He gendercidal dimension of the holocaust against the Jews was evident during particular phases of the campaign of extermination. It nonetheless has its harbinger in the mass detentions of males during the earlier (1933-41) period of Nazi rule. As a campaign of full-blown mass execution, the gendercide against Jewish males marked an important, if temporary, “onset phase” of the holocaust in the occupied eastern territories (including, after August 1941 , the Balkans).
Gendercidal strategies against women were evident at later stages, both in mass executions and gassings, women- nly death camps, and the forced marches that killed tens of thousands in the closing stages of the war. Again, it must be stressed that in both their male and female manifestations, the Jewish gendercides were subsidiary features and strategies of a campaign of “root-and-branch” extermination, in which gender was far from a dominant consideration overall.
Daniel Goldhagen points out in Hitler’s Willing Executioners (pp. 149-50) how the”up-close,” intimate killing of manifestly defenceless, screaming civilians on the eastern front killings which spattered blood and brain matter around the killing fields and over the killers was at first ncrementally managed according to gender: The Einsatzgruppen [death-squad] officers could habituate their men into their new vocation as genocidal executioners through a stepwise escalation of the killing.
First, by shooting primarily teenage and adult Jewish males, they would be able to acclimate themselves to mass executions without the shock of killing women, young children, and the infirm. According to Alfred Filbert, the commander of Einsatzkommando 9, the [execution] order from [Reinhard] Heydrich “quite clearly” “included also women and children. ” Yet, “in the first instance, without a doubt, the executions were limited generally to Jewish males. By generally keeping units’ initial massacres to smallish numbers (by German standards) of a few hundred or even a thousand or so, instead of many thousands, the perpetrators would be less likely to become overwhelmed by the enormity of the gargantuan bloodbaths that were to follow. They also could believe that they were selectively killing the most dangerous Jews, which was a measure that they could conceive to be reasonable for this apocalyptic war. Once the men became used to slaughtering Jews on this sex-selective and smaller scale, the officers could ore easily expand the scope and size of the killing operations.
Jewish men rounded up for mass execution at Zhytomyr, Ukraine, August 7, 1942. In the early weeks of these murder campaigns, the Einsatzkommandos, according to Goldhagen, “were the equivalent of genocidal scouting parties, developing the methods of The images of mountains of corpses left behind by the Nazi mass murderers shocked the world, and helped contribute to the founding of the state of Israel. As the Soviet and Allied forces rolled back across Nazi-occupied Europe,
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