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The Cunning of History Paperback – August 3, 1987

ISBN-13: 978-0061320682 ISBN-10: 0061320684

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 128 pages
  • Publisher: Harper Perennial (August 3, 1987)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0061320684
  • ISBN-13: 978-0061320682
  • Product Dimensions: 5.3 x 0.3 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (30 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #649,064 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

This book will change the entire way you look at the world.
Leslie Wirpsa
Our Bible- grounded secular society gave rise to this dicotomy in Exodus when Adam and Eve originally sinned by gaining knowledge of good and evil.
edward j. santella
This short (97p) book is the most frightening I have ever read.
David P. Rogers

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

28 of 28 people found the following review helpful By Jan Peczkis on September 1, 2006
Format: Paperback
In 1944, Polish Jew Raphael Lemkin coined the term genocide, applying it to Jews and Poles alike. In this small but thought-provoking book, Richard L. Rubenstein approaches the German Nazi exterminationist policies in much the same vein, while stressing the role of the modern state bureaucracy to make it possible.

Probably the first step in genocide is the denial of the humanity of the intended victims: "Once the victim is categorized as belonging to a different species, the task of transforming him into a thing is immensely simplified...Before the Nazis assaulted the Jews, the Poles, the Russians, and the Gypsies, they were categorized as members of sub-human races."(p. 54). Terms such as Tiermenschen ("animal people") and Untermenschen ("subhumans") were commonly used. Rubenstein (p. 83) points out that Jews were often referred to as "a surplus population", but not the fact that the Germans also used this term for Poles.

The denationalization of those intended for genocide was also significant: "Unfortunately, the Nazis clearly understood the importance of the question of statelessness. When they began to deport Jews from such occupied nations as France, Bulgaria, and Hungary, they insisted that the deportees be stripped of their citizenship by their respective governments no later than the day of deportation. There was no need to denationalize Polish and Russian Jews because the Nazis had destroyed the state apparatus as soon as they occupied the territory. The absence of a state apparatus in Poland and occupied Russia was an indication of the ultimate fate of the Poles and the Russians had the Germans won."(pp. 32-33).

While the mass shootings and gassings of Jews were already well underway, the Germans set their sights higher.
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16 of 16 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on December 2, 1997
Format: Paperback
Although published in 1975, Richard L. Rubenstein's The Cunning of History, seeking to derive a definitive "formula" for holocausts and The Holocaust, is still a modern analysis in 1997. Indeed, it probably will be modern 20 years from now; like the laws of physics and chemistry. All of this is accomplished in a deceptively thin, 112 page pocketbook.
Like any unsentimental and effective analysis, The Cunning of History is bound to make many people uncomfortable and some even angry. People cannot take too much reality. Nevertheless, Rubenstein made a major contribution to history and understanding by painstakingly tracing the origins and evolution of hyperrational bureaucratic social systems that inexorably drive to total domination, and then extermination of its target victims. Accordingly, first we are instructed of exactly how the Nazi regime of Germany's Third Reich created the system of death camps and how they operated. The management styles of the death camps are likened to those of modern corporations. Thus the Auschwitz society implements a system of total domination: first to extract labor at lowest cost; and then efficiently destroying its surplus labor force.
Along the way, Rubenstein gives mankind ample warnings about future holocausts derived from world overpopulation ... coupled with superfluous humans produced by economic "necessity" for burgeoning profits.
To recognize the beginnings of the next holocaust as it forms, reading Rubenstein's The Cunning of History is prerequisite. For such a valuable book, the only appropriate rating is 10.
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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful By veldesha@viser.net on February 16, 1998
Format: Paperback
The Holocaust, for obvious reasons, is one of the most written-about events of this century. Still, few and far between are the books which not only make the reader pause, but also demand a reevaluation of the history they have been fed. Those who consider the Holocaust "the work of a few dispicable men" or an isolated event in human history will not find The Cunning of History settling. Those who already have grave misgivings about the course of modern society will find words for their feelings. Those who know little about this century's history, and the corporate structure which is coming to dominate it, have a more urgent need of The Cunning of History than anyone. This is the single most important treatment of the Holocaust I have ever read.
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19 of 21 people found the following review helpful By R. J. Marsella on June 24, 2004
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
In this essay Richard Rubenstein contends that the Holocaust should be viewed within the context of a tradition of slavery that is deep rooted in western culture. Drawing on Max Weber, Rubenstein argues that the combination of unrestricted capitalism and protestantism helped to create the conditions necessary for the ultimate form of slavery as expressed in the Nazi death camps. Additional factors include a European trend toward viewing certain segments of a given population as expendable.
The analysis is thought provoking and intelligently written. My reservation is that while I agree that viewing the holocaust in this way leads one to the conclusion that under the right circumstances genocide on this scale could happen again , I also believe that there was something uniquely evil in the Nazi leadership that contributed to the Holocaust. Rubenstein's analysis focused on historical/economic/social forces at the expense of the personal responsibilty of Hitler and his inner circle. Despite that this is an important book that should be mandatory reading in any study of the Holocaust.
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