Chapter VII - SSRN papers

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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 ...



       Chapter  VII:        

               (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