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In Drunk on Genocide, Edward B. Westermann reveals how, over the course of the Third Reich, scenes involving alcohol consumption and revelry among the SS and police became a routine part of rituals of humiliation in the camps, ghettos, and killing fields of Eastern Europe.
Westermann draws on a vast range of newly unearthed material to explore how alcohol consumption served as a literal and metaphorical lubricant for mass murder. It facilitated "performative masculinity," expressly linked to physical or sexual violence. Such inebriated exhibitions extended from meetings of top Nazi officials to the rank and file, celebrating at the grave sites of their victims. Westermann argues that, contrary to the common misconception of the SS and police as stone-cold killers, they were, in fact, intoxicated with the act of murder itself.
Drunk on Genocide highlights the intersections of masculinity, drinking ritual, sexual violence, and mass murder to expose the role of alcohol and celebratory ritual in the Nazi genocide of European Jews. Its surprising and disturbing findings offer a new perspective on the mindset, motivation, and mentality of killers as they prepared for, and participated in, mass extermination.
“From its founding in the Munich beer halls, the Nazi Party flourished in a masculine environment of rowdyism, revelry, and arrogance. Drunk on Genocide shines a glaring light on Nazi perpetrators of violence, drunk with the blood of Holocaust victims. A brilliant and unsettling study.” – Wendy Lower, author of Hitler’s Furies
“The horrors of the Holocaust rattle one’s soul. Socially demeaning and murderous behavior, fueled by alcohol and bloodlust, of powerful Germans toward fellow citizens revealed a subterranean intoxication. Drunk on Genocide shows the need to keep the worst of social impulses locked away.” – Steve Clemons, Editor at Large, The Hill
“Drunk on Genocide exposes the corporeal and emotional effects of alcohol in the Nazi Judeocide, documenting its stunning pervasiveness. The evidence is devastating, and Westermann plumbs its complexities with enormous sensitivity, considering victims’ and perpetrators’ experiences anew. Our understanding of the Holocaust will be forever changed.” – Dagmar Herzog, author of Unlearning Eugenics
“That many Nazi thugs were prone to booze was never a secret. But only Drunk on Genocide shows how often alcohol consumption helped neutralize moral restraint before, and guilty feelings after, their horrible crimes. A must-read to understand how ordinary men could become mass murderers.” – Thomas Kühne, author of The Rise and Fall of Comradeship