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The Years of Extermination: Nazi Germany and the Jews, 1939-1945 Hardcover – April 10, 2007


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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. In the second volume of his essential history of Nazi Germany and the Jews, one of the great historians of the Holocaust provides a rich, vivid depiction of Jewish life from France to Ukraine, Greece to Norway, in its most tragic period, drawing especially on hundreds of diaries written by Jews during their ordeal, depicting a world collapsing on its inhabitants, along with the thousands of humiliating persecutions that Jews suffered on their way to extermination. Friedländer also provides insightful discussions of the many interpretive controversies that still surround the history of Nazi Germany. He has been party to many of the debates, and he remains attuned to the most recent historical research. Friedländer knows the bureaucratic workings of the Third Reich as well as anyone, but refuses to see in that alone the explanation for the Holocaust. Instead, he focuses largely on cultural and ideological factors. He considers other factors, such as "the crisis of liberalism," but these were not the essential motives for the Holocaust, which, Friedländer says, was driven by sheer hatred of Jews, by "a redemptive anti-Semitism" espoused by Hitler, a belief that Germans could thrive only through the utter destruction of Jews. This is a masterful synthesis that draws on a lifetime of learning and research. (Apr. 10)
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From Booklist

It can be argued that we are in danger of a Holocaust overload--that is, the constant revisiting of the topic, deadening sensitivities to the real horrors of racial genocide. On the other hand, there is a need to keep reminding the world precisely what was done to Jews under the Nazi regime. That is just what Friedlander seeks to do in his second volume on the topic. He grew up in Nazi-occupied France and is now a professor of history at UCLA. Here he takes a broad view of the war against the Jews. The actions of the Nazi state are closely examined, but he also places the Holocaust within the broader context of European politics and racial attitudes. He eloquently illustrates the millions of individual tragedies through extensive use of Jewish diaries. He avoids delving into the motivations for the anti-Semitism of Hitler and his cohorts; for him, such blind hatred is beyond true comprehension. The deeper problem is comprehending why people were willing to become a part of such an affront to decency. Jay Freeman
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved
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Product Details

  • Series: Nazi Germany and the Jews
  • Hardcover: 896 pages
  • Publisher: Harper; 1 edition (April 10, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0060190434
  • ISBN-13: 978-0060190439
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1.9 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 3 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (51 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #192,520 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

111 of 120 people found the following review helpful By Omer Belsky on May 5, 2007
Format: Hardcover
I read Saul Friedlander's first volume about Holocaust, Nazi Germany and the Jews: Volume 1: The Years of Persecution 1933-1939 almost ten years ago. That was one of the first, and one of the best, non fiction books I've read. With well crafted, confident prose, Friedlander guided us through the various stratas of German society as the Nazi administration slowly but relentlessly increased the pressure on the Jews. I was mightily disappointed as the years passed by and the second volume failed to appear. Rumor had it that it wasn't forthcoming. I only discovered that "The Years of Extermination" would in fact be released after it has been.

I got the hefty hardcover (870 pages, including 205 pages of notes and bibliography) in a bookstore in Israel while shopping for a book to take with me to a business trip. It was only after I purchased "The Years of Extermination" - but before I left - that I realized I would be reading most of it in Germany. How appropriate.

"The Years of Extermination" cover Germany's Jewish policy in the war years. The chapters are chronological rather than topical, and follow a relatively stable format. First, the chapter briefly discusses the progress of the War, the contingencies that played a part in the shaping of the extermination policy. Next, Friedlander describes the happenings in the highest echelons of the Nazi Regime - the various power struggles, speeches, and plans concerning the fate of the Jews. The rest of the chapter would be dedicated to the carrying out of the policies, and to the actions and reactions of the various victims, perpetrators, and by standers, throughout the Reich and among its allies.
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50 of 55 people found the following review helpful By Seth J. Frantzman HALL OF FAME on April 28, 2007
Format: Hardcover
There are an number of prominent full length, one volume, histories of the Holocaust, this is the newest and contributes much to the study of the terrible event. In particular this book returns the reader to the 'old' view of the Holocaust. It challenges Arendt's theory that the Jews were responsible for their own fate and that the Germans were 'banal' and it assaults various 'economic' histories of the Holocaust by recalling the racial hatred that motivated the mass murder.

The most important contribution this book makes is examining the internal workings of the Jewish communal institutions and their leadership. Of the utmost importance is the books concentration on cataloguing the crimes of the Nazi collaborators in Croatia, Rumania, Ukraine, Latvia, Poland and elsewhere. The book combines a massive amount of source material to give flavor for all sides of the Holocaust machine. It is well written, beautiful and tragic and poignant.

The greatest drawback is a total lack of pictures or maps. This is a great shame, for the Holocaust was colossal in scale, maps are necessary.

The story is chronological rather than thematic or geographical, which can be confusing and the book lacks adequate headers to break up the countries studied. Nevertheless, quite an accomplishment, a great new history.

Seth J. Frantzman
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61 of 69 people found the following review helpful By Werner Cohn on June 15, 2007
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This cataclysmic modern catastrophe that we now call the Holocaust has now, at last, found its first truly magisterial, comprehensive treatment in Friedlander’s “The Years of Extermination.”

Previous attempts at this task (by Lucy Dawidowicz, Raul Hilberg, and some others) have suffered from being premature (i.e. they were conceived before some of the more important archives were available), and, in some cases, by having a whiff of eccentricity about them. This latter criticism applies particularly to the writers of some of the more specialized monographs. Many of these have flogged particular insights, which, while often valuable by themselves, were sometimes exaggerated and promoted for polemical purposes.

Was the Holocaust a natural outcome of German anti-Semitism? Was it a matter of greed of the Germans who wanted to rob the Jews? Was it mostly a matter of injustices inherent in the Versailles treaty, as some of the older commentators have urged? Was it partly a matter of German Protestants and their Lutheran heritage, as a recent writer would have us believe? Friedlander, to his enormous credit, pays close attention to all such partial insights but transcends them all. He has read everything and has considered everything (well, almost – see below). He distills for us all of the extremely rich specialized literature and gives us a coherent, full, rich, detailed, satisfying picture of what happened to the Jews in the Second World War.

When I say that he considers all the specialized research, I mean of course the work that needs consideration. He wastes no time on the so-called Holocaust deniers, nor, indeed, on those who insist that the moon is made of green cheese.

Obviously no book -- the Messiah not yet having come – is perfect. Alas.
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27 of 29 people found the following review helpful By Irving Wiesen on September 9, 2007
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Daniel Goldhagen's critique above is mystifying on several counts. First, Friedlander clearly deals extensively with the killers and their motivations including testimony in their own words. Statements, testimony and diary entries by Goebbels, Himmler, Eichmann, Hoss, Frank and many others, including by the killers, are quoted repeatedly and extensively. Second, in no way does Friedlander diminish his earlier emphasis on "redemptive anti-Semitism" despite the paucity of that particular phrase in this second volume. In fact, he returns again and again to Hitler's animus in quasi-religious terms: the Holocaust as prerequisite to the survival of the human species itself; Hitler's self-described Reichstag "prophecy" concerning the Jews. If this is not "redemptive" I don't know what is. In fact at one point Friedlander expounds on this very issue specifically and at length. Notwithstanding the inapposite Goldhagen criticisms (the history is all there, notwithstanding Goldhagen's charge that this is history lite, including extensive examination of questions such as the "order" to kill the Jews, the role of the Pope, etc.), there is a certain weight of psychological focus on the mindset of Jews and ordinary Germans as expressed in diaries and letters. In this, Friedlander accomplishes something very difficult: he allows us a glimpse into the mind and the world of the Holocaust day to day--what was it like as a Jew, what did the ordinary German think, what did the soldiers think and report back home of the atrocities they witnessed and more than occasionally abetted? What did priests think and do? What did religious people think?Read more ›
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