Essays on Hitler's Europe
Publication Year: 2001
Published by: University of Nebraska Press
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Writing reviews for the New York Review of Books and the New Republic means writing about books that the editors have assigned to you. Bunched together more or less to fit the reviewer’s fields of interest, these works have some common themes; still, this is a rather haphazard process, dictated by what is new and what attracts the editor’s attention in the mountains of books ...
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It was some twenty years ago that Robert Silvers, the editor of the New York Review of Books, first asked me to write a review critiquing a book about the 1848 revolutions in Central Europe—my specialty at that time. Many other essays have followed since then, although the subjects of the books I have reviewed have moved increasingly forward in time to World War II ...
Part 1. GERMANS
Who Were the National Socialists?
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We can organize the problem of National Socialism around some major questions. First, who in Weimar voted for Hitler, and who became a party member? What made the Nazis popular, and how did they come to power? How anti-Semitic were the Germans? Was anti-Semitism the main attraction of the Nazi movement? ...
Who Were the Facists?
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Perhaps someone will one day formulate a universally acceptable definition of fascism and will clearly identify the fascists; that day still seems far off. Who Were the Fascists, edited by Stein Ugelvik Larsen and others (Oslo: Universitetsforlaget, distributed by New York: Columbia University Press, 1980) and containing contributions by some of the world’s foremost specialists on fascism, ...
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In 1989, in an article entitled “The Incomprehensible Holocaust” (see the chapter under the same title in this volume), I discussed sixteen books selected from the vast Holocaust literature published during the 1980s. Since then, hundreds more books and articles have appeared on the subject, so that writing about the Holocaust has become an industry in itself, ...
The Nazi Past in the Two Germanys
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How did the leaders of postwar Germany deal with the crushing memory of the Holocaust? Did they own up to it? Some did, while others tried to suppress or to marginalize it; but those who triumphed politically were the ones who dared to face the problem. Gradually, too, the German people have come to grips with their responsibility. ...
Part 2. JEWS AMONG "ARYANS"
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Of the thousands of Jews who survived the Holocaust by disguising themselves as gentiles, Oswald Rufeisen, the subject of Nechama Tec’s In the Lion’s Den (New York: Oxford University Press, 1990), may have been the most resourceful. I first heard of him in the early 1960s, when the Israeli Supreme Court debated the request of Father Daniel, ...
Cold Brave Heart
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On February 13 and 14, 1945, the baroque city of Dresden went up in flames under the impact of massive British and American air raids. Among the thousands scrambling over the ruins in an attempt to escape the firestorm was an elderly couple; he with a star of David on his chest, she without. At first Victor Klemperer and his wife Eva lost sight of one another, ...
Part 3. VICTIMS
The Incomprehensible Holocaust
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According to the historian Raul Hilberg, the United States alone captured forty thousand linear feet of documents on the murder of European Jews. Add to this other captured documents, police and court records, memoirs, oral histories, film documentaries, interviews, and two thousand books in many languages (there are over ten thousand publications of varying size on Auschwitz alone), ...
A Mosaic of Victims
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There is a demand and a definite need for works that combine the study of the Jewish Holocaust with that of the Nazi persecution of non-Jews. A Mosaic of Victims: Non-Jews Persecuted and Murdered by the Nazis (New York: New York University Press, 1990) is one of the more successful attempts in this direction. The editor,Michael Berenbaum, ...
Memories of Hell
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In the vast literature of the Holocaust, scholars have disagreed on nearly every major issue. They have been unable to establish with any precision, for example, the respective guilt and responsibility for the Holocaust of the Führer, his immediate underlings, the SS, the Wehrmacht, the Gestapo, the Nazi Party, the German social elite, and the rest of the Germans. ...
The Goldhagen Controversy in Retrospect
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Holocaust literature is one of the richest devoted to a single event; it is also one of the newest. In the 1950s and ’60s one could count on one’s fingers the monographs that dealt with the destruction of the Jews. Then came a surge of interest in the 1970s, perhaps due to the arrival of a European generation innocent of this heinous crime. ...
Part 4. THE HOLOCAUST IN OTHER LANDS
A Ghetto in Lithuania
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Kovno, Kaunas, Kowno, Kauen: all denote a single city in Lithuania that, in typical East European fashion, has gone by many names. “Kovno” is Russian and Jewish, bringing to mind the long periods of Russian domination and the ancient but now nearly defunct Jewish presence there. “Kaunas” is Lithuanian and draws attention to that small nation, ...
Romania: Killing Fields and Refuge
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If the art of survival is—as it probably must be—central to the politics of small nations then the Romanians may be counted among the greatest practitioners of that art. At the cost of much suffering and a good deal of social corruption, they have, over several centuries, managed to preserve both their national pride and their rich culture in a difficult and often hostile environment. ...
The Europeans and the Holocaust
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Jews have been in Italy since Roman times. At the end of the fifteenth century they were expelled from southern Italy, then a Spanish possession, at the same time as the Jews from Portugal and Spain. Consequently, many southern Italians were hardly aware of Italian Jews even during the Fascist period. Jews were never expelled from Rome or other papal possessions in central Italy, ...
A Hungarian Admiral on Horseback
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In 1920 Miklós Horthy, a former officer in the Austro-Hungarian navy, was elected regent of Hungary by the Hungarian parliament. He remained in that post until 1944—a very long stretch by contemporary Central European standards. During Horthy’s tenure,Hungary was still officially a kingdom, but it had no king—the last king, who was the last Habsburg emperor as well, went into exile in 1919. ...
The Holocaust in Hungary
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In few other places have Jewish/non-Jewish relations been as complex and contradictory as in Hungary. While Jews had been living in that country for many centuries, their numbers multiplied and their presence became crucially important only in the second half of the nineteenth century. From that time on, the Jewish condition has varied between ...
Poles and Jews
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No issue in Holocaust literature is more burdened by misunderstanding, mendacity, and sheer racial prejudice than that of Polish-Jewish relations during World War II. In his Facing the Extreme: Moral Life in the Concentration Camps (on this book, see the chapter titled “Memories of Hell” in this volume), Tzvetan Todorov describes the fundamental disagreements between Polish Christians and Polish Jews during the war. ...
Part 5. ONLOOKERS
The Pope, The Nazis, and the Jews
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Few twentieth-century statesmen have been more enigmatic, contradictory, or controversial than Pius XII, who was Pope from 1939 to 1958 during one of the world’s, and the Catholic Church’s, most trying periods. Pius was an ascetic; his face pale, his hands nearly translucent. He did not drink, smoke, or have any other obvious vices ...
The British and the Americans
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Can it be said that the United States and Great Britain were responsible, at least in part or indirectly, for the Holocaust? Did Allied indifference encourage the Nazis to proceed with their murderous plan? Why did the West not ransom the European Jews? These and related issues have been debated for decades, and the arguments of the critics have been reinforced by newly uncovered documents showing the unconcern, ...
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Page Count: 222
Publication Year: 2001