9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
on July 12, 2011
Thomas Kuhne has bravely entered an overpopulated field and taken the discourse beyond the Browning-Goldhagen controversy by drawing on a whole range of personal narratives (diaries, memoirs, and letters) composed by Nazis. The writing and analysis are elegant notwithstanding the grotesque subject matter. We are exposed to the logic behind genocide- explained as a striving for comradeship by the most murderous kinds of exclusion of outsiders, a sense of criminal complicity, and an embrace of an anti-society ethos. I felt like I was being given a taste of indoctrination myself, and becoming inoculated as a result, under the guidance of an unwaveringly ethical narrative voice. Like Browning, the universal human potential for murderous conformity is highlighted; yet Kuhne does not relinquish the German cultural backdrop, including antisemitic indoctrination. Like Goldhagen, Kuhne has a knack for harrowing description; yet he avoids sensationalism and demonization. He is unsparing in his principled rejection of the apologetic arguments that often surface in the historiography(e.g., average Germans didn't know about genocide, the Wehrmacht didn't participate, SS members and police battalion members had no choice but to join in, and similar myths). I teach a Holocaust course and have placed this on my syllabus as required reading, because this is what students need. Ultimately, this book is about people and the ability of culture to silence human impulses for individualism, empathy, and decency. The fields of German History and Holocaust/Genocide Studies will never be the same again.