Of four previous books, Browning is best known for Ordinary Men: Reserve Police Battalion 101 and the Final Solution in Poland
(1992), a study of how it was possible for ordinary, middle-aged men to become mass murderers. His latest book is the result of six lectures given at Cambridge University, in which he examined three issues at the forefront of Holocaust scholarship: the decision-making and policy-making at the heart of the Nazi regime, out of which emerged the "final solution," the systematic attempt to murder all the Jews of Europe; the pragmatic and temporary use of Jewish labor; and the attitudes, motivations, and adaptations of the "ordinary" Germans who implemented Nazi policy at the local level. The source materials include both postwar testimonies and rare contemporary letters and document files that "speak less to the issue of decision and policy making and more to those elusive issues of individual attitudes and behavior." George Cohen
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From Kirkus Reviews
paper 0-521-77490-X Given the recent headlines about the slave-labor reparations settlement in Germany, this new study from distinguished Holocaust historian Browning (Ordinary Men, 1992, etc.) is an important event. The six pieces herein, an expansion of Browning's 1995 Trevelyan lectures, fall, as the author notes, into three pairs. The first two consider policy-making processes that led to the Final Solution; the middle two focus on the tensions between pragmatism and ideology in the Reichs treatment of Jewish slave labor; and in the final pair Browning returns to the topic of Ordinary Men, using fresh evidence to re-examine the behavior of those who committed mass murder. The field of Holocaust studies changes by leaps and bounds, with new evidence becoming available almost daily as files from the former Soviet bloc and still unread materials from the Nazis themselves are evaluated by scholars. Much of what Browning has to say here grows out of such newly available materials. Although the conclusions he comes to are not significantly different from positions he has previously held, new details emerge that allow him to add nuance and depth. Hence, although he still persuasively maintains that the decisions leading to the Nazi attempt to murder all of Europe's Jews were an incremental, ongoing decision-making process that stretched from the spring of 1941 to the summer of 1942, his access to previously unavailable diaries of Joseph Goebbels and communications among Nazi leaders enrich our understanding of the ongoing internal tug-of-war over when and how to achieve that gruesome goal. Similarly, recent studies of regional decision-making give a fuller picture of the interplay of local and national interests in the carrying out of the mass murders. Browning is a methodical, if somewhat dry, writer and the result is an indispensable addition to the Holocaust bookshelf, though most valuable to specialists. Estimable scholarship, intelligently presented, but not a casual reader's book. -- Copyright ©2000, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.
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