More About the Author
When in 1996 I published Hitler's Willing Executioners: Ordinary Germans and the Holocaust, I was transformed unexpectedly, and almost instantly, into the author of a #1 international bestseller of a book published in 15 languages, and the unwitting progenitor of an impassioned international "Goldhagen Debate," which has since become a fixed part of the western, and especially the German, cultural landscape. The book, about the perpetrators of the Holocaust and ordinary Germans' role in it, told buried truths about the tens upon tens of thousands who carried out Hitler's plan to exterminate the Jews: these perpetrators were willing executioners, willing because they were antisemites who believed that exterminating Jews was right and necessary. Survivors of the Holocaust -- the people who learned of the perpetrators' beliefs firsthand from the perpetrators themselves -- heartily applauded the book, as did younger Germans and people elsewhere who hankered for these tabooed subjects to be finally discussed openly, even as some others clung to various untenable positions with the effect of denying the humanity of the killers and of exonerating them. Immediately, upon its publication, its contributions were recognized. The New York Times wrote: "Masterly...One of those rare new works that merit the appellation landmark." The Philadelphia Inquirer judged it: "The most important book ever published about the Holocaust...Eloquently written, meticulously documented, impassioned...A model of moral and scholarly integrity." It was honored as a National Book Critics Circle Award Finalist and Time named it one of the two best non-fiction books of the year. In country after country, similar views and admiration greeted Hitler's Willing Executioners -- as the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung in Germany conveyed with its summation of the effect of the publication of Hitler's Willing Executioners, which it endorsed as "The most spectacular nonfiction success of this year." With time, as a flood of scholarly studies have come out which have substantiated Hitler's Willing Executioners' conclusions, more and more who have read the book's vast amount of new research and evidence and its challenging perspectives have come to appreciate and accept what the Holocaust's survivors had known all along. And so, a front page article in the New York Times on 15 October 2010 announced that the revolution in understanding that Hitler's Willing Executioners produced about the Holocaust has unequivocally become, just fifteen years after the book's publication, the consensus view in Germany. The establishment German Historical Museum in Berlin has opened a major exhibition that confirms and builds upon the conclusions of Hitler's Willing Executioners: "This exhibition is about Hitler and the Germans -- meaning the social and political and individual processes by which much of the German people became enablers, colluders, co-criminals in the Holocaust," said the authoritative Constanze Stelzenmüller, until recently the director of the German Marshall Fund Berlin Office. "That this was so is now a mainstream view, rejected only by a small minority of very elderly and deluded people, or the German extreme right-wing fringe. But it took us a while to get there."
Thus I became a public intellectual, the startling winner of Germany's prestigious Democracy Prize (there have been only six since it was established) awarded only when someone earns it (the previous winner, seven years earlier, was the East Germany democracy movement), with a debate forever a suffix to my name. I have always been determined to write and speak forthrightly about important topics-topics about which many want to hear, even if many others desperately do not want the truth to be heard. Whether it is about Nazism and the Holocaust, powerful institutions' moral duties, or the dangers of Political Islam, I have never held my tongue out of fear of what people, including powerful people, might say.
My most recent project, Worse Than War: Genocide, Eliminationism, and the Ongoing Assault on Humanity, has issued both in a book (which is being published already in eight languages) and a feature length documentary (the first ever to focus on the phenomenon of genocide itself) that had its national broadcast premiere on PBS on April 14. Worse Than War tells people what I have learned about genocides and genocide in my three decades of studying them, explaining not just how to understand their many complex facets, but also how to stop the killing. As Hitler's Willing Executioners did for the Holocaust, Worse Than War poses a powerful challenge to deeply entrenched myths about why genocides happen. It fundamentally reconfigures our understanding of genocide as a global phenomenon and reconceptualizes it as one aspect of a more fundamental form of politics that can be called "eliminationism." I am gratified that Worse Than War, more than a decade in the writing, has already garnered enormous praise, with words such as "magisterial," "pathbreaking," "masterful," "monumental," and "wholly convincing" gracing the reviews.
I hope that you choose to have a look at it. Whether or not you end up agreeing with every conclusion and proposal in Worse Than War, the book and the film offer a plethora of new information and perspectives not just on genocide or eliminationism but on critical aspects of humanity and modernity, society and politics. I hope to rouse your intellect and conscience, even if I at the same time challenge your views about the most foundational matters of politics, society, and human nature.
For more information, please visit http://goldhagen.com/.