UC Santa Barbara > History Department > Prof. Marcuse > Courses > Hist 133b Homepage > Files > WW2,& Genocide & Perpetrators, 1939-1943

UCSB Hist 133 B, Winter 2007 (homepage)
German History, 1900-1945

Prof. Marcuse (homepage)

War, Genocide & Human Behavior
(pdf print version-1 page)

Timeline (Genocide events are indented) (back to top)

  • 1939, Sept: invasion of Poland
    • Sept: first ghettos created
  • 1940, Spring: Denmark, Norway, Holland; Belgium, France ("Vichy" gov't; Madagascar Plan)
  • 1940, Aug.-1941, Feb: "Blitz" on London
    • Nov: Warsaw ghetto sealed; 50-400/day die of disease and starvation
  • 1941, by April: Greece, Yugoslavia conquered; Hungary, Romania, Bulgaria allied
  • 1941, June 22: "Operation Barbarossa:" Kiev, Leningrad, Moscow
    • July: first mass shootings near Riga (Latvia, north of Poland)
    • Sept. 29-30: Babi Yar massacre near Kiev, 33,771 Jews murdered in 2 days
    • Oct: first gassings in sealed trucks at Chelmno/Kulmhof near Lodz
  • 1941, Nov: Russian winter begins, Germans retreat
  • 1941, Dec. 11: Hitler declares war on US
    • 1942, Jan. 20: Heydrich's conference at the Wannsee villa in Berlin (Göring on July 31, 1941)
  • 1942, Spring-Summer: German advances on all fronts, but no decisive victory;
    • July 22-Sept.21: deportation of 300,000 from Warsaw ghetto to Treblinka (6000/day)
  • 1942, Nov: Allies land in north Africa (7th); Soviet counteroffensive at Stalingrad (19th)
  • 1943, Jan. 31/Feb. 2: German General Paulus surrenders at Stalingrad
    • Apr 19-23 - May 16: Warsaw ghetto uprising
    • Aug 2: Treblinka uprising
    • Oct 14: Sobibor uprising

Mentalities of the Murderers (back to top)

  • Types of perpetrators
    • hands-on: shooters at executions, police in ghettos, doctors administering injections
      slightly more removed: loading trains, guards in camps, dumping cyclon B (?)
    • mid-level: officers in the field, doctors evaluating index cards (Kommandant Höss in Auschwitz; Major Trapp)
    • professional: engineers, architects, intellectuals (bureaucratic "desk" murderers)
    • administrative/organizational: policy-makers, factory CEOs
  • Different motivations for genocide
    • ideology/prejudice: antisemitism; social Darwinism; master race
    • dehumanized victims: ghettoization, excruciating train journeys
    • opportunism/careerism: a question of values
    • situational/peer pressure: group spirit, camaraderie
    • "ethical universe:" the moral blindness of leadership (Himmler, "Papa" Trapp)
    • professional, scientific attitude (cold cult of professionalism): medical "experimenters"
    • obedience to authority: (Auschwitz Kommandant Höss, Milgram experiments)

Taxonomy of Behaviors from Active Perpetrator to Passive Victim (back to top)

The vertical axis is less-to-more agency (individual); the horizontal axis is more-to-less power (structural).

(on the "dishing out" side)

intermediate groups (element of choice)
Hungarians, Lithuanians, …
organized beliefs:
Comm., Jeh. Witn.;
prostitutes, homosexuals, …

Jews, gypsies
(on the "receiving" end)

active perpetrators: develop initiative to realize goals of system

resistor: actively works to destroy system
role of moral principle
(conscious risk and choice)

resistor: works to destroy system
(also a survival strategy)

accepts and carries out dictates of others

altruist: takes risk to thwart system goals; ameliorates consequences

survivor: attempts to shape own fate, works to thwart aspects of system

passive: "neutral" bystander, "doesn't know"


victim: accepts own fate, does not take action

Some Concepts (back to top)

  • "preemptive obedience"
  • "working towards the Führer"
  • "complicity creates responsibility"

handout prepared for web by H. Marcuse on Feb. 21, 2007, updated: /07
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