This article compares and contrasts the Wehrmacht’s execution of Adolf Hitler’s Final Solution to the Jewish Question between the Eastern and Western fronts of the Second World War. It seeks to answer the broader question of why regular Wehrmacht infantry contributed directly to the atrocities of the Eastern Front in Poland and Soviet Russia while the Western Front--France, Belgium, and the Netherlands--remained comparatively quiet, even under German occupation. This article’s thesis concludes that the war in the East was intended as a ‘war of extermination’ against world Jewry while the war in the West was more so an ‘administrative occupation.’ Thus, the Eastern Front--viewed by Hitler as the ‘real’ war-- demanded the participation of frontline soldiers whereas the Western Front was treated more or less as a territorial extension of Germany. This means that Jews in the East were subject to immediate executions by frontline soldiers while those in the West were rounded up by both German and local officials and deported to concentration camps also in the East.

This article is further subdivided into several research questions: What were the strategic, ideological differences between the Eastern and Western fronts as well as their underlying importance to National Socialism? Who were the primary or intended perpetrators on each front? What factors curbed the vigor with which the Final Solution was executed in occupied western countries like France? Most importantly, what motivated Wehrmacht troops on the Eastern Front to actively contribute to the Final Solution by routinely rounding up and shooting Jews?

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