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61 of 67 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Terrific History Of The Evolution Of The Holocaust
This seminal classic historical work by scholar and teacher Lucy Dawidowicz is a stunning book that both graphically and systematically spells out the details of the horrifying war of annihilation forged against the European Jews by the Third Reich. In a world that seen so much published regarding this subject, this work stands as benchmark. Ms. Dawidowicz addresses...
Published on July 10, 2002 by Barron Laycock

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39 of 53 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Relentlessly inaccurate
Lucy Dawidowicz's "The War Against the Jews" tends to be one of the first one-volume works on the Holocaust that most people read, me included. One reason for this is that it's not very long: it's about half as long as Martin Gilbert's "The Holocaust", to name another one-volume book on the subject. Another reason is that it came out in the 1970s when the general...
Published on October 29, 2008 by lexo1941


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61 of 67 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Terrific History Of The Evolution Of The Holocaust, July 10, 2002
By 
Barron Laycock "Labradorman" (Temple, New Hampshire United States) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The War Against the Jews: 1933-1945 (Paperback)
This seminal classic historical work by scholar and teacher Lucy Dawidowicz is a stunning book that both graphically and systematically spells out the details of the horrifying war of annihilation forged against the European Jews by the Third Reich. In a world that seen so much published regarding this subject, this work stands as benchmark. Ms. Dawidowicz addresses herself to the most fundamental of questions regarding this unspeakable policy of ritual race murder; how could a modern, sophisticated and industrial country such as Germany have perpetrated such a deliberate reign of horror against a whole people simply because they were Jewish? And, although we have seen recent books such as "Problem From Hell" that deal more systematically with the issue of modern examples of state sponsored genocide, the simple fact is that the Holocaust seems to have occurred because, for the first time in modern history, it was both politically and logistically possible. In other words, the Nazis had both the method and the impetus to do the unspeakable.
Seen in this fashion, the equation becomes at once political, social, and technological; given the irrational impulse to do so, the modern Nazi regime was able to harness all of its energies, spiritual, political and material, into such a devastating and sustained campaign against the Jews, and was therefore uniquely able to forge the most bloody of final results. The author's approach winds the reader through several phases of the Holocaust phenomenon with a careful, meticulous and methodical consideration of the social, economic, and political influences swirling through this witches' brew of evil. In the first part of the book, entitled "The Final Solution", she traces the origins and growth of anti-Semitism, a form of patent racism so virulent it threatened to exterminate the Jews from all of continental Europe. In so tracing the roots and origins of the Nazis and their fellow travelers, she shows how the rise of National Socialism revolved around the scapegoating of the Jews.
The execution of this plan was enacted in the ghettos and small towns of Poland and Germany as well as in a network of forced labor camps and concentration camps throughout Eastern Europe. In the second part of the book, ""The Holocaust", the author dramatically describes how the plight of the Jews was gradually worsened and how the violence and deprivation grew systematically more and more horrible with each passing month. Inhabitants of camps or ghettos led lives of incredible hardship and deprivation, struggling helplessly against hunger, disease, exposure to extremes of temperature and weather, and of course, to the wanton cruelties of the Nazi regime. This is indeed interesting material, detailing the ways in which Jewish groups both within the ghettos and the death camps worked together to make the best out of an impossible situation.
This is a heart-rending book, one that accurately portrays the ways in which Jews were deceived and betrayed by the authorities, convinced they were being resettled rather than being slated for extermination. Ms. Dawidowicz writes with compassion and authority covering this intrinsically difficult issues, as one reads of lives torn asunder, families ripped apart, and wholesale rape, mutilation, and murder. This book, published more than thirty years ago, is one of the most comprehensive, best documented, and well-written book to have appeared on the subject of the Holocaust. I recommend it for anyone with an interest in the subject.
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34 of 38 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars For every student of the 20th century, August 4, 1999
By A Customer
This review is from: The War Against the Jews: 1933-1945 (Paperback)
Ms. Dawidowiczs managed to hold me through the grim realities of the shoa as no other author has. I believe it to be the definative text on the development of European, and particularly German anti-semitism. I wish I had read it twenty years ago. She explains how the enlightenment notions of individual autonomy challanged the notions of the clan and ethnic nationalism held so tightly by the Nazis. Hitler reject his own Catholic background, from which the enlightenment had arisen. He replaced the God of the Jews and Christians with the Gods of Nordic mythology. Individuals were of no importance in Hitler's world view only the tribe mattered. Dawidowiczs explains how Hitler found fertile territory for his avowed hatred of Jewry in Europes long history of anti-semitism. She explains in frightening detail how Hitler took anti-semitism into the land of terror. Hitler, as she explains, used the ideals of ethnicity and tribalism to convince Germans that they were under attack from within by a virus called Judaism that would destroy them if they did not destroy the Jews first. Hence "the final solution". Dawidowiczs style is reader friendly. She manages to pull the reader along through horrible subject matter with clear and precise prose. The use of charts and graphs to show the decline in pre and post war Jewry is staggering and a great illustration of the ferocity of Natzi hatred and fear. How ironic that the Nazi motive for the murder of Jews was that they were afraid of them. Nordic supermen notwithstanding, their pathological fear lead to slaughter. All serious students of the 20th century should read this book.
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32 of 36 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Good Discription of Why it Happened, April 6, 2002
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This review is from: The War Against the Jews: 1933-1945 (Paperback)
This book provides a good detail of how the German leadership convinced itself that genocide was not only correct and legal, but a necessity for their survival. I thought the book was going to be a description of one atrocity after another, but it provides the reader with more of the details of why it was happening. Don't get me wrong, there is enough of the horror represented here. I would have liked a larger review of all of the holocaust crimes across Europe, but there are limits to the size of any one book. This book is a good start to find out why it happened.
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17 of 19 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Important History, February 16, 2004
By 
Lawrence G Coatney "Geno" (Pagosa Springs, Colorado USA) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The War Against the Jews: 1933-1945 (Paperback)
Hitler. The very name seems to invoke black and white images of a charasmatic madman pushing his country to global domination. But the story goes much deeper than that. His intense hatred of the Jews pushed him to implement his "Final Solution". To exploit and then kill every Jew in Europe before they, in his twisted mind, did the same to every one else.
Thankfully, his "appointed" task was never completed. But not before nearly six million Jews and countless others who either resisted or simply didn't conform to his Ideas of the perfect human were destroyed.
This is the story of those Jews who died and those survived the largest mass murder in recorded history. These are the things they didn't show or talk about in Public School. This book shows the strength and weakness of a people on the edge of anihalation. It doesn't show the Jews as a strong race overcoming their problems, or as a weak race sniveling and grovelling, waiting to die. It shows them as any other group of humans reacting to their circumstances in a wide variety of ways.
This is probably the longest time I have ever spent reading a book. After reading a page or two (especially in the second half of the book), I would generally have to put it down for a few days to read some lighter material. Overall I think it took me about nine to ten months to read. But I would definatly put it in the best books I have read.
So, if you are looking to understand what was happening to the Jews during WW2, or if you are just looking to fill in some of the gaps from history class, then I would heartily recomend this brilliant work.
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21 of 25 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Holocaust book by which others are measured, September 23, 2003
By 
Jerald R Lovell (Clinton Township, Michigan United States) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The War Against the Jews: 1933-1945 (Paperback)
Although an ocean of material has been written about the Holocaust, this book stands alone. The author has chosen the best way to present the material; by simple factual recitation. No amount of pejoratives would suffice, and even one would cheapen the book. Salut!!!!!!!!
Davidowicz examines the underpinnings of pan-European anti-Semitism, its "legitimization" by the Third Reich, its consequences on the victims, and the awful results masterfully. Especially excellent are the sections on why so little resistance was offered until the end, when resistance was a gesture, not a viable tactic.
You will never forget the first mayor of the Warsaw ghetto, Adam Czerniakow. This book is unforgettable, and earns the highest rating possible.
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19 of 23 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Excellent Book but Not A Complete History, August 16, 2000
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This review is from: The War Against the Jews: 1933-1945 (Paperback)
This very well written history of the origins and progession of the Holocaust has much to recommend to it. It provides a strong and concise overview of Naziism and advances the disturbing but plausible idea that World War II was intended in part as a cover for the Holocaust to come. It offers a chilling look inside the ghettos of Eastern Europe and shows how wretched life was and also how life didn't stop immediately despite the horrors heaped upon the Jews. Where she forcuses her attention, she provides a strong and complete overview.
However, the book stops at the gates of the death camps and at the western boundaries of Germany. While an appendix touches on the fate of all of Europe's Jews, the body of the work leaves out the progression of atrocities in Western and Southern Europe. Maybe there was little to say as most of the Jews ended up in the ghettos but she doesn't make it clear till the appendix. And she makes no effort to talk about like in the labor camps or death camps. While there was little to talk of but doom and the barest hope of survival, many books since have covered this topic, so I wonder why she didn't.
Still, this work makes an excellent overview to the Holocaust, to the inhumanity of the Germans, and to the efforts, no matter how small, by the Jews to never surrender.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Book illumates history and causes for Holocaust, January 9, 2007
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This review is from: The War Against the Jews: 1933-1945 (Paperback)
At a family gathering, a relative of mine asked the question "why didn't the Jews fight back in a more organized way during WWII?" Not having an immediate answer, I went in search of one, which this book supplied. The background of the philosophical underpinnings, as well as the reasons for the way the Jewish community reacted, enhanced my knowledge of the Holocaust immensely, and have led to many other readings. Very accessible.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A crime like no other, November 29, 2011
This review is from: The War Against the Jews: 1933-1945 (Paperback)
Jews have been assaulted throughout history, but National Socialism was something new. It took a long time for even its victims to realize how different it was.

Not until 1942 - by which time many more than a million Jews had been murdered - did the captives begin to discern that the goal of the Germans (enthusiastically seconded by the Latvians, Ukrainians, Lithuanians and others) was to do them all to death. Until then, the old motto of "hold on and hold out" had seemed likely to serve the community, if not the individuals within it, as well as it had always done through the centuries.

That was the reason why, when the Germans demanded that the communal leaders select, say, 10,000 of their people for deportation, the bias was to select the good-for-nothings and the old among the good-for-somethings. Let the young live, they will carry on the tradition, was the feeling.

Lucy Dawidowicz divides her history into two parts. First, the development of the ideology of total destruction - a policy that in recent years acquired the name of eliminationism from Daniel Goldhagen, a term not much in use when Dawidowicz wrote in 1975.

The idea was so alien that civilized people, Jews included, had a hard time accepting its reality. When couriers and escapees brought in witnessed accounts of death factories, the underground Jewish press downplayed the news, unsure how much of it to believe. Outside Europe, recognition of the monstrousness of the crime was even slower to take hold.

Probably, Dawidowicz says, many Germans did not understand that elimination was the goal. It was asserted in "Mein Kampf," but few read that turgid book, not even Adolf Eichmann. This is not to say that Germans (and Polish Catholics and many others) had any objection to murdering Jews. It was rather that they didn't quite see the point of murdering all of them.

The Jews felt the same. Surely, they thought, the work we do for the German army (sewing uniforms, making boots and so on) in its struggle with Russia is so valuable that at least the strong and skilled will be spared.

Dawidowicz is a legal and social historian. She makes the point, although military historians have subsequently made it even more strongly, that the Germans were so devoted to destroying all the Jews that they let that task harm their war effort. When trains were desperately needed to get munitions to the front, or to organize an orderly retreat, the SS was able to commandeer as much rolling stock as it needed to keep the gas chambers filled.

She believes that Hitler, Himmler and at a somewhat later date Heydrich were commited to eliminationism. It wasn't really necessary to let others into the grand plan. As long as they were willing to perform their small tasks - and there were few who demurred - then the great killing industry could go forward without holding a plebiscite on annihilation.

The other half of the book concerns what the Jews did. Until very late, each time their little worlds were shrunk by deportations, they regrouped and tried to maintain or revive all the communal, religious, social and economic institutions that had sustained them under persecution for so long.

It was late 1943 or even 1944 before the grimmest truth emerged, and then the Jews turned, after much consultation with their rabbis and secular leaders, to forlorn hope resistance, rather than the passive resistance that had served them in the Middle Ages and, so they thought, even against the Nazis.

In the last few pages of her book, Dawidowicz makes an impassioned, and convincing, argument that collaboration is not a charge that can be laid against the Jews (with some individual exceptions) because they were never free actors. In the endnotes, she has harsh words for Raul Hilberg and Hannah Arendt, who, she says, failed to grasp the essential status of the Jews under German domination: They were condemned, and their only freedom of action was to decide whether to die before the Germans killed them, as Adam Czerniakow, the leader of the Warsaw ghetto, chose to do.

There were, and still are, people who like to pretend that Communism was worse than Nazism, because more people died under the Communists. Dawidowicz approvingly cites Karl Jaspers on the subject of Nazism. She writes:

"The German state, deciding that the Jews should not live, arrogated to itself the judgment as to whether a whole people had the right to existence, a judgment that no man and no state have the right to make. 'Anyone who on the basis of such a judgment,' said Karl Jaspers, 'plans the organized slaughter of a people and participates in it, does something that is fundamentally different from all crimes that have existed in the past.' "
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars in one volume, July 1, 2007
By 
L. White (Andover, KS United States) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The War Against the Jews: 1933-1945 (Paperback)
Anyone looking for a single volume history of the Holocaust should start with this one. It is not an easy read, but it is informative and works well as a reference book. The table of contents sets up the material well, though it is by no means encyclopedic. The writing is straight forward, allowing the facts to speak so that readers make value judgments for themselves. The starkness of the tone serves as a reminder of how the Third Reich went about its final solution to the Jewish question, business as usual. Those of us who read it as an assigned text for an Issues in the Study of the Holocaust class found it somewhat dry at times, but our own outrage at how an "advanced society" could do such things made up for any tediousness of the book.

My 20 year old copy holds a place of honor on my shelf of frequently used history books.
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39 of 53 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Relentlessly inaccurate, October 29, 2008
By 
lexo1941 (Edinburgh, Scotland) - See all my reviews
This review is from: The War Against the Jews: 1933-1945 (Paperback)
Lucy Dawidowicz's "The War Against the Jews" tends to be one of the first one-volume works on the Holocaust that most people read, me included. One reason for this is that it's not very long: it's about half as long as Martin Gilbert's "The Holocaust", to name another one-volume book on the subject. Another reason is that it came out in the 1970s when the general reading public suddenly became fascinated with the Holocaust. Dawidowicz's book sold many copies, and is still regarded by many people as one of the definitive works on the subject.

Most historians, however, would disagree. The greatest of all Holocaust historians, Raul Hilberg, whose monumental three-volume "The Destruction of the European Jews" is one of the greatest works of scholarship ever published, had nothing but contempt for Dawidowicz's work and wrote a scathing critique of it in his memoir "The Politics of Memory", showing how she makes many basic mistakes of fact. For example, one of Dawidowicz's major flaws as historian is the extent to which she suppresses or ignores evidence of the extent to which Jewish authorities in the ghettoes cooperated with the Nazis - often with the best of intentions, because they sometimes just couldn't believe that the Nazis actually meant to kill them, but with catastrophic consequences nevertheless.

Elsewhere, Dawidowicz uses a naive and statistically innumerate way of counting the number of Jewish dead. Most importantly, her general thesis that Hitler had a master plan to exterminate all of the Jews from early in his career, which he then took great pains to carry out, is not supported by evidence.

I should point out, here, that no serious historian disputes the existence of the Holocaust. "Holocaust deniers" live in a fantasy world in which overwhelming quantities of evidence can simply be ignored. The Holocaust is an established historical fact; if we know of any 20th century historical event that definitely took place, it's this one. Nobody can argue that the Nazi authorities did not murder millions of European Jews, but what is still a matter of dispute is the extent to which this was a plan from the outset or whether it was something that the Nazis started doing in a small and relatively ad hoc way and subsequently decided to organise on a mass scale. That they ended up doing it on a mass scale is likewise firmly established as fact. But Dawidowicz sees it all as having been Hitler's secret plan all along, and the fact remains that while there is plenty of evidence that Hitler knew of the murder of Jews and indeed that he supported it, there is no evidence that he ever had any sort of scheme in his mind about how it would be done. The planning happened at a lower level, and it didn't always happen purely because Hitler wanted it to happen. There is no slip of paper in some archive somewhere on which Hitler wrote down "Kill all the Jews in Europe". Holocaust deniers take this to mean that he didn't want it to happen, but that's just silly. We know it happened and we can be sure that it happened with his blessing; beyond that it gets complicated, more complicated than Dawidowicz can handle.

I would advise curious readers to consult the one-volume abridgment of Hilberg's great work, or failing that Martin Gilbert's popular history "The Holocaust".
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The War Against the Jews: 1933-1945
The War Against the Jews: 1933-1945 by Lucy S. Dawidowicz (Paperback - March 1, 1986)
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