Mass violence, corpses, and the Nazi imagination of the East
This paper uses the treatment of dead bodies in occupied Eastern Europe to argue that the public hangings and mass shootings of civilians committed by German troops reinforced their conceptions of the region as a disordered and barbaric space in need of outside intervention. It also intends to demonstrate how these views on the treatment of the dead later became displaced onto the populations of Western Europe and Germany itself in the last years of World War II. The historiography has overlooked how acts of subjugation, in particular, executions, served to reinforce the German imagination regarding the East and the people who inhabited it. Drawing upon contemporary police and military documents, as well as post-war trial material, this paper contends that the atrocities committed were far from merely arbitrary acts aimed at coercing the civilian population into supporting the goals of the occupation.