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Historians have spent the last two decades detailing and explaining the actions of the Einsatzgruppen in the Soviet Union.  We now know much more than we used to about the escalation of violence in 1941 and the so-called "Holocaust by Bullets."

The actions of the Einsatzgruppen in Poland, in contrast, are less well known.  But they are crucial to understanding the evolution of violence against Jews and others.  Juergen Matthaus, Jochen Boehler, and Klaus-Michael Mallmann set out to fill this gap.  Their work War, Pacification and Mass Murder, 1939: The Einsatzgruppen in Poland (Rowman and Littlefield, 2014)–part of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum's excellent Documenting Life and Destruction series–sets carefully chosen documents into a richly described military and institutional context. By doing so, they illustrate not just what the Einsatzgruppen did, but how their actions evolved over time, how they interacted with Wehrmacht and political leaders and how this violence impacted people on the ground.

In the interview, I talked with Juergen Matthaus about the origin of the volume, the nature of violence in Poland and the way in which this violence set the stage for the escalation of persecution and destruction.

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