Total War: Civilians as Casualties and Civilians as Laborers

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“TOTAL WAR”: CIVILIANS AS CASUALTIES AND CIVILIANS AS LABORERS

BY TROY RECTOR

IUPUI HIST-B425 SECOND WORLD WAR
DR. KEVIN CRAMER

JUNE 15TH, 2012

Introduction and thesis
The concept of “total war” can be seen throughout history in various forms. Some countries used the tactic of targeting of civilians in order to lower morale and support for war. Some countries in the past mobilized their economies and population in order to support the war effort. It wasn’t until World War II did the idea and the concepts of “total war” emerge so prominently as the best method to win the war in Europe.

From 1930 to 1945, the concept of “total war” evolved significantly. Two key ideas and tactics demonstrate this clearly. By analyzing the targeting of civilians and the industrialized labor force, one can see this evolution as “total war” come to be the largest scale in the history of the world. Civilians targeted

Civilians had been targeted in past history but never to the scale that took place during World War II. Germany’s atrocities towards the Jews, the Russian reprisals of German civilians once they pushed westward, and the U.S. “fire raids” and use of the atomic bomb were all examples of large scale targeting. Although effective in destroying the infrastructures and key civilian establishments, the larger devastation came with the mentality of those civilians. Terror, fear, low morale, and questioning of their country’s goals are just some of the aspects that civilians comprehended during this period.

On 13 May 1941, the German Wehrmacht received “the criminal orders”. (The Criminal Orders, page 94). These orders specifically outlined the conduct of the German military in its treatment of civilians on the battlefield. The orders let the German soldiers know that they would not be prosecuted for inhumane and heinous treatment of enemy civilians. Among those civilians mentioned included Russian partisans and the Jewish “subhumans”. An estimated 17 million Soviet civilians died throughout the war, many of them from direct enemy contact.

The German Einsatzgruppen, or task forces, was small groups of SS police units that were assigned to carry out the mass murder of Russians and Jews. They were first used to execute “The Commissar Order”, which targeted Russian political commissars and other public figures. More infamously, is the way they treated the Jewish populations. Beginning in 1935 with the German Jews, the SS rounded up Jewish civilians and placed them into concentration camps. On November 9th and 10th, 1938, Nazi’s were also responsible for the destruction of synagogues and beating and robbing of Jews within Germany. These kinds of atrocities continued on to Poland. Polish death rates were in the tens of thousands while over a half a million Jews died from malnutrition, forced labor, and disease after being rounded up and sent to “ghettos”. (The Inhumanity of Man, page 309) The Wannsee Conference in January 1942 set a plan for the “Final Solution” of the Jewish Population. (Wannsee Conference, page 325). Earlier atrocities resulted in Nazi death camps were the Jewish were taken. Some were used as forced labor as well as death chambers; the largest of these concentration camps were located in Auschwitz, Chelmno, Majdanek, Treblinka, Sobibor, and Belzec. Using carbon monoxide and later, cyanide gas, men, women, and children were murdered by the thousands. Other German atrocities occurred in June 1942 in Lidice, Czechoslovakia where about 340 villagers were murdered. (Lidice, page 331) In Greece, an estimated 60,000 to 70,000 Greek Jews died at the hands of Germans. (The Holocaust in Greece, page 339) German atrocities also occurred in Hungary as well as the Soviet Union. Over 6 million Jews were died in the hands of the Nazi’s. Although many historians don’t believe The Holocaust had a critical impact on the course of the war, it is proven that it affected the moral and...
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