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Worse Than War: Genocide, Eliminationism, and the Ongoing Assault on Humanity Hardcover – October 6, 2009

3.4 out of 5 stars 23 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Goldhagen expands the controversial argument of his bestselling Hitler's Willing Executioners to indict the world in this relentless j'accuse. His comparative study surveys a panorama of modern atrocities, encompassing the Holocaust, the Soviet gulag, Cambodia, the Rwandan and Darfur genocides, and even Harry Truman, a mass murderer who should be put in the dock no less than Stalin [and] Pol Pot for the atomic bombing of Japan. Goldhagen's elaborate concept of eliminationism, complete with a two-dimensional matrix of Types of Excess Cruelty (is the action ordered or not? individually or collectively performed?) is similarly broad, comprising massacres along with nonlethal expulsions and repressions; in his hectoring, incantatory prose (Think of hearing your victim's screams as you hack at or 'cut' her and then cut her again, and again and again), it's less a theory than a nomenclature for cataloguing human devilry. As in Executioners, Goldhagen convincingly disparages bureaucratic banality of evil explanations of genocide and spotlights the ideologies of leaders who exploit ordinary citizens' hate-filled beliefs to instigate mass murder. It's not easy reading, but Goldhagen's vehemence and the sheer weight of horrors that he recounts move one's conscience. Photos. (Oct.)
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Review

Kirkus Reviews
“Grisly specifics share space with an insightful, often startling analysis of why mass murder occurs and how to stop it. A significant achievement…intensely researched and wholly original.”

New York Times Book Review
“[A] magisterial and profoundly disturbing ‘natural history’ of mass murder…We place the Holocaust outside of history; Goldhagen embeds it in the larger, recurring pattern of genocidal killing…Worse Than War is, in effect, Everyone’s Willing Executioners.…Belief matters; choices matter. This is Goldhagen’s wake-up call…So far, the United Nations has done virtually nothing to put [some] fine principles into action. Until it does, those few states that are committed to preventing mass murder may have to act without international approval. Worse Than War reminds us of the imperative to act, and of the terrible cost of our failure to prevent the mass murders of the past century.”


Worse than War is essential reading whether one is a human rights activist, a policy wonk, or a member of the general public... a monumental work of originality that offers interesting insights and prescriptions on nearly every page. --Thane Rosenbaum in Huffington Post

"Goldhagen is a trenchant writer and it is not his way to beat about the bush.  What no one can deny him is the range and depth of his knowledge or the courage involved in many of his judgments... his book is masterful." --Daily Telegraph (UK)

"Worse Than War makes a compelling and brave argument that our world must heed if we are to see sanity restored.... Powerfully original.... Goldhagen is magnificent... and... inspiring..."-Mail on Sunday (UK)

--Kirkus Best Books of the Year

Kirkus Reviews
“Grisly specifics share space with an insightful, often startling analysis of why mass murder occurs and how to stop it. A significant achievement…intensely researched and wholly original.”

New York Times Book Review
“[A] magisterial and profoundly disturbing ‘natural history’ of mass murder…We place the Holocaust outside of history; Goldhagen embeds it in the larger, recurring pattern of genocidal killing…Worse Than War is, in effect, Everyone’s Willing Executioners.…Belief matters; choices matter. This is Goldhagen’s wake-up call…So far, the United Nations has done virtually nothing to put [some] fine principles into action. Until it does, those few states that are committed to preventing mass murder may have to act without international approval. Worse Than War reminds us of the imperative to act, and of the terrible cost of our failure to prevent the mass murders of the past century.”
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 672 pages
  • Publisher: PublicAffairs; 1 edition (October 6, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1586487698
  • ISBN-13: 978-1586487690
  • Product Dimensions: 9.7 x 6.5 x 1.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (23 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,215,464 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By R. Schwenk VINE VOICE on November 30, 2009
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This book is essential reading for anyone interested in a comparative study of twentieth-century genocides. Goldhagen includes some mass murders of which I previously knew nothing such as the Germans' treatment of the Herero in South-West Africa and the British suppression of the Kikuyu in Kenya. All future analyses of genocide's causes and characteristics will have to reference this book. (Note: it is not necessary to have read Hitler's Willing Executioners: Ordinary Germans and the Holocaust prior to reading this book.) Now for the bad news: 1) The book is mind-numbingly repetitious at times. Goldhagen must make the point over and over that the perpetrators are willing and eager participants in the slaughters. 2) He invents terms (eliminationism for genocide; Political Islam for Islamo-fascism; genocide bomber for suicide bomber) that do not add much clarity to his arguments. 3) His utter contempt for the work of Milgram and Zimbardo reeks of unprofessional axe-grinding. 4) He condemns Harry Truman as a mass murderer (for the atomic bombs) but includes not a word about the Vietnam War. 5) The chapter on Political Islam assumes a unity among Sunni, Shia, Wahabbi, etc. that exists only in the minds of neo-cons. 6) The chapter on What We Can Do proposes actions that are either utterly unrealistic or utterly horrifying. See The Lucifer Effect: Understanding How Good People Turn Evil for another angle on explaining perpetrators' behavior. See For Your Own Good: Hidden Cruelty in Child-Rearing and the Roots of Violence for an exploration of the connection between child-rearing and cruelty.
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Format: Hardcover
This book goes way beyond talking about numbers. It looks deep down into the heart of darkness. There have been many genocides. Goldhagen explains that they all share common elements. I read this book and came to a deeper understanding of the planet and the people on it. Ultimately this book is about the human condition. What's in people's hearts. What's it like to mobilize others to kill, what's it like to be a killer, to be a victim, to be a bystander. The book is breathtaking in its scope. Panoramic. It opened my eyes.

This book makes the incomprehensible understandable -- that more people have died in genocides than in all military combat combined is breathtaking to think about, and is just the start. That huge, abstract number frames the book. To kill large numbers of people means large numbers of other people are mobilized to do the job. Goldhagen looks into the hands, the hearts and the minds of those who are pulling the triggers and holding the machetes. He examines the local and global conditions at the moment a man, a woman, or a child is felled. He makes it very real, very personal. At the very core of genocide is hate. The perpetrators hate their victims for reasons simple and complex, and the spark of killing is ignited time and again by a political decision, a political calculus, usually by a tyrant in one place or another to mobilize local hatreds for his own political purposes. The killing usually stops when all or substantially all of the victims are gone. The world watches. Time and again, it does nothing or not enough.

This is a hugely important book. Because by reading it, you realize, it's not the world that's watching anymore. It's us.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
"Worse Than War" is One Tough Read
by Edward H. Telfeyan

Can a book be important, horrific and horrible? You wouldn't think so, but Daniel Jonah Goldhagen's "Worse Than War: Genocide, Eliminationism, and the Ongoing Assault on Humanity" fits that description.

The title tells all, starting with the obvious passion that the author brings to the subject. At a full 600 pages, plus 30 pages of notes (most of which are cites to referenced works and authorities) and a closing "Thoughts and Thanks" that runs another five pages, the book is ponderous from the outset.

But the topic of the book is most definitely important, if perhaps not quite as important as Mr. Goldhagen, in his obsession with the subject, would have it be. The propensity for genocide and its cousin, eliminationism (a word Mr. Goldhagen uses to distinguish non-lethal forms of human violence against other humans), is certainly a major character flaw in the human condition. To be specific, and Mr. Goldhagen is nothing if not specific, he conservatively accounts for 175 million deaths by genocidal acts in the span of the twentieth century (and the first few years of the twenty-first; the book was published in 2009).

In chronicling those episodes, the author spares no details. And that aspect of the book is what earns it the second adjective: horrific. It's one thing to relate generally how mass murders were effectuated in the numerous genocides of the last century. It's quite another to provide the grisly specifics, to include the blood and guts (literally) spilled by the perpetrators in each of those genocides.

Thus, for example, we learn of the Hutus genocide of the Tutsis in Rwanda, which Mr.
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