer described National Socialism as evoking a “literal blood lust with which these people [the Germans] became intoxicated.”  He continued, “all of them are somehow drunk, obsessed, [and] dangerously delirious.”16  Klemperer, an accomplished scholar who lost his university teaching position after the Nazi seizure of power based on his Jewish heritage, was an astute observer of German society.  His linkage of the concept of drunkenness with “blood lust” offers an apt perspective related to the connection between psychological feelings of intoxication and manifestations of aggression aimed at the Third Reich’s putative enemies.  Interestingly, the Red Army correspondent, Ilya Ehrenburg, writing from the battlefront a month earlier described German soldiers within the Soviet Union as “not only drunk on schnapps” but “drunk with the blood of Poles, Frenchmen, and Serbs.”17 

Hans Bernd Gisevius, a senior police official and a future member of the German resistance, shared Klemperer’s observations of a German public in a “state of permanent intoxication” as “[d]ay after day the people sang and marched themselves into ever-madder states of intoxication.”18  Gisevius also remarked on the key role played by the paramilitary SA or Stormtroopers whose intoxication emerged from the “possession of power” and found public expression “with their own bloodthirsty songs.”19  For Nazi paramilitaries, the concepts of aggression, violence, and intoxication became intertwined with conceptions of masculinity in which the experience of war and combat became the ideal of German manhood; a sentiment encapsulated in Ernst Jünger’s description of impending battle, “The air was charged to overflowing with manliness, so that every breath was an intoxication.”20 Over the course of the Second World War, such feelings of intoxication and blood lust epitomized the actions of the members of Heinrich Himmler’s SS and police empire in their “growing elation stemming from repetition [of murder], from the ever-larger numbers of the killed others.”21

Figure 2: Two members of Police Battalion 101 in Łódź, Poland who appear to be involved in a drinking game.  Drinking games and the ability to hold one’s liquor without showing visible effects of impairment constituted one key marker of masculinity within the SS and police complex.  (Courtesy of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, Collection 1999.99.3)

Klemperer, Ehrenburg, Gisevius, and Jünger were not the only contemporary observers to make the association between intoxication and acts of violence.  Walter Tausk, a German Jew living in Breslau, noted “blood drunk” Stormtroopers as they terrorized his coreligionists on the streets of Breslau and celebrated the invasion of Poland in September 1939.22  Friedrich Kellner, a bureaucrat in the small town of Laubach, recorded similar thoughts by describing his fellow citizens as “intoxicated” by the success of the German Army in Poland.  In his diary on June 14, 1940, Kellner reflected on the impending fall of France, “the National Socialists’ intoxication with victory will be of an unrestrained nature. . . [for] those who plan the premeditated murder of mankind.”23  As Kellner’s words reveal, feelings of intoxication and acts of atrocity became inextricably intertwined under the Third Reich. Until his final entry of May 17, 1945, Kellner not only frequently commented on a German public “intoxicated” with military victories and Nazi propaganda slogans, but he repeatedly remarked on the crimes and atrocities committed by the regime in the occupied eastern territories including “the final goal of extermination” of the Jews.24  The intoxication with visions of victory was not merely limited to the German home front but extended to the most senior ranks of the German Army.  In his postwar memoir, General Heinz Guderian recalled the “high spirits” of the German Army High Command (OKH) who were “drunk with the scent of victory” in the fall of 1941 even as an exhausted army struggled to reach Moscow before the onset of winter.25 

The promotion of a metaphorical intoxication among the German populace extended to traditional holidays and to massive Nazi rallies, parades, and ceremonies that served as rituals and public spectacles for generating popular support for the regime.  In the case of the former, a pre-Lenten 1938 carnival parade float in Nuremberg featured four Jewish effigies hanging from a spinning windmill; a public spectacle in which tipsy spectators could laugh, cheer, celebrate, and ultimately conceptualize the idea of lynched Jews.26  In the case of the latter, Gisela Apel, a young German girl whose parents opposed the regime still recalled seven decades later the emotional effects of mass Nazi spectacles, “The wonderful aspect of such a a [sic] mass assembly, which I experienced as intoxication [Rausch].  That’s something one can hardly escape from, you know.”27  Similarly, Bella Fromm, a Jewish journalist and socialite, described the 1934 Nuremberg Party Rally in her diary as a “powerful drug” whose “psychological results on the mass mind are really shattering . . . in fact especially revolting, the fits of hysterical rapture among the women.”28  The creation among the public of a sense of intoxication and power created by thousands of men marching in serried ranks and thundering Nazi anthems was followed by literal “drinking bouts” among the men of the SA and SS in which the ideal of martial masculinity was transferred from the streets into the confines of male-dominated bars and taverns.29 

Figure 3: Member of Police Battalion 101 being lifted up by a comrade.  The incorporation of drinking into celebratory rituals to commemorate unit activities was a key element in establishing shared group identity and consensus for their actions among the perpetrators. (Courtesy of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, Collection 1999.99.3)

While the German home front experienced euphoria in military victories and mass public spectacles, the term “Ostrausch” (intoxication of the East) emerged as a description of the “imperial high” that characterized the behavior and actions of those participating in the National Socialist conquest of Eastern Europe; a campaign in which “[h]edonism and genocide went hand in hand.”30  For the army of Nazi Party bureaucrats, the men of the SS and police, and for female auxiliaries who set about the task of conquering and “civilizing” the occupied territories, Ostrausch constituted both a feeling and a justification for German rule. While German women traveled east to participate in conquest, the feelings of colonial entitlement also reflected elements of a militarized and hypermasculine ethos among the conquerors who “became addicted to the intoxication of the East and became drunk with power.”31 While the expression “drunk on power” served a symbolic purpose, the use of alcohol among the perpetrators was a very real and prevalent fact of life and constituted an important ritual in the preparation, implementation, and celebration of acts of mass killing in the East. 

Willy Peter Reese, a German soldier in Russia, recorded his sense of “intoxication” as he and his comrades sang and engaged in drunken revelry around a camp fire while smearing the breasts of a Russian woman with boot polish and forcing her to dance naked for their amusement.32  Similarly, a Polish waitress testified about the “intoxicated” state of the SS and SA men who gathered for “drinking bouts” in her restaurant to sing, dance, and to stage races by pushing one another around the room in chairs in the wake of weekly mass killings.33  During the occupation of the East, SS and policemen routinely gathered together for “nightly drinking bouts” of celebratory ritual, drinking sessions commonly following mass killings and often accompanied by acts of additional physical violence aimed not only at the occupied, but in some cases fellow Germans.34

Creating a Geography of Violence

Recent scholarship in the field of Holocaust Studies has focused on the geographic and spatial elements of mass murder.  The Yale historian Timothy Snyder described Eastern Europe less as a “political geography” and more as a “human geography of victims.”  He argued, “The bloodlands were no political territory, real or imagined; they are simply where Europe’s most murderous regimes did their most murderous work.”35 Another historian described the occupied territories under German control as “zones of exception” in which “laws simply did not apply as they did at home [i.e., within Germany proper].”  In this sense, the occupied East became a colonial space of “unbridled, unaccountable power . . . where human beings could be abused in the extreme.”36  Within these areas, the local populations, and especially Jews, became “free game” subject to acts of humiliation, physical and sexual abuse, as well as victims of murder in which the proscriptions of the center could often be ignored or manipulated by the perpetrators on the periphery.

Figure 4: Members of Police Battalion 101 integrated a skit depicting a policeman dressed as a Jewish smuggler during their 1940 Christmas celebration in Łódź, Poland.  At the time of the party, the policemen had spent a month guarding the city’s Jewish Ghetto that included the shooting of Jews who were involved in smuggling or who came too close to the wire surrounding the ghetto. This picture epitomizes an act of ritual humiliation and the amusement taken by the perpetrators as they celebrated their duties involving the persecution and killing of Polish Jews. (Courtesy of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, Collection 1999.99.3)

In one respect, the East also was a gendered geography in which the “masculine battlefront” distinguished itself by the actions of hardened soldiers and SS and policemen from the “feminine home front,” a location where acts of violence, atrocity, and mass killing could be justified as a preventative measure to protect one’s women from the sexual danger posed by Russian “hordes.” 37  In another respect, the “wild East” was a geography freed of traditional moral and ethical boundaries in which the occupiers and their auxiliaries could even transgress against rules and prohibitions within Germany proper.  The expanded and expected behavior of subjugating the Eastern territories that encompassed the enslavement of local populations, widespread acts of physical abuse, and the routine conduct of mass killing essentially created a colonial mentality among the perpetrators in which new norms of behavior reigned supreme. 

The excessive use of alcohol exemplified one of these expanded norms where high alcohol consumption became an acceptable and, in some locations, a daily practice among the German occupiers.38  Writing home from the East in August 1944, one soldier remarked, “The way it’s whored and guzzled here is incredible.”39 In fact, SS and police daily orders in the East include numerous references to prohibitions on drinking during duty hours, including one order requiring that this prohibition be repeated to all policemen “every week.”40 These repeated prohibitions also can be found in the daily orders issued to SS personnel at Auschwitz and in the occupied territories; however, it is exactly the ubiquity of such prohibitions that exposes the widespread practice of alcohol consumption and its horrific consequences for the conquered peoples.41  While habitual drunkenness on duty by SS and policemen within the Old Reich was punished and transgressed organizational norms,42 the testimonies by witnesses, accomplices, and bystanders are filled with stories of perpetrators in the East who routinely drank on duty and whose brutality noticeably increased after their intoxication.

Figure 5:  Group photo of members of Police Battalion 101 in which some appear to be singing as one policeman plays a violin.  Music and singing became important elements in celebratory ritual for SS and police forces in the East.  While such celebrations were largely male only affairs, a woman has been allowed to join the group and is standing in the middle of the last row. (Courtesy of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, Collection 1999.99.3)

The commander of the First Company of Police Battalion (PB) 61, Erich Mehr, a man who took noticeable pleasure in the killing of Jews, was described by one of his subordinates as “always intoxicated” and as “an animal” when he was drunk.  When the battalion was assigned to guard duty in the Warsaw ghetto, Mehr not only beat Jews with his pistol until they “looked horrible,” but also regularly fired wildly in the ghetto killing Jews.43  Similarly, an SS guard at the Gusen concentration camp described a fellow guard, Karl Chmielewski, as a “heavy drinker” and asserted, “When Chmielewski was drunk, he was not human anymore, but rather a raging beast.  Everything horrible that you can imagine, he invented.”44  The correlation between intoxication and brutality was not merely limited to members of the SS and police as can be seen in the example of First Lieutenant Fritz Glück, a Wehrmacht company commander.  Glück was described by his men as a “Jew-hater,” a “fanatic National Socialist,” and a habitual drunk.  One soldier in his unit recalled an incident during which an inebriated Glück “dragged two Jews out of a house and shot them” while another testified that “not a day went by that he didn’t stagger around the Kaserne [military base] courtyard in a very drunken state, firing wildly with his pistol.”45 Likewise, Nazi Party administrators had free rein to abuse the subject populations as in Poland where a Nazi official “was known as the greatest sadist in all the district, he got drunk every day, shot at the mirrors and the paintings, and used his whip on all who waited on him.”46 In these cases, the linkage between alcohol, violence, and murder expressed the perpetrators’ intoxication with their colonial authority and the power they enjoyed over life and death.

The Uses and Abuses of Alcohol

Despite the perpetrators widespread use of alcohol, intoxication was neither a necessary nor sufficient condition for promoting acts of physical and sexual brutality and killing.  Rather alcohol functioned in a number of roles. In his widely acclaimed study of SS doctors, the psychologist Robert J. Lifton noted that alcohol proved “central to a pattern of male bonding,” but he also emphasized its use in a process of “group numbing” that served to “shape the [perpetrator’s] emerging Auschwitz self.”47  Similarly, a more recent study of SS and police occupation activities argued that alcohol “mainly had a desensitizing effect and was intended to help people forget their own terrible deeds” as part of a post hoc ritual used by the perpetrators to cope with their actions.48  In turn, some perpetrators during post-war investigations sought to use excessive drinking as a defense strategy for their actions by claiming that the killings were “only bearable when drunk.”49  Michael Musmanno the chief judge during the trial of the members of the Einsatzgruppen or SS death squads in 1947 remarked on SS men who allegedly reached for a bottle of schnapps as a means for overcoming their inhibitions to kill the innocent.50 While alcohol played a role for some perpetrators in coping and disinhibition, it is clear that post-killing drinking behaviors were not limited to coping, but also reflected elements of performative masculinity, social bonding, and celebration.

A letter by Elkhanan Elkes, a physician and head of the Jewish Council in the Kovno Ghetto, to his son and daughter in October 1943 provides one eyewitness perspective on the ritual of mass murder and celebration conducted in the East by the perpetrators:

The Germans killed, slaughtered, and murdered us with peace and with inner calm. I saw them, and I was standing near them when they sent many thousands of men and women, infants and unweaned children to be killed. How they ate then their morning bread and butter with appetite while laughing and ridiculing our holy martyrs. I saw them returning from the Valley of Slaughter, dirty from head to toe with the blood of our loved ones. In high spirits they sat down at the table, ate and drank and listened to light music on the radio. Professional executioners!51

Elkes’ letter offers several interesting insights into the process of mass murder.  First, he notes the “inner calm” and “inner peace” of the killers who could eat their breakfast while engaged in slaughter. Second, he remarks on the use of ridicule and the laughter by the perpetrators as they humiliated and then murdered men, women, and children.  Third, although they returned from the grave sites literally covered in the blood of their victims, they did so in high spirits and sat down to drink, eat, and enjoy music and song.  In another respect, it also epitomizes the ideal propagated within the SS and police of mass murder as a fraternal responsibility that was both shared and celebrated among one’s comrades. 

As envisioned by Reich Leader of the SS Heinrich Himmler, the moderate consumption of alcohol by SS and policemen, especially in the wake of mass executions, was a method for promoting social bonding and camaraderie within the confines of “fellowship evenings” rather than as a means for losing control of one’s mental faculties.52  Additionally, alcohol promoted psychological disinhibition allowing men to pull their triggers in order to murder men, women, and children.  Conversely, it acted as an enabler or accelerant for brutal behaviors that often reached beyond disinhibition.  Likewise, alcohol, a luxury good during the war, was used in many cases as an incentive or reward for participation.    Perhaps most importantly,  this study demonstrates the ways in which the men of the Nazi Party’s paramilitary arms and the German police embraced drinking as a ritual that was linked to “a pattern of male bonding” and the National Socialist conception of masculinity.  Furthermore, I explore the perpetrators incorporation of alcohol consumption as a key part of celebratory ritual conducted prior to, during, and after mass killings.53 

Based on the multiple roles played by alcohol among the perpetrators, it is clear that each of these uses were not mutually exclusive and that individual killers at different times and places may have reached for the bottle based on several of these factors.   This study offers valuable insights into not only the use of alcohol by perpetrators in the Shoah, but also reveals clues on the role of alcohol in the conduct of other atrocities.  Most significantly, alcohol use by the killers and the sites where and ways in which it was consumed reveal the mentalities of those participating in genocide.

“Blitzed” or Buzzed: Neither Necessary nor Sufficient for Mass Murder

In his controversial Blitzed: Drugs in the Third Reich, the journalist Norman Ohler argued, “Methamphetamine bridged the gaps [between the rhetoric and reality of Nazi society], and the doping mentality spread into every corner of the Reich. Pervitin allowed the individual to function in the dictatorship. National Socialism in pill form.”54 In Ohler’s view, drugs became a way for explaining the participation of citizens, soldiers, and the political leadership in the Nazi genocidal mission. In his review of the book, the British historian Richard Evans contested Ohler’s conclusions and remarked, “This sweeping generalisation about a nation of 66 to 70 million people has no basis in fact. . . .What’s more, it is morally and politically dangerous. Germans, the author hints, were not really responsible for the support they gave to the Nazi regime, still less for their failure to rise up against it. This can only be explained by the fact that they were drugged up to the eyeballs.”55  In a similar critique, Dagmar Herzog reviewing the book in The New York Times warned, “Ohler frequently identifies causation where there is only correlation” and she perceptively commented, “Ohler says nothing about the well-documented link between Nazi genocide and alcohol abuse.”56  With respect to the SS and police, Himmler issued multiple directives and prohibitions related to excessive drinking, but in the research for this book, I did not find one such directive by the Reich Leader of the SS related to drug use, a key point of distinction between the issues of drug and alcohol abuse by these men.

As the criticisms of Ohler’s work reveal, there is a danger in creating an historical explanation in which cause and effect are reduced to the effect of a single factor or in this case a single drug.  As stated previously, alcohol functioned in a number of roles for the perpetrators and was neither necessary nor sufficient for explaining genocide.  Nevertheless, drinking ritual and perceptions of masculinity were both important factors in the development of camaraderie among the men who shared a bottle and a communal role in mass murder. The genocidal community of the killers expressed itself most clearly in celebratory rituals that took place in bars, canteens, barracks, and restaurants and in their songs, their jokes, their boasts, and their games. In social science parlance, murder became the “central activity” dominating the perpetrators’ social setting in which drinking became a key ritual accompaniment to these acts.57         

Alcohol and Aggression

In one important respect, the use of alcohol in facilitating mass atrocity is not surprising based on the long-established connection between the abuse of alcohol and drugs and the frequency of violent crime and homicide.  Several studies from the field of criminology have highlighted the close relationship between violent crime, particularly murder, and substance abuse.  At the individual level, one study in the field of psychology found that “alcohol intoxication [among men] resulted in more aggression.”58  Another study confirmed the relationship between alcohol use and violence among gang members and concluded, “Because alcohol is an integral and regular part of socializing within gang life, drinking works as a social lubricant . . . but also to affirm masculinity and male togetherness.”59 

The significance of these studies from the social sciences is twofold.  First, they link alcohol use and aggression, but they also highlight the importance of social cohorts and psychological predispositions related to conceptions of masculinity, including qualities such as toughness, brutality, and the readiness to engage in violent acts.  In fact, these were exactly the “masculine” traits promoted within Nazi paramilitary and police formations as well as within the German Army over the course of the Third Reich, a case in which “Comradeship signified community within the group and violence outside of the group.”60  Second, the concept of gang behavior can be applied to the activities of the Stormtroopers and the SS as evidenced in the diary descriptions of Walter Tausk concerning the wanton brutality and extralegal actions of these groups after the Nazi seizure of power.61 In fact, the historian Sven Reichardt emphasized the “gang mentality” of the SA and highlighted the demand for “total commitment” among its members, a demand shared by participants within contemporary gang culture.62

Figure 6: SS men chugging French champagne in a drinking contest on the Eastern Front circa 1943. (Courtesy of Bastiaan Willems)

Without doubt, alcohol and violence were both manifest in the killing fields of Eastern Europe even if the SS and police ideal stylized its members as stone cold killers rather than drunken murderers.  The role of alcohol and celebratory ritual in the Nazi genocide of European Jews offers an important perspective on the intersection between masculinity, drinking ritual, and mass murder.  In this sense, it is certainly true that “timing, frequency, and above all, [the] company of drinkers can tell us a great deal about sociability and shared values” especially among SS and police perpetrators.63 While numerous studies from the social sciences have demonstrated the link between drinking, homicide and sexual violence, the connection between mass murder and alcohol is under researched.  In the field of Holocaust Studies, explanations of perpetrator motivation embrace a variety of instrumental and affective factors ranging from “ordinary men” propelled by peer pressure, obedience to authority, and personal ambition to “willing executioners” imbued with antisemitism and racial ideology; however, alcohol consumption facilitated acts of murder and atrocity whether by ordinary men or true believers. In contrast, the relationship between drinking rituals, violence, and perceptions of masculinity among the perpetrators deserves more attention than it has received.

Among the SA, the SS, and the police, the consumption of alcohol was part of a ritual that bound the perpetrators together and became a key ingredient in acts of “performative masculinity,” a type of masculinity expressly linked to acts of physical and sexual violence.64 In this sense, performative masculinity refers to a set of male behaviors that establish an ideal for comparing oneself to other men, a practice that may involve the quantity of alcohol one can consume, the number of one’s sexual “conquests,” or one’s aptitude with one’s fists.  Among the SA during the Weimar Republic (1919-1933), drinking rituals also served as a means of male bonding and for creating group solidarity that often led to acts of political violence. The emphasis on physical fitness and martial sports (Kampfsport) such as boxing or jujitsu within the Nazi Party’s paramilitary organizations was intended to create a “disciplined masculine fighter” and to prepare these men for confrontations with their political opponents in the streets and in the beer halls.65 Similarly, the pages of The Black Corps, the weekly SS newspaper, celebrated boxing as a means of inculcating “masculine hardness” and preventing the emergence of a “soft gender” (weiches Geschlecht).66

One contemporary described the stakes of SA battles fought in beer halls during this period as “[t]he fight for the soul of the German man and the new Germany. . . [a battle involving] fists and chair legs in order . . . to drive out the racially alien ‘leaders’ and their bodyguards.”67  In Munich’s egalitarian beer halls, “frequent brawls and riots” accompanied political rallies during which “heavy earthenware steins, emptied of their liquid bliss, became dangerous weapons.”68  The political policeman, Hans Bernd Gisevius, described the ideal of an SA man at the time as one who “tested his biceps at the bloody brawls that were part of the routine of every political meeting.”69  After the outbreak of war, the exaltation of martial skills within the SS remained an important marker of masculine prowess.

Under Weimar, Nazi paramilitaries embraced an image of “heroic and martial masculinity” and celebrated their reputation as “heroes of bar-room brawls.”70 In fact, it was in beer halls and SA taverns that the nascent Nazi movement’s paramilitary forces were formed and won their ‘fame’ as the saviors of the “new Germany.”  One witness, Friedrich Klaehn, described the entry of an SA unit into a meeting hall in messianic terms, “The music boomed out . . . Here marched the new Germany. Here ancient Germany was reawakening. They are the men who will save us, who are our future.”71  Another observer of a Nazi Party rally in the Löwenbräukeller recalled, “the hot breath of hypnotic mass enthusiasm” and the “special battle songs, their own flags, symbols and greetings”72 The beer-soaked tables of these sites became the seedbeds of revolutionary fervor, action and martyrdom in one.  For his part, Hitler honored the “sacrifice” of hundreds of thousands of SA and SS men who fought in the streets and in beer halls to defend their Führer and his message of national redemption in a speech of January 27, 1932.73

For these men, the salvation of Germany was linked in a very real sense with their own conceptions of masculinity and the re-appropriation of their virility.  The Chief of the SA, Ernst Röhm, complained in his autobiography that under Weimar “female lamentation” had replaced “virile hate” and it was only the latter in the hands of a soldier that would lead the “Fatherland out of wretchedness and shame to freedom and honor.”74 In this way paramilitary groups on both the right and the left believed that “[t]heir sense of impotence could be assuaged by a resort to force.”75  In turn, the men of the SA were “fascinated” by Hitler, but “even more so by the atmosphere of virile and resentful solidarity that reigned in the SA inns.”76

Celebrating Murder

The glorification of martial virtues and violence as “the highest manifestation of manhood” emerged as defining characteristics of the National Socialist ideal of hypermasculinity, especially within the SS and the police complex.77 Ultimately, it was this concept of hypermasculinity incorporating extreme conceptions of militarized masculinity within a rigid patriarchal racial hierarchy that linked sexuality, racism, and the practice of racial war with the ideal of German manhood.78  For some perpetrators, killing in the East seemed to function in many cases as a “kind of entertainment” accompanied by a “carnivalesque atmosphere.”79  During the invasion of Poland, SS Colonel Ludolf von Alvensleben expressed exactly this sentiment as he commanded ethnic German paramilitaries involved in the mass murder of Poles.  In a report to Himmler on September 17, 1939, Alvensleben gushed, “As you can imagine Reichsführer, the work is a huge joy.”80  The pleasure taken by some of the killers in their “work” also was apparent to Poles who witnessed the behavior of German forces during the invasion.  Mieczyslaw Imala, a thirteen-year-old boy at the time of the German invasion, detailed how the SS brought groups of Poles “every several days” between 9:00 am and 10:00 am to a forest near Zakrzewo in 1939.81  He could hear shooting and see the trucks piled with the victims’ clothing and possessions leave the killing site in the afternoon. After the massacres, the trucks headed to a local restaurant where the SS, SA, and policemen divided the plundered goods and engaged in drinking parties. Imala remembered “feasting Germans” enjoying vast quantities of schnapps, beer, and cigarettes as they celebrated their day’s work.  He then noted, “Every one of them was under the influence and a wedding atmosphere reigned” among the participants.82

These celebratory rituals continued into the invasion of the Soviet Union. Boris Grushevsky, a Belorussian, who witnessed a mass killing in Mir by German policemen and Belorussian auxiliaries in November 1941 also remarked that the killers “behaved as if they were at a wedding party.”83  The festive environment surrounding Nazi murder actions and the use of a “wedding metaphor” even entered into the Yiddish lexicon of khurbn-shprakh (destruction language) as “in the usage of bal (ball, festivity) as a synonym for aktsye [i.e., killing action], which specifically refers to the heavy intoxication of the perpetrators with alcohol.”84  The importance of the description of these killings by local inhabitants and Jews in terms of marriage celebrations cannot be overstated as such celebrations would constitute perhaps the single most joyous event experienced in the daily lives of farmers and laborers from these small communities, replete with music and song as well as enormous quantities of food and drink.  In this respect, their testimony vividly evokes the immense enjoyment taken by the perpetrators and the festive atmosphere that accompanied the murders.

The celebrations of mass murder at Zakrzewo and Mir were not isolated occurrences.  Such festivities became a regular part of the German occupation in the East.  In the spring of 1942, SS men ordered Leon Wells, a Jewish prisoner, to bury the victims of a just completed massacre.  Upon his arrival at the site, he observed, “A group of SS men were there, entertaining themselves with schnapps and music.  Round about them lay a countless number of corpses.”85 In another example, SS and Ukrainian auxiliaries celebrated the murder of 1,200 men, women, and children from the Zbaraż ghetto in April 1943 with “a whole-night orgy,” a post-killing party subsidized by forced contributions from the ghetto’s Jewish council.86 

Whether at the killing site, the unit canteen, or in a local restaurant or bar, members of SS and the police gathered to drink to boast in the wake of their murderous exploits. One participant described these alcohol-fueled gatherings, “They [the killers] were then always very loud and described that they had once again executed Jews.”87  The victims also remembered these celebrations and some described their tormentors using the language of inebriation. For example, Wells depicted the SS as being “intoxicated” with the act of killing itself while Auguste Drzonsgalla, a female prisoner in the “Gypsy” camp at Auschwitz, referred to such men as being “addicted” to violence.88 


Over the course of the Third Reich, celebratory rituals by Nazi perpetrators involving high levels of alcohol consumption facilitated brutal acts of humiliation, physical and sexual abuse, and murder throughout Germany and the occupied territories.89  Even in its final weeks, as German cities crumbled into ruins, these men continued to murder their racial enemies and even their own colleagues.  In the case of the former, on the eve of Palm Sunday, March 24, 1945, Nazi administrators and female guests gathered for a party in the town of Rechnitz.  Franz Podezin, the local Nazi Party leader, received a phone call in the evening concerning the execution of some 200 Jews confined at the town’s railway station.90  Taking a break from the party, a group of ten Nazi administrators and a female teacher left the festivities and participated in the murder of the Jews, after which they returned to continue their revelry.  After the war, a German press story detailed the murders using the catchphrase “massacre as a party game.”91  Whether interpreted as a “party game” or business as usual, mass murder continued within the Third Reich until the bitter end as evidenced by the actions of Gestapo men in Dortmund who murdered some 300 men and women in ten separate mass shootings in March and April 1945.  These killings followed a familiar pattern and were “to the smallest details . . . small-scale reproductions of the crimes of the Einsatzgruppen,” and according to one historian reflected the “ritualistic scheme of events” perfected in the East including the distribution of tobacco and alcohol rations among the killers after they completed their ‘work.’92

Men who had become addicted to violence and intoxicated by murder apparently found it hard to break the habit. Such was the case for the SS men at Auschwitz who celebrated the camp’s first successful gassing at Block 11 with a “big party” as well as for their colleagues who after an hour of drinking and singing entered a prisoner barrack and began torturing a group of twelve naked Soviet prisoners of war by kicking them in the groin, a physical beating that only three survived.93  Similarly, Ruth Elias, a prisoner at Auschwitz-Birkenau, commented on nighttime forays into her barracks  by drunken SS guards  who only began their assaults with the accompaniment of music from the camp orchestra. He statement that “the music had to play” before the rapes began is a chilling and telling indictment of  the premeditation and enjoyment taken by these men as they forged bonds of male community through acts of physical and sexual abuse.94 Finally, SS and policemen who kept score of their “body counts” and celebrated milestones of 1,000 and 2,000 victims in drunken parties undoubtedly were intoxicated with the act of murder as was the heavy drinking SS Sergeant Martin Weiss, a brutal and prolific killer.  Weiss once commented, “If I would not see blood every day, I would be thirsty for it.”95  For such men, alcohol consumption may not have been a prerequisite for murder, but in the colonial spaces of the East, it is clear that many of the perpetrators, whether holding a bottle or a pistol in their hand, were drunk on genocide.


Edward B. Westermann is Regents Professor of History at Texas A&M University—San Antonio, a Commissioner on the Texas Holocaust and Genocide Commission, and author, most recently, of Hitler's Ostkrieg and the Indian Wars.


1 Jochen von Lang, Das Eichmann-Protokoll: Tonbandaufzeichnungen der israelischen Verhöre (Munich: Severin und Siedler, 1982),83-86. For an excellent analysis of the Wannsee Conference see Mark Roseman, The Wannsee Conference and the Final Solution: A Reconsideration (London: The Folio Society, 2012).

2 State of Israel, Ministry of Justice, The Trial of Adolf Eichmann: Recordings of Proceedings in the District Court of Jerusalem, vol. 3 (Jerusalem: Trust for the Publication of the Proceedings of the Eichmann Trial, in cooperation with the Israel State Archives and Yad Vashem, 1993), 1367.

3 Martin Broszat, The Hitler State: The Foundation and Development of the Internal Structure of the Third Reich, trans. John W. Hiden (London: Longman, 1981), xi.

4 Adolf Eichmann, Götzen: Die Autobiographie von Adolf Eichmann, ed. Raphael Ben Nescher (Berlin: Metropol, 2016), 223.  Emphasis added. Eichmann used the phrase “freudiger Zustimmung,” a clear linguistic expression of the celebratory atmosphere that framed the meeting.

5  State of Israel, Ministry of Justice, Trial of Adolf Eichmann, vol. 4, 1423.

6 State of Israel, Ministry of Justice, Trial of Adolf Eichmann, vol. 3, 1367.

7 Robert Gerwarth, Hitler’s Hangman: The Life of Heydrich (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2011), 74.

8 The “Jäger Report,” RG 14.101M, reel 8, folder 14120, p. 58, US Holocaust Memorial Museum Archives (hereafter USHMMA).

9 Wolfram Wette, Karl Jäger: Mörder der litauischen Juden (Frankfurt/Main: Fischer Taschenbuch Verlag, 2011), 112.

10 Gitta Sereny, Into that Darkness: An Examination of Conscience (New York: Vintage Books, 1983), 200. In his interview with Sereny, Stangl asserted that the only way he could deal with his duties was to drink, a claim belied by numerous eyewitness accounts of his behavior and a justification that came to typify the “cliché” of the drunken Nazi used by many SS and police during post-war investigations of their activities. See Bettina Stangneth, Eichmann vor Jerusalem: Das unbehelligte Leben eines Massenmörders (Zurich: Arche Verlag, 2011), 502.

11 Melita Maschmann, Account Rendered: A Dossier on My Former Self, trans. Geoffrey Strachan (London: Abelard-Schuman, 1964), 106.

12 Elissa Mailänder, “Making Sense of a Rape Photograph: Sexual Violence as Social Performance on the Eastern Front, 1939-1944,” Journal of the History of Sexuality 26, no. 3 (2017): 500-01, 503.

13 Stangneth, Eichmann vor Jerusalem, 225-26.

14 Testimony of Dr. Stefan Janeczek, February 3, 1964, RG 14.101M, reel 322, folder 2441, frame 384, USHMMA.

15 Thomas Kühne, Belonging and Genocide: Hitler’s Community, 1918-1945 (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2013), 167-68.

16 Victor Klemperer, I will Bear Witness: A Diary of the Nazi Years, trans. Martin Chalmers (New York: The Modern Library, 2001), 66. Emphasis added.

17 Ilya Ehrenburg, Russia at War (London: Hamish Hamilton, 1943), 131.

18 Hans Bernd Gisevius, To the Bitter End, trans. Richard and Clara Winston (Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1947), 95, 293.

19 Gisevius, To the Bitter End, 103.

20 Quoted in Detlev Peukert, The Weimar Republic: The Crisis of Classical Modernity, trans. Richard Deveson (New York: Hill and Wang, 1989), 105.

21 Saul Friedlander, Memory, History, and the Extermination of the Jews of Europe (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1993), 110.

22 Walter Tausk, Breslauer Tagebuch, 1933-1940 (Berlin: Siedler Verlag, 1988), 57, 230.

23 Friedrich Kellner, My Opposition: The Diary of Friedrich Kellner-A German Against the Third Reich, trans. and ed. Robert Scott Kellner (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2018), 33, 76.

24 Kellner, My Opposition, 155. For entries on intoxication see 88, 94, 124, 127, 132, 228, and 313 and for entries on mass murder and atrocity see 133-34, 143, 145, 155, and 201.

25 Heinz Guderian, Panzer Leader, trans. Constantine Fitzgibbon (Boston, MA: Da Capo Press, 1996), 235.

26 Photo from a Fasching parade in Nuremberg in 1938.  Designation#4.559, WS#94675, USHMMA photo archives.

27 Heidi Rosenbaum, “Und trotzdem war’s eine schöne Zeit”: Kinderalltag im Nationalsozialismus (Frankfurt/Main: Campus Verlag, 2014), 171.

28 Bella Fromm, Blood and Banquets: A Berlin Social Diary (New York: Harper and Brothers, 1942), 180.

29 Pierre Ayçoberry, The Social History of the Third Reich, 1933-1945, trans. Janet Lloyd (New York: The New Press, 1999), 25.

30 Wendy Lower, Hitler’s Furies: German Women in the Nazi Killing Fields (Boston: Houghton, Mifflin, Harcourt, 2013), 165.

31 Franka Maubach, Die Stellung halten: Kriegserfahrungen und Lebensgeschichten von Wehrmachtshelferinnen (Göttingen: Vandenhoek und Ruprecht, 2009), 130.

32 Willy Peter Reese,”Mir selber seltsam fremd”: Die Unmenschlichkeit des Krieges, Russland, 1941-44, ed. Stefan Schmitz (Munich: Claassen Verlag, 2003), 197.

33 Klaus-Michael Mallmann, Jochen Böhler, and Jürgen Matthäus, Einsatzgruppen in Polen: Darstellung und Dokumentation (Darmstadt: Wissenschaftliche Buchgesellschaft, 2008), 171.

34 Włodzimierz Borodziej, Terror und Politik: Die Deutsche Polizei und die polnische Widerstandsbewegung im Generalgouvernement, 1939-1944 (Mainz: Verlag Philipp von Zabern, 1999), 55.

35 Timothy Snyder, Bloodlands: Europe between Hitler and Stalin (New York: Basic Books, 2010), xviii.

36 Donald Bloxham, The Final Solution: A Genocide (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2009), 282.

37 Frank Werner, “‘Hart müssen wir hier draussen sein’: Soldatische Männlichkeit im Vernichtungskrieg, 1941-1944,” Geschichte und Gesellschaft 34, no. 1 (2008): 16, 20.

38 Stephan Lehnstaedt, “The Minsk Experience: German Occupiers and Everyday Life in the Capital of Belarus,” in Nazi Policy on the Eastern Front, 1941: Total War, Genocide, and Radicalization, eds. Alex J. Kay, Jeff Rutherford, and David Stahel (Rochester, NY: University of Rochester Press, 2012), 255.

39 Sven Oliver Müller, Deutsche Soldaten und ihre Feinde: Nationalismus an Front und Heimatfront im Zweiten Weltkrieg (Frankfurt/Main: S. Fischer, 2007), 154.

40 “Der SS- und Polizeiführer Lettland, Kommandeur der Ordnungspolizei, Tagesbefehl 1 [January 21, 1943],” RG 18.002M, reel 9, fond R-82, opis 1, folder 21, USHMMA and “Der SS- und Polizeistandortführer Libau, Standortbefehl [February 4, 1943],” RG 18.002M, reel 30, fond R-83, opis 1, folder 6, USHMMA. Emphasis added.

41 Norbert Frei, Thomas Grotum, Jan Parcer, Sybille Steinacher, and Bernd Wagner, eds., Standort- und Kommandanturbefehle des Konzentrationslagers Auschwitz, 1940-1945 (Munich: K.G. Saur, 2000), 18, 198, 399-400 and Daily Order Number 4E, item 7 “Drunken Offenses,” March 24, 1943, RG 18.002M, reel 9, fond R82, Opis 1, folder 2, USHMMA.

42 Peter Longerich, Heinrich Himmler, trans. Jeremy Noakes and Lesley Sharpe (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2011), 114, 323.  With reference to drunken behavior by members of Hitler’s personal security detail and disciplinary consequences see Peter Hoffmann, Hitler’s Personal Security: Protecting the Führer, 1921-1945 (New York: Da Capo Press, 2000), 52-54.

43 Stefan Klemp, Freispruch für das “Mord Bataillon”: Die NS-Ordnungspolizei und die Nachkriegsjustiz (Münster: Lit Verlag, 1998), 24.

44 Testimony of Ludwig F. concerning Karl Chmielewski, RG 14.101M, reel 554, folder 4756, page 7, USHMMA.

45 Waitman Wade Beorn, Marching into Darkness: The Wehrmacht and the Holocaust in Belarus (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2014), 140.

46 United Nations War Crimes Commission, Polish Charges against German War Criminals, Charge No.3, RG 67.041M, reel 14, USHMMA.

47 Robert J. Lifton, The Nazi Doctors: Medical Killing and the Psychology of Genocide (New York: Basic Books, 1986), 443-44.

48 Stephan Lehnstaedt, Occupation in the East: The Daily Lives of German Occupiers in Warsaw and Minsk, 1939-1944, trans. dbmedia (New York: Berghahn, 2016), 144.

49 Christopher R. Browning, Remembering Survival: Inside a Nazi Slave Labor Camp (New York: W.W. Norton and Company, 2010), 287 and Lifton, Nazi Doctors, 159 .

50 Michael Musmanno, The Eichmann Kommandos (Philadelphia, PA: Macrae Smith, 1961), 234-35.

51 Quoted in Jürgen Matthäus with Emil Kerenji, eds., Jewish Responses to Persecution, 1933-1946: A Source Reader (New York: Rowman and Littlefield, 2017), 153.

52 Richard Breitman, The Architect of Genocide: Himmler and the Final Solution (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1991), 173-74.

53 Lifton, Nazi Doctors, 443-44.

54 Norman Ohler, Blitzed: Drugs in the Third Reich, trans. Shaun Whitside (New York: Mariner Books, 2016), 39.

55 Richard J. Evans, “A Crass and Dangerously Inaccurate Account,” review of Blitzed: Drugs in the Third Reich, by Norman Ohler, The Guardian, November 16, 2016.

56 Dagmar Herzog, “Hitler’s Little Helper: A History of Rampant Drug Use under the Nazis,” review of Blitzed: Drugs in the Third Reich, by Norman Ohler, The New York Times, March 27, 2017.

57 Herbet Fingarette, Heavy Drinking: The Myth of Alcoholism as a Disease (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1988), 100, 110.

58 Dominic J. Parrott and Amos Zeichner, “Effects of Alcohol and Trait Anger on Physical Aggression in Men,” Journal of Studies on Alcohol 63, no. 2 (2002): 196, 202.

59 Geoffrey P. Hunt and Karen Joe Laidler, “Alcohol and Violence in the Lives of Gang Members,” Alcohol Research and Health 25, no.1 (2001): 66.

60 Müller, Deutsche Soldaten, 159.

61 Tausk, Breslauer Tagebuch, 33-34, 37-39, and 62.

62 Sven Reichardt, Faschistische Kampfbünde: Gewalt und Gemeinschaft im italienischen Squadrismus und in der deutschen SA (Cologne: Böhlau Verlag, 2002), 462. See also Anna Pawełczyńska, Values and Violence in Auschwitz: A Sociological Study, trans. Catherine S. Leach (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1979), 8.

63 Susanna Barrows and Robin Room, eds., Drinking: Behavior and Belief in Modern History (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1991),7.

64 Susan Jeffords, “Performative Masculinities, or, ‘After a Few Times You Won’t Be Afraid of Rape at All,” Discourse 13, no. 2 (Spring-Summer 1991): 102-118.

65 Berno Bahro, Der SS-Sport: Organisation-Funktion-Bedeutung (Paderborn: Ferdinand Schöningh, 2013), 36, 38, 72-73.

66 Das Schwarze Korps, 20 March 1935, LM0343, reel 1, USHMMA.

67 Quoted in George L. Mosse, Nazi Culture: Intellectual, Cultural and Social Life in the Third Reich (New York: Grosset and Dunlap, 1966), 30.

68 David Clay Large, Where Ghosts Walked: Munich’s Road to the Third Reich (New York: W.W. Norton, 1997), xiii.

69 Gisevius, To the Bitter End, 66.

70 Yves Müller, “Männlichkeit und Gewalt in der SA am Beispiel der ‘Köpenicker Blutwoche,’” in SA-Terror als Herrschaftssicherung, ed. Stefan Hördler (Berlin: Metropol Verlag, 2013), 130. Victor Klemperer, The Language of the Third Reich: LTI-Lingua Tertii Imperii, trans. Martin Brady (London: The Athlone Press, 2000), 3. Klemperer uses the expression “heroes of bar-room brawls” in his description of the SA.

71 Quoted in Mosse, Nazi Culture, 25.

72 Quoted in Clay Large, Where Ghosts Walked, 164.

73 Quoted in Jeremy Noakes and Geoffrey Pridham, eds., Nazism 1919-1945, vol. 1, The Rise to Power, 1919-1934 (Exeter: Exeter University Press, 1998), 94-95. See also Bahro, Der SS-Sport, 72-73.

74 Quoted in Mosse, Nazi Culture, 102-03.

75 Peukert, Weimar Republic, 95.  Emphasis added.

76 Ayçoberry, Social History of the Third Reich, 20.

77 William L. Shirer, Berlin Diary: The Journal of a Foreign Correspondent, 1934-1941 (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1941), 270.  Shirer attributes this belief to a quote by Dr. Robert Ley, a senior Nazi Party figure.  See also Christina Wieland, The Fascist State of Mind and the Manufacturing of Masculinity: A Psychoanalytic Approach (London: Routledge, 2015), 26.

78 Müller, Deutsche Soldaten, 164.

79 Quoted in Jacek Andrzej Młynarczyk, Leonid Rein, Andrii Bolianovskyi, and Oleg Romanko, Eastern Europe: Belorussian Auxiliaries, Ukrainian Waffen-SS Soldiers and the Case of the Polish ‘Blue Police,’” in The Waffen-SS: A European History, eds. Jochen Böhler and Robert Gerwarth (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2017), 188.  Likewise, a Swedish member of the Waffen SS told his parents an “amusing” story about the reprisal murder of 300 Polish villagers.  See Martin R. Gutmann, Building a Nazi Europe: The SS’s Germanic Volunteers (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2017), 173.

80 Quoted in Thomas Grasberger, “Der Totenwald,” Zeit Online, January 20, 2011.  Https://www.zeit.de/2011/04/Nationalsozialismus-Massaker-Piasnica.

81 Testimony of Mieczyslaw Imala, RG 14.101M, reel 2832, folder 9691, pp. 213-14, USHMMA.

82 Testimony of Mieczyslaw Imala, RG 14.101M, reel 2832, folder 9691, p. 215, USHMMA.

83 Quoted in Martin Dean, Collaboration in the Holocaust: Crimes of the Local Police in Belorussia and Ukraine, 1941-44 (New York: St. Martin’s Press, 2000), 48.

84 Miriam Schulz, “‘Gornisht oyser verter’?! Khurbn-shprakh as a Mirror of the Dynamics of Violence in German-Occupied Eastern Europe,” in The Holocaust in the Borderlands: Interethnic Relations and the Dynamics of Violence in Occupied Eastern Europe, eds. Gaȅlle Fisher and Caroline Mezger (Göttingen: Wallstein Verlag, 2019), 185-210.

85 Leon Weliczker Wells, The Janowska Road (New York: MacMillan, 1963), 81.

86 United Nations War Crimes Commission, Polish Charges against German War Criminals, Digital Archive. Accessed at USHMMA on April 2, 2019.

87 Testimony of Aloys W., RG 14.101M, reel 329, folder 2509, p. 136, USHMMA.

88 Wells, Janowska Road, 84 and Testimony of Auguste Drzonsgalla, RG 14.101M, reel 50, folder 14700, p. 315, USHMMA.

89 Wachsmann, KL, 220.

90 Walter Manoschek, ed., Der Fall Rechnitz: Das Massaker an Juden im März 1945 (Vienna: Wilhelm Braumüller Universitäts-Verlagsbuchhandlung, 2009), 32-41.

91 Manoschek, Der Fall Rechnitz, 247-49.

92 Sven Keller, Volksgemeinschaft am Ende: Gesellschaft und Gewalt, 1944-45 (Munich: Oldenbourg Verlag, 2013), 265-66.

93 Hermann Langbein, Der Auschwitz-Prozeβ: Eine Dokumentation (Frankfurt/Main: Verlag Neue Kritik, 1995), 459, 466.

94 Transcript of the Shoah interview with Ruth Elias, RG 60.5003, pp. 33-34, USHMMA.

95 Quoted in Helmut Langerbein, Hitler’s Death Squads: The Logic of Mass Murder (College Station, TX: Texas A&M University Press, 2004), 68.


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