Hitler's death squads : an historiographical and bibliographical analysis of the Einsatzgruppen : a thesis presented in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Arts in History at Massey University
On 30 January 1933, Adolf Hitler became German chancellor. Hitler and the party Nazi's (or Nationalsozialistische Arbeiterpartei) arrival in power ushered in a brutally repressive period in Germany history, especially for Jews. The Nazis began with the 1935 Nuremberg Race Laws which classified the population, according to a three tier system. "Aryans", who were ascribed full German citizenship and rights, were at the top. "Mischlinge", or persons of mixed descent who did not practice the Jewish faith, received limited rights and formed the middle tier. "Jews" formed the bottom tier and had three Jewish grandparents, or had two grandparents who practiced the Jewish faith. They formed the bottom tier. They were deprived of German citizenship on the basis that only persons of German blood could be citizens. Over the next four years, the state forced Jews out of various vocations and professions and a series of decrees in 1937 resulted in the forced "aryanisation" of many Jewish businesses. The Kristallnacht followed this in 1938 when thugs destroyed and looted Jewish synagogues and shops. German Jews were fined for the resulting damage which effectively stripped many of their remaining assets. By the end of 1940, Germany had conquered most of Europe and took advantage of this to forcibly move large numbers of Jews from both Germany and occupied countries to Poland. With a seemingly endless need for Lebensraum. Germany began its ill fated Operation Barbarossa in the summer of 1941. This is generally believed to have marked the beginning of the "Final Solution" or extermination phase. The primitive part of the extermination phase is commonly accepted to have begun with special motorised units called Einsatzgruppen.. These units rounded up Jews, forced them to dig pits and then executed them with either single shots or automatic fire. Numbering approximately 3,000 personnel and divided into four units, they policed the Russian front from the Baltic to the Black Sea. The Einsatzgruppen were ad hoc groups which bought together personnel from different security organisations and the Waffen SS. The psychological difficulties experienced by Einsatzgruppen personnel in killing women and children resulted in the use of gas vans. These gas vans are widely believed to be the precursor to the Polish extermination camps and their gas chambers. Thus, the Einsatzgruppen play a pivotal role in the Holocaust. The difficulties they experienced resulted in the setting up of the infamous camps in Poland.