The history of the Nazi-led genocide against the Jews is inseparable from Operation Barbarossa and the Axis occupation of the Soviet Union. Today such a statement is taken as a given in the fields of Holocaust studies and World War II. But this was not always the case. Prior to the 1990s, few military specialists followed the lead of Gerhard Weinberg and Jürgen Förster by connecting the battles on the front with the genocide behind the lines. Even the pioneering study by American Sovietologist Alexander Dallin, German Rule in Russia, 1941–1945, while paying much attention to the totalitarian framework of the SS terror, skimmed over the unique plight of the Jews, dealing with it marginally as a demonstration of Nazi internecine struggles over Ostpolitik. In the past twenty years a veritable deluge of studies on the Holocaust has shifted the focus of military history to studies of genocidal violence and its development in military planning and security measures in times of war. In Holocaust studies specifically, Operation Barbarossa has been the primary focus for reconstructing the history of decision making and the escalation of atrocities against Jews in the summer and fall of 1941.
Historians Christopher Browning, Jürgen Matthäus, and Christian Gerlach have delved into the peripheral and central events that came together in the Soviet Union and precipitated the mass murder of Jews. Besides the Einsatzgruppen, we have now created an expanding and more detailed picture of SS-police involvement, especially the role of the Order Police (Ordnungspolizei) and the Waffen-SS.
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