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  • Writer's pictureClay Anderson

Review of Drunk on Genocide by Edward Westermann

Drunk on Genocide by Edward B. Westermann is a disturbing yet insightful exploration of the role alcohol played in the Nazi genocide of European Jews during World War II. The book highlights the intersections of masculinity, drinking rituals, sexual violence, and mass murder, exposing how alcohol consumption facilitated and even celebrated the atrocities committed by the SS and police forces in the ghettos, camps, and killing fields of Eastern Europe.

Westermann draws from a vast range of newly unearthed materials, including personal accounts, official records, and eyewitness testimonies, to reveal the pervasive presence of alcohol in the rituals of humiliation and violence perpetrated against Jewish victims. He argues that contrary to the common perception of the SS and police as cold-blooded killers, they were often intoxicated with the act of murder itself, fueled by excessive drinking and celebratory rituals.

One of the book's central arguments is that alcohol consumption served as a literal and metaphorical lubricant for mass murder, facilitating what Westermann calls "performative masculinity" – a toxic expression of masculinity explicitly linked to physical or sexual violence. Scenes of drunken revelry and alcohol-fueled sadism became routine in the camps and killing fields, with SS and police officers celebrating at the grave sites of their victims, often in a state of inebriation.

Westermann's research exposes the disturbing reality that alcohol played a significant role in the mindset, motivation, and mentality of the perpetrators as they prepared for and participated in mass extermination. The book challenges the notion of the Nazi killers as cold, calculating individuals, instead portraying them as intoxicated participants in a horrific celebration of violence and genocide.

While Drunk on Genocide offers a compelling and well-researched analysis of the role of alcohol in the Nazi genocide, some readers may find the graphic descriptions of violence and sadism difficult to stomach. However, Westermann's unflinching approach is necessary to fully comprehend the depths of depravity and the role that alcohol played in enabling and normalizing such atrocities.

The book's writing style is academic yet accessible, with Westermann skillfully weaving together historical accounts, personal narratives, and scholarly analysis to create a comprehensive and thought-provoking work. His arguments are well-supported by the extensive research and primary sources he has uncovered, lending credibility to his disturbing yet important findings.

Overall, Drunk on Genocide is a significant contribution to the study of the Holocaust and genocide, offering a unique and unsettling perspective on the mindset and motivations of the perpetrators. While the subject matter is undoubtedly difficult, Westermann's work is a valuable addition to our understanding of the darkest chapters of human histxory.

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