inspector for the Ukraine wrote in a letter complaining of the incessant .... xix Vivien Spitz, Doctors from Hell: The Horrific Account Of Nazi Experiments On ...
(Ir)Rationality & Praxis “Then we can’t really describe what we have named? No, any description would reify it. Nevertheless, it lets itself be named, and being named it can be thought about. … only if thinking is no longer re-‐presenting Perhaps we are now close to being released into the nature of thinking… …through waiting for its nature.”i
Chapter VII: (Ir)Rationality & Praxis…
Chapter V presented the purpose and validity of the semiotic square as a tool by which
to structure the multifarious interpretations of rationality and irrationality. Chapter VI furthered this desideratum by citing Agamben’s argument for the relegation of the state of exception from the judicial realm to the realm of realized and possible sovereign power. This chapter therefore will round out the theoretical edges proposed in the previous two chapters by providing evidence of the state and exceptional state rationality as verbally and physically framed by the citizens and state officials. I.
State Praxis of Nazi Rationality/Irrationality The expressions of state rationality shifted between the various Reich Ministries, civil
offices, military branches, and even Nazi youth organizations. It was this malleability which allowed for the germination of the complex Nazi legal system even as Nazi academics articulated the omniscient presence of the Führer: The position of Führer combines in itself all sovereign power of the Reich… If we wish to define political power in the volkisch Reich correctly, we must not speak of ‘State power” but of ‘Führer power”. For it is not the State as an impersonal entity that is the source of political power; rather, the political power is given to the Führer as the executor of the nation’s common will… Führer power is not restricted by the safeguards and controls, by autonomous protected spheres, and ii by vested and individual rights; rather it is free and independent, exclusive and unlimited.
Through this theoretical justification, Huber brought the singularity of the sovereign head into the realm of variegated state entities by demonstrating their underlying homogeneity as
expressions of the Führer’s power. This power demanded the cooperation of entire Ministries as well as individuals, ensuring obedience by making visible the constant possibility of punishment and rejection by the collective state. The complete nature of the Führer’s power overrode the legal system ostensibly structured to protect the citizen, and guaranteed obedience and obligatory behavior, as phrased in this ominous statement: Those who do not share a community’s values -‐ especially those who cannot share them because they are judged to be fundamentally different, not ‘us’ but other-‐than-‐us, are threats to our way of life. Enemies exist, Aggression against them is justifiable and even necessary for self-‐defense…they do not exist entirely beyond national borders, they may dwell within as iii well. If so, they deserve neither assimilation nor legal protection.
Further, this perdurable possibility, as Foucault argued, was the means by which the acceptance of the existence and purpose of the camps became routine in state narrative: “By operating at every level of the social body and by mingling ceaselessly the art of rectifying and the right to punish, the universality of the carceral lowers the level from which it becomes natural and acceptable to be punished.”iv However, although the basic acceptance based in fear of reprisal served as a ballast for the increasing freedom by which camps and camp activities were furthered, there nonetheless was constant monitoring of military actions. Hitler and his top officials recognized that in exceptional state actions conducted in the state sphere there existed an event horizon of sorts, beyond which the public would not condone or even accept. Thus this statement would have served as a cause for action among the appropriate military leaders: The number of transgressions by military personnel against the civilian population is increasing… It has also happened lately that soldiers and even officers independently undertook shootings of v Jews, or that they participated in such shootings.
Thus, the rationality underlining the decisions and actions of the top Nazi officials was influenced by public opinion. However, this influence did not always take the form as one may expect; as demonstrated through Hitler’s perversion the national opinion regarding state plans, “Its not a bad idea that public rumor attributes to us a plan to exterminate the Jews. Terror is a salutary thing.” Through such rationality which in turn drafted public policies distributed and enforced throughout the state, Hitler’s rationality played out: a mass diffusion into the collective of a “political guilt” through which policies and practices harnessed the morality of each German, rendering each helpless to protest, as though personally responsible for the crimes of the state, as evidenced: People went so far as to formulate and disseminate more or less the following assertion: ‘The state must be in a bad way now or it could not happen that these people should simply be sent to their death solely in order that means, which until now have been used for the upkeep of vi these people, are available for the prosecution of the war.
However, while this attempt at injecting a sense of political guilt into the public was prevalent, the Nazi leaders were also careful to release the collective sense of moral guilt that the Germans would have felt. “The alleged lack of alternatives and the emergency excused everything since the Jews were the aggressive persecutors and the Germans their innocent victims.”vii This understanding of the Germans pitted against their collective enemy may not have been always accepted without question, but the complacency which kept unbelievers silent was often demonstrated in everyday situations. As noted in the diary of one Berlin woman who recorded an incident on a train in which soldiers were commenting on the mass graves of Poles found in Katyn: “a war is a war… you just have to dig one hundred kilometers
further and you’ll find the corpses of 10,000 Jews.” Following the comment was silence, indicating an awareness and tacit, though uncomfortable acceptance.viii The silence and implied awareness of these ugly realities occurring close by only re-‐enforce the totality by which the citizen felt the compulsion laid down by articulated propaganda and the unarticulated, but omnipresent threat of capital punishment to comply with the measures of total warfare as outlined by their sovereign head, “as well as the relationship between needs and availability of personnel and material, require measures... It is not a question of ‘marching separately and battling together’, but marching and battling must be done in unison from the beginning from all fields.”ix Thus, this state contrived sense of unity could not be legitimately brought into question by any individual or collective. Initially, Nazi propaganda limited itself to utilizing basic binary terms both to express the irreconcilable difference between German and homo sacer and the obvious state preference for the former over the latter. However, approximately as the regime celebrated its first and second months in power, Nazi propaganda began shifting into an eventual tri-‐tiered phenomenon of sophistication. In order to maximize support, the most scientific rationale for oppression found expression almost exclusively in the top tier, among the Nazi scholars and scientists who found rank and livid prejudice distasteful. These scientific and scholarly works often trickled down to the lower two ranks, where the more traditional forms of emotional anti-‐Semitism glowered. And in this way Nazi propaganda encapsulated an unleashed emotional and violent hate tempered by cold scientific prejudice. Furthermore, the Ministry of Propaganda created a tri-‐fold narrative buttressing the underlying conscience of each citizen, regardless of tier categorization: “…Germans are different and better than other human groups,
one’s existence as a German is dependent on the Volk and its heritage, whose continued vitality, including one’s own posterity, depends on a commitment to its purity. Third, one’s actions should be guided by national interests.”x This latter point was especially crucial for the realization of Nazi plans. The economics behind waging total war and total genocide were an enormous strain on the government, and thus the “socialist” aspect of “National Socialist” came to the forefront of propaganda’s themes: “In volkisch thought, the economy was conceived of as the subordinated servant of the Volk’s political power…the term Volkswirtschaft was explicitly opposed to private economic interest …property was declared Volksvermogen (“Volk-‐property”) …to be used for the common good.” xi This call to action was clearly limited to the common citizen who had not been deemed an “enemy” of the state or Volk. Therefore, the Jews, who were not considered part of the Volksgemeinschaft, were assumed to “have gained their wealth by fraud, usury and profiteering, (and therefore) it was only right that their property should be restored to the common stock of the Volksvermogen.xii The Nazis emphasized stark binary terms such as “healthy” and “unhealthy” to spark religious and traditional prejudices, but it was within the meta-‐terms, within the gray matter, the confusing and undefined, that the scientific/logical reason was placed. This placement created and supported not the type of anti-‐Semitism that even the German-‐Jew had come to accept, but a type which lay beyond the known and accepted -‐ namely the anti-‐Semitism which ruled over the death camps. In November 23, 1939, Hans Frank ordered all Jews in Poland over ten years old to wear the Star of David on a band on the right arm. On September 1, 1941, this edict altered slightly
to include Jews within Germany who were to wear a badge of the Star of David over the left breast. Due to the statutes which bound Jews to bearing these bands of the Star of David, the body constantly betrayed its owner, casting it into a state of unyielding threat of physical harm from Nazis and, further isolation from other persecuted Jews. While these bands were to form in the latter years of the Nazi regime the most obvious means of regulating Jewish identity, other forms of interpellation were utilized for the same purpose, as explored in Chapter IV. The authority for the infliction of punishments, as the authoritative office of the state, makes its independent decision while politically balancing the necessity for arranging experiments in the xiii interests of the community against what can be expected of the condemned.
Exceptional State Praxis of Nazi Rationality/Irrationality
In the realm of the exceptional, the concept of personal liability for state crimes moved
from ethical consideration to bodily reality. Further, the roles of the functionaries was not entirely passive, in fact, there often existed opportunities to express personal opinions on how to best deal with the” Jewish Question.” One such example was in the SS training school for SS-‐ Junkerschule, (“SS-‐officer candidates“) in which some topics on a spring 1937 final exam included: “Which measures would you take in order to check and prove the Jewish ancestry of a person?”’; “Compile a report for the entire Reich on ‘Jews in the livestock trade’ and make your own proposals to rectify the evils described”; “How do I envision the solution of the Jewish question?”xiv By moving the “Jewish question” into a theoretical and rhetorical prospect, the conditions of possibility opened up, allowing for creative methods for implementing massacre to become accepted and normalized “solutions” in the exceptional and realized realm. …the commanders of the Einsatzgruppen constructed various justifications for killings. The
significance of these rationalizations will be readily apparent once we consider that the Einsatzgruppen did not give any reasons to Heydrich; they had to give reasons only to themselves… (this was) the killing of the Jewish danger.xv However private the reasons were to an SS committing innumerable murders, the consequences of his life-‐depriving actions were nonetheless publicly reviewed, at least among the Reich business owners. As one armament inspector for the Ukraine wrote in a letter complaining of the incessant murders depriving his factories of suitable bodies for labor, “If we shoot the Jews, let the war prisoners die out, expose the urban population to starvation and are about to lose part of the rural population next year owing to hunger, the question is: Who is going to produce anything in this area?”xvi However, the state maintained a careful control over how these “solutions” were implemented, and further, who was designated to undertake this task as executioner of homo sacer: Only those soldiers may take part in such actions as have specifically been ordered to do so. Furthermore, I forbid any member of this unit to participate as a specter. Insofar as military personnel are detailed to these actions, they have to be commanded by an officer. The officer xvii has to see to it that there are no unpleasant excesses by the troops.
Also in the exceptional state, was a rationality conditioned for the economic benefit of the Reich state as created through the exceptional state activities. This included such accounting tasks as the the daily calculations and re-‐calculations of the worth of life: “It seems Eichmann offered him one million Jews – in return for goods… for example, lorries, I could imagine one lorry for a hundred Jews, but that is only a suggested figure.”xviii This bureaucratic rationality was mirrored in the rationality of the doctors and scientists, another group placed
within the camps. In one letter to a state official, Dr. Sievers wrote in 1942, “We are not conducting these experiments, as a matter of fact, for the sake of some fixed scientific idea, but to be of practical help to the armed forces and beyond that to the German people in a possible emergency.”xix Two additional statements further articulate the medical and scientific justification for the use of human subjects in experimentation: To some degree, the therapeutic pattern…is undoubtedly a valid one, and explains why the Wehrmacht, and especially the German Air Force, participated in these experiments. Fanatically bent upon conquest, utterly ruthless as to the means or instruments to be used to achieve victory…the German militarists were willing to gather whatever scientific fruit these experiments xx might yield. Considering the urgency of finding a practical solution to this important problem (the rescue of airplane crews from high altitude), particularly in view of the prevailing experimental conditions, it was necessary to forego for the time being a detailed clarification of the purely scientific xxi problems involved.
These statements of justification speak to the manner of rational action within the exceptional state which allowed for the guards and doctors to perform their tasks with the appearance of ethical automatons. This containment of contradictions displayed in the Panopticon camp structure and production of behaviors is outlined in the next chapter.
Martin Heidegger, Discourse on Thinking, (New York: Harper & Row, 1966), 67. Ernst Huber’s definition of Führer power, as quoted in David Welch, The Third Reich: Politics and Propaganda, (London: Routledge, 1993), 84. iii John Roth, Ethics During and After the Holocaust: The Shadow of Birkenau, (London: Macmillan, 2007), 87. iv Michel Foucault, Discipline and Punish: The Birth of the Prison, (London: Penguin Books, 1977),303. v Order from the commander of Rear Army Group Area South, Sept. 1941, as cited in Hilberg, vol I, 326-‐327. vi Ibid., 802. vii David Bankier, “German Public Awareness of the Final Solution” in The Final Solution: Origins and Implementations. ed. David Cesarani. (New York: Routledge Press, 1996), 224. viii Ibid., 216-‐217. ix International Military Tribunal, Trial of the Major War Criminals Before the International Military Tribunal, Nuremberg, 14 November 1945-‐1 October 1946. (Buffalo: William S. Hein, 1995), 929. x Roth, The Final Solution, 87. xi Barkai, “Volksgemenschaft, ‘Aryanization,’ and Shoah”, 80. xii Ibid. xiii Penelope Eckert and Sally McConnell-‐Ginet. “Power: Gender Relations.” Annual Review of Anthology, Vol. 21 (1992), 483. xiv Aly, “’Jewish Resettlement: Reflections on the Political Prehistory of the Holocaust” in National Socialist Extermination Policies, 55-‐56. xv Hilberg, Destruction of the European Jews, vol. I, 329. xvi Gideon Hausner, Justice in Jerusalem, (Jerusalem: Herzl Press, 1978), 77. xvii th Order from XXX Corps in the 11 Army sent down to companies, August 1941, as cited in Destruction of the European Jews, vol. I, Raul Hilberg. (New York: Holmes & Meir Publishers Ltd., 1985), 326. xviii Yehuda Bauer, Shoah in Historical Perspective, (Seattle: University of Washington Press, 1978), 143. xix Vivien Spitz, Doctors from Hell: The Horrific Account Of Nazi Experiments On Humans, (Colorado: Sentient Publications, 2005), 138. xx Ibid., 37. xxi Ibid., 126. ii