Muslim Nazis, women in the SS, and Dutch ‘bounty hunters’ are coming out of the archival closet, even as fewer Shoah eyewitnesses remain alive to testify
BOSTON — With new access to archives and other primary sources, historians are supplanting archetypal images of Aryan Nazi men as the Holocaust’s sole perpetrators. Previously obscured perpetrator “sub-groups” are being exposed one portrait at a time, ranging from female SS guards to Dutch bounty hunters of Jews in hiding.
And as researchers uncover an array of Europeans involved in the murder of Jews and other groups during Hitler’s rule, perpetrators’ motivations are being individually examined.
Digging in 70-year-old files and knocking door-to-door for witnesses, scholars are honing the relatively new “Holocaust as local history” method. The trend departs from a generalized “Holocaust as universal history” approach by focusing on interactions between “ordinary” victims and perpetrators — zooming way in on the action, as it were, and exploring a site’s history before and after the war.
Unsurprisingly, some of these investigations are ruffling feathers.
In Sarah Helm’s 2015 book, “Ravensbruck: Life and Death in Hitler’s Concentration Camp for Women,” the historian biographized the camp itself, where 132,000 women and children were imprisoned. Poring through post-war trial transcripts and archives opened after the Soviet Union’s fall, Helm shed light on Ravensbruck’s lesser known function as a training camp for SS women.
Read the Remainder at Times of Israel