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  • Holocaust: The Nazi Persecution and Murder of the Jews
  • Gerhard Rempel
Holocaust: The Nazi Persecution and Murder of the Jews, by Peter Long-erich, edited by Jeremy Noakes. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2010. 625 pp. $34.95.

This wide-ranging, comprehensive analysis of the Holocaust from origins to consequences promises to set a new standard for Holocaust studies. Director of a research center at the Royal Holloway College of London University, Peter Longerich also has written a pace-setting biography of Heinrich Himmler, universally recognized books on Hitler's role in devising the final solution to the Jewish Question, and a sharp analysis of German amnesia about the Holocaust (Davon haben wir nichts gewußt). Readers will also remember him as giving the decisive testimony in the David Irving v. Penguin/Lipstadt trial. The current book is a rewritten English edition of the German original work which made an immediate and strongly favorable impression on the world of Holocaust studies back in 1998 (Die Politik der Vernichtung). Bringing the scholarship up to date for the past 12 years is one of the outstanding achievements of this work, and the fine tuning and editing of Jeremy Noakes has saved the English reader from many germanisms such as prolix, convoluted sentences and ponderous arguments, although a few have slipped through the screen. The scholarship is impeccable (nearly a third of the book consists of notes) and the writing is clear and persuasive. The general reader will have no difficult passages to negotiate and will appreciate the frequent summaries at the end of sections and chapters. Captions and titles break up the text perhaps too much at times, but nonetheless encourage previews of sections and chapters, thus giving perspective and logical connections.

While scholars like Omer Bartov have called for a renewed focus on the victims of the Holocaust, using recollections and interviews like those conducted by David Boder right after the war, Peter Longerich unabashedly writes perpetrators' history with an emphasis on the decision-making process. This does not mean that the author is dispassionate or indifferent to the suffering of those individuals who are about to die at the hands of unbelievably brutish and evil killers. Every page is suffused with the sounds of death and dying, [End Page 129] even if surrounded by place names, police unit names, names of the leaders of killing squads, and endless statistics of the dead in small localities and larger regional areas. Running through the entire text like a red thread is the German word Judenpolitik, which is untranslatable, since it suggests both politics and policy, two quite separate ideas in English. Judenpolitik is the core of national socialism, according to Longerich. It drives the Nazi machinery of political action and bureaucratic function throughout the peacetime Reich and the War. It in turn is driven by a furious fire of racial hubris—and hence is at the center of the Holocaust and in all of its variegated manifestations. Longerich identifies three points where the antisemitic campaign, the decision-making process for the final solution to the Jewish Question, was escalated: The period from 1939 to 1941, the initial phase, was one during which the Nazi regime already contemplated genocidal murder of the European Jews, following from the racially motivated mass murder of Poles and the congenitally ill. In this new view which rejects a single decision by a single authority like Hitler, 1933 to 1939 was a preparatory period during which the political institutions and instruments were developed that were then put to use when the war began. The second consequence of taking the "final solution" to be a complex process is that Longerich and those who agree with him (Gerlach and Aly, for instance) now "take into consideration new thematic approaches to the analysis of the persecution of the Jews, [so] it becomes necessary to see Judenpolitik as systematically interlinked with the other central thematic areas, notably in domestic policy but ultimately also with German hegemony on the continent of Europe." It also includes "inner repression," and issues of work, food production, and the financing of the war itself (p. 7). Third, after the spring of 1942 when the decision had...


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pp. 129-131
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