The Einsatzgruppen: Genocide in the Making




For most of us the phrase final solution or Holocaust congers up images of emaciated men with large lifeless eyes staring from behind Nazi erected barbed wire fences in concentration camps.  In these camps, built across Eastern Europe, millions of men, women and children were victim to the ideology of one man. As brutal as their death was, it was impersonal in fact almost mechanical. This is not the case with the Eisatzgruppen. These special battalions of men attached to the Nazi troops that invaded Eastern Europe were charged with gathering and killing the Jews in each city. It was an intimate assault with barely a few yards separating victim from executioner. Despite copious amounts of blood and heart wrenching cries the killing continued until more than 1.3 million Jews would fall victim to their bullets.[1]

There is an unfathomable literature base that has evaluated, researched, and questioned the operations of the Einsatzgruppen and yet comprehension eludes us. Two such works, Ordinary Men, by Christopher Browning and Masters of Death by Richard Rhodes enter the debate as excellent examples and though both approach this common topic from very different perspectives both agree, as do all the others, that this was mass murder on a personal level.

     [1] Richard Rhodes, Masters of Death; The Einsatzgruppen and the Invention of the Holocaust. (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2002).

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