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The Holocaust: A New History Hardcover – January 26, 2017
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"Anyone wanting a compelling, highly readable explanation of how and why the Holocaust happened, drawing on recent scholarship and impressively incorporating moving and harrowing interviews with victims as well as chilling accounts by perpetrators, need look no further than Rees's brilliant book." -Professor Sir Ian Kershaw, author of To Hell and Back and Hitler, A Biography.
"This is by far the clearest book ever written about the Holocaust, and also the best at explaining its origins and grotesque mentality, as well as its chaotic development."-Antony Beevor, bestelling author of Stalingrad, Berlin, and The Second World War
"A masterpiece... Rees' best book yet" -Andrew Roberts, author of The Storm of War --This text refers to the Paperback edition.
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The author takes the reader through the growth of the holocaust to the final days of the Reich. He also interlaces the history of the Reich with the holocaust. That way you can see it as an official policy of Hitler. That becomes very apparent at the end of the war. The holocaust in a way takes priority over the war effort. He does try to interlace the 10,000 foot level view with pictures of people on the ground. This really enhances the story. The one drawback is the lack of context with everything else in the war. He tries to do that but doesn't give it enough space in the book. That would help people understand how the hate overrode everything else.
This is not – it must be stressed – just another book about the Holocaust. This is a veritable feat of historical necromancy. For if you listen carefully the testimonies of the few “lucky” ones who survived you will also hear the tortured susurrus of the millions who did not. And fittingly, it is to these anguished spirits “who have seen the face of the Gorgon” (to use Primo Levis’ words) that Rees’ Holocaust pays the greatest tribute to.
Finally. Lest we forget. There is a very fine line between a civilized world and a genocidal one. It took Nazis only five years to go from some 3% percent electoral support to becoming Germany’s largest party. Moreover, as Rees points out, the logistics of murdering millions of innocent people were worked out not by some bloodthirsty mob but by highly educated party officials in calm and amiable atmosphere over lunch and cognac.
These facts alone should send shivers down our spines. There are monsters in all of us that must constantly be kept on a leash, and it is memory of what happens when this leash snaps that keeps the Homo sapiens project alive. And if we add to all this the destructive power nuclear weapons, recrudescence of nativism, and proliferation of “alternative facts” we might begin to realize the scope, profundity, and urgency in the "history" Laurence Rees has endowed us with.