Christopher Hale, author of Himmler’s Crusade (2003), and a television documentary-maker, advances our knowledge of the non-German perpetrators of genocide who aided the Nazis during the Holocaust. Now, in his prodigiously researched book, Hale challenges Goldhagen’s argument by raising the question of how Germany’s exterminatory anti-Semitism accounts for the mass killing of Jews by the nationals of Croatia, Romania, the Baltic states, Belorussia, and the Ukraine, let alone Hitler’s willing executioners in Belgium, France, the Netherlands, and Bosnian Muslim contingents in the Waffen SS. Hitler’s Foreign Executioners describes the collaboration of local non-German militias throughout Europe in the brutal massacres of Jews, as well as in the deportation of Jews to the death camps. The author concludes that these non-German men and women were also Hitler’s willing executioners.
Once the Nazis invaded the Soviet Union in June 1941, the enemy was not viewed as a hostile armed force but as upholders of the Russian-Bolshevik-Jewish system, and Jews were the enemy simply because they were Jews; their murder was justified because their existence threatened the well-being of the Reich. This type of rationalization also characterized the Romanian massacre of Jews but for a different reason; they perceived Jews as threatening a Romania for Romanians. The same held for many Russians, Croatians, Lithuanians, Latvians, Estonians, and most brutally among Ukrainians. Hale notes that the foreign volunteers who joined the various agencies of the Reich clearly understood the “ethics” of the German war — Jewish women and children were not viewed as “collateral damage “in the war against “Jewish-Bolshevism,” but were deliberate targets for annihilation.
Hale, who researched archives throughout Europe and used first-hand testimony, estimates that nearly half a million Europeans and more than a million Soviet citizens enlisted in the armed forces of the Third Reich to fight a deadly crusade against a mythic Jewish-Bolshevism. Although Hitler fought his war to create an Aryan empire in the East, this objective was not shared by the non-Aryan contingents who fought the war against the Soviet Union. What they did have in common with Nazi Germany was their hatred of the Jews, thus making them both Hitler’s accomplices and his willing executioners.