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Hitler's Willing Executioners: Ordinary Germans and the Holocaust Hardcover – Mar 19 1996

3.1 out of 5 stars 162 customer reviews

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 640 pages
  • Publisher: Knopf; 1 edition (March 19 1996)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0679446958
  • ISBN-13: 978-0679446958
  • Product Dimensions: 16.4 x 3.8 x 24.1 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 717 g
  • Average Customer Review: 3.1 out of 5 stars 162 customer reviews
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #638,535 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Product Description

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In a work that is as authoritative as it is explosive, Goldhagen forces us to revisit and reconsider our understanding of the Holocaust and its perpetrators, demanding a fundamental revision in our thinking of the years between 1933-1945. Drawing principally on materials either unexplored or neglected by previous scholars, Goldhagen marshals new, disquieting primary evidence that explains why, when Hitler conceived of the "final solution" he was able to enlist vast numbers of willing Germans to carry it out. A book sure to provoke new discussion and intense debate.

From Publishers Weekly

Goldhagen's gripping and shocking landmark study transforms our understanding of the Holocaust. Refuting the widespread notion that those who carried out the genocide of Jews were primarily SS men or Nazi party members, he demonstrates that the perpetrators?those who staffed and oversaw the concentration camps, slave labor camps, genocidal army units, police battalions, ghettos, death marches?were, for the most part, ordinary German men and women: merchants, civil servants, academics, farmers, students, managers, skilled and unskilled workers. Rejecting the conventional view that the killers were slavishly carrying out orders under coercion, Goldhagen, assistant professor of government at Harvard, uses hitherto untapped primary sources, including the testimonies of the perpetrators themselves, to show that they killed Jews willingly, approvingly, even zealously. Hitler's genocidal program of a "Final Solution" found ready accomplices in these ordinary Germans who, as Goldhagen persuasively argues, had absorbed a virulent, "eliminationist" anti-Semitism, prevalent as far back as the 18th century, which demonized the Jews and called for their expulsion or physical annihilation. Furthermore, his research reveals that a large proportion of the killers were told by their commanders that they could disobey orders to kill, without fear of retribution?yet they slaughtered Jews anyway. By his careful estimate, hundreds of thousands of Germans were directly involved in the mass murder, and millions more knew of the ongoing genocide. Among the 30 photographs are snapshots taken by the murderers of themselves and their victims.
Copyright 1996 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
Daniel Jonah Goldhagen's book has proved to be one of the most controversial written on the subject. Perhaps that's not surprising - Goldhagen labels hundreds of thousands of ordinary German's as murderers and assistants to genocide. The book is not going to appeal to neo-nazi's, Hitler apologists or those who believe that it was the few who perpetrated the genocide. But the real question is: does Goldhagen's argument and evidence stand up to scrutiny? The answer is perhaps yes and no. There is no shortage of evidence and compelling eye-witness and documentary accounts. His argument is strongly worded and thoroughly checked, but sometimes there are points when he simplifies or presents as fact something which is clearly an opinion, and one that is not backed up. Goldhagen does not really say anything that has not been said before, but he focuses on it when it has formerly been only part of the whole story - what enrages some is that he directly assigns blame. Martin Gilbert's 'the Holocaust' or Primo Levi's 'The Drowned and the Saved' or the writings of Rabbi Hugo Gryn are better argued and present similar cases but do not seek to accuse the ordinary German as a willing executioner. Therefore the issue that raises the hackles of those angry with this book comes down to 'willing'. had the book been called 'Hitler's Executioners' (which would not have been as contentious) then less wrath may have been provoked.
But is this book worth reading and taking seriously? In my opinion yes. The wealth of evidence cannot reasonably be denied, if it is read as a compendium of documentary evidence about the role of ordinary German's in the genocide then it is a valuable and vitally important book. It's more radical argument can be taken separately - an editorial on the news presented - and that is more open for those to deny or to oppose if they want.
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Format: Paperback
The Holocaust is one of the most horrendous acts of inhumanity ever recorded. In his book, Hitler's Willing Executioners: Ordinary Germans and the Holocaust, Daniel Goldhagen proposes an explanation of how this event not only could have taken place, but how it was perpetrated by ordinary people not brain-washed party goons who "were just following orders". The book has two primary goals. The first is to argue that the elimination of the German Jews was the product of "elimination anti-Semitism" which was uniquely German. The second is that due to this idea of elimination anti-Semitism, it was easy and natural for ordinary Germans to begin the wholesale slaughter of Jews because it had been programmed into them. Goldhagen goes to great lengths to back up his arguments. He provides us with some insight into the Holocaust heretofore not seen. His research is meticulous, his arguments are compelling; however, for his thesis to work, the history of European anti-Semitism must be either rewritten or ignored. Goldhagen's zeal to prove the German people totally responsible for the Holocaust seems to have colored his recollection of history.
Goldhagen spends the first part of his book repeatedly and redundantly explaining his thesis of elimination anti-Semitism. While he makes good points to the "why's" of the anti-Semitism, he seems to have a problem with his "where's". Goldhagen is so intent on this argument preceding his ordinary German argument that he creates an anti-Semitic Germany which stands alone in Europe in its depth of anti-Semitism. The history of Western Europe does not exactly agree with Goldhagen's analysis that Germany was the only place the Holocaust could have occurred because of its unique brand of elimination anti-Semitism.
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Format: Paperback
Goldhagen committed the cardinal sin in academia: he made money. This, to me, seems to be the primary rationale for the heavy-handed dismissal encountered so often when the subject of "Hitler's Willing Executioners" comes up.
What Goldhagen does is present the fact that many people would rather avoid--that ordinary German condoned, supported and actively participated in the mass slaughter of European Jews. He unflinchingly presents a picture of pre-war Germany and the long line of anti-Semitic behavior present in Europe, especially Germany. There is no escaping blame under Goldhagen's view--any German who did not actively resist were as guilty as those who participated, and that, in essence, is what made the Shoah the tragedy on the grand scale that it was.
Goldhagen's scathing view of Germany as well as his conviction often comes across as negative, especially to those who are more willing to forgive and forget, to consign the actions of the Nazis to a different time and place. However, what Goldhagen makes evident is the truism so often repeated in Holocaust Studies: All evil requires to flourish is that good men do nothing. So it was in Hitler's Germany, and so it is in "Hitler's Willing Executioners".
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Format: Paperback
This book raises important questions and goes a fair way in resolving them. However, there's too much emotion in it and it ends up sounding more like a rant at times than a serious history tome.
It begins by tracing anti-Semitism in Germany, paying special attention to the 19th century and how that "intellectual" anti-Semitism flowed into the Nazi race-based anti-Semitism. It then looks at concerte examples, with much attention paid to police batallions.
The actions of the police batallions is the closest the book comes to dealing with the question of what ordinary Germans (i.e., women, children, and those too old to be conscripted) knew about the Holocaust, other than a few passing references.
One thing it does not do, though it comes close, is paint all Germans as evil hate-mongers, as other reviews state. Goldhagen goes to some lengths in the preface to counter this perception, but I suspect it falls on deaf ears.
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