Nations Have the Right to Kill: Hitler the Holocaust and War
by Richard A. Koenigsberg
Nations Have the Right to Kill
Pages: 136 pages

Library of Social Science


Richard A. Koenigsberg


ISBN: 978-0915042234

ISBN: 978-0915042241

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Hitler: “If I don’t mind sending the pick of the German people into the hell of war without regret for the shedding of valuable German blood, then I have naturally the right to destroy millions of men of inferior races who increase like vermin.”

Praise for Nations Have the Right to Kill

“Two terrors from long ago haunt. First, the Holocaust: that cold-blooded massacre of millions. Second, the ability of political leaders during two World Wars to convince ordinary people that slaughtering their neighbors was patriotic. A half-century later, we continue to ask: how was this possible? No single answer will exorcize our terrors. But Koenigsberg’s bold and original approach will help us, if not to expel them, at least, finally, to comprehend them.”
—Robert Whalen, Queens University of Charlotte, author of Bitter Wounds: German Victims of the Great War, 1914-1939

“Richard Koenigsberg represents an entirely de novo vantage on war, penetrating to a still-obscured truth: That war in essence the transcendental celebratory vessel of human sacred identity. His essay is a call-to-arms: To see at last our buy-in culturally to a boundlessly destructive essence within our own humanity.”
—Michael Vlahos, United States Naval War College, author of Fighting Identity: Sacred War and World Change

“Richard Koenigsberg is an intrepid generator ideas on the dynamics of human violence and destructiveness that are startling all the more for being self-evident once they have been absorbed. Koenigsberg’s ideas cut through conventional notions about culture, the nation, and war, enabling us to understand human institutions in utterly new ways.”
—Ruth Stein, New York University, author of For Love of the Father

“Richard Koenigsberg reminds us in clear and incisive prose that sacrifice and total war are inextricably linked. Drawing on a broad range of knowledge, Koenigsberg asks us to conceive of the Holocaust as the product of an ideology that demanded the sacrifice of both Germany’s male population and European Jewry.”
—Brian E. Crim, Lynchburg College, Author of Anti-Semitism in the German Military Community and the Jewish Response, 1914-1918

“This is psychological inquiry of great depth and tragic urgency. A deep humanity and ethical urgency informs this book which is full of original and provocative insights.”
—Walter A. Davis, Professor Emeritus, Ohio State University

Nations Have the Right to Kill offers an intriguing exploration of the philosophical connections between war and genocide. Focusing on the Nazi case, Koenigsberg concludes that both the sacrifice of German soldiers in glory on the battlefield, and the sacrifice of victims in the gas chambers, served essentially the same purpose: to feed the sacrificial bloodlust of the national deity.”
Journal of Genocide Research
Hitler’s ideology revolved around warfare and sacrificial death. He glorified military service as the opportunity to fight for the existence of the German people and to “sacrifice the life of the individual, always and forever, at all times and places.” Despite 2 million fellow German soldiers killed in the First World War, Hitler insisted it would be a “sin to complain.” They had stepped forward with resolve to “sacrifice their young lives freely and joyfully on the altar of the beloved fatherland.”

Hitler conceived of himself as leader of a great nation—and leaders of great nations wage war. Few had criticized the German commanders of the First World War, Generals Erich Ludendorff and Paul von Hindenburg. After the war, they became national heroes. Von Hindenburg was elected President of the Weimar Republic in 1925 and re-elected in 1932. Why should Hitler have hesitated to take Germany to war again?

Hitler initiated the Second World War fully aware of the carnage of the First World War. On September 1, 1939, as German planes and troops crossed the Polish border, he spoke before the Reichstag and asked every German to be ready to “lay down his life for his people and for his country.” On June 22, 1941, Hitler initiated a massive invasion of the Soviet Union named Operation Barbarossa—some 4.5 million troops launching a surprise attack.

As the attack began, General Gerd von Rundstedt admonished the German soldier to emulate his brothers in the First World War and to “die in the same way,” to be as obedient and to go “happily and as a matter of course to his death.” Goebbels noted that German soldiers went into battle “with devotion, like congregations going into service.”

German troops invading the Soviet Union were followed by special duty units—Einsatzgruppen—assigned to kill Jews. This was the beginning of the Final Solution, which was initiated before the death camps and gas chambers were developed. Approximately 1.5 million Jews were slaughtered in the Soviet Union.

Hitler had no compunctions about sending German soldiers to die in battle. It was the duty of a soldier to “lay down his life.” So, Hitler reasoned, if he had the right to ask his own soldiers to die, why did he not have the right to ask Jews to do the same? Hitler claimed to be undisturbed by the killing of Jewish men, women and children, declaring:

“If I don’t mind sending the pick of the German people into the hell of war without regret for the shedding of valuable German blood, then I have naturally the right to destroy millions of men of inferior races who increase like vermin.”

The Holocaust was generated by Hitler based on his understanding of the logic of warfare. If society gave him the right to ask the best human beings—German soldiers—to lay down their lives, why could he not also ask Jews—enemies of the German people—to do the same?

Nations Have the Right to Kill: Hitler, the Holocaust and War

Table of Contents



Chapter I: The Logic of the Holocaust

Jewish Disease within the German Body Politic
Devotion to Germany
Jewish Individualism as Negation of the German Community
Who Shall Live and Who Shall Die?
Jews Too Shall Die

Chapter II: The Sacrificial Meaning of the Holocaust

Worshipping Germany
Jewish Destructiveness
War as a Sacrificial Ritual
The Duty to Lay Down One's Life
Soldiers as Sacrificial Victims
The Right to Destroy Millions of Men
Die for Germany-or be Killed


Chapter III: As the Soldier Dies, So the Nation Comes Alive

Obfuscation in the Depiction of Warfare
The Magnitude of Destruction and Futility of the First World War
What Was Going On?
Reification of the Nation-State
Willingness to Die as Declaration of Devotion
As the Soldier Dies, so The Nation Comes Alive

Chapter IV: Virility and Slaughter

The First World War as Perpetual Slaughter
Doctrine of the “Offensive at All Costs”
The Battle of the Somme
Virility-The Battle of Verdun
The Sacred Ideal
Virility and Slaughter

Chapter V: Aztec Warfare, Western Warfare

Aztec Warfare
The First World War
Why the Perpetual Slaughter?
The Body and Blood of the Soldier Gives Rise to the Reality of the Nation
War as Potlatch
Warfare as Truth
The Nation-State Kills Its Own Soldiers


Chapter VI: Dying for the Country

Why Did Hitler Wage War?
Identity of Self and Nation
Aryan Willingness for Self-Sacrifice
Hitler's Experience of the First World War
Willingness to Die for One's Country
Why do the Best Human Beings Die in War While the Worst Survive?
Jewish “Shirkers”
As German Soldiers Die, So Must Jews
Sacrificial Death Stripped of Honor

Chapter VII: The Logic of Mass Murder

The First World War
Hitler and the First World War
The Euthanasia Program
Obedience (Unto Death)
Hitler Goes to War
The Explanation