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Networks of Nazi Persecution

Networks of Nazi Persecution: Bureaucracy, Business and the Organization of the Holocaust

Gerald D. Feldman
Wolfgang Seibel
Copyright Date: 2005
Edition: 1
Published by: Berghahn Books
Pages: 392
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  • Book Info
    Networks of Nazi Persecution
    Book Description:

    The persecution and mass-murder of the Jews during World War II would not have been possible without the modern organization of division of labor. Moreover, the perpetrators were dependent on human and organizational resources they could not always control by hierarchy and coercion. Instead, the persecution of the Jews was based, to a large extent, on a web of inter-organizational relations encompassing a broad variety of non-hierarchical cooperation as well as rivalry and competition. Based on newly accessible government and corporate archives, this volume combines fresh evidence with an interpretation of the governance of persecution, presented by prominent historians and social scientists.

    eISBN: 978-0-85745-707-3
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. List of Figures
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. List of Abbreviations
    (pp. xi-xii)
  5. Introduction The Holocaust as Division-of-Labor-Based Crime—Evidence and Analytical Challenges
    (pp. 1-10)
    Gerald D. Feldman and Wolfgang Seibel

    Organized mass crime is unthinkable without division of labor. The Holocaust is no exception to this rule but, rather, its most horrifying manifestation. Evidence related to the role of government bureaucracy was, to be sure, already part of classic Holocaust research.¹ Meta-theories of the Holocaust have drawn on the nature and consequences of modern bureaucracy as a tool of persecution and mass murder, the most prominent being Hannah Arendt’s banalization theory.²

    Both the planning and the implementation of genocide were carried out in accordance with conventional division-of-labor principles. From 1939 on, the AmtIV, “Gegnererforschung und Bekämpfung” (Researching and Combating...

  6. Part I Rivalry and Competition

    • Chapter 1 Introduction: Rivalry and Competition
      (pp. 13-19)
      Christian Gerlach

      Research about National Socialism in the 1970s and early 1980s showed results on the structures of the regime that were surprising at the time. It turned out that instead of a monolithic bureaucratic machinery working from top to bottom there were several sources of political power. An increasing number of rival agencies, institutions and organizations had overlapping or unclearly defined responsibilities. According to the theory of polycracy, they competed for influence and more competence.¹ In the absence of clear legal and administrative norms, high-ranking Nazis struggled for Hitler’s favor, one trying to outdo the other in what they thought was...

    • Chapter 2 The SS Security Service and the Gestapo in the National Socialist Persecution of the Jews, 1933–1939
      (pp. 20-43)
      Wolfgang Dierker

      The SS and the police under the command of Heinrich Himmler were among the chief actors in National Socialist extermination policy. Historians of the Holocaust often tend to regard the two different parts of the SS and police apparatus, the Security Service of the Reichsführer-SS (Sicherheitsdienst—SD) and the Gestapo (Geheime Staatspolizei—Secret State Police), as a single unit.¹ This is entirely justified for the Second World War. The union of their central offices in the Reich Security Main Office (Reichssicherheitshauptamt—RSHA) on 27 September 1939 and their operations in the conquered areas of Europe led to a fusion of...

    • Chapter 3 “Aryanization” and the Role of the German Great Banks, 1933–1938
      (pp. 44-68)
      Dieter Ziegler

      When, at the end of World War II, the American occupying forces examined the role played by the great banks in National Socialism, they interpreted their participation in the spoliation of the German Jews and of the Jewish and Slav populations of the occupied territories as an unscrupulous exploitation of National Socialist (NS) expansionism for their own ends.¹ Apart from their attempts to play down the participation of the banks in the crimes of the NS regime, the representatives of the banks pointed out again and again in their defense that the legal situation and the terror of the National...

    • Chapter 4 The Looting of Jewish Property and Franco-German Rivalry, 1940–1944
      (pp. 69-87)
      Philippe Verheyde

      The exclusion of the Jews from French economic life was a complex phenomenon veiled by a façade of legal acts and administrative routines. Although the anti-Semitic concerns of the new government in Vichy corresponded closely to a long confirmed German will, the objectives and modalities were indeed very different. Keeping the Jews out of economic life did not pose a moral dilemma for the French, as long as the property remained French. But certain Germans tended to make the most of the “Aryanization” process in order to derive economic and financial benefits. The rivalries that can sometimes be found did...

    • Chapter 5 Seizure of Jewish Property and Inter-Agency Rivalry in the Reich and in the Occupied Soviet Territories
      (pp. 88-102)
      Martin C. Dean

      The thesis of “institutional Darwinism” or “polycracy,” which argues that Hitler encouraged rival agencies with unclear jurisdictional boundaries to compete for the implementation of key ideological tasks, has proved to be one of the most insightful interpretations of the Nazi regime.¹ Clearly it would be misleading to depict bureaucratic wrangling over jurisdiction as always leading to the swift implementation of the most extreme solution. Nevertheless, the active competition between agencies for control of both resources and policy on many occasions led to a progressive radicalization in pursuit of these goals. Wolfgang Seibel has recently identified examples of this type of...

    • Chapter 6 The Polycratic Nature of Art Looting: The Dynamic Balance of the Third Reich
      (pp. 103-117)
      Jonathan Petropoulos

      The National Socialist (NS) regime executed the most elaborate and prodigious art-looting program in history, outpacing even Napoleon.¹ Art looting was part of a much larger expropriation project that included residences and businesses, furniture and other cultural property, valuable metals and jewels, and of course, cash. While the seized art was sometimes precious and unique, the vast majority of works were not of museum quality, and shared much in common with the more anonymous assets noted above. Moreover, the way in which art was secured was representative of much that transpired during the Third Reich. Perhaps most fundamentally, art looting...

    • Chapter 7 The Holocaust and Corruption
      (pp. 118-138)
      Frank Bajohr

      Political corruption was one of the central structural problems of National Socialist (NS) rule.¹ The decisive factor underlying its pervasiveness was that in abolishing the separation of powers, National Socialism eliminated practically all the potential supervisory bodies. Consequently, after 1933, there was no critical, independent press in Germany. The dissolution of parliaments or their transformation into mere rubber-stamp organs destroyed the system of parliamentary control, which included budget-control rights and public debate on abuses or the possibility of critical questioning. Beyond this, the NS dictatorship politicized and controlled the judicial system and limited the competence of traditional institutions of control,...

  7. Part II “Smooth Cooperation”

    • Chapter 8 Introduction: Cooperation and Collaboration
      (pp. 141-147)
      Gerhard Hirschfeld and Wolfgang Seibel

      Division of labor in complex organizations appears in a horizontal and a vertical dimension. The vertical axis is organized along hierarchical lines while the horizontal axis is based on cooperation. This distinction remains blurry, however, as is obvious when subordinate individuals or units do not cooperate and enforcement of cooperation by hierarchal means is counterproductive. By the same token, cooperation is rarely non-hierarchical in the pure sense since working together may be stimulated by hidden hierarchies and competition for relative gains in terms of resources and power.

      The chapters in the present section are devoted to the very gray zone...

    • Chapter 9 The Looting of Jewish Property and the German Financial Administration
      (pp. 148-167)
      Alfons Kenkmann

      These are the words of the director of a regional tax office (Oberfinanzpräsident) addressing members of the “Aryan” ethnic community in March 1939. For the Third Reich and its administrative institutions—among them in a prominent position the fiscal authorities—were preparing an inferno for the Jews and “gypsies” (Sinti and Roma). This chapter focuses on how remarkably smoothly the cooperation among different agencies and officials functioned in plundering the Jews and how successfully and smoothly a division of labor was used in its implementation. The “efficiency” of the bureaucratic machinery is presented in structural terms, using the example of...

    • Chapter 10 Organized Looting: The Nazi Seizure of Jewish Property in the Netherlands, 1940–1945
      (pp. 168-188)
      Gerard Aalders

      During the Second World War, the Nazi occupiers in the Netherlands carried out a thorough and almost perfectly organized program in which 135,000 Dutch Jews were robbed of their possessions. The confiscation of Dutch Jewish property was carried out in an extremely systematic way. Expropriations were generally based on decrees (Verordnungen) which had the force of statute law, but in addition, the occupying forces sometimes made use of “measures,” “ordinances,” or “orders” issued by the Sicherheitsdienst (SD), the German security police. These were usually used to sanction the theft of everyday items, such as bicycles, radios and small household effects....

    • Chapter 11 Perpetrator Networks and the Holocaust: The Spoliation of Jewish Property in France, 1940–1944
      (pp. 189-212)
      Marc Olivier Baruch

      The memory of the evils of anti-Semitism strongly marked France in the mid-1990s. Public observance of 100th anniversary of Captain Dreyfus’ ordeal, culminated, by the end of the decade, in the centenary commemoration (1998) of the publication of Zola’sJ’accuse. The fate of the Jews living in France during World War II was, and still is, very much discussed and analyzed, so much so that some historians have come to see it as an obsession. The main shift in perceptions came from the state itself. On 22 July 1995, at the very place where Parisian Jews were detained in July...

    • Chapter 12 “Ethnic Resettlement” and Inter-Agency Cooperation in the Occupied Eastern Territories
      (pp. 213-235)
      Isabel Heinemann

      Freiherr Otto von Fircks, Christliche Democratische Union (CDU) member of the Bundestag and long-time manager of the Bund der Vertriebenen (Association of German Expellees) in Lower Saxony, had just been elected District Chairman of the CDU in Burgdorf near Hanover when, in June 1970, a leaflet appeared accusing him of participating “in Nazi crimes during the occupation of Poland.”¹ Furthermore, it maintained that as leader of a compulsory resettlement force (Aussiedlungsstab) in Litzmannstadt (Łódź) the Freiherr had participated in the expulsion of Polish farm owners from the Warthegau. The leaflet was written by a Burgdorf primary school teacher named Arthur...

    • Chapter 13 The “reibungslose” Holocaust? The German Military and Civilian Implementation of the “Final solution” in Ukraine, 1941–1944
      (pp. 236-256)
      Wendy Lower

      One of the recurring words Nazi bureaucrats in Ukraine used to describe the implementation of the “final solution” was “reibungslos” (smooth).¹ Often they referred specifically to the “smooth” relations between the Wehrmacht and SS-Police. On other occasions they boasted about their efficient step-by-step process of murder. To be sure, a peripheral official in Ukraine reporting to his superiors in Berlin might have been inclined to exaggerate how “free of friction” the administration of his tasks was. Indeed, recent “perpetrator” histories of the Holocaust stress the lack of conflict among regional officials vis-à-vis the “final solution.” Yet the tendency of these...

  8. Part III Decentral Initiative and Vertical Integration

    • Chapter 14 Introduction: A Bureaucratic Holocaust – Toward a New Consensus
      (pp. 259-268)
      Michael Thad Allen

      During the first third of the twentieth century, many became aware that a “new man” had begun to play a disproportionate role in shaping the twentieth century, one who was neither a bourgeois nor a worker. This was the mid-level manager, the white-collar worker, or the petty administrator (however we choose to label him). Siegfried Kracauer and Hans Speier were among the first to explore this new work culture. They were conscious that the growing complexity of industrial society had created new salaried employees, but that, however much these might influence the means of production directly, they did not own...

    • Chapter 15 Local Initiatives, Central Coordination: German Municipal Administration and the Holocaust
      (pp. 269-294)
      Wolf Gruner

      For many years the NSDAP and, more specifically, the Gestapo were regarded as the sole driving force behind the persecution of the Jews. From this perspective local politics played virtually no part at all, and if reference was made to the local level, historical research reduced its share either to acts of violence of the SS and SA or to the controlling influence of the party and the Gestapo over local measures.¹ Until the 1990s municipal administrations were hardly ever seen in an active role as the initiators of persecution, although it has long been possible to find references to...

    • Chapter 16 The Reichskristallnacht and the Insurance Industry: The Politics of Damage Control
      (pp. 295-318)
      Gerald D. Feldman

      The subject of this chapter is somewhat at odds with the basic theme of this book since it addresses the dilemmas of the German insurance business in trying to escape the costs of involvement in the expropriation of German insurance assets and its exploitation of the National Socialist regime’s division of labor and its polycratic organization to attain this goal of nonparticipation or limited participation. Let me make clear from the outset that this has nothing whatever to do with resistance to National Socialist measures against the Jews even if some of the actors from the insurance industry involved personally...

  9. Part IV “Structure,” “Agency,” and the Logic of Radicalization

    • Chapter 17 More than Just a Metaphor: The Network Concept and Its Potential in Holocaust Research
      (pp. 321-339)
      Jörg Raab

      What the contributions to the present volume reveal, in accordance with earlier findings,¹ is that the persecution and annihilation of European Jewry under Nazi rule was a division-of-labor-based crime in the sense that the core group of perpetrators, under tight control of central agencies, notably the Reichssicherheitshauptamt, relied on a highly differentiated structure of institutional and individual actors. While some of these structures had been deliberately created, others were integrated in the persecution machinery according to local circumstances and opportunities. The “society of organizations”² as such delivered large parts of the infrastructure of the Holocaust.³

      The present volume attempts to...

    • Chapter 18 Restraining or Radicalizing? Division of Labor and Persecution Effectiveness
      (pp. 340-360)
      Wolfgang Seibel

      Starting with Franz L. Neumann’s “Behemoth,”¹ the history of theoretical reasoning on Nazi Germany and division-of-labor-based mass crime is closely connected to characterizations of Nazi dictatorship as “polycratic” or even as “organized chaos.”² German occupation administration during World War II in particular is usually portrayed as an example of disorganized and ineffective governance.³ How can we explain, then, the building of an effective terror apparatus stretching all over German-controlled Europe? Obviously, the question is most challenging with respect to the persecution and annihilation of European Jewry.

      Issues of organization and intent in what then became Holocaust research have been discussed...

  10. Notes on Contributors
    (pp. 361-366)
  11. Index
    (pp. 367-376)