Reluctant Accomplice is a volume of the wartime letters of Dr. Konrad Jarausch, a German high-school teacher of religion and history who served in a reserve battalion of Hitler's army in Poland and Russia, where he died of typhoid in 1942. He wrote most of these letters to his wife, Elisabeth. His son, acclaimed German historian Konrad H. Jarausch, brings them together here to tell the gripping story of a patriotic soldier of the Third Reich who, through witnessing its atrocities in the East, begins to doubt the war's moral legitimacy. These letters grow increasingly critical, and their vivid descriptions of the mass deaths of Russian POWs are chilling. They reveal the inner conflicts of ordinary Germans who became reluctant accomplices in Hitler's merciless war of annihilation, yet sometimes managed to discover a shared humanity with its suffering victims, a bond that could transcend race, nationalism, and the enmity of war.
Reluctant Accomplice is also the powerful story of the son, who for decades refused to come to grips with these letters because he abhorred his father's nationalist politics. Only now, late in his life, is he able to cope with their contents--and he is by no means alone. This book provides rare insight into the so-called children of the war, an entire generation of postwar Germans who grew up resenting their past, but who today must finally face the painful legacy of their parents' complicity in National Socialism.
Konrad H. Jarausch is the Lurcy Professor of European Civilization at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. His many books include After Hitler: Recivilizing Germans, 1945-1995 and Shattered Past: Reconstructing German Histories (Princeton).
"It's difficult or impossible to summon sympathy for a soldier in Hitler's army--even one with no hatred for Jews--but the letters home of Konrad Jarausch do peel away stereotypes."--Neal Gender, American Jewish World
"A detailed and disturbing portrait of a so-called average German soldier of the time. . . . Jarausch has edited 350 of his father's letters, sent from occupied Poland and the PoW camps in Russia between 1939 until his death. His father was too old at 40 to be involved in fighting but he was close enough to the front to give gruesome accounts of the enormous Russian death toll in the camps. . . . [W]hat these letters reveal in astonishing detail is that his belief in German superiority begins to weaken as he notices and hears of the murderous German reprisals, shootings and ethnic cleansing."--Louis Nowra, The Australian
"Thought-provoking in its ambiguities. . . . By age, temperament and conviction, then, Jarausch seemed designed for the role of skeptic about the Nazi regime. Reluctant Accomplice charts the growth of Jarausch's belief that Hitler's war was a disaster, for humanity and for Germany itself. . . . The case of Jarausch suggests that, in a situation where radical evil holds sway, goodness has to become equally radical in order to combat it."--Adam Kirsch, The Tablet
"Reluctant Accomplice: A Wehrmacht Soldier's Letters from the Eastern Front (Princeton University Press), is a revealing glimpse into the mind of a patriotic German who was skeptical of the Nazi leadership and soured on the fascist regime."--Sheldon Kirshner, Canadian Jewish News
"Jarausch's voluminous set of correspondence offers a thoughtful and detailed account of life as a German soldier on the Eastern Front. . . . It shows just how much coming to terms with the Nazi past is still an ongoing process."--Hester Vaizey, European History Quarterly
Table of Contents:
Foreword by Richard Kohn xiii
In Search of a Father: Deaing with the Legacy of Nazi Complicity 1
Part I: The Polish Campaign 45
Letters from Poland, September 1939 to January 1940 53
Part II: Training Recruits 139
Letters from Poland and Germany, January 1940
to August 1941 146
Part III: War of Annihilation in Russia 237
Letters from Russia, August 1941 to January 1942 246
Notes to "In Search of a Father" 369
Selected Suggestions for Further Reading 381
Other Princeton books authored or coauthored by Konrad H. Jarausch: