At the end of 1941, six weeks after the mass deportations of Jews from Nazi Germany had begun, Gestapo offices across the Reich received an urgent telex from Adolf Eichmann, decreeing that all war-wounded and decorated Jewish veterans of World War I be exempted from upcoming "evacuations." Why this was so, and how Jewish veterans at least initially were able to avoid the fate of ordinary Jews under the Nazis, is the subject of Comrades Betrayed.
Michael Geheran deftly illuminates how the same values that compelled Jewish soldiers to demonstrate bravery in the front lines in World War I made it impossible for them to accept passively, let alone comprehend, persecution under Hitler. After all, they upheld the ideal of the German fighting man, embraced the fatherland, and cherished the bonds that had developed in military service. Through their diaries and private letters, as well as interviews with eyewitnesses and surviving family members and records from the police, Gestapo, and military, Michael Geheran presents a major challenge to the prevailing view that Jewish veterans were left isolated, neighborless, and having suffered a social death by 1938.
Tracing the path from the trenches of the Great War to the extermination camps of the Third Reich, Geheran exposes a painful dichotomy: while many Jewish former combatants believed that Germany would never betray them, the Holocaust was nonetheless a horrific reality. In chronicling Jewish veterans' appeal to older, traditional notions of comradeship and national belonging, Comrades Betrayed forces reflection on how this group made use of scant opportunities to defy Nazi persecution and, for some, to evade becoming victims of the Final Solution.
1. Reappraising Jewish War Experiences, 1914–18
2. The Politics of Comradeship: Weimar Germany, 1918–33
3. "These Scoundrels Are Not the German People": The Nazi Seizure of Power, 1933–35
4. Jewish Frontkämpfer and the Nazi Volksgemeinschaft
5. Under the "Absolute" Power of National Socialism, 1938–41
6. Defiant Germanness
Michael Geheran is Assistant Professor of History and Deputy Director of the Center for Holocaust and Genocide Studies at the United States Military Academy at West Point.
Michael Geheran's archival research and sharp focus on the fate of the most protected sub-class of the persecuted Jews make Comrades Betrayed an invaluable if grim contribution to the history of a depraved government and warped society that murdered as many of its proudly loyal veterans as it could.
~Michigan War Studies Review
Geheran has written an extremely readable and well-researched book. It makes you proud to read about how these Jewish veterans maintained their sense of honor and military values which allowed them to defy the Nazis in the face of the discriminatory action taken against them.
~The Jewish Veteran
Comrades Betrayed is an important new study of the experience of Jewish veterans during the years of the Weimar Republic (1918-1933) and the Third Reich (1933-1945). The book is based on extensive archival research, along with diaries, letters, and oral histories of Holocaust victims and survivors.
~The NYMAS Review
Geheran offers a particularly effective viewpoint with his analysis of these former soldiers' notions of masculinity and their relation to comradeship... [He] mobilizes an impressive array of archival and published primary sources to build an intriguing narrative.
~Global Military Studies Review
Geheran's book certainly adds further depth to the history of the German-Jewish war veterans. Its real significance, though, lies in the final three chapters. Here, Geheran meticulously investigates how Jewish veterans' relationship to the war and to former comrades could lead to certain 'privileges', but all too often also to their destruction.
The strength of Geheran's work lies in the impressive diversity of sources consulted. Comrades Betrayed is a significant contribution to our understanding of how this unique population of German Jews negotiated the Third Reich's multifaceted racial state.
~Holocaust & Genocide Studies
Based on a close analysis of memoirs, letters, and official documents, Geheran's well-researched account brings the veterans' voices to light and effectively writes this group into German and German-Jewish history. Comrades Betrayed is an impressive, well-crafted, and persuasive work, an enormously valuable contribution to German history, Jewish history, and the history of the Holocaust, which vividly and compellingly humanizes a unique group of the Nazis' victims.
~Central European History
A fascinating tapestry is woven in the book, using personal stories of interventions "from above" in favour of former soldiers. Geheran's book certainly deals with a tough and complex moral issue, and the author tackles it remarkably well.
~International Jounal of Military History and Historiography