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Lackland colonel speaks in 'Voices on Anti-Semitism'

  • Published
  • By Mike Joseph
  • 37th Training Wing Public Affairs
Rising from the officer ranks while pursuing a love for European history has garnered some unforeseen attention for one Air Force colonel at Lackland.

In fact, Colonel Edward Westermann has become such a scholar on the Holocaust, he recently was invited to appear in an interview for the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C.

The 737th Training Wing commander will appear on the museum's audio/podcast series, "Voices on Anti-Semitism." The series seeks to raise awareness about historical and contemporary anti-Semitism through interviews with distinguished opinion makers and leaders. Notable participants in the series have included Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Elie Wiesel, Madeleine Albright and Ayaan Hirsi Ali.

The highly decorated and scholarly colonel has been teaching, studying and researching World War II German police activities for almost two decades, which naturally ties into the Holocaust.

"I've had a long-term interest in the Holocaust, including teaching a course at the Air Force Academy," said Colonel Westermann. "When I worked on my Ph.D. (modern European history), I became interested in the role of the German police forces during World War II, especially the things they did in Germany and on the Eastern front. They were involved in or led up to one million murders on the Eastern front. "A large part of my interest involves how professional organizations like the police and military in national socialist Germany were transformed and participated in mass murder. A lot of my research looks at the organizational culture and leadership, and how these organizations that were designed to protect and serve in the case of the police, or the military to provide military professional ethic, became perverted and how they were co-opted or joined in the conduct of atrocity."

Colonel Westermann has an extensive academic background. In addition to his doctorate, he also holds two master's degrees, military art and science, and European history, along with a bachelor's in military history from the Academy. He has been a senior military professor at the U.S. Air Force Academy, and a fellow at the Holocaust Museum in addition to speaking and writing on the subject around the nation as well as internationally.

He is also the author of two books, "Hitler's Police Battalions: Enforcing Racial War in the East" and "Flak: German Anti-aircraft Defenses, 1941-1945." He is currently working on a third publication, "Witnessing Hitler's Germany: Reporting from Inside Hitler's Reich." He has written numerous articles and addressed a number of conferences and seminars about Germany's role in WW II.

 After flying three years with the Luftwaffe on an officer exchange program in the late 1980s and early 1990s, Colonel Westermann returned to teach at the Academy. He later received a Fulbright Fellowship to study in Berlin that enabled him to continue his research while still on active duty.

"Part of my interest in the Holocaust was looking at the issue of humanity and what happens when people make decisions or when people go along with decision-making," Colonel Westermann said. "That's when you start down that slippery slope that in this case led to genocide. The Holocaust involved not only 6 million European Jews, but also millions of other groups, including Poles, Russians, homosexuals, Jehovah's witnesses and gypsies."

Colonel Westermann's interview will be available to appear on the Web site in January.

The series is available to the general public through podcasting distribution outlets as well as the Holocaust Museum's Web site, which has received 15 million visitors this year from more than 100 countries, according to museum information. The museum's Web site is www.ushmm.org.