Hitler's Willing Executioners: Ordinary Germans and the Holocaust Hardcover – Mar 19 1996
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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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Top Customer Reviews
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.
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.Read more ›
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".
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.
Most recent customer reviews
A very informative book. A better title for the tome would have been "Socialism's Willing Executioners : Ordinary socialists and the Wholecost. Read morePublished on April 9 2007 by Institute for Journalism
this book was hightly recommended but not worthy of it. Dont buy it, its a horrible read, even for those hard-core holocaust researchers. It is bland and bias. Read morePublished on March 12 2005
I read many of the reviews of the Goldhagen book and I am amazed at how evident people's prejudices and political views are in their opinion of it. Read morePublished on July 17 2004
I suspect that the many detractors of this book have not really read it, at least not all of it, based on their misinformed and ad hominem attacks on the author. Read morePublished on June 25 2004 by Michael Leone
Some of the previous reviewers of this book seem to be highly upset that the author didn't include an analysis of other nation's histories of race and politically based genocide. Read morePublished on June 15 2004 by PJM
I've read a lot about WW2 and the Nazis so it was not hard to pick up and purchase this book. Unfortunatley, this is not a thoughtful book. Read morePublished on June 3 2004 by tierny
The author leaves the reader to believe that mass attrocity on this scale could only be orchestrated by the Germans because of their national character, history, demographics and... Read morePublished on May 5 2004 by Charles Henley
If this were written for any other culture people would be more up in arms. But since we are so open to painting all Germans as evil inhuman creatures, than books like this exist... Read morePublished on March 4 2004 by Sylo
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