Field justice?

Hans-Ulrich Rudel was a bomber pilot on the German side of the Eastern Front in WWII. And not just any bomber pilot, but the most successful during the war and possibly ever. He wrote a book called Stuka Pilot in which he described his war service. It is pretty interesting as a mostly apolitical inside view of the Nazi military. Most of it is just descriptions of battles and such, with opinions thrown in every so often. At the end there is rather more opinion sprinkled in. It's not the fastest read, but given that I've been pondering the question of guilt by lower-level participation in some immoral endeavor a lot lately it fit right in.

There's plenty to write about, but for now I'll just give a part from the end. Rudel relates how one of the terms of the unconditional surrender is that the Germans have to turn over their arms to the Soviet military. After this, when a column of his unit is marching back towards Germany (they were in what is now the Czech Republic at the time) they were ambushed and many were killed by Czech partisans--Rudel called them terrorists.

Given that Czechoslovakia was terrorized by the German military for several years prior, that doesn't bother me one bit. Likewise with all the concentration camp guards lined up against the wall at newly-liberated camps. As a political issue I oppose the death penalty, but I could never bring myself to oppose these kinds of wartime actions.

Briefly, I think that there are some actions which, in classical Icelandic fashion, put someone outside the protection of the law--not Congress's made-up law, but the law in the sense of the right way to treat people. The state is only occasionally on the side of the right kind of law. Hell, lately it's only occasionally on the side of its own laws. It doesn't seem to have any kind of moral clarity to make life-and-death legal decisions, even without the selective enforcement that angers so many anti-death-penalty people.

But a man not drunk with power might have the moral clarity to do this. In general he ought to exercise restraint, but I find the impromptu execution of concentration camp guards completely acceptable.

It may be defensible on an emotional level but is my middle-of-the-road position defensible in a purely consistent way?

As a last quick note, Rudel's book mentions the evils of Bolshevism pretty clearly, but does not mention a single world about Jews. I wonder if he self-edited that part out or if an editor did so. It seems pretty strange for a man who became a far-right-wing political hero in Germany later not to have opinions about Jews.

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Well obviously the jews

Well obviously the jews *are* controlling the evil bolchevics, wait no they are the evil capitalists, or whatever.

Wartime Actions?

Just a nit-picking point, but what the Czech partisans did cannot be described as 'wartime actions' since presumably the general surrender ended the war. Given that you'll have to defend the killings as 'peacetime actions.' A more difficult task, perhaps?

For research into "the

For research into "the question of guilt by lower-level participation in some immoral endeavor," I highly recommend Browning's Ordinary Men, if you haven't discovered it already.


[RFM3: replaced url with link above]

Arthur: I think the general

Arthur: I think the general Nazi idea was that "the Jews" invented, developed, and then foisted Bolshevism on Russia, but I don't know how far down that "knowledge" went. The leaders "knew" a lot that they didn't share with the rest. So, I don't know if the average German soldier who was not a member of the Nazi party knew that.
Ciarán: I did use the phrase "wartime actions" but only in sense that these were apparently fairly common around the end of World War II. The fact that some bunch of guys sat in a room and said "war" does not mean that moral rules change.
Randomscrub: Thanks for the link. I'll have a look-see.