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Combat and Genocide on the Eastern Front
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By 1944, the overwhelming majority of the German Army had participated in the German war of annihilation in the Soviet Union and historians continue to debate the motivations behind the violence unleashed in the east. Jeff Rutherford offers an important new contribution to this debate through a study of combat and the occupation policies of three frontline infantry divisions. He shows that while Nazi racial ideology provided a legitimizing context in which violence was not only accepted but encouraged, it was the Wehrmacht's adherence to a doctrine of military necessity which is critical in explaining why German soldiers fought as they did. This meant that the German Army would do whatever was necessary to emerge victorious on the battlefield. Periods of brutality were intermixed with conciliation as the army's view and treatment of the civilian population evolved based on its appreciation of the larger context of war in the east.
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Table of Contents

Introduction: the German infantry's war; 1. The Wehrmacht and German society; 2. Preparations for war; 3. 'Attack with a ruthless offensive spirit and ... a firestorm of destruction': the opening phase of Operation Barbarossa; 4: 'Will the continuation of this attack be worth it?' The drive on Leningrad; 5: 'It is only a question of where, not if, civilians will starve': the 121st Infantry Division and the occupation of Pavlovsk; 6. The failure of Operation Barbarossa: the fusion of ideology and military culture; 7. The Soviet winter offensive 1942: Demiansk and the Volkhov River; 8. 'The population ... shouted out to the interpreter that one would rather be shot instead of being left to starve': the evolution of military necessity; 9. 'From one mess to another': war of attrition in Northwest Russia; 10: 'We need to fight to the end, so oder so': combat and the reconstruction of Army Group North; 11. A more rational occupation? The contradictions of military necessity; 12. 'As miserable representatives of the miserable twentieth century, we burned all of the villages': the scorched earth retreat to the Panther Line; Conclusion. The primacy of military necessity.

About the Author

Jeff Rutherford is Assistant Professor of History at Wheeling Jesuit University.

Reviews

'There can be no doubt that Rutherford's concept of 'military necessity' is a great stride forward in our knowledge of the Wehrmacht's Modus operandi in the east. Combat and Genocide on the Eastern Front is one of the most important books on the Wehrmacht to appear in the last twenty years and a must read for both the German military campaign as well as its war of annihilation.' David Stahel, author of Nazi Policy on the Eastern Front, 1941 (2012)

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