The Nazi party today is considered to be the most well known evil regime in the West. Adolph Hitler and Nazi atrocities like the Holocaust continue to live in infamy to this day by many. Indeed, many people and their families were affected by Hitler’s reign of terror throughout Europe and the memory is still fresh in their minds. The most infamous Nazis were the SS, Hitler’s own side-army. They are known for helping perpetuate the Holocaust and other acts of persecution against groups like the Jews, Gypsies, Political opponents, homosexuals and disabled people as well as various other ethnic groups.
The dilemma today, is that the regular German army, known as the Wehrmacht, is also labeled with many of the atrocities carried out by the SS. When people think of the word “Nazi”, they mostly think of staunch Nazis in the SS part of Hitler’s army who were involved in the Holocaust. The problem is, many of the Nazis were in the regular German army. It’s a little-known fact, but the German army as a whole wasn’t part of the Nazi party. Many did join the party, but people had the option to not join. They couldn’t oppose the Nazi party, but they could choose to not join any political party. The Wehrmacht itself wasn’t involved in the Holocaust and many of the atrocities associated with it. The majority of people were your average soldier, fighting on one of the many fronts during WW2. Those people, aside from some individuals, were your average person, and not staunch die-hard Nazis condoning genocide. Many of these “average Joes” probably were fighting because they were conscripted, or because Germany was under attack and bombed by allied forces. They felt a need to defend their country too. Also, Germany suffered greatly after WW1 and many were angry with the Versailles Treaty and the (deliberate) blockade of food by the allies. They wanted their country to be on its feet again and were misleaded by Hitler and his political and social ideals. In a sense, they too were the victims of a manipulative leader and oppressive government.
(Most likely, the men pictured were just average people who wanted their country to persevere and their families to be safe and well. They’re in Russia, and probably also think that their war isn’t getting very far!)