German Soldiers in WWII

Friday, October 12, 2012

Sönke Neitzel, Professor of International History, London School of Economics, discusses his investigations into the mind-set of the German fighting man during World War II. Soldaten: On Fighting, Killing, and Dying, written with social psychologist Harald Welzer, is based on declassified transcripts of covert recordings taken within the confines of the holding cells, bedrooms, and camps that housed the German POWs, providing a view of the mentality of the soldiers in the Wehrmacht, the Luftwaffe, the German navy.


Sönke Neitzel

Comments [16]


You are entirely incorrect when it comes to reprising my comment, which was about how nations treated Jews, not absolute numbers. And I was dealing with the modern era, not the late middle ages(!) I didn't think it relevant to consider England's 400-year expulsion, for example.

Modern day Poland's infinitesimally short period as an independent country after WWI was still anti-semitic, and getting worse as the world marched toward WWII. I wouldn't exactly call it "freedom" for the Jews, though as you point out, the area was, as it had been for a millennia, the center of Jewry, and inhabited by far more Jews than Germany or anywhere else. But Germany post-Bismark was economically and politically much more beneficial.

I'd be remiss if I didn't mention in this context that the Poles were far, far more sympathetic than other nationals to the plight of the Jews during WWII, and were famous for putting their lives at risk to rescue and hide Jews from the Nazis. Good job!

Oct. 15 2012 01:51 AM
Jessie from NJ


You are entirely incorrect. More Jews lived in Poland than anywhere else in Europe (and I think the entire world) before the start of the War. Jews had lived in Poland for many centuries when other countries in Europe expelled them and had freedom ther. When writing of Poland before World War I when the country was partitioned by Austria, Germany, and Russia, one must always refer to the partioning power, not Poland.

Oct. 13 2012 02:46 PM
Mike 71 from Planet Earth, Milky Way Galaxy

This illustrates the reality that war crimes result from boot camp indoctrination that the enemy are less than human. Dehumanization is referring to foreign nationals/races as "Japs, "Nips," Gooks,""Hajjis," "Ragheads," "Towelheads," and other derogatory terms. If they are less than human, they are easier to kill, their corpses are easier to mutilate and desecrate, their women and children easier to rape and kill. It also shows that most were aware of atrocities, even though they did not all support, or participate in them.

The British also treated their P,O,W.'s well, and unlike the Americans, did not torture them, which made extraction of intelligence easier during interrogations. Since World War II, standards of conduct were established under the 1949 Geneva Conventions, which are largely adhered by national governments, but not guerrilla, or terrorist organizations. The most important of these is the "discrimination principle," requiring the discrimination between combatants and non-combatants. The deliberate targeting of non-combatants, as in Syria, is a war crime.

Oct. 13 2012 12:20 PM
kevin from upper LS

it's all about which ox is being gored at the end of the day. "it's okay, just leave MY tribe alone". how perverse.

Oct. 12 2012 05:50 PM
kevin from upper LS

we're a garbage species

Oct. 12 2012 05:33 PM
LO from NYC

@ John A. Thanks for the heads up ! I have to laugh and expect anyone that is not going along like a drown to react, cause that person gets threatened because in their gut they know something is wrong. Well my friend, President Clinton is a Vegan now, since his health issue, and He gave the best dynamite speech ever, as an example!Also, my friend and her child are Healthy Strong Vegans, she has a PHD and her son is above average grades... and What logic...? Are these pleople torture ? or are they saying NO to torture--is more like it!I mean have you seen what goes on on cattle farmed CAFOS's? Consuming tortured animals into your body is causing cancer's and is spiritual harming in my opinion and common sense .Instead of taking yourself to MacDonalds why not see this video. You can choose to kill or not~ COMPASSION in the common thread.

Oct. 12 2012 03:44 PM


Comparing German treatment of Jews during the Holocaust to Israel's treatment of Palestinians is as antisemitic as it gets. There is no comparison...

Oct. 12 2012 03:22 PM

jgarbuz - and maybe the USA should also have been turned into a cow pasture after we wiped out native populations. Look what Israel is doing to the Palestinians. Look what what our slave-holders did. Kill all the Cambodians because of Pol Pot? How about the Chinese Cultural Revolution and so many more episodes in human history. Nobody gets a pass, it's apparently part of the human condition that we all have dark sides, and not everyone indulges them.

Oct. 12 2012 01:08 PM
John A.

Linda, and someone just yesterday IIRC on these pages equated raising a child vegan to being child abuse.

Oct. 12 2012 01:07 PM

The anti-german sentiments expressed here are both historically ignorant and humanistically naive.

There were so many Jews in Germany by the 30s because it was the least anti-semitic country in Europe. Jews were dying in pogroms in Russia and Poland. And they didn't fare much better in France, home of the Dreyfuss Affair. Germany was, comparatively, a haven.

That's a part of why it was so difficult to accept rumors of what was going on in the concentration camps.

"What?? No, it can't be! The Russians, sure, the Poles, absolutely. But not the Germans. Surely, not the civilized Germans!?"

But these messages' smug superiority is ugly and naive.

You think it can't happen here?? Ha. You're only fooling yourselves.

Oct. 12 2012 01:03 PM
jgarbuz from Queens

Too bad the atomic bomb was developed too late to use on Germany.

Oct. 12 2012 12:59 PM
Linda O from NYC , downtown

Well ,Most Humans are in denial at all times with all things.
Example the bigger picture is not a segment of war and what and who does what .
Look at the Whole Society as we have companion animals , like dogs and cats , yet other passive animals like cows and lambs that are sweet and kind and we love taking our kids to the zoo to see them . Them we Murder them and put them on our children's plate to eat !
This is an old story . People can look at their own denial , just the war stories.
Pain is Pain , denial is denial ....
thanks for reading ,

Oct. 12 2012 12:56 PM
Wayne Johnson Ph.D. from Bk

Does he have any conclusion about human nature from his book?

Oct. 12 2012 12:51 PM
jgarbuz from Queens

Germany should have been turned into cow pasture after WWII. Instead, we spent hundreds of billions defending them against the Russians.

Oct. 12 2012 12:50 PM

The book seems to confirm stories my parents told me about their interaction with German soldiers.

Oct. 12 2012 12:47 PM

Read Anne Frank's diary. October 9, 1942 entry mentions British radio saying that Jews were gassed.

The whole idea that nobody knew about it at that time is total b/s.

Oct. 12 2012 12:43 PM

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