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The Holocaust in Historical Context: Volume 1: The Holocaust and Mass Death before the Modern Age First Edition Edition

4.0 out of 5 stars 3 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0195072204
ISBN-10: 0195072200
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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

The Nazi program of mass extermination of the Jews, argues Katz in this provocative study, was the only true genocide in history: never before had a state attempted, as a matter of policy, to annihilate every member of a specific group. Professor of Jewish history at Cornell, Katz presents a series of heavily annotated case studies comparing the Holocaust to ancient and medieval examples of brutality and mass murder--slavery in the Greco-Roman world, the medieval witch-hunt craze and persecution of homosexuals, the 13th-century crusade against Albigensian heretics, the Catholic church's wars against Huguenots. None of these tragedies was a genocide, Katz concludes. The first installment in a three-volume opus, this scholarly tome holds that Christian anti-Judaism did not set the stage for the Holocaust because, despite the Church's centuries of persecution of Jews, it nevertheless permitted Jewish survival by promoting constraint and ethical scruples among Christians.
Copyright 1994 Reed Business Information, Inc.


"Promises to be one of the most important works in the area of Holocaust studies. It will certainly inspire much rethinking in the field."--Elie Wiesel, Boston University

"Katz provides a virtual encyclopedia of genocide...[establishing] that The Holocaust is a phenomenological and historical novum, a loginriel. This claim, long voiced as a generality, now receives confirmation through an exhaustive documentation which should correct much loose speech and thought, and give a proper perspective to the Holocaust in the framework of universal history."--The Jerusalem Post

"From now on, no one will be able to discuss the uniqueness of the Holocaust without referring to the massive study of Steven Katz."--Raul Hilberg, University of Vermont

"The work of Professor Steven Katz is the fruit of years of careful and profound research. His excellent and impressive analysis of racism as an ideological and political phenomenon demonstrates an extraordinary contribution to comprehension of the Holocaust and events of mass killing in the past."--Israel Gutman, Yad Vashem

"Katz's work is a supremely ambitious effort to come to grips historically with the massacre of European Jews and the intended elimination of the Jewish people worldwide. Matching the seriousness of this subject, his work is learned, carefully argued, imaginatively constructed, and of breathtaking scope--extending from ancient times to the modern era. This is a truly remarkable achievement, to be pondered by everyone who wants to situate this unparalleled catastrophe in our world of catastrophic events."--Michael R. Marrus, University of Toronto

"An epic undertaking, Professor Katz's comprehensive study of a sad and sensational subject, mass murder from Antiquity to the Present, not only demonstrates a mastery of historical detail but clarifies important matters of definition that surround the Holocaust as a genocidal event. Scrupulously informed and trenchantly critical, his book raises the level of debate. No one interested in the question of the specificity of the Holocaust can afford to neglect this volume."--Geoffrey Hartman, Yale University

"Within the last decade the volume of research and writing on the Holocaust and related subjects has increased exponentially. To the generalist, it would seem the field is fully occupied with specialized monographs. Professor Katz is not elbowing his way into that crowded pack, however....He has written a work which will take its place by the sheer mass of research, comprehensive scholarship, and authoritative interpretations. Quite simply, no scholar will be able to do without reference to it. With equal certainty, no one will even attempt something to supersede it for many years to come."--Franklin H. Littell, Baylor University

"Steven Katz has written one of the few books on the Holocaust that is truly indispensable for both the intelligent reader and the scholar. Comprehensive, thorough, challenging, this book is destined to be the focus of debate and reflection for years to come."--Richard L. Rubenstein, Florida State University

"Steven Katz's study of the Holocaust in Historical Context presents the first detailed overview of genocide as a human activity. Its scrupulous scholarship, its unflinching focus makes it the most important single historical work on genocide ever published."--Sander L. Gilman, Cornell University

"After Katz's landmark study, the debate will surely continue, but on a considerably higher plane than heretofore."--Christopher Browning, Pacific Lutheran University

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Product Details

  • Series: Holocaust in Historical Context
  • Hardcover: 720 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press; First Edition edition (May 26, 1994)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0195072200
  • ISBN-13: 978-0195072204
  • Product Dimensions: 7.8 x 1.6 x 9.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 3 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,410,362 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
Perhaps the greatest value of this volume is its systematic cataloguing of man's inhumanity to man and the fact that mass murders in the past had been generally exaggerated.

For all of the prominence of Crusader violence in Jewish thought, less than 1% of European and Mediterranean Jews were killed during the Crusades (p. 335), and no more than 2% of European Jews met the same fate (p. 82). The total number of Jews (conversos) killed by the Spanish Inquisition is less than 2,000 (pp. 82-83), and that over more than a century.

The Inquisition in general was lenient and progressive (for its time) in its treatment of the accused (pp. 498-499). Furthermore, 90% of the penalties it imposed were solely canonical (p. 540).

No more than 100,000 European witches were executed over three centuries (p. 404). Only a small fraction of accused witches were executed, and repentant witches were typically spared (pp. 500-501). Some 5-15% of witches executed were men (p. 504), while 99.9% of Europe's women survived the witch craze (p. 404, 503). So much for gynocide! Ironically, the persecution of witches intensified after witchcraft became a secular crime (p. 502). At no time in western history were homosexuals put to death in significant numbers (p. 519, 524). The institution of slavery was mild in nearly 80% of societies that practiced it (p. 223).

Katz differs from many Jewish authors in repudiating the notion that Nazism was a continuation, or at least an intensification, of previous Christian persecutions of Jews (e. g., the "Hitler by anticipation" view, p. 15). For one thing, Christian Jews were murdered by the Nazis (p. 250). The Holocaust did not happen while Christianity was politically dominant (p. 231, 317).
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Format: Hardcover
Katz's massively researched volume compares the Jewish Holocaust with other historical genocides to discover if any of them can also be called holocausts. To do this he goes over every imaginable source. His research is meticulous and exhaustive. Often the footnotes take up more than half the page. Scholars who utilize this first volume of an at least two volume set will not be disappointed. I highly recommend it.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Katz is to be commended for an extraordinary job in researching this book, but it is fundamentally flawed because he glosses over some basic facts that belie his conclusions. I read this book many years ago before Amazon existed, but read it again after reading many far superior books on the subject, especially Rubenstein's "Genocide."

Was the Nazi program to exterminate the Jews evil. Yes of course, but the same documents that deal with Jewish extermination also include pre-existing orders to exterminate the Gypsies and Poles. Of the six million Poles killed by the Nazis, less than half were Jewish. More Polish Catholics were killed by Hitler than were Polish Jews killed in the gas chambers. The original Blitzkrieg in 1939 was carried out under Hitler's orders issued on August 22 of that year to authorize the killing "without pity or mercy all men, women, and children of Polish descent or language. Only in this way can we achieve the living space we need." His order was NOT limited to Polish Jews, and Poland lost over 20% of its population, a far greater ratio of deaths than any other country in WW II. While the Nazi's initially focused on Polish leaders; Catholic clergy, intelligentsia, politicians, military commanders and such, the entire population was targeted for extermination once the slaves had served their purpose in supporting the war machine. Just as the French, I suspect.

Katz also ignores the effect of the determination by the Nazi's to allow "mixed blood" Jews in the "Aryan Race" to live.

Katz has allowed himself to be blinded by his thesis that the Jews were the only ones who were singled out for extermination by a madman and his regime. This is simply not true.
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