Read Hitler's Willing Executioners: Ordinary Germans and the Holocaust by Daniel Jonah Goldhagen Online


This groundbreaking international bestseller lays to rest many myths about the Holocaust: that Germans were ignorant of the mass destruction of Jews, that the killers were all SS men, and that those who slaughtered Jews did so reluctantly. Hitler's Willing Executioners provides conclusive evidence that the extermination of European Jewry engaged the energies and enthusiasmThis groundbreaking international bestseller lays to rest many myths about the Holocaust: that Germans were ignorant of the mass destruction of Jews, that the killers were all SS men, and that those who slaughtered Jews did so reluctantly. Hitler's Willing Executioners provides conclusive evidence that the extermination of European Jewry engaged the energies and enthusiasm of tens of thousands of ordinary Germans. Goldhagen reconstructs the climate of "eliminationist anti-Semitism" that made Hitler's pursuit of his genocidal goals possible and the radical persecution of the Jews during the 1930s popular. Drawing on a wealth of unused archival material, principally the testimony of the killers themselves, Goldhagen takes us into the killing fields where Germans voluntarily hunted Jews like animals, tortured them wantonly, and then posed cheerfully for snapshots with their victims. From mobile killing units to the camps to the death marches, Goldhagen shows how ordinary Germans, nurtured in a society where Jews were seen as unalterable evil and dangerous, willingly followed their beliefs to their logical conclusion."Hitler's Willing Executioners 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...

Title : Hitler's Willing Executioners: Ordinary Germans and the Holocaust
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ISBN : 9780679772682
Format Type : Paperback
Number of Pages : 634 Pages
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Hitler's Willing Executioners: Ordinary Germans and the Holocaust Reviews

  • Matt
    2019-03-26 01:36

    Everyone knows it’s hard to get published. There are a lot of authors and a lot of books, and it’s difficult to stand out among the sea of words. It’s a bit easier for memoirists, who can rely on shabby childhoods and drug addictions. For a historian, it’s a bit trickier. One tactic is the micro-history: find yourself a historical footnote, and then elevate it to the turning point of mankind. For example, an ambitious historian could write about the hula-hoop, and how it brought about détente between America and the Soviet Union. (Don’t steal my idea!) There is another route you can take, a road less traveled. It’s perilous, and might make it difficult for you to travel in the future, but it will get you noticed (and in publishing, there is no such thing as bad attention). What do you do? Simple. Make a shocking statement that insults at least 80 million people but that is at least half-defensible. Daniel Jonah Goldhagen nails this principle in Hitler’s Willing Executioners. It’s why his presumably-turgid Harvard dissertation was repackaged into a best-selling book that most buyers probably found impossible to read. Probably the most popular notion to come out of the Holocaust is Hannah Arendt’s famous conception of the “banality of evil.” The phrase, while it has a certain pseudo-intellectual ring, is shallow, clichéd, and specious. Moreover, it was derived from Arendt’s observations of Adolf Eichmann, who was fighting for his life in a Jerusalem courtroom, and thereby willing to say anything. Still, there are certain aspects of the Holocaust that might qualify as banal. After all, it never would have occurred without lawyers, accountants and engineers (and IBM!), who managed to tabulate, round-up, and transport millions of Jews. Presumably, many of these people never saw the awful end result of their work. Goldhagen doesn’t believe in this H&R Block explanation of the Holocaust. He does not accept that it was somehow diffused enough that most perpetrators didn't know what they were doing, or to what ends. Of course, you probably already figured that out, after having read the title. Suffice it to say, Hitler’s Willing Executioners has a different way of explaining the Holocaust. First, Goldhagen broadens the typical indictment of “the Nazis” to include the whole of the German people. He does not lay blame simply with the tens of thousands of einsatzgruppen who shot Jews in Russia, or the camp guards who manned the wire at Auschwitz and Treblinka. Rather, he casts his net over virtually all Germans, from the SS officer delivering a coup de grace with his Luger to the German stationmaster who helped the trains run on time to the German inhabitant of Dachau, who lived within sight of a concentration camp. Secondly, Goldhagen posits that the Holocaust occurred because of Germany’s unique brand of anti-Semitism (he terms this “eliminationist anti-Semitism”). It is this second point that provides the thrust of Goldhagen’s book. There are dozens of explanations as to why the Holocaust occurred: the magnetic sway of Hitler; Germanic obedience to authority; various social and psychological pressures; the alleged exigencies of the war. Goldhagen finds these explanations unconvincing (as though any explanation could possibly suffice). To Goldhagen, the justification for the Holocaust begins and ends with German anti-Semitism. He spends roughly the first half of the book, in terms of total pages, trying to explain the nature of this mindset. It is this portion of the book that will likely try the patience of most readers. As I mentioned above, Hitler’s Willing Executioners began life as a PhD dissertation. If you’ve ever read a dissertation, you know that clarity is not the foremost concern; getting a PhD is. Goldhagen’s writing, especially in these early sections, is quite frankly, awful. It is dry, turgid, overly technical, awkwardly phrased, and freighted with fancy Harvard words. (Goldhagen uses the word “phenomenological” so often it started to lose meaning for me).A discussion about German anti-Semitism is not inherently complex. It’s not, after all, particle physics or fractal geometry. Goldhagen, though, has a particular way of obfuscating the obvious, of hiding his meaning in a tangle of clauses. He uses entire paragraphs to extol meanings better accomplished with a single sentence. The denseness of his writing comes across as uncertainty, as though he’s trying to hide the flaws in his arguments by making his arguments incomprehensible. What you should get out of this section, when all is said and done, is the proposition that the anti-Semitic, eliminationist mindset of the Germans caused the Holocaust. The next part of the book is devoted to proving this hypothesis. Goldhagen does this by way of three case studies: (1) the Police Battalions; (2) the “work” camps; and (3) the death marches. These sections are a bit more manageable in terms of ease of comprehension. I’m guessing that most of the changes in the dissertation-to-book transformation took place here. While Goldhagen avowedly eschews any type of narrative, he does pepper the proceedings with enough first-hand accounts to keep a reader at least mildly interested. (At the very least, it reminds you that humans were involved in the Holocaust. This is important to remember, because Hitler’s Willing Executioners could have been written by a supercomputer). Goldhagen does not set out (or make any attempt) to tell the story of the Holocaust. Instead, he enters the realm of social-science to try to prove a point. To do so, he relies heavily on the case study method, in which you do an in-depth study of a single group. The first of these groups are the Police Battalions, specifically, Police Battalion 101. The men of these Battalions were involved in “actions” on the Eastern Front, in which they followed in the wake of the fast-advancing Wehrmacht, rounded up Jews, and shot them in the thousands. Goldhagen spends a lot of time in this section critiquing the work of Christopher Browning, who wrote Ordinary Men about Police Battalion 101. Browning’s thesis, which Goldhagen disputes, is that the Germans of Battalion 101 were not fanatical Nazis, but “ordinary” guys who were very obedient to authority (think Stanley Milgram’s Yale experiments). I didn't care for Goldhagen’s attacks on Browning. First off, he comes across as a douche (I suppose this really isn’t a substantive criticism). Goldhagen seems just like your typical grad student: young and callow, piggybacking off another’s hard work. It’s hard to come up with an original idea, and quite easy to find flaws. Browning built a sandcastle; Goldhagen, wearing a blazer and turtleneck and walking his labradoodle, saw Browning’s sandcastle and kicked it over.More pertinently, Goldhagen’s critique of Browning is logically and factually unpersuasive. Goldhagen wants so much to find empirical support for his arguments, but while he’s talking empiricism, he’s relying on anecdotes. For instance, Goldhagen makes a huge deal over the fact that a couple soldiers in Battalion 101 asked for, and were allowed, to avoid taking part in the shootings of Jews. Goldhagen points to this as proof that the Nazis didn't have to follow orders to shoot Jews. Of course, this never takes into account Browning’s arguments regarding obedience, peer pressure, or the stages of violent brutalization. How does Goldhagen get around this? He dismisses Browning’s arguments by writing I dismiss these arguments. Literally. He simply writes off Browning in favor of his own precious, monocausal idea: that age-old, all-pervading German anti-Semitism answers all Holocaust questions. The sections on the “work” camps and the death marches are similar to the discussion about Police Battalion 101. In each, Goldhagen isolates a discrete group of Holocaust perpetrators and attempts to show that their actions were predicated upon eliminationist anti-Semitism. These sections share the same problems that I noted above. Simply put, Goldhagen can’t prove his point to any degree of certainty. Unfortunately for the historian, the Nazis did not do exit interviews with the SS, the Police Battalions, or the camp guards. This leaves Goldhagen casting about for concrete conclusions based on flimsy bits of evidence such as social class, profession, and Nazi party affiliation. In many ways, a book like this lives and dies based on the strength of its argument. After all, its incendiary revelations (“Everything you know is wrong!”) is its raison d’être. And that’s fair. If your book purports to be a landmark restructuring of the Holocaust story, you better be ready to back this up. On this level, I found the book to be an utter failure. I wasn’t convinced by Goldhagen; I wasn’t even moved. I’m aware that actual scholars (as opposed to me) have criticized Goldhagen’s research, or lack thereof. However, that doesn’t matter to me, since I am not a leading authority of 19th century German anti-Semitism (I apologize if I’ve been giving off that misleading vibe). I don’t know how accurately Goldhagen presents the reality of Germanic anti-Semitism. All I know is that there were dozens of times throughout the book when a thought-bubble formed over my head; inside that thought bubble was a question mark. First and foremost, while Goldhagen goes to great lengths to show that anti-Semitism was a necessary condition to the Holocaust, he falls woefully short trying to prove it was sufficient. From a common sense standpoint, it makes no sense that an otherwise ordinary German could be convinced to kill, and kill brutally, simply because he or she holds anti-Semitic beliefs. There has to be a lot more: peer pressure; social pressure; professional pressure; psychological brutalization (that is, training in violence); obedience to authority; a belief in the ultimate goals. You also need a regime in which this action is not only tolerated, but demanded. In other words, you need the perverted genius of an Adolf Hitler, who, despite the book’s title, never makes an appearance. It may seem like a dodge, but the explanation for the Holocaust isn’t any one thing; it’s a combination of a lot of things. (And this combination of things is different for each person who participated). The only proof I have of this is that anti-Semitism goes back to the time of Jesus Christ’s crucifixion, yet the Holocaust did not occur until the mid-20th century. If Goldhagen is right, and anti-Semitism is both necessary and sufficient for the Holocaust, then the Holocaust should have occurred much earlier. But it did not. Accordingly, there must have been a confluence (anti-Semitism plus Versailles plus the Depression plus Hitler plus the failure of Weimar plus an authoritarian regime plus…well, you get the picture), rather than a sole cause. (Besides, many other genocides have occurred without the aid of anti-Semitism. The anti-Semitic mindset alone, at least to me, does not explain anything except that Germans hated Jews. Which I sort of figured out without Goldhagen’s assistance). Even if Goldhagen had convinced me of the worth of his assertions, it wouldn’t have done a lot to improve my opinion of his book. This is due to a startling lack of readability. Hitler’s Willing Executioners seems almost intentionally graceless and ponderous, as though the only way to write about the Holocaust is through cement-like prose. Goldhagen has taken as his subject one of the world’s great tales of human suffering. What’s more, he professes to know this. At one point, he emphasizes the brutality of the Holocaust, not in terms of numbers, but in terms of physical destruction: spattered blood, torn flesh, shattered bones. His writing, however, does not support his own declamations. In short, Hitler’s Willing Executioners would have benefited greatly from an infusion of humanity.

  • Jonathan
    2019-04-06 04:38

    This should, for many reasons, get only one star. It gets two for the occasional flashes of actual, legitimate historical scholarship and for some of the evidence he has dug up. Nonetheless, it is a truly terrible work, made even more so by its persuasive and populist tone, and the large numbers of copies sold. It is an almost textbook example of the dangers of creating a thesis, and then selecting and interpreting evidence to fit that thesis. His conclusions are simply wrong, and not backed up by evidence. My Master’s Thesis was on the Shoah and I have studied it at postgraduate level for some time and can confirm that this book is dismissed outright by all serious scholars of the period. I can do no more than urge everyone not to waste their time reading it. A much better work on this topic is Browning’s. Read that instead. A much more thorough critique can be read here this countless others. There is a substantial amount of academic criticism out there on this text, and any decision to read it should be taken with that in mind.

  • Justin
    2019-04-19 01:20

    It's not that some of Goldhagen's ideas are wrong. He makes a valuable contribution by recognizing the history of anti-Semitism in Germany history prior to WWII and the Holocaust. However, this ideological goal blinds him to any other rational to the causes of the Holocaust. In his effort to prove the exceptional nature of German hatred and bigotry, he ignores the wealth of evidence from a variety of social scientists pointing out the general cruelty and inhumanity of humanity in general. In doing this Goldhagen makes breathtaking generalities and grossly misinterprets a lot of evidence that would help disprove his idea of German exceptionalism. Also, his focus on German crimes during the Holocaust blinds him to the genocide perpetrates in other European countries by other European nationals. The crimes of the French, Poles, Lithuanians, etc... are all forgotten in this book. While Goldhagen's outrage is natural, (especially given that he is the son of Holocaust survivors) his scholarship is poor and his methodological work is sloppy at best.

  • Mike
    2019-04-04 04:40

    This book makes a powerful argument. It's main thesis is that the vast majority of Germans during and before WWII had antisemetic beliefs that were of such power and scope, that they led many ordinary Germans to perpetrate and support the destruction of the Jewish people. He refutes competing claims such as that the Nazis forced them into killing. He provides many detailed accounts of police squads killing without orders, and sometimes against orders. He demonstrates that men in Police batallion 101 had opportunities to be transferred to non-killing assignments but chose not to. Even as the Germans were near defeat, many male and even female guards at prison camps continued to kill Jews to the very last moment. Himmler had actually commanded them not to do this so he could better negotiate with the Americans. They disobeyed the orders. Goldhagen's findings are unsettling. It is frighting to believe that a lie can be so powerful as to delude an entire culture. Even the Christian church was largely deceived. However, is this really so hard to accept when we study the history of man? This book contradicts the Disney philosophy that "there is good in everyone, you just have to look deep inside to find it." Hitler's Willing Executioners is not an easy read. It was Goldhagen's doctoral thesis and it reads like it. There is some repetition and terms used can sometimes be obscure. This is not a popular history. However, there were many times when I could not put it down. The argument breaks new ground and deserves the thorough treatment given to it.

  • Elaine
    2019-04-21 01:30

    This book really has pissed people off. Goldhagen takes a very different view of Germans, Nazi or not, who actively helped in brutalizing and murdering Jews. He claims they weren't forced to do it, but chose to. They were not automatons blindly following orders, rather their particular brand of Jew hatred made them willing exterminators of people who had no power. He does acknowledge other victims of Nazism, but this book is about German anti-semitism and Jews. That is a long enough story. Many critics fault him for not discussing Gypsies and homosexuals, but who has? Probably the same despising of "the Other" that underlies Jew hatred also explains these victims. In any event, he never pretends to be discussing anything except Jew hatred. The history of it in Germany is well-known as is the form it took. Moreover, as he shows, none of the other groups targeted by the Nazis were treated with anything approaching the cruelty towards Jews from infancy on.Now that I've finished, here is my final assessment:When the German soldiers who were tried at Nuremburg after World War II said they weren’t guilty because they were “following orders,” I and millions of others believed them. If that were true, then were they guilty? After all, even in America, soldiers had to follow orders.Later, when the horrors that Stalin visited upon the Russians became known, I understood that was the result of a dictatorship. Since the American Press also called Hitler a dictator, I assumed that Germans, like Russians, had no say in what their government did. As an American, my cognitive model of a dictator was that of a totalitarian government, one in which people had no freedom of choice at all. Indeed, based I now realize on the Stalinist model, I presumed that Germans who protested Hitler’s policies would be imprisoned. Worse, I thought was that their families would be harmed. Just recently I said to a friend, not Jewish, who made a remark about the German people, “Well, Barnaby, I’d like to think I’d have helped out Jews, but if they would punish my family, I don’t think I would have. Most Americans thought that Stalin’s rule and Hitler’s were pretty much the same: blind obedience or else. However, Daniel Goldhagen shows convincingly that living under Hitler was quite different from living under Stalin, especially if you weren’t Jewish. Hitler wasn’t a dictator as Stalin was. He was voted into office by Germans, who were weary of the democracy that was forced on them after their defeat in 1918. The vote for Hitler was not a slim plurality and it was not a vote by lowlifes and thugs. Germans of all classes not only voted for Hitler, and, as Goldhagen argues, they agreed wholeheartedly with the need to exterminate all the Jews in the world. Goldhagen proves that this idea was rampant in Germany from the early 19th century on. When Nazi troops marched into Austria, the cultured Viennese cheered with glee and immediately dragged the assimilated Austrian Jews out in the streets and made them scrub sidewalks while wearing their finest dress-up clothes. Meanwhile the oh so cultured Aryans laughed and enjoyed the show. No, Hitler wasn’t foisted on these people.Moreover, Germans could and did protest Hitler’s policies and get them changed. Goldhagen presents data from German records that prove this. Three examples suffice. One was Hitler’s policy of killing mental defectives. The Churches and the people protested and the so-called euthanasia was stopped. Second, when husbands of Aryan women were rounded up for deportation to death camps, the women demonstrated in the streets, even confronting the Gestapo—and their husbands were released and spent the rest of the war in Germany in their homes with their wives. Third, when Poles were brought in as forced laborers, Germans were ordered not to fraternize with them as they were inferior Slavs. However, the Germans refused to obey, and, after a while, the restrictions were lifted.The most compelling evidence that the author provides is that which shows how much both soldiers and citizens enjoyed what they were doing to Jews. He relies not only on eye witness accounts, but German records and even pictures that they took. Goldhagen doesn’t specifically mention Now Dwor, Poland, my grandfather’s home town, but in researching my family history website,, I came across a vivid account of what happened there at . If you click on it, you’ll find what a source for hilarity the Jews provided the German soldiers with for five unbelievable, but apparently rollicking years for the cultured Aryans. What delights even the German officers thought up for amusement! These delights involved the most degrading, cruel, foul, and depraved tortures I have ever heard of. This site lends even more credence to Goldhagen’s claims.In sum, I found Hitler’s Willing Executioners a solidly researched book, based upon the records that the Nazis themselves kept, as well as his careful research into German anti-Semitism.

  • Jill Hutchinson
    2019-03-27 04:36

    I don't feel qualified to review this book about the horrors of the Holocaust.....not because I haven't read much about that unbelievable event but because the author puts forward a very controversial approach to the "why" of the slaughter of the Jews that is at odds with most history. The book has stirred violent debates among historians and readers alike and who is to say whether Mr. Goldhagen is correct. His research is impeccable and the arguments that he puts forth are convincing.What he purports is that the German population as a whole was a willing participant in the Holocaust.....not just the military but the volk whose anti-Semitism was ingrained in their culture. Jews were seen as the enemy and their extermination was seen as just. Long before the Nazis came to power the Jews were degraded, treated cruelly and often murdered. It appeared to make sense to the Germans that Hitler's Final Solution of genocide was acceptable and some actually saw it as a sport. Even near the end of the war when Himmler ordered the people to cease the killings, they continued.This is a dense and very disturbing book and I am basing my rating on the fact that, besides being well written, the information presented gives the reader much to consider when thinking and studying about the Holocaust, Whether I agree or disagree with the author's conclusions is unimportant.

  • Richard Fulgham
    2019-04-10 07:43

    Unreliable sources and much speculation in this obviously vengeful and hateful book. This author simply hates all Germans and claims they were all just like Hitler. Avoid this book, in my opinion.

  • Kristina
    2019-04-10 03:32

    I suppose I take this book personally, given that my grandparents were German and in Germany during the Holocaust - they weren't Nazis (my very existence is proof of that), they were simply trying to survive, and I think there's a difference between that, and actively aiding genocide. I don't think that Goldhagen even allows for this. On the other hand, given what is going on in Iraq today, or in Darfur today, in Rwanda a few years ago, or Bosnia a decade ago, I think we are living proof of...something. How do you fight against this kind of madness when you are rendered powerless by the state, be it by fear, by law, or...? All the drama of the 60s and 70s have shown us that rebellion and protest make absolutely no difference in the end, so where does that leave us?I very little hope that humanity is going to see this century through without destroying itself.

  • Tom Holme
    2019-04-19 04:27

    Terrible, terrible, terrible.Provocative theory, but one which falls apart throughout his making the argument.

  • Tyler
    2019-03-24 08:27

    My rating is a split verdict: the author has an interesting yet poorly written argument; neither element should be decisive in convincing potential readers to take up the book or ignore it. Goldhagen steps into a niche not normally espoused.It’s a shame such a provocative theme got taken up by so limited a talent. The text is really just 483 pages, including three appendices, plus 130 pages of often important notes that readers will want to consult. Most of these notes should have been folded into the text, but okay. I used two bookmarks. Both the author and his editor ought to be detained by the first English professor who catches them and given a stern lecture. The basic fault in the text is the failure to render an academic thesis in accessible prose. The less annoying fault is that such a loaded subject needs understatement, yet the author resorts to exclamation points and italics. Now to the subject. Nobody wants to hold today’s Germans collectively guilty of a crime and in turn victimize them, so discussing the role of Germans in the Holocaust has been tricky. Standard accounts explain the annihilation with little reference to the perpetrators. I often wondered why Jews were never put to work at a time when Germany had a labor shortage of several million and the outcome of the war hung in the balance. Something didn’t add up. This is the niche Goldhagen steps into. The author’s claim is that the Holocaust was common knowledge to Germans, wildly popular and based on a hatred radically unlike that found in all other times and places. He argues with a persuasive methodology. He looks at three things: police batallions, work camps, and the death marches in the Spring of 1945. Why he chooses these comes clear in the reading. The study of these aspects of the extermination supports his thesis.Many people reject this idea. The event is so horrific that people now simply can’t bring themselves to think it could have enjoyed widespread support. But Goldhagen can be wrong only if his methodology is mistaken. So we might ask what his methods really prove about the actual source of anti-Semitism. What about the socialists? Socialism in Germany did not imply any sense of brotherhood with Jews, the author claims. Their nationalist turn at the start of World War I seems to bear him out. Communists, who did disavow anti-Semitism, garnered about a sixth of 1932 vote. But although Goldhagen may be mistaken in hinting that up to 95% of Germans were anti-Semitic, a figure closer to 85% scarcely disposes of the problem. Nor does a 1946 survey of German attitudes, in which up to 80% of Germans espoused anti-Semitic beliefs, even after seeing the consequences. How is that?We forget the grip that race theory had on the West in the 19th and 20th centuries, and the impetus given it by an early misreading of Darwin. The milieu was made worse by the volkisch substratum of German culture in the century before Hitler. The historian George Mosse describes the transmogrification of race by the German writer Wilhelm Riehl: Above all there was the Jew, who by his very nature was restless. Although the Jew belonged to a Volk, it occupied no specific territory and was consequently doomed to rootlessness. These elements of the population dominated the large cities, which they had erected, according to Riehl, in their own image to represent their particular landscape. However, this was an artificial domain, and in contrast to serene rootedness, everything it contained, including the inhabitants, was in continuous motion. The big city and the proletariat seemed to fuse into an ominous colossus which was endangering the realm of the Volk … This came decades before Nazism. The author argues that this view became received wisdom throughout German society. The sheer ferocity of the extermination stemmed from a terror of Jews, seen as an evil, diabolically clever race. But even this was not enough to bring on the Holocaust, which, Goldhagen tells us, required that two other rather unlikely events transpire as well. His argument for this confluence of three factors is his unique contribution to Holocaust studies. The book’s characterization of Germans matches Anthony Beevor’s historical account, The Fall of Berlin 1945. The defeated Germans, Beevor notes, complained that Allied tactics had brought communism deep into Europe and America’s entry into the war was gratuitous. Beevor cites these among several examples of what he calls “the fatal tendency to confuse cause and effect” by which Germans reasoned. The same pattern comes across in Hitler’s Willing Executioners.To pin responsibility on the German people as individuals has a sexy cachet in today's culture of total self-responsibility. The confluence of factors by which the author explains the Holocaust, however, does not involve the personal attitudes of Germans and actually throws into doubt the relevance of his methodology in establishing cause. What the author ignores is the social aspect of the Holocaust, its status as the product of a particular socioeconomic structure. Goldhagen's quest to tag individuals for their actions deflects attention from the context in which fascism arose and neglects the fact that it came to power only over the dead bodies of thousands of Germans. The author takes dishonest advantage of the fact that the aforementioned communists, the main obstacle to anti-Semitism, were exterminated in the process that led to the Holocaust. No, dead men tell no tales; nor does Goldhagen speak for them.The author notes Germany’s formal disavowal of anti-Semitism. Compare Germany’s accounting of its crimes with Japan’s and one is impressed by how hard it is for any nation to admit to such a wrong. Better yet, compare it to the United States, which, 100 years after slavery, still nurtured dreams of ridding itself of blacks. Even Northern abolitionists before the Civil War were almost universally racist. The inferiority of blacks was taken as fact, a kind of volkisch Americana. All these ideas have their source in social systems that foster the notion that people are manifestly unequal -- and should be treated so.The effort of Germans to redeem the past sets an example for people in all countries. We might even consider this the bookend to the Holocaust insofar as it, too, has been a particularly German project. People and cultures do change, and modern Germany, at least until recently, has shown us those conditions can change for the better. But the return of militarism in Germany and, with it, historical falsification by the likes of Jorg Barberowski at Humboldt University, throws attention once again not on individuals, but on the nature and function of German capitalism..

  • Lauren
    2019-04-06 04:24

    There’s been so much written about this controversial book that I’m sure I don’t have too many details to add that haven’t been covered before … so instead I’ll gather some thoughts that have been mulling around in my mind in the week since I finished reading it. First, I find this an important book in that it reminds us that this period in history – and the actions of the Germans - shouldn’t be blithely discounted with the standard “it happened because of the economic climate of the time.” As the mother of a high-schooler, I heard this as the primary lesson covered in their history class and it disturbed me greatly. As with most issues, I believe it’s more complex than that. Do I believe, especially after reviewing some of Mr. Goldhagen’s examples, that the common German people were more culpable than we speak aloud? Sure. It’s a disturbing thought. It should be. But before we jump on the condemnation bandwagon, I don’t believe this is due to some genetic marker inherent only in Germans (and I say this not because I’m partially of German extraction). Nor do I believe that dire economic times alone are enough to trigger such extremely sadistic treatment. I believe it was an historic “perfect storm” that included economics, bigotry and a charismatic leader, and possibly other things I can’t think of at the moment. Was there already an active bigotry against Jews throughout Germany? Sure. Throughout most of the world, in fact. Most Christian faiths at that time were disdainful of other Christian faiths, so it’s no great leap to acknowledge that they were particularly intolerant of Jews or any other non-Christian faith. And, as history has shown in instances such as Jim Jones’ Jonestown massacre, a charismatic leader can persuade large numbers of people to do appalling things and feel righteous about doing them. This is particularly true of religions, which have a tradition of creating an elitism among believers by convincing them that they’re superior to nonbelievers who may be lesser (even evil) human beings. Sometimes they even convince the believers that their souls are in jeopardy should they not eradicate nonbelievers. This didn’t begin or end with the Germans of WWII. I won’t even start in on the very human condition that makes these events possible (although, should you doubt that, I suggest you revisit “The Lord of the Flies”). I don’t disagree with those who state that Mr. Goldhagen is unable to be impartial with his research, or that the book is difficult to read. There were many times that I found the writing repetitive and pedantic. But I also find it an important book to read because, as I look around our globe, the air is easily stirred and there are “perfect storms” gathering all around us. Even among us. We need constant reminders of what all of us are capable of doing given the right situation. For that reason, I’ve given the book high stars and recommend that it’s worth reading.

  • +Chaz
    2019-04-13 07:19

    It always amazes me that people, who have constructed their own paradigms, and have worked vigorously at maintaining it, can ignore the mountain of evidence to the contrary. At most Goldhagen provides an explanation as to why people do the things they do regardless of their social or economic background. At worse Goldhagen brings to light one possibility in explaining how one, if not the most learned and advanced country in the world could fall from grace in a matter of a few years of Financial despair. At the same time it should be understood that it was the created genus of Hitler and his party in capturing with total control such a country in the first six months as Chancellor of Germany. Goldhagen has written an outstanding book that to this reader explains not just the German question in which I am a descendent, but the overall question throughout history being, “What the hell were they thinking!”

  • Basia
    2019-03-24 02:22

    Those of you who know me, know that I've never handed out a 1-star review before today. I was replying to my friend Mark when I remembered this embarrassment. Seriously, I blush when I recall that the author and I are of the same SPECIES. He took relationships that were either nonexistent, or at best, spurious, and stretched them out into this "book." It's awful. To suggest that there was something about the German people that somehow perfectly primed them for accepting with open arms Hitler, Nazis, torture, wide-scale murder and genocide, and the contention that the arians were meant to rule the world would be LAUGHABLE had not so many millions suffered and died as a result. I read this in grad school. I remember wondering then as I still wonder today whether it was written to serve as a polemic. Terrible. Please. Don't waste your time.

  • Erik Graff
    2019-04-02 04:37

    The author makes a strong case for the proposition that the mass of gentile Germans (and Austrians) held very strongly hostile attitudes towards their Jewish fellow citizens and Jews in general. Drawing evidence from a wide array of sources, but especially from Police Battalions primarily made up from German males raised before the Nazi seizure of power, he demonstrates how gratuitously cruel and vicious ordinary people were towards what amounted to only a tiny minority of their population and how, even when SS head Himmler ordered the cessation of such mistreatment, many maintained the same levels of violence when the war was obviously lost and nothing objectively might be gained--nothing except, from their psychotic viewpoint, a further ridding of pestiferous vermin.The book begins with some historical background, showing how widespread anti-Jewish beliefs were throughout Christendom. Believing them to be, on the basis of a reading of one gospel, the killers of Jesus, the traditional view was that Jews, in failing to repent by conversion to the new revelation in Christ, were an obstinate people at odds with God. More recently, however, the Nazis and other right-wing groups there and elsewhere, adapting Darwin to the 'science' of eugenics, recognized the Jews as a pernicious race, a native evil opposed to the instrinsically superior Aryans. Although often represented as inferior in all respects for propagandistic purposes, the real inferiority of the Jews was moral. In matters of business (especially banking), politics (witness the Bolsheviks), and a certain kind of cunning intelligence, Jews were worthy--and dangerous--opponents.While an important work, one that future students of the racial policies and practices of Nazism must deal with, 'Hitler's Willing Executioners' is not without flaws. It reads like the worked-over dissertation it is, being dry and long-winded. There is a great deal of repetition. The focus on Germany and gentile Germans is so narrow as to encourage the, in my mind, mistaken belief that such evils are peculiar to them. One thinks, for instance, of contemporaneous events in Croatia. Going back a ways, one thinks of common 'American' beliefs as regards black Africans and the First Peoples of these continents.Beyond mere scholarship, the point of such research should be to effectuate a raised consciousness in its students. Narrowly focusing on the Germans of a bygone era too easily lends itself to the continuation of the projection of evil unto others. The point should be to reveal the potential of evil within our own selves and how our governments, our schools and temples manipulate, if not instill, our prejudices.

  • Stewart
    2019-04-07 06:20

    “Hitler’s Willing Executioners: Ordinary Germans and the Holocaust” by Daniel Jonah Goldhagen is a richly detailed and provocative history of the Holocaust. The book strives to explain why this genocide happened where and when it did. I remember that the book was controversial when it came out in 1996, and when I finally read it, I can see why. Goldhagen’s book tries to rebut popular misconceptions about the mass extermination of Jews in Nazi-held territory: that the killing of Jews was done only by SS officers and Nazi Party members, that most Germans of the time knew nothing about the concentration camps, that perpetrators of the murders were only following orders and would have been killed if they disobeyed, and that only a small minority of Germans in the early 20th century were antisemitic. “Hundreds of thousands of German contributed to the genocide and the still larger system of subjugation that was the vast concentration camp system,” Goldhagen writes. “Despite the regime’s half-hearted attempts to keep the genocide beyond the view of most Germans, millions knew of the mass slaughter.” Goldhagen convincingly points out that antisemitism had a long history in Christian Europe and was strong in what in 1871 became Germany. “European antisemitism is a corollary of Christianity. From the earliest days of Christianity’s consolidation of its hold over the Roman Empire, its leaders preached against Jews, employing explicit, powerfully worded, emotionally charged condemnations.” This widespread antisemitism in Germany and, to be fair, almost all European countries in the early 20th century was amplified by the Nazis when they came to power in 1933. The Nazi Party was obsessively antisemitic from its start in 1919, and Hitler’s “Mein Kampf” exhibited hatred of the Jews and a determination to make Germany free of them, one way or another. No evidence has been produced, Goldhagen writes, that any German soldier was killed or sent to a concentration for refusing to execute Jews. He also writes that the claim that German soldiers blindly obeyed orders in general is false. In many cases, German military people of all ranks disobeyed orders they thought illegitimate, and a number of Germans, including top officers of the Wehrmacht, conspired to kill Hitler. Goldhagen condemns the failure of Christian churches and their leaders in Germany, with few exceptions, to oppose the Nazis and the murdering of innocent Jews. “The moral bankruptcy of the German churches, Protestant and Catholic alike, regarding Jews was so extensive and abject that it warrants far more attention than can be devoted to it here.” Most Protestant and Catholic churches, despite some private dissent of the Nazi’s doctrine about the Jews, were publicly antisemitic, Goldhagen writes. He readily admits that other countries in Europe and elsewhere had populations that were antisemitic. But in Germany it was worse. Antisemitism was not popular in Italy and not originally part of Benito Mussolini’s Fascist government, Goldhagen writes. Even when Mussolini was forced to accede to Germans’ demands against Jews, “Italians, even the Italian military, by and large disobeyed Mussolini’s orders for the deportation of Jews to what they knew would have been death at the Germans’ hands.” Antisemitism could be found – and can be found – in many area of the world, including the Middle East and the U.S. But a few nations were worse than others. “The most important national groups who aided the Germans in slaughtering Jews were the Ukrainians, Latvians, and Lithuanians, about whom two things can be said. They came from cultures that were profoundly antisemitic.” One aspect of antisemitism and the resulting obsession with murdering Jews is how illogical and fantastical these beliefs were from start to end. This might seem a mystery except that we must understand that bigotry by its very nature is illogical, a hatred that is a matter of faith not of evidence. “All antisemitism is fundamentally ‘abstract,’ in the sense of not being derived from actual qualities of Jews, yet simultaneously is real and concrete in its effects.” Goldhagen continues: “Christians’ antisemitism was not based on any familiarity with real Jews. It could not have been. Similarly, most virulent antisemites in German during Weimar and during the Nazi period probably had little or no contact with Jews. Entire areas of Germany were practically without Jews, since Jews formed less than 1 percent of the German population and 70 percent of this small percentage lived in large urban areas.” There were 525,000 Jews living in Germany in January 1933, a small part of the total population of Germany of 67 million. Almost 130,000 emigrated in the next five years. During 1938-39, 118,000 more Jews emigrated. After WWII began, 30,000 more left. The Nazis had forced over half of the Jews of Germany to leave, usually having to forfeit all their property and belongings. The Nazis believed and persuaded many Germans that Jews were a threat to the Fatherland, despite their small numbers and limited political and economic power. The Jews were accused – again, illogically – of being the founders of both capitalism and communism. The ideological obsession of the Nazis to destroy Jews was self-destructive. During World War II, Jews were murdered and mostly not put to work in war plants despite a labor shortage, and the Holocaust effort diverted valuable resources from the war effort. “The destruction of the Jews, once it had become achievable, took priority even over safeguarding Nazism’s very existence.” The Wannsee Conference of Jan. 20, 1942, directed by Reinhard Heydrich, came up with a grandiose master plan for “The Final Solution” against the 11 million Jews in countries from Portugal to the Soviet Union and Ireland to Turkey. Many of the countries were not in German control but presumably, to the conference attendees, would be. The book includes a map of Europe with totals of the number of Jews killed during the Holocaust. Most Jews were not killed in Germany but German-occupied countries. The most Jews killed were in Poland (2.9 million), Soviet Union (1 million), and Hungary (550,000). In Germany, 134,500 Jews were killed. Only 60 Jews were killed in Denmark. Mere statistics can numb one’s comprehension of this horror and mute empathy for the victims of this genocide or any genocide. Fortunately the author spends many pages detailing individual stories of the perpetrators and victims during the 1930s and 1940s in Germany and German-held territories. These stories are difficult to read. Several people attacked “Hitler’s Willing Executioners” after its publication as being anti-German. I think the more relevant question is whether Goldhagen’s book is accurate and fair. If the book is indeed (almost or entirely) accurate and fair, then that charge is meaningless. The book was produced from Goldhagen’s doctoral dissertation. He mostly avoids the worst of dense, jargon-filled academic prose, but the book still can be dense in places and at times he uses big words where smaller ones would do. For instance, why did Goldhagen use the word “voluntaristic” repeatedly instead of “voluntary.” A more important criticism is great repetition of argument throughout the book, not just once or twice but dozens of times. A statement is made on one page, then again three pages on, then 50 pages later, etc. The 622-page book includes an index and 126 pages of notes, but no bibliography. I would have liked to have seen a bibliography, to be able to compile a list of books I might want to read later on. A lack of bibliography made this task a little more difficult. Overall, I thought the book well-researched and illuminating, providing gruesome details of the Nazi evil drive to eliminate Jews and other people. The book is also thought-provoking, lingering in my mind for weeks after I finished it. I hope to read related books in future years to see how Goldhagen’s assertions have stood the test of time.

  • Ken Burruss
    2019-04-09 05:24

    [Deep breath] This is a difficult book to review as the subject matter is so contentious and horrific. The thesis under question is nothing less than examining why Nazi and SS troops and officials carried out the Holocaust. Goldhagen wants to make the question simply whether the Germans were willing participants or not, and he argues they were. I'd agree -- but then point out that the phrase "willing participants" is misleading and wrong. Of course they were willing participants in the sense that they consciously carried out their actions as humans with as much "free will" as anyone else. The better question, the one that Goldhagen skips over is, why did they do it?Goldhagen spends much of the book building a case for a history of the German people that made them unique and more capable of this atrocity than other nations/cultures/peoples. Not only is this wrong but it does a disservice to humanity by providing an argument that could be used to state that only in Germany could the Holocaust have occurred nor could it occur again as circumstances and the German national temperament have changed. As any cursory review of recent history will show, the German people do not have a monopoly on genocide. The importance in studying the Holocaust is to prevent its re-occurrence. Any "scholarship" that purports to explain the Holocaust only as a unique event fails in this purpose.Goldhagen's book is frequently contrasted with Ordinary Men: Reserve Police Battalion 101 and the Final Solution in Poland by Christopher Browning. Goldhagen and Browning used much of the same source material. Goldhagen's work got the headlines through his incendiary claims but it is Browning's work that is the illuminating one. Browning shows us something that is both more plausible and horrifying than Goldhagen does - Browning shows that the men who committed these murders were just that, men, as complex and conflicted as any other man, who nonetheless were able to justify their actions to themselves and carry them out. It is crucial that we understand this. Browning attempts to provide understanding; Goldhagen attempts to provide denunciation and facile explanations.I quote from the preface to Browning's book, page xx: "Clearly the writing of such a history requires the rejection of demonization. The policemen in the battalion who carried out the massacres and deportations...were human beings. I must recognize that in the same situation, I could have been either a killer or an evader -- both were human -- if I want to understand and explain the behavior of both as best I can. This recognition does indeed mean an attempt to empathize. What I do not accept, however, are the old cliches that to explain is to excuse, to understand is to forgive...Not trying to understand the perpetrators in human terms would make impossible not only this study but any history of Holocaust perpetrators that sought to go beyond one-dimensional caricature."Goldhagen's book is the antithesis of what Browning wrote in his preface. Goldhagen believes the study of the Holocaust demands the demonization of those that carried it out. He does not believe the perpetrators were human beings like you and me. He does not believe others would have acted the same under the same circumstances. He believes that to empathize is to forgive so instead we have a book that at every turn tries to impart that the Nazi was beyond understanding, beyond humanity. This is a comforting thought, it is a glib thought, and it is wrong.If you are looking for a polemic that explains the Holocaust as unique to a given country and a given people, then Goldhagen's book is the one you want. If you are looking for a history book that actually attempts to explore and understand how humanity can undertake horrific acts, then Browning's book is the one you want.

  • Guy
    2019-04-18 07:43

    The anti-Christ of history - a truly shocking effort by a misleading author.I once had to write a 5000 word piece for my history degree and this utter tosh was mentioned several times. The topic I was researching was West German memory in the post-war period, looking at how the German public aligned itself with its Nazi past. As part of this I looked at different historians views on how involved "ordinary" Germans actually were.Goldhagen's problem is he does not understand the German society of the time, it's different groups, attitudes and responsibilities within the regime. The result is he groups "Germans" as one united regime with one opinion and role within the war.Goldhagen thus groups the nation as all involved in the Hollocaust in some way, and thus responsible for it, and should feel guilt within the post-war period."Goldhagen implied that the whole nation was involved; phrases such as `the Germans' slaughter of Jews; were left uncontextualised." Taken from Bill Niven's 'Facing The Nazi Past' (p129), which is well worth a read.This is worth reading if you need an example of how not to be a historian. Otherwise it is misleading and almost racist in its conclusions. If you would like a true insight into the period, then this is a miss. Read the book I have mentioned.I find it really disappointing that some people have given this a good review. It is not just an opinion in stating this book is terrible!Ironically the German public, perhaps trying to distance itself from its past, liked the book!

  • Joseph Burke
    2019-04-15 08:40

    There are problems with the book, for those who know a lot about the Holocaust. These are relatively few, though, and are dealt with nicely in Brownings scholarly work, "Ordinary Men." Overall, this book is a scholarly work. Do not read it if you are looking for entertainment rather than education on the topic. Brownings book is much easier to read for the lay person of Holocaust studies. It strikes me, though, looking through the various reviews left by other readers, that those who rated Goldhagen's book with a 1 or a 2 were most likely those who either do not have the scholarly background to appreciate this work or who simply skimmed through it and never really read it for biased reasons.

  • Susan
    2019-04-15 03:45

    It's been nearly ten years since I read this book but I recommend it to anyone who wants to learn more about Holocaust history. It was controversial at the time of publication but the author argues, convincingly in my opinion, that ordinary Germans were willing participants in the persecution and murder of Jews, based on the premise that European culture was imbued with anti-semitic sentiment for hundreds of years before Hitler came along .Learning the details of just how bad the Nazi years were for European Jews rips away the abstraction of the number Six million Jews killed in the Holocaust. The details are grim but it is worth reading.

  • Denis
    2019-04-16 07:26

    A book that won't leave you. Goldhagen's theory has created a firestorm when it came out, but he's extremely convincing and his view of Nazi Germany is as sad as it's terrifying. It will make you think, it will make you cringe, it will make you wonder - not only about history, but also about yourself, about what you'd have done, about you'd do if similar circumstances were to happen again. It's one of those books.

  • Linda
    2019-03-22 05:35

    THIS is Hannah Arendt's "banality of evil." These are the folks who brought you the Holocaust in all its "glories." These are the average German citizens of the early 20th century. It SHOULD be a "must read" for all people, especially those in school, but the author is dry and academic and the book could be cut by at least 1/3.Goldhagen begins with a study of the development of the German identity. Unlike the rest of Europe, Germany kept its anti-Semitism strong throughout its early history (remember "Germany" as such didn't exist until the end of the 19th century) and always took an "elimination" approach. It preferred to have no Jews. Their anti-Semitism had moved from a religious one, which most of the rest of Europe had maintained and was growing out of, to a racial one - Jews were Jews even if they converted to Christianity or never practiced Judaism. This put them in direct competition (to the Germans) with the German "race." Taking the picture of Jewry that the Middle Ages set in motion - Jews are lazy, live off the sweat of everyone else, accumulate all the wealth and rule everything behind the scenes - the Germans were off and running with their own form of virulent anti-Semitism. Even before unification, those who would become German held antisemitic views and felt that Jews should be eliminated. The key word here is "eliminated." This is NOT extermination. Germans simply wanted the Jews out. They tried their best to convince them to leave. In the early days of Hitler's reign, they encouraged emigration. When that didn't completely work, they tried turning them into social nonentities - this is where the spitting, beard cutting, forcing Jews off sidewalks, making fun of them in public started. After this depersonalization, Hitler could take it one step further and say that the ones remaining needed to be moved to some other place. Madagascar was even considered!!!! However, the Jews were "only" moved to Poland.Because of the Germans' inherent anti-Semitism, these steps seemed normal. They were something they believed it, part of their cognitive world. Jews were non-people. Even the hated Slavs of Russia were human, even if they were at the bottom of the pile. No one was concerned because the views were "normal."Then the theme turned to "extermination." Camps were built; Jews were killed rather than deported; killing squads were sent out to Poland and the Russian border (Germany, by this time, actually had few Jews left. They had emigrated or were in camps in Poland.)But what Goldhagen really shows is that ordinary Germans took part in extermination activities without being indoctrinated into Nazi ideology. It was natural to them to eliminate Jews. He takes three examples: Police Battalions, Work Camps and Death Marches.There isn't enough room or time here to do justice to his entire argument. But all three of these institutions were manned by people, few of whom were Nazi party members, who were military reservists or had been rejected by the military as too old or for medical reasons. They were older, not indoctrinated by ideology. Yet they killed when asked to. They had the right to refuse. Goldhagen shows very clearly examples of men who refused and were assigned other duties or transferred. Absolutely NO evidence exists to prove the oft-repeated statement that to refuse meant death. The ones who did kill and then complained did not complain about having to kill but that it was done sloppily.It's a lot to read, but I suggest that you get the book and read the first 5 parts. This will give you Goldhagen's theory of the eliminationist mindset and how it developed and the examples concerning the three organizations he has chosen. His research is impeccable and he has wonderful examples for all the assertions he makes. You can probably even skip some parts of the example sections since he tends to repeat often as if writing a doctoral thesis and making sure his point if understood. But DO read it - at least parts. And DO read Part I completely. The development of the cognitive reasoning behind German anti-Semitism is crucial and often misunderstood.And the result? The banality of evil.

  • Ian
    2019-04-11 06:40

    In this book we learn that not only did the average German know the full details of the Holocaust and General Plan OST (despite both being highly classified), but supported these measures with glee. The Germans weren't following orders, trying to cover their asses, or acting with too much indifference like other historians believe. They all actively hated Jews, Slavs, Roma, blacks, and others with extreme passion and happily participated in their murder. We also learn that only the Germans could commit a genocide of this scale due to their unique evil. This unique evil comes from their deeply racist culture throughout their history and the uniquely sociopathic nature of ethnic Germans. Finally, we learn that Germans overwhelmingly supported these measures because the Nazis didn't punish opposition like the Soviets did! Despite the fact that up to 70,000 Germans were killed for real or imagined opposition to the Nazis. Also the author acts like Germans could easily choose to object conscription and simply not fight, despite the fact this was punishable by death. The author of the German fantasy book, Neverending Story, avoided fighting for the Wehrmacht only by diving out of a moving train headed to Russia and spending the rest of the war running from the gestapo. This book is a massive oversimplification of history's worst genocide, and turns the Germans into 1 dimensional demons that stand around twirling their handle bar moustaches and laughing maniacally. Where do I even start with how bad this thesis is? Firstly, the notion of unique German evil is utter BULLSHIT! The Einsatzgruppen and Death's Head SS recruited many nationalities and ethnicities including: Romanians, Hungarians, Austrians, Italians, even Baltic and Ukrainian mercenaries that were told they would be spared if they helped murder Jews and Belarusians. Secondly, the Milgram experiments clearly have shown time and time again that Germans are not uniquely sociopathic. They follow orders just like everyone else, which is why MANY other peoples have committed hateful genocides including: Turks, Mongols, Japanese, Hutu, Serbs, Belgians, Russians, and too many more to even count. What made Germany unique was the level of organization and planning that went into this genocide. It would be more accurate to say Germans are unusually organized than unusually evil. Another problem was the author's insistence that anti-Semitism throughout German history was the key reason that Germans wanted to kill Jews. Goldhagen doesn't separate the religious anti-Semitism of Martin Luther with the racial anti-Semitism of the 1800s and later the Nazis. Did I mention most of the racial theories including the creation of the fictional "Aryan" race and the concept of killing the Jew race were developed outside of Germany? France, UK, and the US actually are responsible for most of the racist theories that the Nazis used with Hitler considering the Madison Grant, American bestseller Passing of the Great Race to be his Bible. Another problem with the historic anti-Semitism thesis is that it doesn't explain the genocide of 9.5 million Slavs, when the concept of Germans considering Slavs subhuman is totally alien to German culture and history before the Nazis, and ever since as well. Would the German Royal family have kept marrying with people they considered subhuman? I think not. The Germans DID make a lot of Polack jokes, but that was typically as far as it went. Overall, this book does a grievous disservice to the 17 million victims of Nazi racial policies by confining the problem of genocide into just being a German problem. If this book was widely followed, we would have little chance of preventing future genocides. The book also demonizes ethnic Germans in a similar way that Protocols of the Elder's of Zion demonized the Jews. I am actually shocked that Goldhagen didn't end the book by suggesting that all ethnic Germans should be rounded up and executed to prevent future atrocities. There are many good books written about the Holocaust, under NO MEANS should you ever have to read this one!

  • Toon
    2019-04-08 03:21

    I recommend this book to anyone who thinks the attrocities committed by Nazi Germany were the acts of a few deranged individuals who forced an unwilling population/military to obey. I read this book more than ten years ago, and it made a lasting impression. What I specifically remember is a letter from a member of the Einzatsgruppen to his family back home. In it, the perfectly ordinary young man talks about the unpleasantness of his job, but also about his responsability to perform it well, because it is necessary. His job, of course, was to gas Jewish men, women and children in the back of a truck.After reading that, I realised that these people somehow truly believed that exterminating entire ethnic groups was a bit like doing the spring cleaning: dirty and unpleasant, but unquestionably useful. I found it truly chilling.

  • Greta
    2019-03-29 06:38

    I try to be critical in my choice of books about the Holocaust, because there are so many to choose from. I also find it important that I think I can respect the author before I add his or her book on my must read shelf. I ask myself if I would like to have a conversation in person with that author. In this case, I don't think I would. I probably would get irritated by his generalizations. My view is based on these reviews in particular : there are many other negative reviews.

  • Nick
    2019-04-15 06:20

    A creepy moment of this book is a snapshot, a pocket photo, of the young wife of an SS officer, decked out in the latest fashion. It could have been a candidate print for a vogue spread. Creepy because it removes part of the veneer of 'it can't happen here, it can't happen now.'No one should really be surprised by the premise, concent, and conclusion of this well written history: genocide requires a broad-based complicity.

  • Arhondi
    2019-04-17 05:17

    This book was a rather cumbersome read, not only for its subject matter, but also for the way it was written.I found it to be repetitive unnecessarily when the point was already proven - I am assuming it is because this was a PhD thesis. I am not academically equipped to have an opinion on his premise on eliminationist antisemitism, but as a reader I think he over-pushed that point in order to make his own. An interesting read at parts, but overall uneven.

    2019-03-25 06:21

    This book is written to support the thesis that the Germans are bad and mean, all of them, and to support this hypothesis we have a framed version of the holocaust. Every psychology can explain you better than me why framing whatever is important and the behavior of Germans before and during the WWII can be explained in many different ways, but choosing this way is misleading people to sell more copies of this book. I have been living in Berlin in the last 7 years and I don't love my fellow citizen at all, mostly Berliner IMHO are rude and unsympathisch, but even if this book, in a way support what I think, even I wouldn't be so stupid to believe this generalization. So now I know that I will be called antisemite. Just a question: is there a word for a Jew who hates every other person who is not Hebrew?Questo libro é stato scritto per supportare la tesi che tra gli anni compresi tra il 1920 e il 1945 tutti i tedeschi fossero cattivi, tutti, e per giustificare questa tesi l'autore inquadra l'olocausto in un contesto ben preciso. Qualsiasi psicologo che si rispetti puó spiegare le varie e tante ragioni per cui inquadrare una cosa in una specifica cornice puó cambiare il modo di vedere la cosa stessa, che rimane per lo piú la stessa. La spiegazioni che mi sono data io per questo comportamento é che Goldhagen avesse come scopo il vendere piú copie possibile di questo volume, e ci é riuscito visto che 20 anni dopo ancora se ne parla anche se storiograficamente parlando questo tomo non vale niente. Vivo a Berlino da 7 anni e non amo affatto i miei concittadini, li trovo per lo piú grezzi e maleducati, ma non é che posso apprezzare questo libro solo perché mi fa comodo né tanto meno considerare come plausibile la mia tanto facile quanto stupida generalizzazione. Ora sono pronta a farmi dare dell'antisemita, giusto una domanda: c'é per caso una parola che sta ad indicare una persona di religione ebraica che odia tutti quelli che invece non lo sono?

  • Jammies
    2019-03-25 07:32

    It's very easy to see the scholarly bones of this book, the old "Tell them what you're going to tell them, tell them, then tell them what you've told them." It's meticulously documented, and seems to be thoroughly researched. Clearly, from the GR reviews alone, the content is a great deal more controversial than the style. As painstakingly researched and scholarly as this book is, I am disinclined to believe the author's assertions about the German people as a whole. As a former English major (ha, first time my degree has had a practical use!), I'm certainly aware of the vast amount of anti-Semitism in European literature through the nineteenth century. However, that seems to me to argue more against Goldhagen's conclusions than otherwise.Granted that all of Europe (and to a large extent, the US) was anti-Semitic, why were there not hundreds of Holocausts?On an emotional level, although my German ancestors arrived in the US at the turn of the twentieth century, as the bearer of a German surname, I do not want to believe Goldhagen's assertions on an emotional level as well.I think that my next step is going to be reading Ordinary Men: Reserve Police Battalion 101 and the Final Solution in Poland to get the other side, and take it from there.For me, this was the book equivalent of the movies Amistad, Saving Private Ryan and Schindler's List--it gave me a lot to think about, I'm glad I read it, but I don't ever want to repeat this particular experience.

  • Michael Dorosh
    2019-04-17 07:43

    Important and worth talking about; also disturbing and sometimes takes a strong force of will to get through the material.The language is scholarly but easy to read, and the tone is matter of fact. The book is very well focussed, and does much to prove the central thesis - that the German people as a whole were responsible for the Holocaust, and that the perpetrators were not villains or evil incarnate, but "ordinary Germans". Does much to explain how such a monumental crime could have occurred - the simple math, for example, showing how many concentration camps in the country was eye opening on its own and makes one think about how broad and enormous these crimes against humanity were.However, Goldhagen is obviously not impartial and evidence may be presented only when it fits his thesis. Best read in conjunction with other works, though I don't know of one as masterful as this that would creditably present "the other side" of the story without being revisionist or sympathetic to the Nazis. Many have suggested ORDINARY MEN, from which much of Goldhagen's research was drawn from in any event.

  • Apoorva
    2019-04-03 02:47

    This is a deep, academic work which states that the Holocaust engaged the energy and enthusiasm of thousands of ordinary Germans – not just Nazi party members / SS men. Goldhagen states that ordinary Germans killed Jews not because they were forced to but because they wanted to. And he devotes over 600 pages to prove his point. The book was path-breaking at the time of its release because it was the first serious work to propose this line of thinking. Since then many works have tried to demonstrate that virulent anti-semitism was widespread throughout Europe in those days and was by no means limited to Nazi officials. Goldhagen makes his book persuasive by offering lots of primary and secondary research. The 630-page book has 132 pages of notes!