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The Years of Extermination: Nazi Germany and the Jews, 1939-1945 (Vol 2) Hardcover – Bargain Price, April 10, 2007
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From Publishers Weekly
Starred Review. In the second volume of his essential history of Nazi Germany and the Jews, one of the great historians of the Holocaust provides a rich, vivid depiction of Jewish life from France to Ukraine, Greece to Norway, in its most tragic period, drawing especially on hundreds of diaries written by Jews during their ordeal, depicting a world collapsing on its inhabitants, along with the thousands of humiliating persecutions that Jews suffered on their way to extermination. Friedländer also provides insightful discussions of the many interpretive controversies that still surround the history of Nazi Germany. He has been party to many of the debates, and he remains attuned to the most recent historical research. Friedländer knows the bureaucratic workings of the Third Reich as well as anyone, but refuses to see in that alone the explanation for the Holocaust. Instead, he focuses largely on cultural and ideological factors. He considers other factors, such as "the crisis of liberalism," but these were not the essential motives for the Holocaust, which, Friedländer says, was driven by sheer hatred of Jews, by "a redemptive anti-Semitism" espoused by Hitler, a belief that Germans could thrive only through the utter destruction of Jews. This is a masterful synthesis that draws on a lifetime of learning and research. (Apr. 10)
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It can be argued that we are in danger of a Holocaust overload--that is, the constant revisiting of the topic, deadening sensitivities to the real horrors of racial genocide. On the other hand, there is a need to keep reminding the world precisely what was done to Jews under the Nazi regime. That is just what Friedlander seeks to do in his second volume on the topic. He grew up in Nazi-occupied France and is now a professor of history at UCLA. Here he takes a broad view of the war against the Jews. The actions of the Nazi state are closely examined, but he also places the Holocaust within the broader context of European politics and racial attitudes. He eloquently illustrates the millions of individual tragedies through extensive use of Jewish diaries. He avoids delving into the motivations for the anti-Semitism of Hitler and his cohorts; for him, such blind hatred is beyond true comprehension. The deeper problem is comprehending why people were willing to become a part of such an affront to decency. Jay Freeman
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved
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This book is crucial reading for anyone trying to get a fuller understanding of The Holocaust. Friedlander pulls no punches and leaves no one unblemished. From Hitler’s crazed delusions to the Jewish councils cooperating with their executioners, the author creates a fair, exhaustively researched history on an impossibly big subject. For every cold, grisly Nazi memoranda, victims’ diaries are also cited, bringing out the human truth that lies in the heart of this tragedy - a tragedy often submerged in statistics and body counts. Many of the diaries end mid-sentence, their owners presumably meeting their ends.
Friedlander’s research on the Catholic Church’s dithering (or even tacit support of the Reich) during The Holocaust is sickening. In the face of unprecedented moral failure, Pope Pius XII’s nuncios take a measured, cautionary tone with regard to the liquidation of millions. Subjectivity doesn’t seem to fuel the author’s findings - his conclusions are thoroughly documented. It is indefensible that such a powerful, respected institution would do nothing when Jews were being herded into train cars only blocks from St Peter’s Cathedral. The Years of Extermination does an exemplary job of shining a light on this shameful episode.
Why do we continue to read about an event that has been documented so extensively? What do we hope to learn? In The Years of Extermination, we learn that evil takes the form of common men and women, countrymen and neighbors, laws and ordinances, fecklessness and cowardice, collaboration and complicity. We learn that our darkest hour came about through countless small evils that coalesced into something that will haunt the world forever.
Friedlander's incredible knowledge of what appears to be every aspect of his subject matter overwhelms the reader with the day to day details of laws enacted against Jews in the 30's and their persecution during the war.
His thoroughness of account taught me several things. Everyone was complicit, no country wanted massive numbers of Jewish refugees, organized religion wished to side step the whole issue, everyone seemed to want to put their heads in the sand and pretend the whole thing would go away.
I am unable to comprehend how such a thing could happen. In the early 30's my father, then a teenager apprenticed in a machine shop in Batavia New York. One of the workers had migrated from Germany. I remember my father telling me about conversations with this German immigrant. He left Germany, because right after the WWI armistice they started talking about the next war.
I look with disbelief at enroads by the same fanatical forces in the democracies of the European Community, I look with disbelief at the rise of forces in the United States, built on fear and hate.
The Years of Extermination
The Years of Exterminatin because of the content and the comprehension is an outstanding work. It is an exhaustive research of the most horrific episode in world history, the extermination of more than 6 million Jews. The topic is so exhaustive it only able to lightly touch on the treatment of gypsies, homosexuals, political insurgents, and others. While many groups were destined for extermination Jews were considered the lowest wrung in Hiler's Germany.
The work chronicles1939 -1945 with discussions on early plans to send all European Jews to Madagascar or possibly outside Europe to Russia beyond the Ural mountains. Notions of migrations was discarded as impractical in favor of mass killings. Mass shootings and graves are chronicled even after the introduction of the notorious gas chambers in Auschwitz, Buchenwald, Dachu, and other locations. The first gas chambers were portable trucks and used throughout most of the war.
Because the book chronicles so many similar events Years of Extermination is somewhat redundant. Friedlander does pick up a number of different themes and events, and disperses them throughout the book. He is very critical of Pope Pius XII, critiques lack of response of the west, assesses whether the west should have bombed railroad lines leading to death camps, and other questions. The best aspect of the the bookis the frequent use of lengthy excerpts from personal diaries. While there was a lack of uprisings against the NAZI's many Jews left behind a plethora of diaries to document their plight. Friedlander provides a voice to these individuals to help tell their story.