Home | Reviews | Blog | Daily | Glossary | Orrin's Stuff | Email

One of the most controversial and thought-provoking books of recent years.  Goldhagen challenges the accepted view that the Nazis were an aberration & were solely responsible for the Holocaust.  Instead he argues that the virulent eliminationist anti-semitism that fueled the Holocaust was a unique and intrinsic part of German Culture and that the entire society voluntarily participated in its enactment.

Goldhagen's demonstration of the guilt of "ordinary" Germans seems pretty incontrovertible.  One section of the book focuses on a single police unit to show that the perpetrators of the Holocaust were average Germans & not fanatic Nazis.  He shows that they could refuse orders they disagreed with & not suffer dire consequences, but they did not choose to challenge the orders to round up and slaughter Jews.  Indeed, they willingly share the news of what they are doing with their families & have candid photos taken when they are performing their duties.  They hardly seem like unwilling parties.

On the other hand, Goldhagen's single-minded focus on Germany and the eliminationist anti-semitism of the Germans seems too limited.  After all, even setting aside the Eastern Europeans, the French certainly seem to have been eager participants.  Wasn't this a function of French anti-semitism?  If so, how can we say that German eliminationist anti-semitism was unique?  Goldhagen has done a great service by refusing to absolve the "ordinary" German from guilt in the Holocaust, why absolve the rest of Europe?

Moreover, there's a certain blithe assumption that modern Germany is fundamentally different from Nazi Germany & such a thing could never happen again.  One need only look at the current ethnic tensions in Germany & France to see that this assumption may be to hasty.  Is it really that difficult to
imagine France & Germany slaughtering their immigrant Arab populations?  I think not.

These caveats aside, this is a terrific book, fundamental to understanding the Holocaust.


Grade: (A)


See also:

Daniel Goldhagen Links:
    -AUTHOR SITE : Recent Writings by Daniel Jonah Goldhagen
    -ESSAY : A New Serbia (Daniel Jonah Goldhagen, New Republic)
    -ESSAY : Milosevic's Willing Executioners (Stacy Sullivan, New Republic)
    -ESSAY : Collective Guilt (Jacob Sullum, May 12, 1999, Reason)
    -ESSAY : The Avengers : Is it ever OK to kill Serbs? Nazis? (David Greenberg, Slate)
    -ESSAY : War Crimes (Franklin Foer, Slate)
    -INTERVIEW: Daniel Jonah Goldhagen "Hitler's antipathy towards the Jews resonated with the German people..." (Beatrice)
    -Excerpt from the book at The History Place
    -ESSAY : The Media War : Documenting Milosevic's evil crusade was the easy part. Now comes the harder task: Illuminating the way out. (Dan Kennedy, Boston Phoenix)
    -ESSAY : What's So Bad About Hate (Andrew Sullivan, NY Times)
    -Reading Group Guide
    -REVIEW : of HITLER'S WILLING EXECUTIONERS Ordinary Germans and the Holocaust By Daniel Jonah Goldhagen (RICHARD BERNSTEIN , NY Times)
    -REVIEW : Daniel Goldhagen's Holocaust (Richard John Neuhaus, First Things)
    -REVIEW : of HITLER'S WILLING EXECUTIONERS By Daniel Jonah Goldhagen (John E. Pluenneke , Business Week)
    -REVIEW: of Hitler's Willing Executioners: Ordinary Germans and the Holocaust  (John J. Reilly, Culture Wars magazine)
    -REVIEW : of Hitler's Willing Executioners (Edward Neuert, Salon)

    -ESSAY: Pope or Pilate?: The dispute over the wartime papacy of Pius XII -- whether he was a saint or Nazi stooge -- is about to heat up (James Murray, February 15, 2003, The Weekend Australian)
    -ESSAY: Pius XII as Scapegoat (Michael Novak, August/September 2000, First Things)
    -REVIEW ESSAY: Goldhagen v. Pius XII (Ronald J. Rychlak, June/July 2002, First Things)

Book-related and General Links:

    -ESSAY : Catholic Heroes of the Holocaust (Elizabeth Altham)
    -Survivors of the Shoah Visual History Foundation
    -The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum
    -Literature of the Holocaust (Al Filreis, English 293, U of Penn)
    -Holocaust Denial : Jewish Student Online Research Centre
    -Holocaust Educational Trust (UK)
    -Imperial War Museum's Holocaust Exhibition (UK)
    -INTERVIEW : On the Trail of Lost Art :  A Conversation with Lynn H. Nicholas (Humanities)
    -REVIEW: Was the Holocaust a unique evil that must be studied for its lessons, or a promotional tool used to mobilise support for Israel? David Cesarani weighs up two points of view: THE HOLOCAUST AND COLLECTIVE: The American Experience By Peter Novick & THE NAZI TERROR: Gestapo, Jews & Ordinary Germans By Eric Johnson (London Times)
    -REVIEW: of Hitler's Willing Executioners: Ordinary Germans and the Holocaust, Convicted of the Wrong Crime  (John J. Reilly, Culture Wars magazine)
    -REVIEW : of BOUND UPON A WHEEL OF FIRE Why So Many German Jews Made the Tragic Decision to Remain in Nazi Germany. By John V. H. Dippel (Peter Gay, NY Times Book Review)
    -REVIEW : of Nazi Terror The Gestapo, Jews, and Ordinary Germans. By Eric A. Johnson (Barry Gewen, NY Times Book Review)
    -REVIEW : of THE LOGIC OF EVIL The Social Origins of the Nazi Party, 1925-1933. By William Brustein (James Sheehan, NY Times Book Review)
    -REVIEW : of EXPLAINING HITLER The Search for the Origins of His Evil By Ron Rosenbaum (Michiko Kakutani, NY Times)
    -REVIEW : of EXPLAINING HITLER The Search for the Origins of His Evil. By Ron Rosenbaum (Michael Marrus, NY Times Book Review)
    -REVIEW : of READING THE HOLOCAUST By Inga Clendinnen (Daphne Merkin, NY Times Book Review)
    -REVIEW : of Between Dignity and Despair Jewish Life in Nazi Germany. By Marion A. Kaplan (Deborah E. Lipstadt, NY Times Book Review)
    -REVIEW : of PLOTTING HITLER'S DEATH The Story of the German Resistance By Joachim Fest (Christopher Lehmann-Haupt, NY Times)
    -FORUM : CONTROVERSY : Holocaust Studies : Gabriel Schoenfeld & Critics (Commentary)
    -REVIEW : of The Holocaust in American Life  By Peter Novick and The Americanization of the Holocaust  Edited by Hilene Flanzbaum (Jesse Berrett, Salon)
    -REVIEW : of Backing Hitler: consent and coercion in Nazi Germany by Robert Gellately (David Cesarani, Independent uk)
    -REVIEW : of Hitler : 1936-45, Nemesis by Ian Kershaw (Omer Bartov, New Republic)

    -ESSAY : Heavy on the  Leitkultur (Andrea Mrozek, Central European Review)