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Model Nazi: Arthur Greiser and the Occupation of Western Poland (Oxford Studies in Modern European History) 1st Edition

4.8 out of 5 stars 8 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0199546411
ISBN-10: 019954641X
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Editorial Reviews

Review


"Epstein's biography of Greiser is careful and rigorous." --Holocaust and Genocide Studies


"This is the best work on Nazi Germany that I've read in a long time. Far from being a pedantic yet scholarly work, Model Nazi is eminently readable for the popular market, and thus hard to put down. I can't recommend it highly enough!" --The Military Advisor


"Drawing on German and Polish sources, Epstein is the first Western historian to have written a biography of this major war criminal...Our gratitude to [her] for bringing this sordid life to our attention." -- Jewish Book World


"A valuable new biography." -- The New York REview of Books


About the Author


Catherine Epstein teaches modern European history at Amherst College. She is the author of The Last Revolutionaries: German Communists and Their Century (2003) and A Past Renewed: German-Speaking Refugee Historians in the United States After 1933 (1993), and she also serves as Associate Editor of the journal Central European History.
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Product Details

  • Series: Oxford Studies in Modern European History
  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press; 1 edition (July 22, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 019954641X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0199546411
  • Product Dimensions: 9.3 x 1.2 x 6.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.8 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,427,499 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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By S. K. A. Kitson on September 1, 2010
Format: Hardcover
This is an excellent study of Arthur Greiser who was the Nazi leader of the area of Poland around Gdansk- an area where he came to be really hated. 15000 people attended his hanging. Greiser spent his life trying to become a model Nazi. The author believes that this was partly because he was trying to make up for what the Nazis viewed as past errors- such as the fact that he had been a Free-Mason and was late to join the party. He became particularly zealous to overcome these 'deficiencies'. He proposed bizarre intiatives like killing people with Tuberculosis but Hitler refused to countenance this. Epstein stresses the prominent role he took in the Final Solution. This excellent and well-researched study is backed up by some interesting private correspondence which makes an already compelling story even more engaging as we see that in his letters home he could seem like a loving family man whilst at the same time acting as a total monster in the area of Poland he controlled. I would have no hesitation in recommending this book to anyone interested in the Second World War.

I really hope this book wins a prize- it deserves it.
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Perhaps the most remarkable aspect of Model Nazi is Catherine Epstein's adamant refusal of caricatures. Other scholars in the Holocaust faculty are prone to the folly of serialising their subjects as monsters to assuage readers into digesting an easy diagnosis of the human condition. In the case of Greiser the reader gets a microcosmic understanding of National Socialist ideology. Arthur Greiser was the Reichstatthalter (Imperial Lieutenant) of the Warthgau, formerly Posen, who ruled over its populace from 1939-1945. He was arrested that same year, tried and hanged in 1946 for war crimes and crimes against humanity. Much like Kershaw's remarkable treatment of Hitler's youth in "Hitler: Hubris 1889-1936", the basis of Greiser's unscrupulous racial policies were framed upon his adolescent affectations of Eastern European culture after Germany's defeat in WWI. It goes without saying that Greiser's utter contempt for European Jewry fostered immensely during his occupation of Posen, but Epstein probes deeper into the psychology of the "Child of the East" whose unrelenting ethnic crusade was inherently anti-Polish.

Epstein also makes the bold thesis that the genocide that was being carried out in the East was essentially the testing ground and had Nazi Germany succeeded the Final Solution's web would have undoubtedly expanded. With this being said the emphasis is on Greiser's feudalism over Posen. So just what kind of a man was Greiser? Many thought him an unconscionable and boorish brute of a man, others saw him as quite an eccentric character with a disarming sense of humour and demanding presence, and some even thought him a good man. It is odd to see the transition from naval cadet to aviator to ardent Nazi.
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Arthur Greiser is one of the lesser known of Hitler's satraps. According to the author's introductory comments, only a single biography of Greiser has appeared and that in Polish only; worse, it reportedly was a work of inferior scholarship and presentation. Not so with Catherine Epstein's book: its a first-rank biography, meticulously researched and compellingly presented.

The book, as any on the issue of Nazi evil must, speculates on causes for individual actions. In Greiser's case, as uncontested ruler of Hitler-expropriated lands (on the eastern border; the Posen region, whose "ownership" changed hands many times), an explanation for the singularity of his policies towards Germans, Poles and those of Jewish background/preference must be given. Greiser evidently shared many traits with his fellow villains: angry members of the lower-middle class; dispossessed during the tumultuous inter-war period; resident of the contested "borderlands"; inculcated with various prejudices against Poles (initially) and later Jews (acquired; possibly based on expediency and opportunism, rather than enduring conviction) and imbued with nativist/revanchist/nationalist attitudes common if not endemic at the time in that area of the world. Late to join the Party and somewhat insecure as a result of that and his membership in the Masons, Greiser was expert at insinuating himself with his superiors whilst viciously eradicating any opposition (real or perceived) to his career. Epstein also appropriately notes certain of his character flaws, including his conniving, insinuating, churlish and mendacious behaviors (which were displayed with singular prominence and the rankest of hypocritical sliminess during his pre-trail incarceration).
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Catherine Epstein addresses a fundamental question of the Holocaust (and all genocidal movements): how were the Nazi apparatchiks created? What inner impulses and external circumstances drove people like Arthur Greiser to become so totally evil--and not even be able to comprehend the fact of their own evil? At least in our fantasies we know the Devil knows he is evil, so we can tolerate thinking about him and his falling out with God. In reality, however, often we find that Nazis like Greiser are incomprehensible and presume that they were merely evil from birth, or were hollow, faceless people fueled by rats' droppings.

Dr. Epstein, professor of history at Amherst College, addresses this incomprehensibility and makes the subject of her biography fully comprehensible in all of his criminal and evil Messianic glory. Her presentation is thoughtful, which is, in itself, a remarkable accomplishment. I was deeply affected by the depth of her research, her knowledge of both German and Polish, and her understanding of the political, social, and economic climate in which the Nazi firestorm grew to its fruition. Dr. Epstein approaches Greiser and his family with painstaking care and precision. She documents carefully the transformation of western Poland into a racial and ethnic murderous prison, the hundreds of thousands of lives irrevocably changed or irretrievably sacrificed on the altar of Nazi racial superiority.

I am not qualified to address how this book fits into the realm of Holocaust or modern history studies. I do know, however, that I found the author to be a great writer.

I believe this book deserves a Pulitzer.
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