Numerous authors have speculated about the genesis of Nazism and the Holocaust that resulted from it. The seemingly unanswerable question remains: why did ordinary citizens of a civilized European nation abandon their collective morality and acquiesce to genocide? For public administrators, the question becomes even more vexing. How did the German bureaucracy transform itself into an instrument of death? What forces led "ordinary" German civil servants into becoming accomplices to mass murder?
In his book Hitler's Bureaucrats: The Nazi Security Police and the Banality of Evil Israeli author Yaacov Lozowick, explores the Nazi bureaucracy that operationalized the Third Reich's anti-Semitic policies. Lozowick focuses on an elite group of Nazis - the Schutzstafflen, the SS. He examines whether these Nazi bureaucrats were intentionalists - that there was a grand design behind their policies towards Jews that culminated in the death camps - or whether they were, as Hannah Arendt and others contend, mere functionalists. Proponents of this theory argue that there was no grand strategy and that the Nazi's anti-Semitic policies were gradual, cumulative, and were defined and shaped by the structure, form, and function of the Nazi government.
Lozowick convincingly refutes Arendt's (1965) functionalist thesis that the SS were merely efficient, faceless bureaucrats swept up in the political chaos of national socialism. He shows that Heinrich Himmler, Adolf Eichmann, and their cohorts did not merely follow the orders of their political superiors or maximize utilities. Instead, Lozowick shows that these men were focused, dedicated, and driven in their determination to wipe out European Jewry. A premorbid anti-Semitism that Lozowick skillfully traces throughout much of Germany's prewar culture fueled these SS men. The SS leadership believed that Jews were an insidious threat to the Third Reich. In response to this perceived threat, they ruthlessly marshalled all of their bureaucratic prowess and organizational skill in refining their killing machine. As Lozowick observes in his conclusion, "They worked hard, took the lead, over many years. They were the Alpinists of Evil" (279).
The book's first chapter traces the development of the SS from a group of political shock troops into a highly functioning bureaucracy. Lozowick illustrates how the SS's bureaucratic prowess and responsibility changed as the SS gradually transformed from a security organization of unemployed toughs to a highly functioning bureaucracy filled with attorneys, academicians, and other professionals.
The second chapter details the development of the SS bureaucracy. Lozowick carefully describes the emergence of the SS's organizational structure. Its policy development and documentation procedures were thorough and utterly efficient, rivaling the protocols of any similarly-sized modern organization.
In the third chapter, we see how the "final solution" was shaped and transformed into an operational policy. Nazi policies towards Jews originally focused on mass deportations and internment. It wasn't until 1942 that the SS and other Nazi's began systematically to think of mass murder as a means to a policy end - the elimination of Europe's Jews. Lozowick tracks the development of this mission for the SS and explains how its policies came to reflect the pursuit of that mission. The chapter further details how the SS leadership relied upon its organizational skills and power within the Nazi governmental structure to overcome significant logistical and political challenges.
The next four chapters describe the implementation of the final solution in Germany and in three occupied countries: Holland, France, and Hungary. It is in these chapters that Lozowick makes his most persuasive case for the intentionalist argument. In each of these case studies, he clearly illustrates how the SS became more purposeful, more efficient, and, tragically, more successful in its drive to murder Jews. Solutions to logistical and political problems first encountered in Germany were refined and streamlined for more effective implementation in the occupied countries. These organizational successes required foresight, planning, organizational coordination, and ongoing involvement within the SS. Lozowick reports it was so successful in its efforts that over 437,000 Hungarian Jews, excluding only those in the Budapest area were deported to the death camps within the span of three months in 1944.
In the concluding chapter, Lozowick carefully debunks Arendt's (1965) functionalist argument. In his summation, he shows that there was nothing banal about the evil perpetrated by the SS. Its members were thinking, rational, educated men, capable of making moral decisions. There was nothing unintended or accidental in their policies or in the resulting consequences.
This work may prove to be instructive to public administrators in a number of areas. First, there is the issue of the impact of political parties and political ideology on administrative practice. Administrative history is replete with examples of the catastrophic impact of political ideology on administrative policies and practices. Perhaps Nazi Germany is merely an example of political ideology in its most deadly extreme.
Equally instructive is exploring how the economic and social crises of Germany in the late 1920s and early 1930s converged to create a governmental structure that was usurped by the Nazis. How did the Nazis so effectively and swiftly radicalize German politics? What was the process for replacing politically neutral public servants with Nazi ideologues? How could individual public officials resist the Nazis? Did any attempt to?
Lozowick's work helps us remember that, at its essence, the practice of public administration involves moral choices. It is too easy for practitioners to become lost in the mad dash for organizational efficiency and to forget that administrative practice must be anchored in a respect for the dignity and integrity of the nation's citizens. Personal and professional ethics must always lie at the heart of our daily administrative decisions.
Lozowick's book should also help underscore the need to further appreciate administrative history. Richard Stillman (2001) notes that a well-written administrative history helps to enlarge the human context and cultural meaning of our administrative purposes, goals, and values. Histories provide a necessary counterbalance to the quantitative perspective and sensitize us to the cultural, constitutional, and political forces imbedded in administrative decision making. They provide us with an opportunity to "walk in another's shoes" and wrestle with the difficult moral decisions that often underlie our practices.
The book is clear, engaging, scrupulously researched, and utterly persuasive in its conclusions. Moreover, it increases our understanding of a historical event that has, until recently, not been considered relevant to field of public administration. Lozowick has done public administration a good turn by crafting a first-rate piece of historical scholarship that reminds us of the moral obligations that underlie the practice and teaching of government.