Lives of Hitler's Jewish Soldiers

Untold Tales of Men of Jewish Descent Who Fought for the Third Reich

Bryan Mark Rigg

They were foot soldiers and officers. They served in the regular army and the Waffen-SS. And, remarkably, they were also Jewish, at least as defined by Hitler's infamous race laws. Pursuing the thread he first unraveled in Hitler's Jewish Soldiers, Bryan Rigg takes a closer look at the experiences of Wehrmacht soldiers who were classified as Jewish. In this long-awaited companion volume, he presents interviews with twenty-one of these men, whose stories are both fascinating and disturbing.

As many as 150,000 Jews and partial-Jews (or Mischlinge) served, often with distinction, in the German military during World War II. The men interviewed for this volume portray a wide range of experiences-some came from military families, some had been raised Christian—revealing in vivid detail how they fought for a government that robbed them of their rights and sent their relatives to extermination camps. Yet most continued to serve, since resistance would have cost them their lives and they mistakenly hoped that by their service they could protect themselves and their families. The interviews recount the nature and extent of their dilemma, the divided loyalties under which many toiled during the Nazi years and afterward, and their sobering reflections on religion and the Holocaust, including what they knew about it at the time.

“Rigg’s book focuses on the moral dilemmas faced by Michlinges (those defined by Nazi racial laws as being part-Jewish) who served in the Wehrmacht.. . . . Rigg’s compassion for his subjects, most of whom he interviewed in the 1990s, comes through clearly. The book is strongest on the emotional conflicts the men faced.

—Library Journal

“Several thousand Jews and over 100,000 others of Jewish descent served in the Wehrmacht from 1939 to 1945. Rigg dips into material he mined for Hitler’s Jewish Soldiers to present a selection of personal histories. Many enlisted to protect their families, often in vain; Rigg tells heartrending stories of soldiers risking their lives in battle as relatives disappeared into extermination camps.

—Publishers Weekly
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Rigg relates each individual's experiences following the establishment of Hitler's race laws, shifting between vivid scenes of combat and the increasingly threatening situation on the home front for these men and their family members. Their stories reveal the constant tension in their lives: how some tried to hide their identities, and how a few were even "Aryanized" as part of Hitler's effort to retain reliable soldiers—including Field Marshal Erhard Milch, three-star general Helmut Wilberg, and naval commander Bernhard Rogge.

Chilling, compelling, almost beyond belief, these stories depict crises of conscience under the most stressful circumstances. Lives of Hitler's Jewish Soldiers deepens our understanding of the complex intersection of Nazi race laws and German military service both before and during World War II.

About the Author

Bryan Mark Rigg is the author of Hitler's Jewish Soldiers, which won the William E. Colby Award for Military History, was featured on NBC-TV's Dateline, and has been translated into eleven languages. He is also the author of Rescued from the Reich: How One of Hitler's Soldiers Saved the Lubavitcher Rebbe.

Additional Titles in the Modern War Studies Series