Today's `scoop'

Another day, another piece of research. Yesterday many of us learned for the first time that thousands of Jews had fought beside Germans during the Second World War. The reaction in many was one of horror. While 6 million Jews were being exterminated, others were going hand in hand with the Nazis who had dreamt up the Final Solution. Even worse, the research established that 77 senior officers of mixed Jewish race or with Jewish wives had been accepted as having German blood by none other than Hitler himself.

Was this proof of a degree of collaboration, of a level of complicity that might be used to undermine the moral dimension in the lessons of the Holocaust?

The truth is much more prosaic. The research was carried out by Bryan Rigg, 25, an American studying history at Darwin College, Cambridge. For the past four years, Mr Rigg has criss-crossed Germany and travelled as far afield as Canada and Turkey in order to uncover tales of the Mischlinge, those of half or quarter Jewish blood who are not recognised as Jews by other Jews, but who were classified as such by the Nazis.

In the course of his travels, he has unearthed documents which show that two field marshals, 10 generals, 14 colonels and 30 majors in the Wehrmacht were of Jewish extraction. Field Marshal Edward Milch, deputy to the Luftwaffe commander Hermann Goering, had a Jewish father, but Goering falsified his papers, declaring: "I will decide who is a German."

Others with Jewish fathers or grandparents won military decorations. Helmut Wilberg, winner of the knight's cross, had a Jewish mother, but he kept his origins secret and went on to develop the German concept of blitzkrieg. Even Helmut Schmidt, West German Chancellor from 1974 to 1982, kept secret the fact that his grandfather was Jewish, and he went on to become a lieutenant in the Luftwaffe. Mr Rigg's research appears meticulous and was described by fellow historians as "useful" yesterday in that it was gleaned from people who lived through paradoxical times or those who lived close to them in the immediate aftermath. But fellow academics and Jewish historians said the revelations were not new and should not really surprise anybody.

"It has been known for a long, long time that many Jews who wanted to hide from Hitler believed that the army was as good a place as any," said Rabbi Albert Friedlander, dean of the Leo Baeck rabbinical training college. "The army was not the Nazi party and elements of it were actually opposed to Hitler.

"Some believed there was a better Germany - a Germany of Beethoven and Goethe that would last longer than Hitler. They had no idea of what was to come, and many would have known nothing about the extermination camps."

Indeed, according to the historian Evelyn Wilcock, author of Pacifism and the Jews, Germans who were half or quarter Jewish were routinely conscripted right up to the start of the war. By the outbreak of hostilities, thousands would have been in the army.

"They had no choice," she said. "The penalty for not serving was death, and the death penalty would often apply to family members, too." And many of those now described as being of Jewish extraction would not then have regarded themselves as Jewish. It is certainly unlikely that someone with a Jewish grandfather would call himself a Jew.

From 1942 onwards, however, Hitler ordered them to be rooted out of the army. Some were sent to labour camps, but others were helped by fellow soldiers or commanding officers, who felt more loyal to those they had fought with than to the Nazis.

There is, nevertheless, the potential for some embarrassment here - not in suggestions that some Jews collaborated, but in the way German attempts to create a pure race are reflected in some ways by Jews themselves. "In one of George Steiner's plays, Hitler turns round to some Jews at one point and says `Where do you think I got the idea of a Chosen People from?'," said Mrs Wilcock. "What is embarrassing is that some of our own people put an emphasis on descent credentials in the same way as the Nazis did in their attempts to create a pure Aryan race.

"The Jewish view of the Holocaust is one of black and white. It is like cowboys and Indians, good guys and bad guys. But it gets a little blurred when you start talking about Mischlinge from mixed families. And, because the teaching of Holocaust history has a moral and ethical content, it has the capacity to turn children's heads.

"I am Jewish but my husband is not. Recently, a certain Jewish woman suggested that my children should wear badges to show that they are not marriageable. That is precisely the sort of thing that the Nazis did to the Jews in Germany and it is precisely the sort of thing we need to avoid. The racial exclusion of Jews by Jews simply defeats the object."

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Property
pets
Arts and Entertainment
tvGame of Thrones season 5 ep 4, review - WARNING: contains major spoiliers!
Arts and Entertainment
tvThe C-Word, TV review
Arts and Entertainment
The Ridiculous Six has been produced by Adam Sandler, who also stars in it
filmNew controversy after nine Native American actors walked off set
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA celebration of British elections
Sport
Danny Jones was in the Wales squad for the 2013 World Cup
rugby leagueKeighley Cougars half-back was taken off after just four minutes
Life and Style
The original ZX Spectrum was simple to plug into your TV and get playing on
techThirty years on, the ZX Spectrum is back, after a fashion
News
Tiger Woods and Lindsey Vonn are breaking up after nearly three years together
peopleFormer couple announce separation in posts on their websites
Sport
football
Life and Style
Google celebrates Bartolomeo Cristofori's 360th birthday
techGoogle Doodle to the rescue
Arts and Entertainment
Haunted looks: Matthew Macfadyen and Timothy Spall star in ‘The Enfield Haunting’
tvThe Enfield Haunting, TV review
News
news
News
The Mattehorn stands reflected in Leisee lake near Sunnegga station on June 30, 2013 near Zermatt, Switzerland
news
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Senior Digital Marketing Consultant

£28000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Senior Digital Marketing Cons...

Recruitment Genius: Assistant Stores Keeper

£16640 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An Assistant Stores Keeper is r...

Recruitment Genius: Claims Administrator

£16000 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an excellent opportunit...

Recruitment Genius: Software Developer - C# / ASP.NET / SQL

£17000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Developer required to join a bu...

Day In a Page

Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

China's influence on fashion

At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

Rainbow shades

It's all bright on the night
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

Vince Cable exclusive interview

Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
Russell Brand's interview with Ed Miliband has got everyone talking about The Trews

Everyone is talking about The Trews

Russell Brand's 'true news' videos attract millions of viewers. But today's 'Milibrand' interview introduced his resolutely amateurish style to a whole new crowd
Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

It's time for my close-up

Meet the man who films great whites for a living