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Reviewed by:
  • The Holocaust and World War II Almanac (3 Volumes)
  • Zev Garber (bio)
The Holocaust and World War II Almanac (3 Volumes), edited by Peggy Saari and Aaron Maurice Saari; coordinating editors, Kathleen J. Edgar and Ellice Engdahl. Farmington Hills, MI: The Gale Group, 2001. 1447 pp. $323.50.

Knowledge about World War II and the Shoah is necessary for world survival, yet the content of these shattering events is hardly known, let alone understood, by the general public. To dispel this ignorance, the Gale Group presents this three-volume set, designed for classroom instruction and general readership, that provides a broad scope of historical information drawn from primary sources and current research. Well crafted and clearly written chapters cover the important historical facts, episodes (diplomatic, military, political), topics, and personalities that have molded the sequence of events in the European and Pacific theaters of war as well as the Shoah.

All chapters contain a mixture of known and less-known data and in each chapter in Volumes One and Two there are primary sources sandwiched between introduction and conclusion sections, which enable the reader to access selected writing or words of key personalities or events referred to in the chapter. Also, Volume Two has detailed appendices on Jewish victims of the Holocaust; Nuremberg war crime trials; Japanese war crimes—the Tokyo trials; and an overview on films depicting World War II and the Shoah. All volumes carry in the front matter an annotated timeline, glossary, and suggestions for student assignments or projects; and an extensive index and bibliography for further reading and research are found at the end of each volume. Interspersed throughout the volumes are illustrations, maps, and photos. Finally, Volume Three profiles over a hundred famous and infamous personalities, whose stories are inextricably bound to the horrific events of World War II.

As might be expected in a book designed to guide the reader into the historical narrative of World War II, there are bound to be questions of inclusion, exclusion, and interpretation. Chapters generally present reliable information on institutionalized antisemitism, the rise of the Nazi party, and the implementation of the Final Solution. However, in-depth analysis of survey topics is not provided, e.g., the Historikerstreit on what direct role Hitler played in the murder of European Jewry or the debate over the “silence” (read moral indifference) of Pope Pius XII. Important background and descriptive information are lacking. For example, Martin Niemoeller’s famous cautionary remark about indifference, “They came for the Jews,” is accurately cited, but it was first spoken in America after the war, not in Germany during the war as implied. At times, misinformation is listed. Israel’s Yom ha-Shoah u-Mered ha-Getaot (Holocaust Remembrance Day), declared by an act of Knesset on April 12, 1951, may have been [End Page 143] inspired by the Warsaw ghetto uprising, but it is not commemorated on the date of this uprising. Indeed the title in Hebrew suggests a number of ghettos where Jews fought back.1

Sorely missing is a synopsis on the religious factor in the making of the Nazi ideology. Shortly after his election as Reichkanzler in 1933, Adlof Hitler, holding the New Testament of Martin Luther in hand, declared before a group of Methodist deaconesses that he received his mandate to undertake great changes in the Third Reich “from God’s word.”2 True, the term “The Third Reich” (vol. 2, p. 53) refers to the third German empire. Religiously, however, Drittes Reich suggests “Third Kingdom,” and it is rooted in German Trinitarian pietism: “Kingdom of the Father,” “Kingdom of the Son,” and “Kingdom of the Holy Spirit.” Thus in the Kingdom of Night, there is a virtual identification of Hitler and Christ in God’s Heilsgeschichte. This may well explain why countless baptized Christians saw no distinction between Christian verities and Nazi slogans. It was the word of the Lord.

In sum, these volumes cover major aspects of World War II in general and the Shoah in particular. For the target audience, indispensable; for the specialist, a fine overview. Recommended.

Zev Garber
Jewish Studies
Los Angeles Valley College
Zev Garber

Zev Garber is Professor and Chair of...

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pp. 143-144
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