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Justifying Murder: Performativity in the Letters of Sergeant Mathias Müller, Police Battalion 309, from 1941/42

Schnell, Felix (2020) 'Justifying Murder: Performativity in the Letters of Sergeant Mathias Müller, Police Battalion 309, from 1941/42.' German History. ISSN 0266-3554

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Abstract

In their private correspondence German soldiers were often silent about the atrocities they committed on the Eastern front during the Second World War. This article demonstrates that a ‘thick description’ of Holocaust perpetrators’ writing practices can reveal strategies of justification and legitimation for mass murder. Mathias Müller of Police Battalion 309 made use of the performative force of his words, using allusions to address topics he was unable or unwilling to address explicitly. These allusions form a strategy over several letters and peak in the construction of a personal ‘Lemberg experience’. Soviet atrocities and the crimes of Soviet functionaries were identified by Müller as ‘Jewish’ crimes. The analysis demonstrates that in form and content the description powerfully alleges revenge was rightful and necessary. This use of performative force is also demonstrated in the case of other soldiers’ correspondence. It is possible that this means of addressing topics without naming them directly was widely deployed by German soldiers in the Second World War.

Item Type: Article
Divisions: Faculty of Humanities > History, Department of
Depositing User: Elements
Date Deposited: 03 Oct 2019 14:28
Last Modified: 19 Nov 2020 13:15
URI: http://repository.essex.ac.uk/id/eprint/25542

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