Perpetrators?

The previous arguments can be rounded out and compared to Mann’s study by the addition of a few numbers. The first area is region, for me the most fascinating. Mann had found in his sample that southern Germans and Austrians – as well as Catholics overall – were strongly over-represented, whereas the northern and central German regions that had given Hitler the most electoral support in 1933 were strongly under-represented. Out of this he builds a case that the animus of the Nazi movement had shifted from kleindeutsch to grossdeutsch interests, with corresponding regional recruiting tendencies. The finding is intriguing, the explanation unconvincing:

  1. The SS was the “prime mover” agency of Holocaust perpetrators. The “Black Corps” was southern German before it became national.

  2. Heavy among the early recruits were refugees from the “lost territories” of World War I. With the (partial) exception of Prussian Poland, Germans from these areas were largely Catholic.

  3. The kernel of the RSHA began with Eichmann’s office in Vienna in November 1938. As this office expanded and moved its base of operations, it retained at least some of its original Austrian flavor.

Figure 1: Representation of German Regions Among Officials in the Warthegau. How to read: the darker the color, the more numerous the Germans from that region.

First, a bookkeeping question: where do the colors and numbers come from? Using the population statistics in the 1941 Reich Statistical Yearbook, I calculated the percentage of total German population for each German state and Prussian Land. I placed each of the Germans in my sample born in those borders into the appropriate category. Then I ran the numbers for the Government General, RKU, RKO, and so forth, as well as for quite a few combinations in this sample. For each Land, I used the population ratio to determine how many from there should have been in the sample, and divided it into the number actually there. The result was a ratio in which 1.5 meant there were half again as many from a place as there should have been. Finally I thought 36 categories a bit overwhelming, so I grouped the numbers into logical regions so as to minimize distortions. Finally, I admitted that all my lists of“regional representation ratios” were no more enlightening than this one map, so I present the map by itself.

The map shows a dearth of southern Germans wanting to build Greater Germany in the Litzmannstadt region. Some observations on why:

  1. Prussian Poland was a Prussian obsession. However much they were building Grossdeutschland in the Warthegau, it was still a revived Provinz Posen. Hence the preponderance of Prussians.
  2. Familiarity and similarity to Poland was a huge stimulus; the ability to speak Polish without actually being Polish even greater. Upper Silesians especially fall into this category.
  3. Distance was important, combined with being on the Eastern frontier and hence more likely to be concerned with “the Eastern Question.” Lower Silesia and Saxony fall into this category, along with Brandenburg, Pomerania, and East Prussia. Similarity of topography is also important here. If one wants to find Austrians, Bavarians, and Badensians in the majority, one should look in Alsace-Lorraine, Oberkrain, and Untersteiermark.
  4. Prussia and Saxony were more administratively Nazified by 1939 than Baden, Bavaria, and Württemberg. When the call for Nazi administrators went out in 1940, there were simply more north Germans than south Germans qualified to sign up. This at best was a minor factor.

The analytical knife can be sharpened a bit by adding in Partymembership. Where did the Old Fighters come from? Where did the nonmembers come from? That map is identical to Figure 1 with one main difference: Upper Silesians and East Prussians were slightly less likely than everybody else to be NSDAP members. Saxony and Lower Silesia took up the slack. This suggests to me that cultural proximity to Poland was important for Upper Silesia and East Prussia, whereas frontier mentality – the desire to be a Kolonialpionier – was more important in Saxony and Lower Silesia.

Poland is a Catholic country. What role did religion play? Were Catholics less likely to be in the Warthegau because Poland was a Catholic country? In the Eastern Marches the German colonizers were historically associated with Protestantism, Poles with Catholicism. 80 percent of my Lodz sample was Protestant; minus the Saxons, most of these were Prussians. Among the Catholics there was a clear division between the Amtskommissare and everybody else. Three-quarters of Catholic Amtskommissare had declared themselves “formerly” Catholic gottgläubige. Only one-quarter of the other Catholics had done the same. The difference among Protestants was not so drastic, more like 53 percent gottgläubige Amtskommissare, 38 percent everybody else. I conclude that the Amtskommissar comprised the lowest level of the ideological leadership corps – and hence spent more time on them – than the other men. The dedicated were more likely to have left the Catholic Church than the Evangelical possibly because Rome exerted a greater claim to temporal authority, whereas the Lutheran pastors were more likely to preach Nazism from the pulpit. In any case, it is unlikely that Catholics avoided the Warthegaubecause they were Catholic. Neither southern Germany nor Austria was over-represented in the Government-General, which is no less Catholic than the Warthegau.

The group appears rather spiesserlich to me. Because of this, I used to draw parallels to the quintessential American Spiessertyp, Sinclair Lewis’ Babbitt. Babbitt got his morals from the newspaper, was pro-business and anti-socialist without any thought, thought his hometown was the best, worked in his office every day, and strove to move up in his city’s society. I tended to imagine the Litzmannstädter in the same mould. After six years of having to look interested in all of the rah-rah Party activism, they could hide in some backwoods Polish town and do nothing but drink and trade on the black market. If they had to comply with some uncomfortable decrees in order to maintain this comfortable state, why not? Yet most of these stereotypes arose in the Government-General and the Reichskommissariate. Although the Warthegau surely saw its share of misfits and ruffians, I now tend toward the opposite view: most of these men lived the ideology, were caught up in the pioneer spirit of Aufbauarbeit, and enjoyed career rewards as a result of their dedication.

January 12, 2008 in History