Believe and Destroy: Intellectuals in the SS War Machine

Written by Written by Christian Ingrao | May 13, 2013
Believe and Destroy (Polity, May 13, 2013)

There were eighty of them. They were young, clever and cultivated; they were barely in their thirties when Adolf Hitler came to power. Their university studies in law, economics, linguistics, philosophy and history marked them out for brilliant careers. They chose to join the repressive bodies of the Third Reich, especially the Security Service (SD) and the Nazi Party’s elite protection unit, the SS. They theorized and planned the extermination of twenty million individuals of allegedly ‘inferior’ races. Most of them became members of the paramilitary death squads known as Einsatzgruppen and participated in the slaughter of over a million people.

Based on extensive archival research, Christian Ingrao tells the gripping story of these children of the Great War, focusing on the networks of fellow activists, academics and friends in which they moved, studying the way in which they envisaged war and the ‘world of enemies’ which, in their view, threatened them. The mechanisms of their political commitment are revealed, and their roles in Nazism and mass murder. Thanks to this pioneering study, we can now understand how these men came to believe what they did, and how these beliefs became so destructive.

The history of Nazism, shows Ingrao, is also a history of beliefs in which a powerful military machine was interwoven with personal experiences, fervour, anguish, utopia and cruelty.


Christian Ingrao is the director of the Institut de l’histoire du temps présent. A specialist in Nazism and war studies, he also teaches at Sciences-Po. His previous work, Les Chasseurs Noirs, was an international success.

Comments are moderated and generally will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive.
Sign in or register to post comments.

More new titles

new titles

The Snow Violin

In a Moscow prison cell, Vladimir Ippolitovich Vetrov awaits his execution, sentenced to death for having succumbed to the delusions of the West. More than paying homage to unsung heroes, this condensed and poetic story is a denunciation of all totalitarian ideologies.
new titles

Little Jewel

One day in the corridors of the metro, nineteen-year-old Thérèse glimpses a woman in a yellow coat. Could this be the mother who long ago abandoned her? Is she still alive? Desperate for answers to questions that have tormented her since childhood, Thérèse pursues the mysterious figure on a quest through the streets of Paris.
new titles

All My Treasures

When a girl receives a beautiful porcelain box from her grandmother, she immediately wants something special to put inside it. But what could it be? What does she love best? She loves jumping in puddles on rainy days, blowing bubbles in the park, and watching her little sister’s first steps.
1/3
MORE IN books
authors on tour

Marie-Hélène/Sam Bourcier

November 5-17, 2016
US Tour
authors on tour

Pap Ndiaye

November 4-13, 2016
East Coast
authors on tour

Vinciane Despret

October 29-November 8, 2016
US Tour
authors on tour

Antoine Volodine

October 11-18, 2016
West Coast
event

Lecture on "La Cache" by Christophe Boltanski and Laura Marris

09/27/2016 | 4pm
Yale University
Whitney Humanities Center
53 Wall Street, Room 208
New Haven, CT
1/3
recomended for you
event

Gad Elmaleh Performs 'Oh My Gad' at Carnegie Hall

Feb 11, 2017
Carnegie Hall
888 7th Ave, New York, NY 10019
event

"Beyond the Ingénue": new series at FIAF

September 13 - October 25, 2016
FIAF Florence Gould Hall
55 East 59th Street
New York, NY 10022