German Soldiers of Jewish descent in 1940 (Source: POLIN Museum of the History of Polish Jews)
This article will come as a surprise to many as you would not imagine that Germans of Jewish descent would have been part of the German army during World War II based on the Nazi ideology. There is this misconception where people think that all Germans are Nazis and all Nazis are German but that is not the case.
What will be even more surprising is that we are not talking about 100 or 1000 German-Jewish soldiers but in fact about 150,000 of them.
Such a case is best presented by Bryan Mark Rigg, an American historian who has written numerous books on World War II. This author has done 10 years' worth of research and it proves that many of the soldiers within the German army were of Jewish descent. This is presented in his most famous book Hitler’s Jewish Soldiers.
Cover of the book “Hitler’s Jewish Soldiers” by Bryan Mark Rigg (Source: Amazon)
The Holocaust itself should justify that this could not be possible as the hate for the Jewish race portrayed by Nazis would not allow such a thing, but as mentioned before many of the “Nazi” soldiers were not even German in fact.
Let’s be more clear about this, most of these German soldiers that were apparently of Jewish descent were classified as “Mischlinge” which translates to partial-Jews. Most of them were not even following this religion neither the traditions you would see in a Jewish family as over the years those who emigrated became more German than Jewish in their identity.
Another very interesting fact about these soldiers was that you would think that most of them would present themselves as low ranks however, you would be wrong as some of them were even found to be high commanding officers and even fleet admirals.
A loophole in the Nazi law
So, let me explain the logic behind all this even if there isn’t much. To put things into perspective, as these soldiers presented themselves to be partial Jewish therefore not following through with the religion or traditions (in most cases) had turned towards many exemption orders which were produced by the so-called Nazi laws (German laws under the reign of Hitler). These soldiers were more devoted to their military career which had made them very patriotic not only for the German country itself but also for the Nazi regime.
At the same time, Hitler knew that he will need all the soldiers he could get his hands on in order to conquer Europe. With the pressure created by the expectations formed by German citizens, he became desperate enough to enlist these partial Jewish people. Let’s be honest here, if you are of a certain descent, it is in your blood and you cannot really call yourself “partially” Jewish.
Many of these soldiers were actually bearing Hitler’s own signature so they were not able to escape the fate of the Third Reich at the end of the Second World War. This means that even if some of them were Jewish they had to be trialed as Nazis, even if they did not partake in any actions concerning the Holocaust.
Hitler’s Jewish right hands
From many years of research conducted by Bryan Mark Rigg, there have been three members of the Third Reich’s high-ranking officers found to be Germans of Jewish descent. These three men are as follow:
Marshal Erhard Milch
Marshal Erhard Milch (Source:Wikimedia Commons)
This German marshal of Jewish descent was praised by Hitler as he was in charge of the Luftwaffe after the end of the First World War. In the Second World War, he was in charge of the production of all German military aircraft as well as the training of some of the finest German fighter pilots.
He had survived the Second World War but like many high-ranking officers, he was looked up for quite some time as a prisoner of war. During this whole time, he never mentioned that he was of Jewish descent, and based on his actions during the war as well as his rank no one would believe him if he had.
General Helmut Wilberg
General Helmut Wilberg (Source: Wikimedia Commons)
One of the highest-ranked generals in the German army during the Second World War, he was also the last Luftwaffe general of the German Air Force. He was awarded the Iron Cross in the First World War and gained three more stars at his rank as a General.
Just as Erhard, Helmuth was very appraised by Hitler as the Luftwaffe (German Air Force) was considered the pride of the German army. Just as the rest he was of Jewish ancestry but never said a thing about it.
Naval Commander Bernhard Rogge
Admiral Berhard Rogge (Source: Wikimedia Commons)
Last but not least, we have Admiral Bernhard Rogge, the most decorated naval commander of the German army even to this day. Like the rest of those listed, his high rank probably came through his excellent service in the First World War where he was awarded the Iron Cross.
In the Second World War, he was in command of a merchant raider until he later became a Konteradmiral of West Germany’s Navy. Just as the other men mentioned, he was also of Jewish descent but this time we have a person who at a later date did admit that he was actually of Jewish descent as well as that he had nothing to do with the Holocaust.
These soldiers were actually fighting on Hitler’s side knowing the atrocities that were taking place and the genocide upon their kind. It is crazy how Hitler’s regime was able to sort of brainwash these soldiers to the point where they did not care about their kind or ancestors. It has been also said that many found Hitler inspiring before he came to power.
Bryan mentioned in his book that this effect happened because of them taking part in World War One and being highly decorated to the point where their pride made them super patriotic towards the Nazi regime.
As for the rest of the common (low-ranking) soldiers that were of Jewish descent, it was either the fear that they would end up being murdered for being Jewish or being indoctrinated by the Nazi regime that made them fight for those who were murdering their own kind.