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Tuesday, March 9, 2004

Hitler's Jewish Soldiers Author Rigg Speaks April 1

SALISBURY, MD---The photo caption in the Nazi propaganda newspaper labeled the tall blond and blue-eyed man in uniform as “The Ideal German Soldier.” What it didn’t say was that the handsome soldier wearing the German swastika on his helmet and with the name Werner Goldberg was a “half-Jew,” and he wasn’t alone in the Nazi armed forces. Germany’s Nuremberg laws did not separate Germany’s Jewish and part-Jewish populations so easily. Dr. Bryan Mark Rigg startled historians the world over with the publication of his groundbreaking book Hitler’s Jewish Soldiers: The Untold Story of Nazi Racial Laws and Men of Jewish Descent in the German Military (2000, University Press of Kansas), the result of painstaking research into the lives of German soldiers with Jewish backgrounds during the Holocaust. The Salisbury community is able to hear Rigg speak about his research for the book and the history he uncovered when Salisbury University presents “Hitler’s Jewish Soldiers” 7 p.m. Thursday, April 1, in Holloway Hall Auditorium. The New York Times noted, “Rigg has turned up an unexplored and confounding chapter in the history of the Holocaust. The extent of his findings has surprised scholars.” NBC’s Dateline featured the book to open discussion on the history of Germany in World War II. Rigg’s research involved combing through German army personnel files and crisscrossing Germany by bicycle to interview some 400 “Mischlinge”—partial Jews as labeled under Hitler’s laws—and their relatives and friends. Interview subjects included Helmut Schmidt, the former chancellor of Germany; Hans von Herwairth, Konrad Adenauer’s secretary of state; and Egon Bahr, Bundesgeschaftsfuhrer of the Social Democratic Party of Germany. Research eventually led beyond Germany into Sweden, Canada, Israel and Turkey. In a 1996 London Telegraph article, Rigg provided insight into the lives of those he interviewed: “There is no place for them to tell their story. No one thought it was an issue, and neither side wants to claim them.” In many cases, the soldiers’ families knew nothing of their hidden religious heritage. Rigg’s efforts were as much a personal mission as a quest for historical accuracy. Raised as a Protestant in Texas, he learned of his own Jewish ancestry while researching his family tree in Germany. He began his research as a student at Yale University, where he studied under Dr. Maarten Pereboom, now of SU’s History Department. Rigg has served with both the U.S. Marine Corps and the Israeli Army. Sponsored by the History Department, Charles R. and Martha N. Fulton School of Liberal Arts and Office of Cultural Affairs and Museum Programs, the lecture is free and the public is cordially invited. For more information call 410-543-6030 or visit the SU Web site at www.salisbury.edu.

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