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Hitler's Willing Executioners: Ordinary Germans and the Holocaust Paperback – January 28, 1997
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"Hitler's Willing Executioner's is an original, indeed brilliant contribution to the...literature on the Holocaust."--New York Review of Books
"The most important book ever published about the Holocaust...Eloquently written, meticulously documented, impassioned...A model of moral and scholarly integrity."--Philadelphia Inquirer
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This is not a case made lightly. Goldhagen lays out everything in exhausting detail. When he’s speaking of ordinary Germans, he is generally speaking of the police battalions that were not highly trained and significantly older than the SS and hardcore of Nazi supporters in that these could’ve represented any German. He spends for less time, though he does spend some talking about how ordinary German citizens helped or at least didn’t stop German police actions.
Now for the downside, Hitler’s Willing Executioners was Goldhagen’s doctoral dissertation I believe and frankly it reads like it. He repeats himself in several places clobbering the reader over the head with the central themes and ideas. This book probably could’ve lost 20-50 pages and gotten the point across in more clear and concise manner. I found myself drifting in and out of engagement with this book due to the repetition and could definitely see those people not accustomed to academic writing not making it beyond the dense explanatory first chapters.
I visited Auschwitz in 2012 and spent most of a day there with a Polish friend and a Polish guide. Very shocking. Emetic in fact; but I still didn't understand it
However, having read this book, I now understand it. I read it and all the pieces and from that prior extensive reading fell into place. This was especially true of the end of the book, where several analytic comments hit home.
The critics who think that Goldhagen says that this was a purely German phenomenon didn't read the book carefully. Eliminationist racism rears its ugly head in many parts of the world today with depressing regularity. Mindless Islamophobia is a striking example.
Strangely, although racism is alive and well in the world in 2016, race itself is a complete myth. Human traits do run in certain genetically related populations (sickle cell disease or pseudocholinesterase deficiency for example) but humans are less dissimilar from each other than dogs and cats are. They come in all shapes and sizes and levels of ability. Intelligence, educability, moral development and cleverness are more or less randomly distributed. I am a physician and a scholar and can reference everything I'm saying from other sources
Judaism is simply a religion. It was the leading monotheistic religion in the Roman Empire immediately before the conversion of Constantine. The residual Jews tended to be those at the periphery of the Empire who for one reason or another dug their heels in when the imperial command to convert eventually reached them.
I highly recommend a thorough reading and understanding of this book to anyone who wants to understand the holocaust or wants to prevent future genocides.
Truth for the Jewish victims and survivors of the Holocaust is not at the bottom of some bottomless well. In this kind of revelation there is hope, dim indeed, but still there.
The book looks at historical antisemitism, and how easily a large number of the Germans were able to use their long term hatred of Jews to kill without remorse. I found parts of this well done, but repetitive as presented.