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This chapter discusses indicators of bureaucratic competition in the Final Solution, including loose or imprecise formal organizational lines of command and an imprecision in the orders or dictates from superiors in the organization. Examples of these indicators provided in this chapter include the Third Reich’s approach to the plunder of European art and antiquities during its occupation of countries where these items were located, and from the Nazi regime’s administration of the concentration camps and the ultimate creation of the death camps, where the Final Solution to the Jewish question was carried out. Further evidence that the Nazi regime used bureaucratic competition to achieve the Final Solution with maximum efficiency is provided by the composition of attendees of the Wannsee Conference held in 1942.
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Popular textbooks, such as those by Hubbard and O’Brien ( 2019) and Sexton ( 2020), provide an overview of the competitive model in economics. First, a competitive market is characterized by many sellers, perhaps, as Sexton ( 2020: 321) indicates, thousands or conceivably millions. In this case, there are so many firms that each is small relative to the overall market. Second, there are no barriers to new firms entering the market (Hubbard and O’Brien 2019: 417). Sexton ( 2020: 321–322) illuminates this point by noting (with emphasis added) “that [in competition] it is fairly easy for entrepreneurs to become suppliers of the product [or service],” offering a product or service that can be substituted for that from any of the other firms. The features of a competitive model mean that the forces of competition will result in the good or service being produced at the lowest possible cost, a situation referred to by economists as productive efficiency (Hubbard and O’Brien 2019: 438), and, in the optimal amount, a situation referred by economists to as allocative efficiency (Sexton 2020: 343). Returning to the analogy from the previous chapter, the points above describe the existence of Werners in the Nazi bureaucracy, each of whom represents an entrepreneurial bureaucrat who supplies his informal labor services to those at the top of the bureaucracy. Again, it is the overlapping lines of command, a confusion of jurisdictions, and duplication of responsibilities of bureaus established by those at the top of the Nazi hierarchy that promote the existence of such a large number of Werners willing to effect the Final Solution. Additionally, it is the accumulation of vertical trust and vertical trust networks that promotes greater productivity by the Werners and the capacity of the organization for achieving efficiencies of the sorts described above. Finally, although the productivity referred to here may be more easily measured in the traditional business context, there are, as pointed out in the previous chapter, measurable indicators of productivity in the Nazi bureaucracy, such as the amount of turnover within the organization, the amount of perquisites, and the frequency of promotions within the bureaucracy. These are the subject of the next chapter of this book. An instructive avenue for applying the modern theory of bureaucracy of Breton and Wintrobe ( 1982, 1986) to the actual events that comprise the Nazi Holocaust is that of Hollywood’s adaptation of one of its most important episodes—the aforementioned Wannsee Conference of 1942. 31 That adaptation comes via HBO Films’ 2001 movie Conspiracy, which consists almost entirely of the dialogue from the Conference (Mixon 2010). Conspiracy, which received ten Emmy nominations, was written by Loring Mandel, who won an Emmy Award for Best Writing. 32 Another of the ten nominations turned into a victory for Kenneth Branagh, who received a Lead Actor Emmy for his portrayal of Reinhard Heydrich, who “chaired” the 1942 Wannsee Conference. The role of Adolf Eichmann, the leading figure in Breton and Wintrobe ( 1986), is played by Stanley Tucci, an Emmy and Golden Globe Award winner for his work in the movie Winchell (Mixon 2010). The movie first touches on the Breton and Wintrobe ( 1986) idea of competition between bureaus, and between networks in a bureaucracy, for resources, as well as the competition between bureaucrats for jobs. As pointed out earlier, these forms of competition in services are likely to take the form of coming up with new ideas, new initiatives, new policies, or projects that advance the aims of those at the top of the bureaucracy, leading to what is now often called Schumpeterian competition or entrepreneurship (Breton and Wintrobe 1986: 909). For example, at one point during the meeting, Eichmann relays to attendees the preliminary results of various applications of concepts and initiatives, such as mobile gassing vehicles and the infamous furnace systems that would ultimately be used in the death camps (Mandel 2001; Mixon 2010: 111). These ideas are also reinforced through some of the pre-Wannsee Conference conversations portrayed in Mandel ( 2001). It is in one of these scenes that Josef Bühler, the Secretary of State in the Office of the Government-General of Poland, who is portrayed in Conspiracy by British actor Ben Daniels, says “we will soon discover what new concepts our SS friends have in mind [for addressing the Jewish question]” (Mandel 2001). It is statements like this one that illuminate how enterprise and initiative in putting forward solutions to the Jewish question included new and innovative ideas, concepts, initiatives, and policies (Breton and Wintrobe 1986; Mixon et al. 2004; Mixon 2010). Mandel ( 2001) also provides examples of imprecise language regarding the Final Solution. For example, at the beginning of the Conference, Heydrich is shown stating, “We have a storage problem in Germany with these Jews,” and also that “I have been asked to direct the release of Germany and all of Europe from the Jewish stranglehold, and I believe that together we will” (Mandel 2001). Emphasis is added to the quotes above to highlight the other uses by Heydrich of imprecise terms that are hoped by him to motivate competitive behavior on the part of the Conference attendees and the branches or divisions of Nazi Germany that they represent. Heydrich’s last line in which he states that he believes the group can together accomplish something with regard to the evacuation of the European Jews, supports the Breton and Wintrobe ( 1982, 1986) notion that a new or modern type of bureaucratic view was taken in this case (Mixon 2010: 111). At the beginning of Mandel’s ( 2001) portrayal of the Conference, which is based on the sole surviving copy of the minutes of the meeting, a succession of terms including “expel,” “eliminated,” “eradicated,” and “emigration” are discussed in the context of plans that were either contemplated or employed by the Nazi bureaucracy in dealing with Europe’s Jews. At this point, Heydrich proceeds to read aloud the 1941 memo to him from Goering (shown in Table 3.1.), authorizing the final solution to the Jewish question. Several of the Wannsee Conference participants wrangle with the lack of precision in the term “evacuation” used by Goering in reference to the future disposition of European Jews. 33 In a scene that Mandel ( 2001) likely included for dramatic effect, Heydrich is pressed by the Conference attendees to judge some of their own interpretations of “evacuation” and the other imprecise terms used before and during the meeting. This occurs at the point during the Conference when Heydrich is interrupted by Rudolf Lange, the SD Chief of Latvia, which Germany had conquered in the preceding months.“I have the real feeling I ‘evacuated’ 30,000 Jews already by shooting them in Riga. Is what I did ‘evacuation?’ And when they fell were they ‘evacuated?’ There are another 20,000 at least waiting for similar ‘evacuation.’ I just think it is helpful to know what words mean.” “If I might, I think it’s unnecessary to burden the record … [interrupted by Heydrich]” “Yes! In my personal opinion they are ‘evacuated.’” Finally, it is worth noting here that Mandel ( 2001) also portrays an example of the perquisites discussed in Breton and Wintrobe ( 1986) that Nazi Holocaust participants might expect as a result of their successful concepts and initiatives. Heydrich is shown describing to some Conference attendees how fond he is of the Wannsee mansion where the Conference was held, and that he expects it to become his post-war home (Mixon 2010: 111).
“I have the real feeling I ‘evacuated’ 30,000 Jews already by shooting them in Riga. Is what I did ‘evacuation?’ And when they fell were they ‘evacuated?’ There are another 20,000 at least waiting for similar ‘evacuation.’ I just think it is helpful to know what words mean.”
“If I might, I think it’s unnecessary to burden the record … [interrupted by Heydrich]”
“Yes! In my personal opinion they are ‘evacuated.’”
Appendix 1 provides a primer on the competitive model in economics for readers who may be unfamiliar with its main features.
Schacht convinced Hitler in the early 1930s that Feder’s ideas on economic planning would ruin the German economy (Snyder 1989: 91).
Goering was the Reichsmarschall and head of the German Luftwaffe, Goebbels was Reich Minister of Propaganda, Ley was head of the German Labor Front, and von Schirach was the Reich Youth Leader (Snyder 1989).
Under Goering’s leadership, the Einsatzstab Rosenberg seized 21,903 art objects from German-occupied countries (Walker 2006).
See TL Editors ( 1991: 26–28).
Mixon et al. ( 2004) point out that some historical accounts suggest that Heydrich was both the author and addressee of this well-known memo.
Mixon et al. ( 2004) provide a relative ranking for all positions within the SS. This will be discussed in greater detail in the next chapter.
None of the SS attendees held a position below the 60th percentile in that organization.
As Wachsmann ( 2015: 36) reports, the focal point of this activity was “Red Berlin.” For example, in the working-class areas near the center of Berlin, known as Kreuzberg and Wedding, at least 34 camps were established during 1933. In the Berlin suburbs of Zehlendorf and Weissensee, only four such camps existed in 1933 (Wachsmann 2015: 36–37).
Goering claimed during the Nuremberg trials that he had the wilde Lager closed (Manvell and Fraenkel 2011: 106).
“[Eichmann’s] efforts to promote a ‘Zionist emigration of Jews from Germany by all [available] means’ would serve him well in preparing him for his future activities” (see www.ushmm.org/wlc/en/article.php?ModuleId=10007412).
As one witness in the Nuremberg trials testified, Eichmann’s role in the Nazi Holocaust bureaucracy “increased steadily in scope” throughout this period (Breton and Wintrobe 1986: 913).
The ongoing and popular practice of analyzing the economic content of movies and television programs was recently pioneered by Mateer ( 2004).
Citations to the movie appear hereafter as Mandel ( 2001).
As part of this scene, Heydrich seems to prefer the term “cleansing” with respect to the future disposition of the Jews. Mixon et al. ( 2004) point out that the fact that Heydrich had to interpret (for others) a memo that he may have penned himself is itself interesting, and the fact that Heydrich’s interpretation was also imprecise, remarkably support the Breton-Wintrobe thesis that vague and imprecise directives motivate bureaucratic entrepreneurs to devise innovative and enterprising initiatives that assist the bureaucracy in achieving a goal (Mixon 2010: 106).
Allen, M.T. 2002. The Business of Genocide: The SS, Slave Labor, and the Concentration Camps. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press.
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Shoumatoff, A. 2014. The Devil and the Art Dealer. Vanity Fair. https://www.vanityfair.com/news/2014/04/degenerate-art-cornelius-gurlitt-munich-apartment. Accessed 17 May 2018.
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von Lang, J. 1983. Eichmann Interrogated: Transcripts from the Archives of the Israeli Police. New York: Berkley.
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- Bureaucratic Competition in the Third Reich
Franklin G. Mixon Jr.
- Chapter 3
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