From Publishers Weekly
The publication of this book in Germany inspired a huge controversy. In an important, original contribution, Aly, the author of a number of major works on the Third Reich and the Holocaust, argues that the Nazi regime plundered the rest of Europe during WWII to the great material benefit of the German population. Germans lived quite nicely from the sausages, furniture, shoes and even Christmas geese that millions of German soldiers and SS men sent back home from all over Europe. Plunder by official state agencies also financed the war. These points hardly seem revelatory or controversial, but Aly, as is his style, pushes the argument to the nth degree, supporting it with a wealth of documentary detail. The crimes against humanity committed by the regime were not, he argues, the work of a few individuals or an evil external to the population and the course of German history in the 20th century. Rather, the Nazis met the population's overwhelming desire for material security and an improved standard of living. The Nazis redistributed wealth in favor of the lower classes and opened up avenues of social mobility for them. The Holocaust, then, was not just a result of the ideology of anti-Semitism but also of the policies of plunder that won the regime the support of the vast majority of the German people. (Jan.)
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Historian Aly grapples with a problem that continues to bedevil and divide historians: why ordinary Germans supported the rise and maintenance of Nazi power and even, on a massive scale, took personal part in the atrocities inflicted on the Jews and conquered populations. Aly's answer is novel, provocative, but highly debatable. He utilizes reams of statistics to illustrate how the widespread Nazi program of expropriation of Jewish property and plunder of the resources of occupied nations was vital in lifting the standard of living of ordinary Germans. This, Aly asserts, provides the "missing link" between the "obviously deceitful, megalomaniacal criminal" regime and the popular support it enjoyed. Ordinary Germans supported the horrors of the Third Reich because they directly benefited from them. Despite flaws in his conclusions, Aly's work is a useful contribution to an ongoing historical debate. Jay FreemanCopyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved