Thursday, April 8, 2021

Edward B. Westermann's "Drunk on Genocide"

Edward B. Westermann is Professor of History at Texas A&M University—San Antonio, a Commissioner on the Texas Holocaust and Genocide Commission, and author, most recently, of Hitler's Ostkrieg and the Indian Wars.

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, Drunk on Genocide: Alcohol and Mass Murder in Nazi Germany, and reported the following:
Page 99 of my work examines the way in which geography and space played an important role in determining Nazi actions between the “soft West” (e.g., France, Belgium, etc.) and the “wild East” (i.e., Poland and the Soviet Union). Specifically, this page is part of a chapter focused on “Alcohol and Sexual Violence” that explores the integration of drinking ritual into acts of sexual humiliation and sexual assault. This page reveals the existence of a “double standard” concerning acceptable German behavior in the West and the East, and shows, that, in the latter, “physical conquest of territory, racial, and gender-based concepts of superiority, and perceptions of male camaraderie combined with excessive alcohol consumption to create a mind-set among the perpetrators in which the prohibition of acts of sexual aggression existed as ‘reality only on paper.’”

In this case, “the page 99 test” provides a representative and important reflection of the overall thesis and content of the work. First, it reveals the manner in which not only the act of drinking, but the spaces and places that it occurred proved important in determining the boundaries of appropriate conduct. Second, it highlights the manner by which the occupied eastern territories became “zones of exception” in which ideological beliefs in German racial superiority found expression in horrific acts of sexual and physical abuse.

Under National Socialism, intoxication in both a literal and metaphorical sense became part of a hypermasculine ideal in which manhood and male group solidarity was established and reaffirmed by the perpetrators in rituals of celebration, physical and sexual abuse, and mass murder. For Nazi Party bureaucrats, the men of the SS and police, and the German troops who set about the task of conquering and “civilizing” the occupied territories, feelings of colonial entitlement reflected elements of a militarized masculine ethos in which the conquerors became addicted to the intoxication of the East and became drunk with power. While the expression ‘drunk with power’ served a symbolic purpose, the use of alcohol among the perpetrators was a very real and prevalent fact of life and constituted an important ritual in the preparation, implementation, and celebration of acts of mass killing in the East. While the German home front experienced euphoria in mass public spectacles and military victories, the term “Ostrausch” (lit. intoxication of the East) emerged as a description of the “imperial high” that characterized the behavior and actions of those participating in the National Socialist conquest of Eastern Europe; a campaign in which “hedonism and genocide went hand in hand.”
Learn more about Drunk on Genocide at the Cornell University Press.

--Marshal Zeringue