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The Wehrmacht’s Complicity in Late-War Genocide: The Palmnicken Massacre and the Military in East Prussia, 1944–1945

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<mark>Journal publication date</mark>7/12/2023
<mark>Journal</mark>Holocaust and Genocide Studies
Issue number3
Pages (from-to)423-437
Publication StatusPublished
Early online date7/12/23
<mark>Original language</mark>English


By examining the death marches from Stutthof’s East Prussian subcamps in January 1945 and the following “Palmnicken Massacre,” this article retraces the role of the Wehrmacht in late-war genocidal violence. Scholars have established the complicity of Wehrmacht soldiers in acts of genocide during their stay on the Eastern Front, and documented the racist mindset that underpinned their behavior. Yet no such research exists on the final year of the war. From Summer 1944 until May 1945, the Wehrmacht’s main task was to defend its home soil. Scholarship has thus focused more on the military’s defense of Germany rather than their willingness to support the regime’s genocidal demands. This article argues that many Wehrmacht commanders were fully aware of the genocide perpetrated in their midst during the war’s final months, and when called upon, different Wehrmacht commanders actively assisted the SS in carrying out the regime’s racist mission even at the very end of the war. Finally, the author reveals how the military attempted to conceal these acts of violence throughout the postwar years.