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Lives of Hitler’s Jewish Soldiers

Untold Tales of Men of Jewish Descent Who Fought for the Third Reich

Bryan Mark Rigg

March 2009
320 pages, 64 photographs, 6 x 9
Modern War Studies
Cloth ISBN 978-0-7006-1638-1, $29.95 (t)

They were foot soldiers and officers. They served in the regular army and the Waffen-SS. And, remarkably, they were also Jewish, at least as defined by Hitler’s infamous race laws. Pursuing the thread he first unraveled in Hitler’s Jewish Soldiers, Bryan Rigg takes a closer look at the experiences of Wehrmacht soldiers who were classified as Jewish. In this long-awaited companion volume, he presents interviews with twenty-one of these men, whose stories are both fascinating and disturbing.

As many as 150,000 Jews and partial-Jews (or Mischlinge) served, often with distinction, in the German military during World War II. The men interviewed for this volume portray a wide range of experiences—some came from military families, some had been raised Christian—revealing in vivid detail how they fought for a government that robbed them of their rights and sent their relatives to extermination camps. Yet most continued to serve, since resistance would have cost them their lives and they mistakenly hoped that by their service they could protect themselves and their families. The interviews recount the nature and extent of their dilemma, the divided loyalties under which many toiled during the Nazi years and afterward, and their sobering reflections on religion and the Holocaust, including what they knew about it at the time.

Rigg relates each individual’s experiences following the establishment of Hitler’s race laws, shifting between vivid scenes of combat and the increasingly threatening situation on the home front for these men and their family members. Their stories reveal the constant tension in their lives: how some tried to hide their identities, and how a few were even “Aryanized” as part of Hitler’s effort to retain reliable soldiers—including Field Marshal Erhard Milch, three-star general Helmut Wilberg, and naval commander Bernhard Rogge.

Chilling, compelling, almost beyond belief, these stories depict crises of conscience under the most stressful circumstances. Lives of Hitler’s Jewish Soldiers deepens our understanding of the complex intersection of Nazi race laws and German military service both before and during World War II.

“Rigg has done exhaustive research that will force scholars once again to confront the nuances and complexity of life in Nazi Germany. His oral histories not only provide a poignant glimpse at the human stories behind the impersonal façade of Nazi racial laws, but also show just how these individuals—far from passive victims—responded in an effort to shape and influence their own fate. Rigg’s evidence reveals the variety of strategies they employed to navigate the ambiguities of the Nazi racial state."—Stephen G. Fritz, author of Frontsoldaten: The German Soldier in World War II

“Fascinating and powerful.”—W.E.B.Griffin, author of The Brotherhood of War

Lives of Hitler’s Jewish Soldiers is insightful and provocative. It is masterfully researched and should be, along with Rigg’s first book, Hitler’s Jewish Soldiers, a must read for everyone interested in World War II and the Holocaust. It is intended to shock and it is shocking.”—Steve Pieczenik, former Deputy Assistant Secretary of State and co-creator of the bestselling novels and TV series OP-Center and Net Force

BRYAN MARK RIGG is the author of Hitler’s Jewish Soldiers, which won the William E. Colby Award for Military History, was featured on NBC-TV’s Dateline, and has been translated into eleven languages. He is also the author of Rescued from the Reich: How One of Hitler’s Soldiers Saved the Lubavitcher Rebbe. He is the founder of RIGG Wealth Management.

 

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