Savagery on the Eastern Front: Hitler’s Policy of Annihilation in Russia

ASU Author/Contributor (non-ASU co-authors, if there are any, appear on document)
Ian Smith (Creator)
Appalachian State University (ASU )
Web Site:
Aleksander Lust

Abstract: This work examines the way the German armed forces treated the Soviet peoples, particularly the Slavs, versus the way other opponents of Nazi Germany were treated. The guiding question of my research has been, “Why did the Germans treat the Russians with a much greater level of brutality than what was seen elsewhere?” Since the end of the war, scholars have attempted to explain Germany’s behavior. Given the debate over this topic, in addition to the existence of anti-Slavic and Neo-Nazi groups today, it is important to examine this phenomenon in detail. Using qualitative analysis, specifically the examination of scholarship from multiple countries, the accounts and testimonies of German and Russian troops, and documents from war crimes tribunals, I argue that the motivations for such cruelty were based on ethnic and political differences. Quantitative data also serves to emphasize the vast differences in treatment of POWs between German fronts. Nazi propaganda very effectively cast Slavs as “subhuman” and “Asiatic,” likening them to Mongols. Similarly, Hitler saw the domination of the USSR as a battle between National Socialism and Jewish Bolshevism, an entity he blamed for Germany’s loss in World War I and suffering thereafter. Another curious area in this study is the attitude of the individual German combat troops—how did they view their enemy? I find that the combination of Nazi anti-Bolshevism and racism, combined with propaganda, encouraged many troops to execute Slavs remorselessly, while the minority of soldiers and officers who disagreed with Hitler were unwilling or unable to protest. The subjugation of the Slavs, and often the obliteration, was encouraged from the highest levels.

Additional Information

Smith, I (2016) "Savagery on the Eastern Front: Hitler’s Policy of Annihilation in Russia" Unpublished Honors Thesis. Appalachian State University, Boone, NC
Language: English
Date: 2016

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