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Germans and War Brutality: The Erosion of Ethics by Ordinary People during World War II

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After the First World War, citizens, soldiers, and political figures alike thought they had witnessed the archetype of human sadism and war brutality. Yet, less than twenty years later, World War II immediately countered this notion. World War II was

After the First World War, citizens, soldiers, and political figures alike thought they had witnessed the archetype of human sadism and war brutality. Yet, less than twenty years later, World War II immediately countered this notion. World War II was a transnational conflict that epitomized total war, which directly engaged civilians in the conflict like never before. Typically when we discuss Germany’s involvement in the war, we have visions of Hitler and his high-up officials personally crafting the Holocaust that killed 6 million Jews via firing squads, ghettoes, and gas chambers. The post-war landscape furthered this notion through the Nuremberg trials, which sentenced the most evil of the war’s perpetrators on the international stage, and the denazification process by the allied countries, which worked to reteach a “brainwashed” generation of Germans. However, rarely was the role of ordinary soldiers and the people at home a part of the dialogue of German complicity. Through the phases of post-war memorialization, people began to question the roles of themselves, and eventually their ancestors, in various ways. Of course, there are immense differences between the architect of the Final Solution and a Wehrmacht soldier who was drafted into the war; my goal is not to place these people on a ladder of guilt, but to widen the dialogue on the complex role ordinary Germans held during the war.
I will begin by establishing complicity among Wehrmacht soldiers, and then among ordinary people, contrasting beneficiaries and participants in popularized crime with bystanders. I will also argue that as women suffered uniquely during World War II, they also exercised unique complicity. Next, I will take these findings and discuss the memorialization of complicity in order to understand how individuals, the public, and the state framed their respective roles in the war; in order to accomplish this I will first discuss individual remembrance by examining individual interviews and familial interviews in order to gain an understanding of how people perceive their role in the war and also how individual stories can change as generations pass. These interviews include people who were both beneficiaries and bystanders. Then, I will discuss collective remembrance by examining the controversy over public monuments. Ultimately, I will argue that ordinary Germans all held significant levels of complicity that need to be assessed in order to understand the Nazi war effort and political system; additionally, how complicity is remembered greatly and profoundly affects memorialization and our future.

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2019-05

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Honor, Glory, Sacrifice, and Annihilation: Violence and Death in World War II

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Civilian publics at large internalize death and killing in wartime as a given; after all, what is war if not fighting and dying? There exist popularized notions of “rules of war,” as put by a 2014 BBC ethics piece that

Civilian publics at large internalize death and killing in wartime as a given; after all, what is war if not fighting and dying? There exist popularized notions of “rules of war,” as put by a 2014 BBC ethics piece that accepted the notion “that soldiers must be prepared to put their own lives at risk in order to limit civilian casualties.” Here there is no denial that combatants kill and die in war. Yet in another sense, the public sanitizes the permanent reality of death and killing—it constructs careful euphemisms and erects psychological barriers that allow the perpetuation of violence without emotionally confronting the brutal reality of the battlefield. In spite of such concentrated cultural efforts at reconceptualization of death and killing, however, the soldiers and combatants who actually engage in this behavior irrevocably come face-to-face with the reality of death and killing in wartime. It is the “[i]ntimate acts of killing in war,” such as those “committed by historical subjects imbued with language, emotion, and desire” that necessarily challenge and threaten culturally-constructed sterilized preconceptions of deadly violence; still, as Joanna Bourke argues, “[k]illing in wartime is inseparable from wider social and cultural concerns.”

To this end, a war that involves not only the physical intimacy of killing but also mortal struggles between cultures and ideologies arguably complicates the extent to and manner by which individual combatants engage in such behavior. No war fulfills these criteria so cleanly as World War II—it was a conflict that cost more people their lives than any war before, and as a global conflict, it brought vastly differing perspectives of death and killing to the battlefield. World War II represented not simply a struggle for national-ideological survival (though that it clearly was), but more importantly a struggle for the retention of the self through identity.

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2018-12

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Growing up in a War Torn Greece and Emigrating to the United States

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With every generation comes a unique struggle or times of turmoil and tumult. Many of these stories are learned from elders and grandparents when they reminisce of events that have altered the course of their lives and the lives of

With every generation comes a unique struggle or times of turmoil and tumult. Many of these stories are learned from elders and grandparents when they reminisce of events that have altered the course of their lives and the lives of those around them. I intend to persevere these anecdotes and experiences in order to keep them from becoming lost in time. With the change in technology and industrialization, our grandparents and elders have lived a vastly different life than their descendants. In my case, my grandparents and relatives lived in Greece during the Second World War and the Greek civil war. In order to preserve these unique experiences, I have documented them in the form of a digitally recorded interview and have transcribed the interviews for analysis. The interviews and analysis will be separated into three sections: World War II, The Greek Civil War, and Immigration to the United States. Historical context will be provided with an overview of the events that occurred during the wars in the Greek Arena. Each interviewee will then have their perspective presented with historical sources that will reconcile the events and experiences for historical accuracy. In addition the sentiments shared by the interviewees on their lives as a result of these events will be observed in order to truly understand their perception of the world. From doing so, their life stories will be better understood and the stories told to their young grandson or nephew will not be forgotten in their passing.

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Date Created
2018-12

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The Untold History of a World War II Bride

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The old adage that "history is written by the winners" ought to be expanded to "history is written by the male winners." The stories of women have long been denied legitimacy in the public sphere, and often live on only

The old adage that "history is written by the winners" ought to be expanded to "history is written by the male winners." The stories of women have long been denied legitimacy in the public sphere, and often live on only in the form of oral histories, lost with the last breath of the last listener. The histories of war brides are among those most easily overlooked and forgotten as the triumphs and failures of their men in battle take precedence over their own stories of bravery and grief. As the generation of women who survived the horror of World War II is dying off, it is imperative that their passions, sorrows, and life lessons do not die with them. These women were left at home as their husbands went off to an uncertain future at war, many assuming numerous new duties in an effort to keep everything on the home front functioning. War brides have been documented as a wartime phenomena in the chapters of history, but they are confined to a label that limits the roles they play in history. These women married the men of America's "Greatest Generation," but were not deemed fit to belong to it themselves. Through the oral history of Ingrid Hoitzerouth Adamson, accompanied by the real life accounts of women in similar situations, a new light can be shed on what it means to be a war bride.

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Date Created
2015-05

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ARMAGEDDON REVISITED: SOVIET FILM AND MEMORY OF THE GREAT PATRIOTIC WAR

Description

The Soviet Union suffered immensely as a result of World War II. When the dust settled and Soviet citizens began to rebuild their lives, the memory of the social, economic, and human costs of the war still remained. The Soviet

The Soviet Union suffered immensely as a result of World War II. When the dust settled and Soviet citizens began to rebuild their lives, the memory of the social, economic, and human costs of the war still remained. The Soviet state sought to frame the conflict in a way that provided meaning to the chaos that so drastically shaped the lives of its citizens. Film was one such way. Film, heavily censored until the Gorbachev period, provided the state with an easily malleable and distributable means of sharing official history and official memory. However, as time went on, film began to blur the lines between official memory and real history, providing opportunities for directors to create stories that challenged the regime's official war mythology. This project examines seven Soviet war films (The Fall of Berlin (1949), The Cranes are Flying (1957), Ballad of a Soldier (1959), Ivan's Childhood (1962), Liberation (1970-1971), The Ascent (1977), and Come and See (1985)) in the context of the regimes under which they were released. I examine the themes present within these films, comparing and contrasting them across multiple generations of Soviet post-war memory.

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Created

Date Created
2014-05

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ARMAGEDDON REVISITED: SOVIET FILM AND MEMORY OF THE GREAT PATRIOTIC WAR

Description

The Soviet Union suffered immensely as a result of World War II. When the dust settled and Soviet citizens began to rebuild their lives, the memory of the social, economic, and human costs of the war still remained. The Soviet

The Soviet Union suffered immensely as a result of World War II. When the dust settled and Soviet citizens began to rebuild their lives, the memory of the social, economic, and human costs of the war still remained. The Soviet state sought to frame the conflict in a way that provided meaning to the chaos that so drastically shaped the lives of its citizens. Film was one such way. Film, heavily censored until the Gorbachev period, provided the state with an easily malleable and distributable means of sharing official history and official memory. However, as time went on, film began to blur the lines between official memory and real history, providing opportunities for directors to create stories that challenged the regime's official war mythology. This project examines seven Soviet war films (The Fall of Berlin (1949), The Cranes are Flying (1957), Ballad of a Soldier (1959), Ivan's Childhood (1962), Liberation (1970-1971), The Ascent (1977), and Come and See (1985)) in the context of the regimes under which they were released. I examine the themes present within these films, comparing and contrasting them across multiple generations of Soviet post-war memory.

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Created

Date Created
2014-05

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A comparison between the new identities built after World War II in Japan and Germany by analyzing textbooks published shortly after the War

Description

After World War II both Japanese and Germans had to come to grips with the reality of defeat. It was during this time when both countries had to develop a new identity that was able to deal with the question

After World War II both Japanese and Germans had to come to grips with the reality of defeat. It was during this time when both countries had to develop a new identity that was able to deal with the question of war responsibility. This paper attempts to compare these two identities using history textbooks from the occupation time period while keeping in mind the delicate balance between the wishes of the occupation authorities, the approaching Cold War, and the very nature of defeat itself.

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Date Created
2014-05

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Medical Advancements of Radiation-Induced Cancer on the Survivors of the Atomic Bombings in Japan during World War II

Description

Throughout WWII, the medical experiments conducted advanced the field of medicine. However, unethical experiments caused numerous unnecessary fatalities. These included the Josef Mengele experiments in Nazi Germany and the United States experiments. The atomic bombs, dropped by the United States

Throughout WWII, the medical experiments conducted advanced the field of medicine. However, unethical experiments caused numerous unnecessary fatalities. These included the Josef Mengele experiments in Nazi Germany and the United States experiments. The atomic bombs, dropped by the United States on Japan, that ended World War II, began a lifelong study on the effects of ionizing radiation on the survivors. The Life Long Study researched the survivor's rate of cancer incidences as well as the effects on their children. Scholars will disagree on whether the atomic bombs were necessary to end the war, however, this left unintended consequences in Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The ethicality of the lifelong research study advanced medical imagining knowledge by limiting the amount of radiation a person can be exposed to in a certain time period ultimately reducing side effects from radiation and preventing possibilities of cancer.

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Date Created
2016-12

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Soviet Displaced Person in Germany After World War II: An Analysis of the Harvard Project on the Soviet Social System

Description

This thesis is based on the responses of Soviet Displaced Persons collected by the Harvard Study on the Soviet Social System (HPSSS), an oral history conducted in Munich and New York from 1950 to 1951 in which former Soviet citizens

This thesis is based on the responses of Soviet Displaced Persons collected by the Harvard Study on the Soviet Social System (HPSSS), an oral history conducted in Munich and New York from 1950 to 1951 in which former Soviet citizens were interviewed. They were primarily interviewed about daily life within the Soviet Union. A total of 331 displaced persons were interviewed over the course of the study, with most individuals receiving multiple interview sessions. These sessions were divided broadly as A and B sections. The A-section, which the majority of interviewees received and was viewed by the compilers as a broad sociological inquiry, was divided into subsections focusing on Soviet work, government, family, education, communication, philosophy of life, and ideology. The B-sections were used for deeper anthropological inquiries and are potentially more controversial due to the use of Rorschach tests and situational responses. Fewer respondents were continued on to the B interviews which contained a variety of subsections, though most respondents were only asked questions from one or two sections of the greater whole. A portion of the B section interviews do provide valuable insight to my thesis for their focus on the Displaced Person status of the interviewees. The project consisted of 764 separate interviews of the 331 respondents. The interviewers for the HPSSS were primarily graduate students, ranging from history, sociology, psychology and economics departments, with varying degrees of fluency in Russian and Ukrainian. Some of the interviewers went on to become leading experts in Soviet Studies in the years to follow. Others stopped publishing, following the major publication of the HPSSS in the late 1950s, which may indicate a move to the private sector or employment within the federal government rather than academics. While not possible to include within my analysis, the major publications of the study also included the insights garnered from nearly ten thousand written questionnaires of DPs that were tabulated and discarded prior to publication.

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Date Created
2015-05

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French Jewish Emigration, the United States, and the Second World War

Description

At odds with the Axis powers in the Second World War, the American government
began the task of dealing with an influx of Europeans seeking refugee status stateside, even before the Japanese attack Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941. American

At odds with the Axis powers in the Second World War, the American government
began the task of dealing with an influx of Europeans seeking refugee status stateside, even before the Japanese attack Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941. American interest in the global situation, nevertheless, did not officially begin after the initial attack on the 7th of December. Before that date, the United States government had to address refugees seeking asylum from European countries. Often studied, German emigration to the United States at times took center stage in terms of the refugee situation after the Nazi regime enacted anti- Semitic legislation in Germany and its occupied nations, prior to the American declaration of war. France, however, had a crisis of its own after the Germans invaded in the summer of 1940, and the fall of France led to a large portion of France occupied by Germany and the formation of a new government in the non-occupied zone, the Vichy regime.
France had an extensive history of Jewish culture and citizenship culture prior to 1940, and xenophobia, especially common after the 1941 National Revolution in France, led to a “France for the French” mentality championed by Marshal Philippe Pétain, Chief of State of Vichy France. The need for the French Jewish population to seek emigration became a reality in the face of the collaborationist Vichy government and anti-Semitic statutes enacted in 1940 and 1941. French anti-Semitic policies and practices led many Jews to seek asylum in the United States, though American policy was divided between a small segment of government officials, politicians, individuals, and Jewish relief groups who wanted to aid European Jews, and a more powerful nativist faction, led by Breckenridge Long which did not support immigration. President Roosevelt, and the American government, fully aware of the situation of French Jews, did little concrete to aid their asylum in the United States.

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Created

Date Created
2014-05