Hitler’s First Victims (Review)

I’ve often heard people ask one rhetorical question about the Holocaust in particular. How could such a thing happen in a modern, industrialized European nation?  It’s not as if the citizens were unaware of it, as some people have posited.   Actually, the citizens were quite aware of the gross abuses from the very beginnings of it in the 1930s.Hitler-01cover

Holocausts and ethnic cleansings have continued to plague mankind ever since then, and into our present times.  This problem is one reason I have remained fascinated with the German Third Reich and its crimes against humanity. Something deep inside me greatly wants to understand how the Holocaust was able to take root in a modern Western nation.

I want to be aware of the seeds of cultural cleansing as they begin to sprout, here at home. This is also one of the reasons I was pleased to finally read Timothy W. Ryback’s new book, Hitler’s First Victims: The Quest for Justice.

This utterly fascinating and graphic book is not for the faint of heart nor apologists for intolerance.  There are graphic descriptions of barbaric, repulsive, violent acts. This impeccably researched volume details the first perpetrators and victims at the Dachau Concentration Camp. The reader will better understand the degeneration of Germany before, during, and after 1933.

The framework of this enlightening story is made up of the written legal documents of one of the very few people who bravely stood up against the Nazi regime. Josef Hartinger was a Bavarian prosecuter working in the district near the former industrial plant named after the railway station, Dachau. This soft-spoken, diligent state bureaucrat investigated and kept copious notes about the first fatal incidents at Germany’s first concentration camp.Hitler-03Dachau

Ryback focuses attention on the shootings of four prisoners who were alleged to attempt escape from the detention center.  Attorney Hartinger was suspicious of the official alabis from the very start. He observed the deconstruction of the old governmental departments, and civil service as they were infiltrated by the Nazi party at all levels. To Hartinger’s dismay, he witnessed the phasing out of the state police overseeing of the Dachau detention center. His concern grew as he witnessed Dachau devolving into an operation and training center for the Schutzstaffel (SS) forces.

As more shootings attributed to escape attempts and questionable “suicides” increased, Hartinger’s suspicions were validated. He understood that the SS troops in charge were power hungry, sadistic criminals and the detainees were utterly helpless and terrorized.

To the best of their ability, Hartinger and autopsy expert Dr. Moritz Flamm, examined each victim and interviewed the camp commandant and relevant SS guards. The Hitler-02Dachaufindings were carefully documented then officially reported. Most of the documentary forensic evidence was preserved. Later, the documents were eventually used as incriminating evidence during the post war trials at Nuremberg.

Importantly, the local citizenry were aware of the deteriorating conditions and the increasing incidents of shootings taking place at Dachau.  There were numerous incidents involving citizens who spoke out against the Nazi regime being taken away and incarcerated at Dachau where they eventually were shot. The rumors of atrocities spread quickly  and widely across Germany already in 1933.   This knowledge cemented the necessary fear that was used to keep the public under control.

This reader noted that the circumstances of the 1930s shed light on a country on the edge of total tyranny.  A society in which civil liberties had been sacrificed in the name of homeland security.  The justice system increasingly became a tool of the political party, and the citizens went into denial about injustices.

Hitler’s First Victims is not only an excellent book for people interested in the history of the Third Reich, it is essential reading for all people who are concerned about human rights, and individual liberty. I highly recommend this book.

{ Hitler’s First Victims: The Quest For Justice by Timothy W. Ryback; 288 pages, published October 21, 2014 by Knopf Doubleday; ISBN:  978-0-385-35291-8 }

Ciao
1984aThe Blue Jay of Happiness is concerned how the combination of today’s events and certain attitudes are eroding our society’s democratic, values and sense of justice.

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About swabby429

An eclectic guy who likes to observe the world around him and comment about those observations.
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