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The Nazi Terror: The Gestapo, Jews and Ordinary Germans Audio, Cassette – Unabridged, November 1, 2000
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Nazi Terror: The Gestapo, Jews and Ordinary Germans reconciles conflicting interpretations of the Nazi regime and its genocidal policies by focusing on how both party officials and average individuals created and maintained the totalitarianism that gripped German society from 1933 to the end of World War II. Eric A. Johnson argues that historians have understood the authoritarian nature of the National Socialist state in two ways. Scholarship in the 1970's and 1980's highlighted the average person's resistance to the terror fostered by panoptic and ruthless police agencies, while more current investigations show that the Gestapo and related organizations often had less power than was previously assumed. These studies stress the roles played by citizens in the execution of Nazi policies. The most notable example of this interpretation is Daniel Jonah Goldhagen's chilling Hitler's Willing Executioners: Ordinary Germans and the Holocaust.
Johnson argues that ordinary Germans did not willfully intend to harm others, though their cowardice and apathy made the implementation of Nazi policies possible. Drawing from court records and Gestapo files from the area around Cologne, a region that had demonstrated only lukewarm support for the Nazis in elections, Johnson shows that Germans' participation in the Third Reich was not heavily driven by images of anti-Semitism but by a routine obedience to the state. In an era filled with disreputable Holocaust revisionism, Johnson lays to rest questions of accountability by showing who exactly is to blame. Detailed and compelling, Nazi Terror provides a stark, and at times moving, portrait of how individual people took part in the greatest moral quandary of the 20th century. --James Highfill --This text refers to the Audio CD edition.
From Publishers Weekly
The dark heart of Nazism was suffused with hatred, and its outward manifestation was an unprecedented terror. Many scholars have examined this phenomenon, but perhaps none in as much detail as Johnson does here. This is that rare work of history: adroitly combining microhistory (in this instance, a close study of numerous cases brought before the dreaded People's Court and the Gestapo) and macrohistory (an awareness that "Nazi terror is a subject that touches all of humanity"). The subtitle is slightly misleading; without downplaying the central role of the Jews in the racial consciousness of the Nazis, Johnson, to his credit, also acknowledges the Nazi terror against political opponents (especially Communists, Socialists and trade unionists), religious leaders and "asocials" (the Roma, Sinti and mentally and physically handicapped). Furthermore, and this is sure to be of interest to a larger audience, Johnson, professor of history at Central Michigan University (The Civilization of Crime), tackles the larger questions brought to our awareness by the seminal and controversial works of Hannah Arendt, Christopher Browning and Daniel Goldhagen. He challenges Arendt's "banality of evil" formulation when she covered the capture, trial and hanging of Eichmann in the early 1960s. Similarly, he argues for a more complex and nuanced interpretation of the terror than that presented by Browning and Goldhagen. Johnson disputes the characterization of those involved as either "ordinary men" (Browning) or "ordinary Germans" (Goldhagen). The preponderant evidence (and common sense) indicate otherwise. Again, on the micro level, Johnson shows how German-language BBC radio programs (apparently very popular during the war, judging from extensive interviews) indicated exactly what was taking place on the eastern front and in the camps; similarly, he uses the extraordinary diaries of Victor Klemperer to demonstrate that knowledge about the extermination of millions of people was dependent more on one's desire to know. Although Johnson readily admits that a great majority of the German people found ways of "accommodating" themselves to the regime, he returns the burden of guilt to the perpetrators (in this case the Gestapo) and not the people. This is a benchmark work in Holocaust studies. Agent, Georges Borchardt.
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Audio CD edition.
Top customer reviews
The book is well written, and the arguments and evidence well presented. I have problems with the research methods employed and the sampling techniques as described. My opinion is that this book only fuels the fire, and settles nothing. The main problem with its argument that ordinary Germans knowingly and enthusiastically complied with the Nazi policy to systematically scapegoat and exterminate the Jews, the truth is that there is just too much contrary evidence to trust such sweeping claims based on the evidence introduced and cited. Such a generalized argument ignores a lot of inconvenient evidence as well as a number of other more subtle and less reassuring conclusions one could also easily reach regarding the degree to which the ordinary German participated in the extermination of the Jews.
It's true that Germany in that period was characterized by a degree of conformity and adherence to very narrowly and carefully circumscribed rules of conduct. It's also true, however, that during the 12-year reign of the Third Reich deviance from these narrowly conceived moral codes was hardly considered an active or safe option for Germans to openly adopt or publicly support. Given this conformity and the fabled German awe for authority, ordinary citizens were ripe targets for the manipulation and propaganda the Nazis churned out. Properly frightened, chastised, and manipulated, the ordinary German was so concerned for his own safety and that of his family that he scarcely had the moral courage to stand up for what he thought was the unfair treatment of Jews.
Of course, this concern for one's own skin quickly leads to cowardice, and there is no debate over the degree of such loathsome behavior many (if not most) Germans adopted. My point is emphatically not meant to excuse the cowardice of the German people, nor to deny the author's claims that many individual Germans did cooperate enthusiastically in order to benefit themselves, it is simply not accurate to say that the German people generally knew of the "Final Solution" in advance, nor while it was proceeding until very late in the game. Even Jews queried do not consistently understand the savage degree to which Hitler meant to deal with the so-called "Jewish Problem". In recently published books like "I Shall bear Witness" by a German Jew living through the holocaust in Dresden, it is not until the early 1940s that he and his fellow Jews seem to recognize the full extent of what is happening. The author, Victor Klemperer,attributes his own survival (and that of his Aryan wife), to the quiet kindness and risky interventions of countless anonymous Aryans they didn't necessarily even know.
Thus I have to confess that I wasn't convinced by the author's argument or evidence as presented that things were as clear or as simple as he claims. It is an interesting, highly readable, and well-presented book, and certainly an impressive effort on behalf of a revised version of the so-called Goldhagen thesis. However, in the real world, one comprised by ordinary, imperfect, timid, and self-interested individuals, this argument is just too general and convenient to believe (at least based on the evidence presented). And so the debate will likely continue. Enjoy!
Johnson holds nothing back as he shows how one man took a country to the brink of world domination, mislead and lied to the German people and tried to rid the world of one religious group all in the name of power and control.
The book details the Nazi Party and the fear tactics, the Nazi regime and the actions of the Gestapo. You'll read, in stunned horror, the atrocities inflicted on a group of people by the Third Reich, from first hand interviews by those who were there.
While some of the stories are extremely graphic in nature, the overall book is extremely well written and well researched. I was deeply moved by this book and I am very proud to have had the chance to review it. An excellent book - well done Eric Johnson!