On the murderous road to racial purity Hitler encountered unexpected detours, largely due to his own crazed views and inconsistent policies regarding Jewish identity. After centuries of Jewish assimilation and intermarriage in German society, eliminating Jews from the rest of the population proved more difficult than he'd anticipated. Nowhere was that process more contradictory and confused than in the German military. Bryan Rigg reveals that a startlingly large number of German military men were classified by the Nazis as Jews or partial-Jews (Mischlinge), in the wake of racial laws first enacted in the mid-1930s. He demonstrates that the actual number was much higher than previously thought - perhaps as many as 150,000 men, including decorated veterans and high-ranking officers, even generals and admirals. A great many of these men did t even consider themselves Jewish and had embraced the military as a way of life and as devoted patriots. In turn, they had been embraced by the Wehrmacht, which under Hitler was forced to look deeply into the racial ancestry of its soldiers. The process of investigation and removal, however, was marred by a highly inconsistent application of Nazi law that produced numerous exemption orders, many bearing Hitler's own signature. Inevitably, Nazi politics trumped military logic, making it virtually impossible for these soldiers to escape the fate of millions of other victims of the Third Reich. Rigg's groundbreaking study exposes from yet ather angle the extremely flawed, dishonest, demeaning, and tragic essence of Hitler's regime.
Bryan Mark Rigg, a Yale graduate, received his Ph.D. in history from Cambridge University. He is professor of history at American Military University and has served as a volunteer in the Israeli Army and an officer in the U.S. Marine Corps.