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Hitler's Death Squads


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About the Author

Helmut Langerbein is an assistant professor of history at the University of Texas at Brownsville.


"The grisly and appalling story of the Einsatzgruppen has attracted much scholarly attention, and Langerbein's work adds notably to our understanding of that story. He has tapped German court records that previous scholars have not, and he offers in many regards a more satisfactory overall explanation of the individual characters and motivations of the members of those murder squads. He impressively explores a multiplicity of motives, always cautious not to make more of the sometimes frustratingly incomplete evidence than it will bear. The motives he does discern are often subtly or impenetrably mixed. Principal among them were a hatred of Communism (and in areas formerly ruled by the Communists, a burning desire for revenge), Nazi training, extreme nationalism, respect for (and fear of) authority, careerism, competition between Nazi authorities, and plain depravity (although he emphasizes the "normality" of most of these men in the sense that they were sane, not psychopaths). The abundant evidence he has explored casts further doubt on the thesis that doctrinaire, extreme anti-Semitism, as a historically deep-rooted and peculiar German hatred, played a decisive role in these unspeakable murders. In this and in many other regards Langerbein offers his readers much new information-- and much to ponder."--Albert S. Lindemann, University of California at Santa Barbara

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