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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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 FreemanCopyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved