Enemy at the Gates

It’s something like common knowledge among historians that the World War II myth of a “guilty” SS and an “innocent” Wehrmacht didn’t collapse in Germany or North America until the mid-1980s or 90s. Until then, only specialists in the field were aware that responsibility for German atrocities on the Eastern Front was spread much more evenly between the two forces. So it was interesting to read an acknowledgment of that fact in Enemy at the Gates, the 1974 classic about the Battle of Stalingrad (and loose inspiration for the 2001 movie). Here’s what William Craig has to say:

[Field Marshal von] Reichenau had helped the Einsatzgruppen as much as he could. Anxious to conserve ammunition, he even suggested each Jew be finished off with no more than two bullets. The mass killings affected the attitude of many Sixth Army soldiers who witnessed theBlack Crows at work. Given free rein by their commanders, they enthusiastically helped exterminate the Jewish population. At times, soldiers in bathing suits and other casual off-duty attire snapped photographs of executions and sent them home to families and friends. A picnic atmosphere prevailed around ditches filled with bodies.

It’s interesting that Craig lays it out like that upfront, especially in a book that’s otherwise so sympathetic to the rank-and-file of the Wehrmacht.

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