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The Origins of the Final Solution The Evolution of Nazi Jewish Policy, September 1939–March 1942

By Christopher R. Browning With contributions by Jürgen Matthäus 2004


List of Illustrations ix
Preface xi
1 Background 1
In a brief two years between the autumn of 1939 and the autumn of
1941, Nazi Jewish policy escalated rapidly from the prewar policy of forced
emigration to the Final Solution as it is now understood—the systematic attempt
to murder every last Jew within the German grasp. The mass murder of
Soviet Jewry had already begun in the late summer of 1941, and only one-half
year later the Nazi regime was ready to begin implementing this policy throughout
the rest of its European empire and sphere of influence. The study of these
30 months—from September 1939 through March 1942—is crucial for understanding
the genesis of the Final Solution and constitutes the core of this book.
At this time the Nazi regime stood on the brink of a true watershed event in
history. But why, after two millennia of Christian-Jewish antagonism and one
millennium of a singular European anti-Semitism, did this watershed event
occur in Germany in the middle of the 20th century?

Christians and Jews had lived in an adversarial relationship since the first
century of the common era, when the early followers of Jesus failed to persuade
significant numbers of their fellow Jews that he was the Messiah. They then
gradually solidified their identity as a new religion rather than a reforming
Jewish sect. First, Pauline Christianity took the step of seeking converts not just
among Jews but also among the pagan populations of the Roman Empire.
Second, the Gospel writers—some 40 to 60 years after the death of Jesus—
sought to placate the Roman authorities and at the same time to stigmatize their
rivals by increasingly portraying the Jews rather than the Roman authorities in
Palestine as responsible for the crucifixion—the scriptural origin of the fateful
‘‘Christ-killer’’ libel. Finally, the Jewish rebellion in Palestine and the destruction
of the Second Temple motivated early Christians not only to disassociate
themselves completely from the Jews but to see the Jewish catastrophe as a
deserved punishment for the stubborn refusal to accept Jesus as the Messiah
and as a divine vindication of their own beliefs. Christians and Jews, two small
sects that had much more in common with one another by virtue of their
[2]
monotheism and scriptures than either had with the rest of the tolerant, syncretic,
polytheistic pagan Roman world, developed an implacable hostility to
one another.
This hostility became historically significant in the course of the fourth
century when, following the conversion of the Emperor Constantine, Christianity
became first the favored and then the official religion of the Roman
Empire. The religious quarrel between two small and relatively powerless sects,
both at odds with the pagan world in which they lived, was suddenly transformed
into an unequal relationship between a triumphant state religion and a
beleaguered religious minority. Even so, the Jews fared better than the pagans.
Triumphant Christians destroyed paganism and tore down its temples; but the
synagogues were left standing, and Judaism remained as the sole legally permitted
religion outside Christianity. Without this double standard of intolerance—
paganism destroyed and Judaism despised but permitted—there would have
been no further history of Christian-Jewish relations.

Seemingly triumphant Christianity soon faced its own centuries-long string


of disasters. As demographic and economic decline eroded the strength of the
Christianized Roman Empire from within, the western provinces fragmented
and collapsed under the impact of the numerically rather small Germanic invasions
from the north. The later invasion of the Huns from the east dissipated,
but not so the subsequent Muslim invasion, which stormed out of the Arabian
Peninsula and conquered half the old Roman world by the end of the seventh
century. In the area destined to become western Europe, cities—along with
urban culture and a money economy—disappeared almost entirely. A vastly
shrunken population—illiterate, impoverished, and huddled in isolated villages
scraping out a precarious living from a primitive, subsistence agriculture—
reeled under the impact of yet further devastating invasions of Vikings from
Scandinavia and Magyars from central Asia in the ninth and tenth centuries.
Neither the Christian majority nor the Jewish minority of western Europe could
find much solace in these centuries of a∆iction and decline.

The great recovery—demographic, economic, cultural, and political—began


shortly before the millennium. Population exploded, cities grew up, wealth
multiplied, centralizing monarchies began to triumph over feudal anarchy, universities
were invented, cultural treasures of the classical world were recovered,
and the borders of western Christendom began to expand.
But the great transformation did not bring equal benefits to all. Europe’s first
great ‘‘modernization crisis,’’ like any such profound transformation, had its
‘‘social losers.’’ A surplus of disgruntled mounted warriors—Europe’s feudal
elite—faced constricted opportunities and outlets. A new money economy and
[3]
urban society eroded traditional manorial relationships. Expanding literacy and
university education, coupled with an intoxicating discovery of Aristotelian
rationalism, posed a potential and unsettling threat to traditional Christian
faith. Growth, prosperity, and religious enthusiasm were accompanied by bewilderment,
frustration, and doubt.
For all that was new and unsettling, incomprehensible and threatening, in this
modernization crisis, the Jewish minority provided an apt symbol. The anti-
Judaism (and ‘‘teaching of contempt’’) of Christian theologians that characterized
the first millennium of Christian-Jewish antagonism was rapidly superseded
by what Gavin Langmuir has termed ‘‘xenophobic’’ anti-Semitism—a
widely held negative stereotype made up of various assertions that did not
describe the real Jewish minority but rather symbolized various threats and
menaces that the Christian majority could not and did not want to understand. 1
1. Prolegomana to any Present Analysis of Hostility Towards the Jews & From Anti-Judaism to anti-
semitism

A cluster of anti-Jewish incidents at the end of the first decade of the 11th
century signaled a change that became more fully apparent with the murderous
pogroms perpetrated by roving gangs of knights on their way to the First
Crusade. 2 In the words of Langmuir, ‘‘These groups seem to have been made up
of people whose sense of identity had been seriously undermined by rapidly
changing social conditions that they could not control or understand and to
which they could not adapt successfully.’’3
Urban, commercial, nonmilitary, and above all nonbelievers, the Jews were
subjected both to the immediate threat of Europe’s first pogroms and to the
long-term threat of an intensifying negative stereotype. Barred from the honorable
professions of fighting and landowning, often also barred from the prestigious
economic activities controlled through guilds by the Christian majority,
the Jewish minority was branded not only as unbelievers but now also as cowards,
parasites, and usurers. Religiously driven anti-Semitism took on economic,
social, and political dimensions.
In the following centuries the negative stereotype of xenophobic anti-
Semitism was intensified and overlaid by fantastical and demented accusations,
such as the alleged practices of ritual murder and torturing the Host. Such
accusations seem to have originated in the actions of disturbed individuals
finding ways to cope with their own psychological problems in socially acceptable
ways. 4 In the fertile soil of xenophobic anti-Semitism, such chimeras
multiplied and spread, and were ultimately embraced and legitimized by the
authorities. As the Jews were increasingly dehumanized and demonized, the
anti-Semitism of the medieval period culminated in the expulsions and the
widespread massacres that accompanied the Black Death.

Anti-Semitism in western Europe was now so deeply and pervasively em-


[4]
bedded in Christian culture that the absence of real Jews had no effect on
society’s widespread hostility toward them. In Spain, the land of the last and
greatest expulsion of Jews, even conversion was increasingly felt to be inadequate
to overcome what was now deemed to be innate Jewish evil. The Marranos
were subjected to ongoing persecution and expulsion, and notions of
pure-blooded Christians—eerily foreshadowing developments 500 years later—
were articulated.
Europe’s Jews survived this escalating torrent of persecution because the
Church, while sanctioning it, also set limits to it. 5 And permeable boundaries
allowed expelled Jews to escape and settle elsewhere. (The 20th century, in
contrast, would not feature such permeable boundaries and effective religious
limits.) The eventual slow decline in the virulence of anti-Semitism was due
not so much to the relative absence of Jews in many parts of western Europe
but rather to the gradual secularization of early modern European society—
Renaissance humanism, the fracturing of religious unity in the Reformation,
the scientific discoveries of Galileo and Newton in the 17th century, and the
Enlightenment. Western Europe was no longer a Christian commonwealth with
religion at the core of its culture and identity.
During this relative respite, Jews filtered back into some areas of western
Europe from which they had previously been expelled. However, the demographic
center of European Jewry was now clearly anchored in the east. Jews
had begun settling in eastern Europe in the medieval period, often welcomed by
local rulers for the complementary economic functions they performed, and by
the 18th century there had been a veritable Jewish population explosion. All
Europeans—Jews and non-Jews—were profoundly a√ected by the ‘‘Dual Revolution’’
of the late 18th and early 19th centuries. The French Revolution signaled
the emergence of liberalism and nationalism; the Industrial Revolution set
in motion a profound economic and social transformation.
Initially the Dual Revolution seemed a great boon to Europe’s Jews. With
liberalism came ‘‘Jewish emancipation.’’ In a few brief decades, the centurieslong
accumulation of discriminatory, anti-Jewish measures gave way to the
liberal doctrines of equality before the law and freedom of conscience—not
just in England and France but even in the autocratic German and Austro-
Hungarian empires. And the Industrial Revolution opened up unprecedented
economic opportunities for a mobile, educated, adaptable minority with few ties
to and little nostalgia for a declining traditional economy and society in which
they had been so restricted and marginalized.

But ultimately Europe’s second great ‘‘modernization crisis’’ was fraught


with even greater danger for the Jews than the first, nearly a millennium earlier. 6
[5]
Once again the ‘‘social losers’’ of the modernization crisis—traditional elites and
small-scale producers in particular—could find in the Jews a convenient symbol
for their anguish. If the Jews were benefiting from the changes that were destroying
Europe’s traditional way of life, in the minds of many it seemed plausible
that they had to be the cause of these changes. But in the far more secular
and scientific world of the 19th century, religious beliefs provided less explanatory
power. For many, Jewish behavior was to be understood instead as caused
by allegedly immutable characteristics of the Jewish race. 7 The implications of
racial anti-Semitism posed a di√erent kind of threat. If previously the Christian
majority pressured Jews to convert and more recently to assimilate, racial anti-
Semitism provided no behavioral escape. Jews as a race could not change their
ancestors. They could only disappear.
If race rather than religion now provided the rationale for anti-Semitism, the
various elements of the negative anti-Semitic stereotype that had accumulated
during the second half of the Middle Ages were taken over almost in their
entirety and needed little updating. The only significant addition was the accusation
that Jews were responsible for the threat of Marxist revolution. With
little regard for logical consistency, the old negative image of Jews as parasitical
usurers (updated as rapacious capitalists) was supplemented with a new image
of Jews as subversive revolutionaries out to destroy private property and capitalism
and overturn the social order. After 1917 the notion of menacing ‘‘Judeo-
Bolshevism’’ became as entrenched among Europe’s conservatives as the notion
of Jews as ‘‘Christ-killers’’ had been among Europe’s Christians.

These developments in the history of anti-Semitism transcended national


boundaries and were pan-European. Why then did the Germans, among the
peoples of Europe, come to play such a fateful role in the murderous climax that
was reached in the middle of the 20th century? Scholars have offered a number
of interpretations of Germany’s ‘‘special path’’ or Sonderweg, with England
and France usually being the standard or norm against which German di√erence
is measured. One approach emphasizes Germany’s cultural/ideological
development. Resentment and reaction against conquest and change imposed
by revolutionary and Napoleonic France heightened Germany’s distorted and
incomplete embrace of the Enlightenment and ‘‘western’’ liberal and democratic
ideals. The antiwesternism of many German intellectuals and their despair
for an increasingly endangered and dissolving traditional world led to a
continuing rejection of liberal-democratic values on the one hand and a selective
reconciliation with aspects of modernity (such as modern technology and
ends-means rationality) on the other, producing what Je√rey Herf terms a
peculiarly German ‘‘reactionary modernism.’’ 8
[6 ]
According to another, social/structural approach, Germany’s prolonged
political disunity and fragmentation—in contrast to England and France—
provided an environment less conducive to economic development and the rise
of a healthy middle class. The failed liberal-national revolution of 1848 put an
end to Germany’s attempt to develop along the lines of, much less catch up
with, France and England in concurrent political and economic modernization.
Thereafter, the precapitalist German elites maintained their privileges in an
autocratic political system, while the unnerved middle class was both gratified
by national unification through Prussian military might, something they had
been unable to achieve through their own revolutionary e√orts, and bought o√
by the ensuing prosperity of rapid economic modernization that this unification
unleashed. Fearful of rising socialism and manipulated by an escalating ‘‘social
imperialism,’’ the German middle class never became the mainstay of a
strong liberal-democratic center as it did in the political culture of England and
France.Ω Germany became a ‘‘schizophrenic’’ nation—an increasingly modern
society and economy ruled by an autocratic monarchy and traditional elites—
incapable of gradual democratic reform.
A third approach asserts a German Sonderweg in terms of the singular
breadth, centrality, and virulence of anti-Semitism in Germany. According to
Daniel Goldhagen, ‘‘No other country’s antisemitism was at once so widespread
as to have been a cultural axiom. . . . German antisemitism was sui generis,’’ and
it ‘‘more or less governed the ideational life of civil society’’ in pre-Nazi Germany.10
Painting with a less broad brush, John Weiss is careful to place the late
19th-century loci of German anti-Semitism in populist movements and among
the political and academic elites. 11

Shulamit Volkov’s interpretation of late 19th-century German anti-Semitism


as a ‘‘cultural code’’ constitutes an admirable synthesis of major elements of these
di√erent, though not mutually exclusive, notions of a German Sonderweg. German
conservatives, dominating an illiberal political system but feeling their
leading role increasingly imperiled by the changes unleashed by modernization,
associated Jews with everything they felt threatened by—liberalism, democracy,
socialism, internationalism, capitalism, and cultural experimentation. To be a
self-proclaimed anti-Semite in Germany was also to be authoritarian, nationalist,
imperialist, protectionist, corporative, and culturally traditional. Volkov
concludes, ‘‘Antisemitism was by then strongly associated with everything the
conservatives stood for. It became increasingly inseparable from their antimodernism.’’ 12
As Uriel Tal has noted, German conservatives made their peace
with modern nationalism and the modern state by understanding them in terms
of a traditional German ‘‘Christian state’’ and traditional values that were seen as [ 7]
the distinct antithesis of the values identified with modern, emancipated, relatively
assimilated Jews rather than traditional, religiously observant Orthodox
Jews—rationalism, liberalism, ‘‘Manchesterism,’’ and socialism. 13 The result
was a strange amalgam of religious and cultural but for the most part not yet
racial anti-Semitism.
By the turn of the century German anti-Semitism had become an integral
part of the conservative political platform and had penetrated deeply into the
universities. It had become more politicized and institutionalized than in the
western democracies of France, England, and the United States. But this does
not mean that late 19th-century German anti-Semitism dominated either politics
or ideational life. The conservatives and single-issue anti-Semitic parties
together constituted only a minority. While majorities could be found in the
Prussian Landtag to pass discriminatory legislation against Catholics in the
1870s and in the Reichstag against socialists in the 1880s, the emancipation of
Germany’s Jews, who constituted less than 1% of the population and were
scarcely capable of defending themselves against a Germany united against
them, was not revoked. And at the other end of the political spectrum stood
Germany’s spd, which was Europe’s largest Marxist party and consistently won
the largest popular vote in German elections between 1890 and 1930.

In comparison with western Europe, one might conclude that Germany’s


right was more anti-Semitic, its center weaker, its left stronger, its liberalism
more anemic, and its political culture more authoritarian. Its Jews were also
more prominent. This prominence (to be sure, in those areas of life not dominated
by the old elites, such as the professions and business, as opposed to the
o≈cer corps and civil service), the deep attachment of German Jews to German
culture, and a relatively high rate of intermarriage indicate a German milieu in
which Jews did not face universal hostility but in fact thrived. Anti-Semitism
may have been strong in influential pockets, especially in comparison to the
west, but it was not so pervasive or strident as in territories to the east, from
which beleaguered east European Jews looked to Germany as a land of golden
opportunity. And this image, it should be noted, was not shattered by the
behavior of German troops in eastern Europe during the First World War.
The turn-of-the-century anti-Semitism of German conservatives fits well
Langmuir’s notion of ‘‘xenophobic’’ anti-Semitism. For them the Jewish issue
was but one among many, neither their top priority nor source of greatest fear.
As Langmuir notes, however, xenophobic anti-Semitism provides fertile soil for
the growth of fantastic or ‘‘chimeric’’ anti-Semitism—or what Saul Friedländer
has recently dubbed ‘‘redemptionist’’ anti-Semitism.∞∂ If Germany’s xenophobic
anti-Semitism was an important piece of the political platform of an [8 ]
important segment of the political spectrum, the ‘‘redemptionist’’ anti-Semites
with their ‘‘chimeric’’ accusations—from Jewish poisoning of pure Aryan blood
to a secret Jewish world conspiracy behind the twin threats of Marxist revolution
and plutocratic democracy—were a group for whom the Jews (perceived
above all as a racial threat) were the major preoccupation and obsession. However,
at this time what Tal dubs the ‘‘anti-Christian racial’’ anti-Semites were
still a fringe phenomenon. ‘‘In the period of the Second Reich . . . the vast
majority of voters still disassociated themselves from the non-Christian and
anti-Christian attitude of modern anti-Semitism.’’15 Or as Richard Levy concludes,
‘‘One of the greatest failings of the anti-Semitic parties of the empire
was their inability to recruit the German right to their own brand of ‘sincere’
anti-Semitism.’’16
The succession of traumatic experiences in Germany between 1912 and
1929—loss of control of the Reichstag by the Right, a terrible war concluded
in military defeat and revolution, runaway inflation, and economic collapse—
transformed German politics. Germany’s divided and traumatized society did
not provide a propitious base on which to establish a moderate, stable, functioning
democracy. The right grew at the expense of the center, and within the
former the radicals or New Right grew at the expense of the traditionalists or
Old Right. ‘‘Chimeric’’ and racial anti-Semitism grew commensurately from a
fringe phenomenon to the core idea of a movement that became Germany’s
largest political party in the summer of 1932 and its ruling party six months
later. That fact alone makes the history of Germany and German anti-Semitism
di√erent from that of any other country in Europe.
But this singular event must be kept in perspective. The Nazis never gained
more than 37% of the vote in a free election, less than the combined socialistcommunist
vote. In a highly divided Germany there was only one consensus.
Over half the electorate (the combined Nazi-communist vote) did support some
form of totalitarian dictatorship to replace the paralyzed Weimar democracy.
The Nazis o√ered many messages to many voters. Germans voted for them out
of frustration over political chaos and economic collapse, fear of the Left, and
aggrieved nationalism, not just because of their anti-Semitic commitment. On
the other hand, of course, those millions of Germans who voted for the Nazis
for other reasons were not deterred by Nazi anti-Semitism either. The anti-
Semitism of German conservatism and the German universities had made it
politically and intellectually respectable.
Thus Hitler’s coming to power would not only ‘‘unleash’’ the Nazis and their
right-wing allies—the longtime carriers of anti-Semitism in Germany—to harm
the Jews, but would do so with the tacit support of millions of Germans for [9]
whom the fate of the Jews weighed lightly or not at all on the scales in comparison
with their other concerns, and increasingly with the active support
of millions of other Germans eager to catch the political tide. (As William
Sheridan Allen has succinctly concluded, many people ‘‘were drawn to anti-
Semitism because they were drawn to Nazism, not the other way around.’’)17 At
the same time, with staggering speed, the political parties and labor unions were
abolished, and the civil service, education system, state and local government,
and virtually all associational and cultural life were ‘‘coordinated.’’ Germany
ceased to be a pluralistic society, and there were no significant ‘‘countervailing’’
forces outside the alliance of Nazis and conservative nationalists on which the
regime rested.
Hitler’s conservative allies favored deemancipation and segregation of the
Jews as part of the counterrevolution and movement of national renewal. They
strove to end the allegedly ‘‘inordinate’’ Jewish influence on German life, although
this was scarcely a priority equal to dismantling the labor unions, the
Marxist parties, and parliamentary democracy, and initiating rearmament and
the restoration of Germany’s Great Power status. It is most unlikely that the
conservatives on their own would have proceeded beyond the initial discriminatory
measures of 1933–34 that drove the Jews out of the civil and military
services, the professions, and cultural life.
But what the conservatives conceived of as sufficient measures were for the
Nazis scarcely the first steps. The Nazis understood far better than the conservatives
the distance that separated them. As complicitous in the first anti-Jewish
measures as they were in the wrecking of democracy, however, the conservatives
could no more oppose radicalization of the persecution of the Jews than they
could demand for themselves rights they had denied others. And while they
may have lamented their own increasing loss of privilege and power at the hands
of the Nazis they had helped into power, with strikingly few exceptions they had
no remorse or regret for the fate of the Jews. To argue that the Nazis’ conservative
allies were not of one mind with Hitler does not deny that their behavior
was despicable and their responsibility considerable. As before, xenophobic
anti-Semitism provided fertile soil for the chimeric anti-Semites.

What can be said of the German people at large in the 1930s? Was the bulk of
the population swept along by the Nazis’ anti-Semitic tide? Only in part, according
to the detailed research of historians like Ian Kershaw, Otto Dov Kulka,
and David Bankier, who have reached a surprising degree of consensus on this
issue. 18 For the 1933–39 period, these historians distinguish between a minority
of activists, for whom anti-Semitism was an urgent priority, and the bulk of the
population, for whom it was not. Apart from the activists, the majority did [10]
not clamor or press for anti-Semitic measures. But the majority of ‘‘ordinary’’
Germans—whom Saul Friedländer describes as ‘‘onlookers’’ in contrast to ‘‘activists’’ 19
—nonetheless accepted the legal measures of the regime, which ended
emancipation and drove the Jews from public positions in 1933, socially ostracized
them in 1935, and completed the expropriation of their property in
1938–39. Yet this majority was critical of the hooliganistic violence of activists.
The boycott of 1933, the vandalistic outbreaks of 1935, and the Kristallnacht
pogrom of November 1938 did not have a positive reception among most of the
German population. 20
More important, however, a gulf had opened up between the Jewish minority
and the general population. The latter, while not mobilized around strident and
violent anti-Semitism, was increasingly ‘‘apathetic,’’ ‘‘passive,’’ and ‘‘indifferent’’
to the fate of the former. Many Germans who were indi√erent or even
hostile toward Jews were not indifferent to the public flouting of deeply ingrained
values concerning the preservation of order, propriety, and property.
But anti-Semitic measures carried out in an orderly and legal manner were
widely accepted, for two main reasons. Such measures sustained the hope of
curbing the violence most Germans found so distasteful, and most Germans
now accepted the goal of limiting, and even ending, the role of Jews in German
society. This was a major accomplishment for the regime, but it still did not
offer the prospect that most ordinary Germans would approve of, much less
participate in, the mass murder of European Jewry, that the onlookers of 1938
would become the genocidal killers of 1941–42.
If neither the conservative elites nor the German public were committed to a
further radicalization and escalation of Jewish persecution, the same cannot be
said of Hitler, the Nazi leadership, the party, and the bureaucracy. Hitler’s anti-
Semitism was both obsessive and central to his political outlook. 21 For him the
‘‘Jewish question’’ was the key to all other problems and hence the ultimate
problem. Hitler’s anti-Semitism created an ideological imperative that required
an escalating search for an ultimate or final solution.
The emotional and ideological priority of Hitler’s anti-Semitism and the
wider understanding of history as racial struggle in which it was embedded were
shared by much of the Nazi leadership and party. They defined and gave meaning
to the politics of the Third Reich. They also provided the regime with a spur
and a direction for ceaseless dynamism and movement. Within the polycratic
regime, Hitler did not have to devise a blueprint, timetable, or grand design for
solving the ‘‘Jewish question.’’ He merely had to proclaim its continuing existence
and reward those who vied in bringing forth various solutions. ["Workingtowards the Fuhrer"] Given
the
dynamics of the Nazi political system, a ratchetlike decision-making process [11]
permitted bursts of radicalization periodically alternating with tactical pauses
but never moderation or retreat. In the end ‘‘final solutions’’ would become
the only ones worthy of submission to Hitler. As Göring announced on Hitler’s
behalf following the Kristallnacht pogrom in November 1938, the ‘‘Jewish
question’’ had to be solved ‘‘one way or another.’’ And in the case of the war that
Hitler both intended and prophesied in January 1939 (thus setting a new level of
expectation for his followers), an acceptable final solution would result in ‘‘the
destruction of the Jewish race in Europe.’’ Thus the combination of Hitler’s
anti-Semitism as ideological imperative and the competitive polycracy of the
Nazi regime created immense pressures for the escalation of Nazi Jewish policy
even without broad public support in that direction.
By the late 1930s, the escalation and radicalization of Nazi Jewish policy were
also furthered by a process of ‘‘bureaucratic momentum.’’ Within months of the
Nazi assumption of power almost every branch and agency of the German
government had appointed lower-echelon civil servants—some of whom were
longtime party faithful, some recent converts, some adaptable and ambitious
careerists—to a ‘‘Jewish desk’’ ( Judenreferat) to handle all matters related to
Jewish policy that impinged on their jurisdictions. No ministry affected by Nazi
Jewish policy could afford to be without experts to advise it about the impact of
Jewish legislation emanating from other sources, to participate in various interministerial
conferences to defend the ministry’s point of view, and of course to
prepare the ministry’s own measures. As this corps of ‘‘Jewish experts’’ ( Judensachbearbeiter)
proliferated and became institutionalized, the impact of their
cumulative activities added up. The existence of the career itself ensured that
the Jewish experts would keep up the flow of discriminatory measures. Even as
German Jews were being deported to ghettos and death camps in the east in
1942, for instance, the bureaucracy was still producing decrees that prohibited
them from having pets, getting their hair cut by Aryan barbers, or receiving the
Reich sports badge! 22 Such a bureaucratic ‘‘machinery of destruction’’ was
poised and eager to meet the professional challenge and solve the myriad problems
created by an escalating Nazi Jewish policy. In Raul Hilberg’s memorable
phrase, the German bureaucrat ‘‘beckoned to his Faustian fate.’’ 23 Not just for
Hitler and the party faithful but also for the professional experts of the German
bureaucracy, the outbreak of war in September 1939 and the ensuing victories
would o√er the opportunity and obligation to solve the ‘‘Jewish question’’ and
make history.