During the Third Reich, alcohol served as both a literal and metaphorical lubricant for acts of violence and atrocity by the men of the Storm Troopers (SA), the SS, and the police, and its use and abuse was widespread among the perpetrators. Over the course of the Third Reich, scenes involving alcohol consumption and revelry among the SS and police would become a routine part of rituals of humiliation in the camps, ghettos, and killing fields of Eastern Europe. The role of alcohol and celebratory ritual in the Nazi genocide of European Jews offers an important perspective on the intersection between masculinity, drinking ritual, and mass murder and it provides an important insight for evaluating the mindset, motivation, mentality of the killers as they prepared for and participated in acts of mass murder and ultimately genocide.
Edward Westermann received his Ph.D. in History from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He is a Regents Professor of History at Texas A&M University-San Antonio and serves as a Commissioner of the Texas Holocaust & Genocide Commission.