Date of Award

8-2015

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

Major

History

Major Professor

Vejas Liulevicius

Committee Members

Denise Phillips, Monica Black, Daniel Magilow

Abstract

Between September 1944 and March 1945 the Nazi regime deported over 250,000 German civilians living in western Germany. These clearances drew upon brutal techniques of population control perfected earlier in occupied Europe. Led by veterans of the anti-partisan war in Eastern Europe, the Rhineland’s security personnel forcibly removed civilians from areas threatened by the Allied advance and appropriated their personal property, such as food and livestock, for the war effort. During the deportations, security officers forced men and teenage boys into militia units sent to the front, and executed suspected criminals, spies, and deserters. In theory and in practice, the Rhineland deportations were reminiscent of the so-called “dead zone” operations previously carried out in Nazi Europe to deny enemy partisans food and shelter. However, this time the regime used these methods to coerce its own war weary population into defending the country. This intersection between counterinsurgency methods and domestic policing during the last months of the Third Reich is the subject of this dissertation.

It examines how a ruthless anti-partisan war waged abroad reshaped policing at home through the rotation of security personnel between outposts on the edges of Nazi Europe and offices inside Germany. Deploying personnel to war zones profoundly influenced the already radical nature of Nazi security culture. Participation in genocide and counterinsurgency operations hardened officers’ interpretation of contradictory civilian behaviors, and allowed them to conflate common criminality and war weariness with resistance. The intentional use of criminal tropes to describe guerilla fighters encouraged personnel to draw parallels between their experiences abroad and the social unrest they confronted on the home front as the Third Reich collapsed, with tragic results. By tracing the careers of the security officers responsible for the atrocities committed in the Rhineland, my research highlights the strong continuities in ideas, policies, practices, and personnel between Nazi Germany and its occupied territories that caused violence against civilians on the German home front at the end of World War II.

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