Nations Have the Right to Kill: Hitler, the Holocaust and War
Author: Richard Koenigsberg
Review of Nations Have the Right to Kill
By Dana Hardacker, Southern Maine Community College
Many scholars and people have tried to understand the connection of Hitler, The Holocaust and War. Numerous theory have been brought forth explaining why the political and social elements came together to allow for this nightmare to play out. Dr. Richard Koenigsberg brings a psychoanalytical perspective to this question. His thesis is that Hitler felt he had the right to sacrifice the heart and soul of Germany, their soldiers. This notion of nationalism would allow Hitler’s Reich to exist for a thousand years. To purify the nationalist body and soul of Nazism the Jews needed to be sacrificed. As a body cleaning itself of a disease, so would the nation of the Jews. Like a doctor in a battle to save a person’s life the extermination of the Jews was the battle of saving the nation. This belief lead Hitler to the conclusion of that he had the right to sacrifice the vermin of the nation, the Jews.
Dr. Koenigsberg connects his thesis with historical documentation from Hitler and others. He uses numerous resources to prove Hitler’s hate for the Jews was not only socially driven but also had a psychological base. He writes of Hitler’s believe that the Jews were not part of the Gemeinschaft as others in Germany. Without a true sense of community the Jewish peoples had to leave or sacrifice for the nationalistic view of Nazism. This belief that there is a higher calling for peoples to sacrifice so a nation can survive underlies the primary structure of nationalism. If Hitler lives then the nation lives; if the nation lives than Hitler lives.
According to Dr. Koenigsberg, Hitler believed that the community overrode the individual. This concept was learned in the trenches of World War I. The way the war grinded man and animal in a mythical struggle for the superior nation is shown through the way the armies were used tactically. The war itself was fought as brutes trying to bully their way through a street fight. The men who served in the armies bought this concept to a brutal reality. Dr. Koenigsberg connects the numerous factors throughout the book by presenting the psychological insight to the battlefield. Soldiers die so a belief can live. Hence the nation lives by blood of its soldiers and the soldiers live as long as the nation survives.
There are some drawbacks to Dr. Koenigsberg’s book. First he uses the same sources to make his points throughout the chapters. An example is the use of the same German machine gunners diary entries throughout. This leaves me with the question; did all German machine gunners see the attacks the same or was their numerous perspectives concerning the way the British, France and other allies units attack? He also does not discuss the sociological aspects of Hitler, The Holocaust and War. Where did Hitler learn his anti-Semitism and how did this contribute to his psychological sacrifice theory. Is there a connection to other nations with the same sacrificial theory? How did nurture play into the coming war and genocide? How did nationalism and the people psychological make-up combine to bring anti-Semitism to another level? Why did the Jews have and participate in the same belief that a nation has the right to sacrifice individuals? Why did they get on the trains without numerous incidents? How did this stereotyping contribute to the sacrificial theory of the Nazi population?
The Aztec warfare of capturing sacrificial slaves to the sun god can be seen as the first nationalistic movement. However, the sacrifice was allowed under the Aztec government and was based on the fact that the nation survived by sacrificing “others” than their own. I find the connection between the Aztecs and the officers of the First World War to be weak. Officers on both sides were not sacrificing other nations soldiers they were sacrificing their own. Dr. Koenigsberg’s does not discuss the training issue of the general officers. General officers on both sides were taught to fight war by 1800s tactics while technology of the First World War had progressed to the 20th century.
However, these minor drawbacks do not detract from the importance of Dr. Koenigsberg’s work. This book gives critical insight to the study of Hitler, The Holocaust and War. Anyone who studies, teaches or writes in these areas would find this book opens new avenues to their understanding of these issues. I have already incorporated the sacrificial theory into my genocide class when I discuss the Holocaust.