Ray's Reviews > Hitler's Jewish Soldiers: The Untold Story of Nazi Racial Laws and Men of Jewish Descent in the German Military

Hitler's Jewish Soldiers by Bryan Mark Rigg
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Jan 17, 08

Read in January, 2005

est thing I have read in awhile.

Author Bryan Mark Riggs was in his late twenties when he wrote this a couple of years ago. He is a (Reform?) Jew. At that point he had already earned a PhD at Cambridge, served as a volunteer in the Israeli Army and US Marines, and was teaching at SMU. This book grew out of his (undergraduate!) thesis at Yale. He found and interviewed a huge number of "Mischlinge" -- half or quarter-Jews who served in the Nazi military during WWII, sometimes with as high a rank as general.

Rigg improbably estimates there may have been as many as 150,000 such soldiers under Hitler.

Many of these men served to escape death. Some were just strong German nationalists.

The interesting part is that both Jewish halakah and Nazi law regarded many of these men as Jews, while most themselves did not! By Nazi law anyone who was 25% Jewish was a Jew whether or not he was baptized, a Nazi Party member, practiced another religion, etc. But those who had already shown loyalty to the German military often were given special exemptions if they continued to serve. Remarkably, most of those part-Jews were proud Germans, with roots in the nation hundreds of years back, who did not practice Judaism. Some were even somewhat anti-Semitic, looking down on the culturally, economically and educationally less advanced (and religiously more Orthodox) East European Jewish immigrants (Ostjuden) as inferior.

Sadly most fought bravely for the very government that was murdering their relatives, and would surely murder most of them when the war was over and they were no longer needed. (Some lost their exemptions even during the war).

The madness and the vicious absurdity of the Nazis is portrayed very skillfully by Rigg.

Rigg goes on longer than he needs to. But the topic is so engrossing, the mini-biographies so complex and full of contradictions, and the writing style so clear and enthusiastic that I am wanting more. I will read everything he writes in the future.

The next book Rigg wrote last year, BTW, I just started -- its about how the Lubivitcher Rebbe was rescued from Warsaw during Nazi occupation and smuggled out of the country by cooperation between American spies and a part-Jewish Nazi intelligence agent! That book is the most unbelievable story I have ever read. (A Past in Hiiding by Mark Roseman being a close second).

Any WWII buff MUST read both of these.
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