Drinking Away The Memories
German soldiers are often represented as cold and heartless in history books I have grown up with. They are represented through photos similar to the one shown here. In this photo soldiers look through massacred Jews for any possessions that can be deemed valuable. Although, in class we actually addressed the burden many of the soldiers felt during and after the killings. Many turned to alcohol for relief from their memories and actions.
“The mobile killing methods, particularly shooting, proved to be inefficient and psychologically burdensome to the killers” (1). Alcohol was used to help soldiers go through with the brutal killings. In Browning’s book, Ordinary Men, he discusses how many of the soldiers would become “increasingly drunk” and some even “fell into a drunken stupor” (2). Therefore, alcohol was used as a coping mechanism as the men were unable to come to terms of their actions.
Overall Browning’s book discussion this week humanized some of the German soldiers to me. Some of them dealt with psychological problems as a result of their actions. Although, it is horrifying to know that many acts were completed while soldiers were in a drunken state. It makes me wonder how many Germans were intoxicated during the horrifying acts they committed. We may never know, but at least books like Browning’s show there that not all the soldiers were cold heartless murders as they are sometimes portrayed in history.
- United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, “Einsatzgruppen (Mobile Killing Units),” November 18, 2015, http://www.ushmm.org/wlc/en/article.php?ModuleId=10005130 , page 1
- Christopher R. Browning, Ordinary Men: Reserve Police Battalion 101 and the Final Solution in Poland (New York: Harper Collins Publishers, 1998), 83