Ellis Washington
Hitler's willing executioners...then and now
By Ellis Washington
October 22, 2015

"I think the likelihood of Hitler being able to accomplish his goals would have been greatly diminished if the people had been armed. I'm telling you there is a reason these dictatorial people take guns first."

~ Dr. Ben Carson

"They were [ordinary] Germans acting in the name of Germany and its highly popular leader, Adolf Hitler."

~ Dr. Daniel Jonah Goldhagen, p. 6

Prologue: "The Jews are our misfortune" (circa 1879)

The major thesis of Dr. Daniel Jonah Goldhagen's classic Nazi history book, Hitler's Willing Executioners: Ordinary Germans and the Holocaust, (Alfred A. Knopf, 1996), is that the perpetrators of genocide in Nazi Germany were not an obscure, fringe group of Schutzstaffel (SS) fanatics, but hundreds of thousands, even millions of people who Goldhagen ubiquitously calls "ordinary Germans" who murdered with impunity, murdered for the duty and glory of the Reich, even murdered millions for the entertainment value; who willingly killed with the Sieg Heil! consent of millions more of otherwise normal German citizens, besides teachers, doctors, lawyers, professors, were people like housewives, factory workers, nurses, shopkeepers, stone masons, janitors... ordinary Germans.

Remember also that the Jews were a very small minority in Nazi Germany amounting to about 0.75% of the total German population of about 67 million in 1933. Also note that the overwhelming majority of German citizens weren't card-carrying Nazis, for the Nazi numbers always remained a small minority of the total German population throughout the Nazi Era (7% by 1940, 10% by 1945), nevertheless the paradox of Tyranny of the Minority compelled the majority of ordinary German people to willingly commit genocide against the Jews – a defenseless, innocent minority group.

Nevertheless, these societal grotesqueries aren't unique. This leitmotiv is existential and is repeated throughout history, even here in America in modern times. Thus, the legal, moral, constitutional, philosophical, sociological, psychological comparisons of Nazi National Socialism to Obama Democrat Socialism today can no longer be ignored. I will note some of these obvious comparisons later in this review essay.

So important is Goldhagen's book, I believe, that if America was a sane society, or stated another way, was not a collectively insane society mired in the psychopathy of Mass Delusion, that Goldhagen's book, Hitler's Willing Executioners, would be mandatory reading on every reading list at every public, private high school, college, and at every graduate school in America. However, the paradox is that few schools in America today continue to have a required summer reading list of the literary and historical classics outside of their normal curriculum; a state of affairs which in and of itself is a cautionary tale of a Post-modern Tragedy.

Why? Because since the advent of Darwin's Evolution Atheism of 1860s with the concurrent Progressive Revolution, academics like Italy's Antonio Gramsci (1891-1937) who institutionalized communism in the Academy, John Dewey (1859-1952) and the National Education Association (est. 1857), who did the same in America, have zealously pushed the Big Lie that the central purpose of education in modern times is not to "educate" the individual, but to make, or using a Nazi policy Glieshaltung (to force) using teachers as active agents of Socialist change whereby teachers as agents of the State force students to adopt a Socialist Weltanschauung (worldview) subverting the individual and God under the humanist paradigm – Man is the center of all things. That's what the Common Core Curriculum is all about in modern times.

Harvard University History Professor Stanley Hoffmann, got to the crux of Goldhagen's central arguments which established "...a profound understanding of modern German history, and a fiery blend of moral passion and rigorous analysis lead to a starkly original demonstration of the pervasiveness of antisemitism in German society before and under Hitler, of the way in which strong prejudices can push ordinary citizens into undertaking gruesome policies of extermination, and of the importance of political culture in shaping a society's behavior." This revelatory quote by Professor Hoffmann is saying many things about Goldhagen's work – One significant point is that he didn't merely duplicate the same historical "guilt-innocent," "good-evil," meme the majority of Holocaust scholarship has engaged in over the past 80 years, on the contrary, Goldhagen's historical analysis is fresh, strong, unconventional, and probing into the deep, dark psychological depths behind how easy it was for the Nazis to inspire mass genocide from the German people – the most educated and cosmopolitan society in history at that time.

"These views of Jews – summarized by the most frequently intoned antisemitic phrase during the Nazi period, "The Jews are our misfortune" – were the common sense of the society," Goldhagen wrote in a Symposium speech in 1996. "It was mother's milk. Melita Maschmann, a former member of the girls' division of the Hitler youth, conveyed this in a post-war confessional memoir." She wrote, "Those Jews were and remained something mysteriously menacing and anonymous. They were not the sum of all Jewish individuals...they were an evil power, something with the attributes of a spook. One could not see it, but it was there, an active force for evil."

A Nazi rally in Munich in 1933. The phrase, "Die Juden sind unser Unglück!" ("The Jews are our misfortune!") was coined by Heinrich von Treitschke in 1879 in the Preussische Jahrbücher (during the reign of Otto von Bismarck). The same slogan also appeared at the bottom of the front page of each issue of the Nazi weekly newspaper, Der Stürmer, by the vile editor propagandist Julius Streicher.

Goldhagen proves Consensus Holocaust Scholarship as Myopic, Self-righteous

In his book review of Goldhagen's work, Rabbi Mark G. Loeb of Beth El Congregation, admits that the author "does make a contribution by virtue of focusing on the frightening enigma of how decent people who loved their families and who went to church could turn into monsters who acted with barbarism and without shame or embarrassment. Facing up to this history is a sacred challenge for all religious people to confront." He focuses on the historical antisemitism that festered and grew unabated throughout Germany for centuries writing:
    Goldhagen insists that the ultimate explanation for this unexplainable bestiality is the unique brand of anti-Semitism that evolved in Germany through the centuries, which he calls "eliminationist" and which became "exterminationist" under Hitler. It was the power of this evil virus that enabled ordinary Germans to become extraordinary, unhesitating butchers of Jews. The teaching of anti-Semitism in Germany had a historic popular appeal and was able in Nazi Germany to transform traditional disdain for Jews into a lethal ideology.
To the ubiquitous question of the twentieth century posed on the book jacked by Benjamin Ferencz, Chief Prosecutor, Einsatzgruppen Case, Nuremberg War Crimes Trials: How a civilized country like Germany, and its ordinary citizens, became accomplices and perpetrators of the most calculated and devastating genocide in human history? Goldhagen answers with an essentially banal response reminiscent of Hannah Arendt's 1963 classic book, The Banality of Evil – "Because the Germans wanted to."

In Daniel Jonah Goldhagen's book, Hitler's Willing Executioners, the author endeavors not only to explain what could have inspired the German people to participate in the murder of six million European Jews, but to achieve what most conventional books by Holocaust scholars are loathed to achieve or to address – namely to offer a trenchant psychological, psychoanalytic reasons for German Mass Delusion and Mass Psychopathy. Goldhagen's book better than virtually any other book on the Holocaust or the Nazi Era I've ever read, exposes the perversities of the human condition, the grotesqueries of human nature. These questions had much greater interest to me as a historian because it raised questions on how not to repeat this same evil history in a future time... lessons we have not learned. Goldhagen's dominant thesis here is that the perpetrators of genocide in Nazi Germany could only exist where antisemitism was a deeply engrained and accepted part of that society's history, culture, and politics for many centuries.

The Case of Police Battalion 101

Much of Goldhagen's opus centers around the case of Police Battalion 101. The privations and necessities of World War II (1939-1945) caused severe manpower shortages for local and domestic purposes, thus the local police battalions had to fill their ranks with common German civilians who were recruited as opposed to the zealots of the Wehrmacht, SS, Gestapo, Reichwehr, Hitler Youth, and other elitist Nazi war entities Hitler sent to their doom by the millions at the Russian front, Kursk, Stalingrad, and Normandy. Goldhagen writes in scholarly but grisly detail regarding the genocidal narrative of these ordinary German men, which frequently targeted children and the elderly, since they could not work in the camps. Far from being forced into their evil deeds, the Police Battalion 101 murderers, however, were volunteers, as discovered in subsequent testimony at the Nuremberg Trials (1945-49). For example, out of 550 men, only twelve (or 2%) dropped out of the program even though they suffered no reprisals by the Nazis for being unwilling to kill Jews.

A primary criticism by many consensus Holocaust historians of Goldhagen's findings is the fact that the Police Battalion 101 and other ordinary German institutions engaged in such grotesque cruelty on such a vast level on a voluntary basis, thus in part affirming Hannah Arendt's 1963 "banality of evil" thesis. For example, Goldhagen cites five consensus justifications for the Crimes against Humanity which he then goes into great detail to disprove. First, the theory that the perpetrators were forced by authorities, is refuted by extensive defense testimony from the Nuremberg Trials. Furthermore, not one member of Police Battalion 101 was ever sent to a concentration camp or killed for failure to kill the Jews. They all did it willingly, most did it zealously.

Martin Luther King's famous aphorism, "Never forget that everything that Hitler did in Germany was legal," belies Goldhagen's second theory and gives ample credence to existing psychology studies and experiments – that people in general, or Germans in particular, will instinctively obey orders that come from a source accepted to be legitimate (e.g., from Der Führer or the Nazi State). This is refuted by an extraordinary action taken by a Police Battalion 101 commander who when required that he and his men sign a declaration compelling them not to steal, replied to his supervisors. Why? Despite the fact that he and his a Police Battalion 101 had at present murdered hundreds of thousands of Jews, yet he believed that his honor was challenged and refused to follow this order he understood as immoral. I call this example the Paradox of Perversity.

Goldhagen's third justification for Jewish genocide by a Police Battalion 101 is "peer pressure," which could not be achieved unless the overwhelming majority of Germans actively participated in, or sympathized with the Nazi Weltanschauung (Nazi worldview) by giving support to creating the Holocaust and the mass genocide against millions of Jews. The final two justifications of genocide by a Police Battalion 101 are careerism, which did not apply to these working-class soldiers, and apathy or ignorance regarding the true meaning of Hitler's Final Solution, which given the involvement and complicity of Police Battalion 101 including their mass murders of hundreds of thousands of Jews, cannot be rationally believed on any level.

In 1996 the same year Goldhagen's book was published the author wrote a detailed paper, Presentation on Hitler's Willing Executions, as part of a larger Symposium he participated in titled, The "Willing Executioners"/"Ordinary Men" Debate" with Christopher R. Browning , Leon Wieseltier and Introduction by Michael Berenbaum. Here are his principle arguments all which disprove popular, consensus historiography and thus arrives at the real psychological factors behind the popular and ubiquitous antisemitism in Germany by millions of ordinary German citizens:
    a) From the beginning of the nineteenth century, antisemitism was ubiquitous in Germany. It was its "common sense." b) The preoccupation with Jews had an obsessive quality. c) Jews came to be identified with and symbolic of anything and everything that was deemed awry in German society. d) The central image of the Jews held them to be malevolent and powerful – a principal, if not the principal source of the ills that beset Germany, and therefore dangerous to the welfare of Germans. This was different from the medieval Christian view, which deemed the Jews to be evil and the source of great harm, but in which the Jews always remained somewhat peripheral. Modern German antisemites, unlike their medieval forebears – for whom the devil was the principal source of evil – could say that there would be no peace on earth until the Jews were destroyed.
In this Symposium paper Goldhagen presents his own explanation that the Nazis genocide in German history was neither original, nor unusual. Furthermore, that an "eliminationist antisemitism" had been present in Germany since the Crusades (1096-1291 A.D.). He argues that antisemitism was not being recurrently repudiated and readopted, but it, historically throughout the ages, remained dormant, hidden, nevertheless was existentially present in German society. Goldhagen emphasizes the differences between the prevailing dogmas in Germany about the numerous oppressed minority groups; the Jews were believed to be willfully malevolent and hellbent on deconstructing Germany's traditions and institutions, while the Slavs were thought to be just an inferior people.

Goldhagen's Eliminationist Antisemitism theory describes the varying divergence in monthly death statistics between various work camps groups (e.g. 100% for Jews and 4% for Poles) and is the only persuasive account that constructs a reasonable motivation for the perpetrators' evil deeds against the Jews. In total, Hitler's Willing Executioners offers intelligible, revelatory arguments that ordinary Germans, inspired by an eliminationist antisemitism, knowingly, willingly, and enthusiastically were aiders and abettors in the Holocaust and the Final Solution against millions of Jews.

Epilogue: Hitler Copied American Slavery and Jim Crow Policies in Nazi Germany

It is no historical accident or political coincidence that tyrannical societies through the ages always disarm minority groups they intended to enslave, brutalize, disenfranchise, or otherwise commit genocide against. This obvious historical fact was recently chronicled by retired brain surgeon and Republican presidential candidate Dr. Ben Carson who recounted this history in his new book, A Perfect Union, contending, "Through a combination of removing guns and disseminating propaganda, the Nazis were able to carry out their evil intentions with relatively little resistance." He defended that argument on national television, explaining, "I think the likelihood of Hitler being able to accomplish his goals would have been greatly diminished if the people had been armed. I'm telling you there is a reason these dictatorial people take guns first."

Of course the historical record is replete with thousands of examples of racist White slavemasters and their willing accomplices in Congress, the Courts, and "ordinary Americans" in society at large dutifully keeping guns out of the hands of Black slaves because they assumed that armed slaves would seek revenge against the majority White Christian culture that enslaved, raped, disenfranchised, and abused them for centuries. I will not argue the legitimacy of that slave supposition in this monograph.

On pages 168-69, Goldhagen compares the condition of Jews in the Third Reich with that of American slaves and uses some of the research by the great social scientist Orlando Patterson. "Social death is a formal status. According to Orlando Patterson, it is the violent domination of natally alienated and generally dishonored people," Goldhagen writes. "It is at once a culturally shared conception of the socially dead people and a set of at once a culturally shared conception of the socially dead people and a set of practices towards them. The two are intertwined and mutually dependent." Goldhagen continues:
    The most well-known category of people who have been socially dead, for whom the term was coined, are slaves, though the universe of the social dead has been inhabited by people other than slaves... Slaves are socially dead people who, in most slave societies, are conceived of as human and who have utilitarian value, indeed great utilitarian value. In Germany during the Nazi period, Jews were socially dead people – they were violently dominated, natally alienated, and deemed incapable of bearing honor – who were not thought to be a part of the human race, and who were seen to have virtually no utilitarian value.
This is exactly my contention when I stated repeatedly in my ongoing essay series on Nazi Socialism vs. Wilson-FDR-LBJ-Obama Socialism, namely that the evil actions by Hitler and the Nazis weren't that original particularly in their galling grotesqueries against the Jews and other "undesirables" or Untermensch (subhumans). However, the Nazis were dutiful students of history who learned from their own German leaders of the past like nineteenth century proto-fascist Otto von Bismarck, Chancellor of Germany (1871-90), a hero and model to Hitler and the Nazis. Von Bismarck was a vile, racist demagogue who believed in the primacy of the State above all else and made his Germany the first country to institute the Welfare State in Europe (predating FDR by 60 years!) Also, Von Bismarck's venal anti-Semitic and anti-Catholic policies effectively removed religion from the public marketplace of ideas, and established an evolution atheism based on Darwin's pseudo-scientific screeds, thus paving the way for Hitler's anti-Christian Holocaust 60 years later in the 1930s and 40s.

Let us also not forget what Hitler and the Nazis learned from their predecessor government, the Weimar Republic (1919-1933) who instituted in Germany policies like racialist eugenics, euthanasia, anti-gun legislation, and hundreds of discriminatory laws against the Jews, Gypsies, Poles, the handicapped, the mentally deficient, etc. all before the Nazi Era! What Hitler and the Nazis did better than any government (with the exception of the institutional racism of America against Black people dating back to the 1600s), was to synthesize and institutionalize this existential hatred of "Others" in a much more efficient, comprehensive and, genocidal manner as public policy and Nazi law. Goldhagen's book brilliantly and in great detail chronicles that history.

Thus, the Nazis viewed the Jews as "socially dead" because they learned how in America for 400 years viewed Black people as socially dead who even after they "freed" them from slavery and Jim Crow discrimination were existentially enslaved by a simple, but iconic handshake of President Lyndon Baines Johnson with the Black Civil Rights messiah, Dr. Martin Luther King. Therefore, Goldhagen's thesis that the "Ordinary Germans" in the Nazi Era were "Hitler's willing executioners" is repeated in modern times by Black America who voted 96% and 93% respectively for a Black President utterly devoted to the genocide of his own people via abortion of 22-25 millions of black babies; devoted to never allowing education vouchers for poor Black students in Washington, D.C. desperately trying to escape the hellish public school system in order to get a good education in charter schools; devoted to maintaining Black ghetto life in every big and medium-sized city in America, devoted to mass Black unemployment worse than during the Jim Crow Era, devoted to mass incarceration of the Black man for profit approaching the tens of millions since that iconic, yet tragic LBJ-MLK handshake in 1964.

Goldhagen wrote, "They were [ordinary] Germans acting in the name of Germany and its highly popular leader, Adolf Hitler." This is why I've entitled this monograph: Hitler's Willing Executioners... then and now.

I date this tragic and paradoxical handshake between LBJ and MLK celebrating the signing of the 1964 Civil Rights Act as the start of Black genocide by Holocaust Democrats in modern times. The Supreme Court case, Roe v. Wade would legalize this Black genocide in just 9 years. *N.B.: MLK won the Margaret Sanger Award in 1966!

Before that handshake above, LBJ predicted that the political benefits would be reaped by the Democrat Socialist Party for hundreds of years. Was LBJ correct in his assessment of how easy it would be to pervert and manipulate human nature to inspire millions of ordinary Americans (Blacks and Whites) to willingly commit genocide against itself? The answer is obviously and tragically, YES!

Book Notice

Please purchase my latest opus dedicated to that Conservative Colossus, Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas. Here are the latest two new volumes from my ongoing historical series – THE PROGRESSIVE REVOLUTION: History of Liberal Fascism through the Ages (University Press of America, 2015):
However, before the book is officially released to the public, I have to place 100 pre-publication orders (50 orders per each volume). I need your help to make this happen ASAP. Please place your order today for Volume 3 & Volume 4. Of course, if you can order all 100 copies today, the book will become official tomorrow.

Please circulate this flyer to all your email contacts & Facebook/Twitter followers who may be interested in purchasing this opus which will serve as a ready apologetic against the rampant Marxist-Progressive propaganda taught in America's public schools, colleges, universities, graduate schools, and law schools. Thanks in advance to all my friends, associates and colleagues for your invaluable support! Law and History Blog: www.EllisWashingtonReport.com

Invitation for manuscripts

I am starting a new a program on my blog dedicated to giving young conservatives (ages 14-35) a regular place to display and publish their ideas called Socrates Corner. If you know of any young person who wants to publish their ideas on any subject, have them send their essay manuscripts to my email at ewashington@wnd.com.

© Ellis Washington


The views expressed by RenewAmerica columnists are their own and do not necessarily reflect the position of RenewAmerica or its affiliates.
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Ellis Washington

Ellis Washington is a former staff editor of the Michigan Law Review (1989) and law clerk at the Rutherford Institute (1992). Currently he is an adjunct professor of law at the National Paralegal College and the graduate school, National Jurisprudence University, where he teaches Constitutional Law, Legal Ethics, American History, Administrative Law, Criminal Procedure, Contracts, Real Property, and Advanced Legal Writing, among many other subjects... (more)


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