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SOME REVIEWS of Goldhagen's book

in 1996

--Time Magazine, April 1, 1996 Volume 147, No. 14.

-- Compilation by Tadeusz K. Gierymski, from New York Times articles, Goldhagen's book, and other sources, retrieved from H-GERMAN, 4 April 1996.

-- Cohen, International Herald Tribune, 3 April 1966.

-- Rosenthal in The New York Times. reprinted in the International Herald Tribune, 3 Apr 1966.

-- Commentaries by Orlow on German History <H-GERMAN>, Wed. 10 April 1996.

-- SUDDEUTSCHE ZEITUNG (in German), Joffe, 13 April 1996

-- Comment by R. Levy, H-German, 15 May 1996

Time Magazine, April 1, 1996 Volume 147, No. 14




It is the common view of Hitler's Germany that the mass murder of 6 million European Jews was primarily carried out by Nazi zealots. Ordinary Germans, we like to think, knew little or nothing about the Holocaust; if they participated in the killings, they did so under duress, subject to orders that could not be disobeyed. Utter nonsense, argues Daniel Jonah Goldhagen, an assistant professor of government and social studies at Harvard. In an explosive new book, Hitler's Willing Executioners (Knopf; 622 pages; $30), he contends that the perpetrators of the Final Solution were, by and large, ordinary men and women, workers, merchants and so on, who, millions strong, ravaged the ghettos, brutally supervised the death camps and enthusiastically carried out Hitler's plan to destroy world Jewry.

Based in part on German archives that have been neglected or ignored by other scholars, Hitler's Willing Executioners is as relentless as a trip-hammer, sometimes irritatingly repetitive and loftily dismissive of contrary judgments that Goldhagen believes lack sufficient evidence. The book will be published this month in the U.S. and Britain, and in Germany in August; it will be the subject of a symposium at the Holocaust Museum in Washington on April 8.

Goldhagen's indictment focuses on the citizenry's complicity in three specific "institutions of mass killing": Germany's police battalions; the so-called work camps in which Jews were incarcerated; and the death marches from those camps by prison guards and their charges near the end of the war. The police battalions, which played a major role in rounding up the Jews of Eastern Europe and shipping them to death factories like Auschwitz and Treblinka, were mostly composed of military reservists. Of the 500 or so officers and men who served in 1942 with one typical unit that Goldhagen details, Police Battalion 101, only 21 belonged to the Nazi elite force known as the SS. That year the battalion participated in a roundup of Jews from the Lublin region of Poland. Thousands were hunted down and slaughtered in execution orgies that left the police splattered with the blood and brains of their helpless victims.

Were the men of Battalion 101 cowed or coerced into taking part? No, insists Goldhagen. One of the battalion's commanders, Trapp by name, offered to excuse the squeamish from killing duty. Only a handful of guards took up the offer. Far from hating their work, the men of Battalion 101 even took pictures of the roundup, which they proudly mailed to wives or girlfriends, who would not have been too surprised by evidence of such brutality. Germany, Goldhagen writes, was "saturated" with prison camps where Jewish inmates were in essence worked to death under conditions scarcely better than those of the Eastern European killing fields. In the small state of Hesse alone there were 606 such camps, or one every 35 sq. mi.

By 1944, with the war lost, German troops gradually abandoned the prison camps in Eastern Europe. SS chief Heinrich Himmler decreed that even Jews should be treated decently--presumably to erase the evidence of war crimes. Instead, camp guards embarked on the notorious death marches, forcing emaciated, sickly Jewish prisoners to walk barefoot, sometimes through snow, for 15 miles a day or more. "Jewish survivors report with virtual unanimity German cruelties and killings until the very end," Goldhagen writes.

It's a pretty sweeping indictment, one that Goldhagen supports by noting that from medieval until modern times, German culture was suffused with what he calls an "eliminationist anti-Semitism" that demonized Jews as the source of all social ills. For instance, the church-inspired vision of Jews as "Christ killers" fueled countless pogroms over the centuries. Thus, in Goldhagen's view, the Final Solution represented the logical fulfillment of ordinary Germans' own long-standing dreams. He quotes one 19th century anti-Semite as predicting that "the German Volk needs only to topple the Jews" in order to become "united and free."

Hitler's Willing Executioners is bound to be severely criticized--at least in Germany--since it confronts the postwar alibi that average citizens of the Third Reich either did not know about the Holocaust or disapproved of it. Some historians may also question whether anti-Semitism, while prevalent in pre-Hitler Germany, was as viciously eliminationist as the author argues.

The 19th century English writer Lord Acton believed that historians should be hanging judges, exercising their right to condemn the sins of the past. By this stern standard, Daniel Jonah Goldhagen has done his job with a pen in one hand, a noose in the other.


Source: Time Magazine,

Daniel J. Goldhagen had an article in NYT, March 17, 1996, about his book, "Hitler's Willing Executioners: Ordinary Germans and the Holocaust," Alfred A. Knopf, 1996.

Since then NYT has published two reviews of it, including the one in today's issue of April 1, 1996, by Dinitia Smith, under the title:

View of Ordinary Germans' Role in Holocaust Is Challenged

In his immense, angry new book, Daniel Jonah Goldhagen has challenged a fundamental assumption of the Holocaust, that Germans blindly followed orders, or were coerced by their superiors, in murdering Jews.

In "Hitler's Willing Executioners: Ordinary Germans and the Holocaust" (Alfred A. Knopf) Goldhagen argues that thousands of Germans, even though told by their superiors they could refuse orders to kill Jews, eagerly participated in the slaughter, and killed zealously, with unnecessary brutality.

Goldhagen, an assistant professor of government and social studies at Harvard University and a son of a Holocaust survivor, said last week in his office:

I say these people believed what they were doing to Jews was the right thing. The most committed anti-Semites in history come to power and turn a private fantasy into the core of the state.

Goldhagen depicts Germany even before the Nazi period as "pregnant with murder," gripped by "hallucinatory anti-Semitism," a society in which anti-Semitism was a "culturally shared cognitive model," a profoundly ingrained, reflexive response, writes Dinitia Smith.

The book, 461 pages of text, 141 pages of footnotes and appendices, is one of the most scathing indictments of ordinary Germans during the Nazi period to be published.

"This book is a challenge," said the 36-year-old Goldhagen. "I put forward the conventional explanations. And I say they're all wrong."

In chapter 15, "Explaining the perpetrators' actions: Assessing the competing explanations," pp. 375-415, he rejects as false such explanations for German behavior as:

1. That the killing was primarily done by SS and Nazis.

2. That the perpetrators were coerced.

3. That they were compelled according to the once famous Milgram's model of obedience to authority.

4. That, as Hannah Arendt maintained, they behaved like mindless bureaucrats.

5. That the entire Final Solution was so fragmented and compartmentalized that the ordinary Germans did not know what they were doing.

6. That were they to disobey they would suffer dire consequences.

Many other writers (e.g. Christopher R. Browning) made points somewhat similar to Goldhagen's contention about ordinary Germans' extraordinary willingness to take part in the murder of Jews, but no other major book has made the point with such force that there was something basic in the German character that brought about the Holocaust.

He writes: "It was as if humanity had entered "a new moral order."

But their actions were the result of a German society saturated with anti-Semitism. Even Karl Barth, the Swiss theologian who taught in Germany in the early 1930s and became an opponent of Nazism, had "a deep-seated anti-Semitism. Most anti-Semites just wanted to get Jews out of the country, but to Germans, Jews were metaphy- sical enemies. Some Germans protested the kill- ing of Poles, and of handicapped people, but not of Jews. Even members of the anti-Hitler Resistance were anti-Semitic.

Finally, when SS chief Heinrich Himmler, hoping to negotiate with Americans at the end of World War II, forbade the further killing of Jews, some Germans kept on.

There is already a strong reaction against Goldhagen's book.

Istvan Deak, professor of history at Columbia University in New York, whose writings on WW II and Holocaust are highly and deservedly res- pected, said:

I refuse to accept that any nation has national characteristics. We can only say many Germans participated. To say that anti-Semitism is a German specialty is wrong. To say this is somehow a national characteristic is unhistorical.

Walter Laqueur, author of "The Terrible Secret" and chairman of the International Research Council of the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, questions the newness of Goldhagen's thesis:

That the Germans were eager participants -- there are any number of books by people who survived which attest to this.

There will be a symposium on "Hitler's Willing Executioners" at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington next Monday.

His book will be published in Germany this August. Goldhagen hopes that the reaction to it is based on the veracity of the book, but he obviously expects some flak, saying: "My account raises difficult issues that Germans need to address". He reflects on his "radical" thesis thus:

"Everyone is ready to believe perpetrators of other mass slaughters wanted to do it. Do you know anyone who says that the Serbs didn't want to murder Muslims? Only with Germans do we say they were obedient to authority. There is a reluctance to believe that people who are core members of Western civilization would do such a thing."

What, then, does his book say about modern Germany? -- asked Dinitia Smith. His answer: "Germany is a very changed country. After 1949, it was against the law to make an anti-Semitic statement. It's very hard for an individual to maintain views the whole world is saying are wrong. Germany is the great success story of the post-war period. The Germans have remade themselves into liberal democrats."

Smiling, Goldhagen gave a small shrug, and said: "They're like us."


Compiled by Tadeusz K. Gierymski, from New York Times articles, Goldhagen's book, and other sources. Retrieved from H-GERMAN, 4 April 1996.

Genocide, it seems, is the work of ordinary people

by Richard Cohen

International Herald Tribune, 3 April 1966

WASHINGTON - Paul Johnson, a formidable public intellectual and the author of Modern Times and A History of the Jews, was chosen by The Washington Post to review a very important new book, Daniel Jonah Goldhagen's Hitler's Willing Executioners. The book's subtitle is Ordinary Germans and the Holocaust, and it is precisely about that: an indictment not of the Nazis but of the Germans.

For obvious reasons, the book is not likely to receive a very cordial reception in Germany. But, then, it didn't get a very cordial reception from Mr. Johnson, either.

He accused Mr. Goldhagen of lacking historical perspective and, therefore, of seeing the Holocaust "as a unique event." And that, Mr. Johnson intones, is "profoundly and dangerously unhistorical." "The truly dreadful thing about mankind ... is that many peoples, in certain circumstances, are capable of genocide," Mr. Johnson writes. He mentions what Turkey did to its Armenian population in 1915, and he might have mentioned the Hutu and Tutsi of recent times or, as the China expert, Ross Terrill, tells us, the grisly murders, massacres and cannibalism of China under Mao. Mr. Terrill's accounts are as tough to read as anything Mr. Goldhagen has written about the Holocaust. Mr. Johnson's review was certainly provocative and in some ways argumentative, but, I think, right on the nose. I haven't the foggiest idea if Mr. Goldhagen is a model of a Holocaust scholar or, as Mr. Johnson suggests, someone out of his depth. I do know that for too long now the Holocaust has been explained in ways that have, as Mr. Johnson noted, made it seem a unique historical event, without precedent or parallel, "owned" by Jews exclusively and sometimes given semireligious status, like a biblical event.

The upshot may well be to fence off the Holocaust, to suggest, no matter how inadvertently, that the Holocaust has little to say to anyone other than the victims and the perpetrators Jews and Germans. It is odd, though, that Mr. Johnson uses the Goldhagen book to make his point. This is not the first book to argue that Germans killed Jews without much, or any, hesitation. Christopher R. Browning's "Ordinary Men" made somewhat the same point, although his killers, while unexceptional, were animated more by peer pressure than by race hatred. What matters most to me is that they were mostly not hard- bitten Nazis but ordinary guys drafted in the ordinary way. In no time at all, they were crack genocidists.

Mr. Goldhagen makes that point even sharper. He produces evidence that some German officers actually brought their wives to the killing fields to show what they did at their version of the office. Later they all had dinner, and recorded it all in letters or diaries. Clearly they did not consider their actions shameful.

In some ways, of course, the Holocaust was unique. For one thing, the perpetrators were not some primitive people but the very culture that produced Beethoven and Goethe, not to mention Einstein and Mendelssohn. For another, the resulting literature has easily dwarfed anything written about other historic calamities.

The library of the Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington holds some 20,000 volumes and 1,500 or so are added annually. "Brothers, write it all down," said the historian Simon Dubnow shortly before he was murdered by the Germans. And, brother, did they ever. But what is bracing about the Goldhagen book is its determination to pin this monstrous crime on the Germans and their anti-Semitism. He has little patience with theories or excuses -that the killers "followed orders," that they were induced by peer pressure to murder, or that they were mere paper shufflers, technocrats and eyeshade actuaries whose evil was banal. No, Mr. Goldhagen's are enthusiastic killers, sadistic bigots and so thoroughly rotten that you cannot believe they were members of the human race. To my mind, though, all that puts the Holocaust in the company of other genocides. For the German soldier who was photographed shooting a mother and her baby there is, more recently, the Serbian women who reportedly sexually mutilated Muslim men. For Babi Yar there is Srebrenica. The difference is not intent but organisational ability. In that respect, the Germans had it all over the Serbs.

But enough. If each individual is unique, then his or her murder is a unique event. So, too, mass murder. It is not something that happened just once and could never happen again, but something that happens time and time again. Mr. Johnson is right and so is Mr. Goldhagen, and that, of course, constitutes a warning. Genocide is the ordinary work of ordinary people. The Washington Post.


An article by Daniel Jonah Goldhagen summarizing his book's conclusions appeared in the IHT on 19 March 1996.


International Herald Tribune, 3 April 1966

When Murdering Jews was Nothing Special

by A.M. Rosenthal

NEW YORK-- I have read a book that deals with the kind of mind that created Auschwitz and the thousands of other German factories of death. It is not about Hitler's mind but about the mind of scores of millions of ordinary Germans of that time, and for at least a century before. It is about what formed that mind, which allowed ordinary Germans, almost all, to acquiesce in the slaughter of the Jews, and led many to become uncoerced executioners.

That mind is the point and significance of a new historic book "Hitler's Willing Executioners: Ordinary Germans and the Holocaust." It is by Daniel Jonah Goldhagen, a professor at Harvard. For those who care intensely about how the Holocaust came to be, it has never been possible to believe that 6 million Jews could have been degraded, tortured and killed just by gangs of sick Nazi sadists, or by Germans who somehow were coerced into it. The permanent value of the book is that it provides evidence and analysis to show that no coercion was necessary, that at least 8 million soldiers, police and death camp guards were involved in committing the Holocaust, that most were ordinary and willing Germans and that almost all of 50-odd million other ordinary Germans knew of the degradation, torture and killing but remained icily aloof -- or agreed.

Mr. Goldhagen's achievement is that denials of these realities will no longer be possible except as a mask for approval or cowardice.

On almost every page, Mr. Goldhagen presents evidence about the central questions of the Holocaust. Who did it? How, in elemental humanity, could they do such things?

It was done, he shows, by average Germans, not just some SS troopers in jackboots. They could commit this monstrousness of thought and act because for more than a century German anti-Semitism, entrenched into German culture by officialdom, churches, schools and families, grew around the "concept" that Jews were nonhuman enemies, vermin carrying death to all nations.

From this came what he calls the "eliminationist" lust to drive them entirely out of society. From there it was a short step to annihilation; vermin.

Hitler did not shoot his way to power. Mr. Goldhagen relates how ordinary Germans made the Nazis their biggest party. They cheered Hitler's ascension, knowing from his own mouth that after elimination of Jews from society would be their elimination from life. Together, Hitler, his Nazis, the special anti-Semitism of ordinary Germans and their willingness created the singularity of the Holocaust -- the attempt to kill every Jew on earth, to the last child. No, not every German believed that Jews were lice. But Mr. Goldhagen makes the case that enough did to make Hitler's annihilation goal not only feasible but fairly simple.

Where gas chambers did not exist, as in the death marches from the camps when Germany was being defeated, there were plenty of ordinary German men and women ready to kill the Jews and have their pictures taken doing it. Without Germany's defeat, the Holocaust would have gone on-and with the help of slaughterers in Eastern Europe. That is another book.

He estimates that at least 100,000 ordinary Germans and possibly five times that many did the actual killing -- not counting the millions carrying out the daily bestialities. So very ordinary was killing Jews that even the methodical Germans did not count the killers. Like walking through Auschwitz, this book is not easy for the heart to handle, and no use to the murdered. But, unlike Auschwitz, it tells what kind of people did the killing and how they could. That makes it very much of use to the living.


The New York Times.. Reprinted in the International Herald Tribune, 3 Apr 1966


A Comment by Dietrich Orlow <[email protected]>

As someone who has not only read but reviewed Prof. Goldhagen's book Hitler's Willing Executioners: Ordinary Germans and the Holocaust (The Boston Globe, 23 March 1996) I would like to offer a comment on the on-going debate on this work.

Most of the discussion of Prof. Goldhagen's work has concerned his analysis of the members of the Ordnungspolizei and their participation in the Holocaust. As is probably well known by now, Prof. Goldhagen concludes that the members of these police battalions, like virtually all Germans, saw their life fulfillment in the killing of Jews. This thesis will obviously be much debated, and it is already clear that Prof. Browning and others came to radically different conclusions looking at the same evidence as Prof. Goldhagen.

Somewhat neglected in the discussion so far (Eric Weitz and Istvan Deak are notable exceptions in this regard) is the other intended aim of Prof. Goldhagen's book. He not only offers an analysis of the "ordinary Germans" during the Holocaust, but a radical reinterpretation of all of German history since the Middle Ages. This interpretation relies upon some analytical tools that I think should be open to further debate before they slip in as new methodological truisms.

According to Prof. Goldhagen the only significant component of German history and culture since the Middle Ages has been anti-Semitism. He insists that other scholars have missed this crucial truth about German history because they looked upon the Germans as an essentially "normal," Western people. But, Prof. Goldhagen tells us, they were not "normal." As a result, German history should be studied with the tools of Anthropology, much as one studies an alien tribe that has no relationship to Western norms and morals.

If this thesis becomes commonplace two methodological and analytical fallacies, which historians have been taught to avoid for generations, will once again become acceptable tools for the writing of history. One is reductionism and the other is ethno-cultural determinism. I, for one, would not be happy to once again see us using these analytical devices as legitimate parts of scholarly historical writing. They led to a great deal of bad history, and there is no reason why they would not do so again if they were accepted by the profession. The fact that we are talking about German history here seems to me to be irrelevant. As the Dutch scholar Horst van de Dunk noted, anti-Germanism isn't any better than anti-anything else.


H-NET List on German History <[email protected]>, Wed. 10 April 1996.

Sueddeutsche Zeitung

Hitlers willfaehrige Henker

Oder: Die 'gewoehnlichen Deutschen' und der Holocaust

Von Josef Joffe

Wie den Holocaust erklaeren, diese maschinelle Vernichtung von Millionen von Juden wegen ihres schieren Da-Seins - und nicht etwa, weil sie das Falsche geglaubt, gesagt oder gar getan haetten? Fuenfzig Jahre danach lassen sich die Antworten nur noch nach Festmetern berechnen; die Erklaerungen reichen von 'typisch deutsch' bis zur verschaemten Exkulpation, vom Verweis auf die totale Einzigartigkeit des Nazi-Systems bis hin zu jenen 'Revisionisten', welche die Schoah bloss als blasse Kopie bolschewistischer Vernichtung, als 'asiatische Tat', ja als vorweggenommene Selbstverteidigung zu sehen wuenschen.

Neuerdings hat sich das Rad der Historiographie um 360 Grad gedreht; bewegt hat es der junge amerikanische Historiker David Jonah Goldhagen mit seinem gerade erschienenen Buch Hitler's Willing Executioners: Ordinary Germans and the Holocaust (etwa: Hitlers willfaehrige Henker: Gewoehnliche Deutsche und der Holocaust).

Am Anfang - in den 40er und 50er Jahren, unter dem Eindruck von Auschwitz und Treblinka - galt zumal in der angelsaechsischen Geschichtsschreibung die lineare These 'Von Luther bis Hitler'. Der Reformator Luther war ein wuetender Antisemit, und Hitlers 'Endloesung' war der logische Hoehepunkt dieses Antisemitismus: der eingefleischte Wahn unter Hinzufuegung neuer, industrieller Mittel. So waren die Deutschen schon immer, lautete die These vom deutschen Sonderweg; nichts war Zufall, alles Notwendigkeit.

Etwas spaeter kam eine deutsche Antwort, die einen eleganten Ausweg aus der Kollektivschuld-These bot. Die Deutschen waren sozusagen die ersten Opfer des Nazismus. Hitler hatte sich ihrer bemaechtigt wie ein Abgesandter des Satans; in kuerzester Zeit unterwarf er ein ganzes Volk, das ihm fuerderhin wie ein Millionenheer von Zombies gehorchen musste. Auschwitz, das war nicht von Deutschen, sondern 'in deutschem Namen' getan worden: von SS und Gestapo, von Einsatzgruppen und 'Sonderbehandlern'.

Ein Mann seines Volkes

In den 70er und 80er Jahren wurde die Debatte differenzierter auf beiden Seiten. Die einen, gerade deutsche Historiker, zeigten, dass nicht allein Hitler & Co. den Eroberungskrieg und die Judenvernichtung organisiert hatten; dass die Deutschen sehr wohl gewusst hatten, was 'in ihrem Namen' geschah; dass der Nazismus nicht bloss aufgepropft war, sondern ziemlich freiwillig florierte - bis in die kleinsten Ritzen der Gesellschaft.

Andere Historiker, zumal im Ausland, argumentierten indes, dass der deutsche 'Sonderweg' keiner war. Viele westliche Industriestaaten haetten im spaeten 19. und fruehen 20. Jahrhundert an aehnlichen Verwerfungen und Pathologien gelitten: an Antisemitismus und Rassenhass, an antidemokratischen Affekten und kollektivistischen Unterwerfungsphantasien. War das kaiserliche Deutschland tatsaechlich weniger demokratisch als Frankreich? Oder chauvinistischer als England?

Je genauer man hinblickte, desto mehr verschwand der 'Sonderweg'. Nur loeste das nicht das deutsche Problem, im Gegenteil. Denn um so mehr draengte sich so wieder die urspruengliche Frage auf: Warum gerade die Deutschen? Wenn sie auf dem gleichen Pfad aus der Traditionsgesellschaft in die Moderne gestolpert waren, warum sind sie dann bis nach Auschwitz marschiert? Warum haben sie nicht Roosevelt, Leon Blum und Chamberlain gewaehlt, sondern Adolf Hitler?

Fuenfzig Jahre danach dreht Daniel Goldhagen mit Hitler's Willing Executioners das Rad wieder an den Ausgangspunkt zurueck. In seiner Harvard-Dissertation, die in Amerika und England schon fuer einigen Aufruhr gesorgt hat, argumentiert Daniel Goldhagen, dass es so nur in Deutschland, und nur dort, passieren konnte. Und warum?

Zwar zieht Goldhagen die Kette der Notwendigkeit nicht zurueck bis zu Luther, sondern (hauptsaechlich) nur bis ins 19. Jahrhundert: zu den Schlagenden Verbindungen, den vaterlaendischen Vereinen. Er zitiert eine Studie ueber 51 prominente antisemitische Autoren (zwischen 1861 und 1895). Unter 28 'Loesungen des Judenproblems' befanden sich 19, welche die physische Vernichtung der Juden gefordert haben. Aber seine These ist die alte, und die untermauert er einerseits mit Granit, anderseits mit ausserordentlich poroesem Gestein.

Die These: Hitler war kein ausserirdischer Hijacker, sondern ein Mann seines Volkes. Dieses war durch und durch antisemitisch infiziert, und zwar vom schlimmsten Bazillus ueberhaupt: nicht bloss vom gesellschaftlichen ('dreckiger Jud') oder religioesen ('Jesus-Killer') Antisemitismus, sondern von dem, was Goldhagen eliminationist antisemitism nennt: einem nachgerade kollektiven Ausloeschungswahn. Die 'zentrale Eigenschaft des deutschen Antisemitismus', schreibt Goldhagen, war die 'halluzinatorische Wahrnehmung des Juden' als 'Gespenst des Boesen'. Daher der 'virulente Hass', daher die 'Ausloeschungslogik, die Deutsche dazu brachte, Verfolgung, Ghettoisierung und Vernichtung gutzuheissen'.

Folglich war die Schoah nicht bloss reine Auftragsarbeit: von Hitler und Himmler verfuegt, von einer verschworenen Verbrechertruppe ausgefuehrt. Mindestens 100 000, wahrscheinlich eine halbe Million waren aktiv beteiligt. Schlimmer noch: Sie haben es gerne und lustvoll getan, weil sie - wie die Volksgenossen - das 'Abschlachten fuer rechtens hielten'. Hitlers Wahnsinn war das 'Gemeinschaftseigentum des deutschen Volkes'.

Der Beweis: Hier beginnen sich Granit und Sandstein heftig zu mischen - zusammengehalten vom Moertel eines eifernden, gnadenlosen Plaedoyers, das nicht einmal den hochintelligenten Autor selbst zu ueberzeugen vermag, obwohl er eine atemberaubende Recherche hingelegt und massenweise Neues zutagegefoerdert hat. Sonst haette Goldhagen seine Thesen nicht mit ermuedendem Wiederholungszwang in kurzen Abstaenden ueber den Text gestreut - oder alle kontraeren Argumente mit zuernender Bewegung weggewischt.

Sein Problem ist ein altes in der Sozial- und Geschichtswissenschaft: Wie raesonniert man von der Mikro- zur Makro- Ebene, von der Fallstudie zum Global- Bild? Schon der Talmud sagt ganz knapp: ',Zum Beispiel' ist kein Beweis'; die Fallstudie, das Zitat (und sei es auch noch so massenhaft angehaeuft) summieren sich noch nicht zum Richtspruch. Denn es gibt immer andere, gegenlaeufige Zitate und Beispiele, die das Bild verwischen, gar umkippen koennen.

Konkret: Die drei zentralen Fallstudien behandeln die 'Vernichtung durch Arbeit', die Vernichtungsorgien der sogenannten Ordnungspolizei, der Polizeibattaillone, die diesseits der Todeslager in den Ostgebieten gewuetet haben, und der 'Todesmaersche' am Kriegsende, deren Wachmannschaften systematisch weitergemordet haben, obwohl Himmler, nach Kontakten mit den Alliierten, die Ausrottung gestoppt haben wollte.

Goldhagen zeigt, dass die 'Ordnungspolizisten' eben keine SS-Killer waren, sondern ganz 'gewoehnliche Deutsche', Familienvaeter und brave Buerger, deren Soziologie (untere Mittelschicht) praezise der Mehrheit des Volkes entsprach. Sie mordeten freiwillig, grausam und lustvoll, obwohl es - wie Goldhagen schreibt - keinerlei Beweise in der Literatur gebe, wonach einem Nachteile aus der Verweigerung entwachsen waeren.

Das Kapitel ueber das 'Polizeibattaillon 101' gehoert zu den schrecklichsten Darstellungen des Buches; es sei Mahnung all denen, die immer noch glauben, dass 'Ausserirdische' die Vernichtungsmaschinerie bedient haetten. Oder das Polizeibattaillon 309: Die Polizisten 'trieben ihre Opfer in die Synagoge (von Bialystok) . . . die grosse Synagoge wurde vollgestopft. Die veraengstigten Juden begannen laut zu singen und zu beten. Nachdem die Deutschen Benzin um das Gebaeude vergossen hatten, zuendeten sie es an; einer der Maenner warf eine Brandgranate hinein, um den Holocaust auszuloesen. Die Gebete der Juden verwandelten sich in Schreie.'

Dennoch: Was beweist die Tatsache, dass die Schlaechter genauso 'normal' waren wie die anderen Deutschen? Korrelation ist keine Kausalitaet. Welche Rolle spielen Indoktrination, das 'System', in dem die Normalen wueten - weit entfernt von nicht minder normalen zivilisatorischen Gegen-Zwaengen? Oder ganz polemisch gefragt: Wenn die Deutschen in ihrer Gesamtheit, von der Historie bedingt und vergiftet, ein Volk von 'Ausloeschungs-Antisemiten' waren, warum sind sie es nicht auch heute - auf ewig und immerdar? Ob nicht das 'System', die von den Alliierten aufgepropfte liberale Demokratie, die wundersame kraeftige Wurzeln gezeigt hat, doch noch eine entscheidende Rolle gespielt hat?

Sadistische Mordwut

Wie erklaert Goldhagen, die sadistische Mordwut von Letten, Ukrainern und Litauern, die mit Eisenstangen besorgten, was spaeter die deutschen Gaskammern leisten mussten? Wie erklaert er die uebereifrige Erfuellungshilfe von Franzosen und Hollaendern, welche 'ihre' Juden nicht (anders als Daenen und Bulgaren) per Uebersoll in die Deportationszentren trieben? Oder den Pogrom von Kielce 1946, als Polen die Ueberlebenden massakrierten? 'Rein arisch' kann der 'Ausloeschungs-Antisemitismus' in Europa nicht gewesen sein.

Das ist das Problem mit dem Sprung von der Mikro- zur Makro-Ebene. Haette Goldhagen komparativ gearbeitet, haette er einen systematischen Blick auf den Antisemitismus in den europaeischen Nachbarlaendern, zumal im 19. Jahrhundert geworfen, waere ihm der deutsche Wahn nicht so einzigartig erschienen, waere der deutsche 'Sonderweg' eher ein Strang, wenn auch der gemeinste, im Geflecht europaeischer Geschichte.

Aber gerade diese Sichtweise verschaerft das urspruengliche Paradox: Wenn der deutsche 'Sonderweg' keiner war, warum ist der 'Tod ein Meister aus Deutschland'? Auch Goldhagens Antwort befriedigt nicht. Dennoch sollte sie zur Pflichtlektuere werden. Wer weiss zum Beispiel, dass solche legendaeren Anti-Nazi- Theologen wie Pastor Niemoeller oder Karl Barth antisemitische Predigten gehalten haben, in denen sie vom 'vergiftenden' Einfluss der Juden gesprochen oder diese als 'hartnaeckiges und boesartiges Volk' verschrien haben?

Nach diesem streitbaren und umstrittenen Buch wird es nicht mehr so einfach sein, das einzigartige Verbrechen unter der Rubrik 'im deutschen Namen' abzulegen. Aber die Antwort liefert es nicht, kann es nicht liefern, obwohl es den Kritikern schwerfallen wird, jenseits des Methodenstreits das Gebirge an brillanter Recherche zu attackieren. Zitieren wir Elie Wiesel aus dessen Rezension im Observer: 'Fuer mich bliebt diese Tragoedie fuer ewig unerklaert. Und unerklaerbar.'


Sueddeutsche Zeitung, 13 April 1996

Retrieved at <>

Richard S. Levy <[email protected]> comments on Germany and the Jews on H-GERMAN

I reported recently on Daniel Goldhagen's speaking engagement in a Chicago suburb (May 12). What follows is what I thought inappropriate to say in that venue but would nonetheless like to get off my chest now. It's a long message. Be forewarned!

I confine my remarks to Part I of Hitler's Willing Executioners where Goldhagen spells out his notion of a brand of antisemitism peculiar to Germany and makes it instrumental in the carrying out of the Final Solution. I do this for two reasons. First, I have worked in the nineteenth-century source material. Second, I believe his faulty understanding of German antisemitism before Hitler is crucial to his argument and that the book's many critics have not given enough attention to this aspect of it.

The argument is presented annoyingly. Assertions -- never adequately demonstrated, some of them clearly undemonstrable -- become, in the space of a few pages, axioms upon which unwarranted conclusions can be drawn. One example of such a chain:

"There cannot be any doubt that conservatives and Volkish nationalists in Germany, who formed the vast majority of the population, were, from the beginning of the nineteenth century onward, thoroughly antisemitic. The evidence for this is overwhelming, as the literature of the period persuasively demonstrates." (p. 56)

A few pages later: "That Germans were fundamentally antisemitic is...less astonishing than was the cultural and political centrality of Jews in their minds and emotions. Perhaps the most striking feature of the discussion of the Jews' place in Germany was the obsessive attention paid to the subject, the avalanche of words devoted to it, the passion expended on it." (p. 63)

Finally: "And, as discussed above, these accusations were hurled with enormous frequency and obsessiveness throughout German society, and, so widespread were they that they were increasingly held to be true even by those in Germany who had once been the Jews' allies" whom, incidentally, he scarcely discusses except to "prove" that they, too, were antisemites. (p. 68)

The truth of every one of these contentions is highly debatable. Goldhagen regularly assumes what he ought to be proving. When, if ever, did conservatives and Volkish nationalists compose the vast majority in Germany? I would not know how to go about proving such a claim (and therefore wouldn't make it). Granted, there were many more publications dealing with the Jewish question than one would expect, considering how small and unimportant a part of the population was Jewish in German-speaking Europe. Who wrote them? Who read them? Did workers and peasants -- I would think the clear majority of the population -- read Wilhelm Marr or Eugen Duehring? And on what basis can such writing be said to constitute "an avalanche of words" and what constitutes "enormous frequency and obsessiveness?" Having convinced himself with repetition, Goldhagen claims that in the last quarter century, the Judenfrage was written about more passionately than any other question. (p. 64) More passionately than the Kulturkampf, the "red menace," Weltpolitik, navalism? How does one measure "passion?"

I remain unconvinced. Jews may have been of more interest than is easily explainable to certain sorts of Germans at certain periods of time (the 1840s, the 1880s and 1890s). But one can make a convincing case that they were of very little interest to most Germans most of the time. Putting them at the center of German history in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries is a highly unproductive strategy. I can see no justification for doing so.

Goldhagen's use of data is also problematical. He rests huge generalizations on an extraordinarily spindly factual base, and even this is occasionally quite skewed to fit his special purposes. His treatment of antisemitism in the Kaiserreich owes much to the unpublished 1963 Heidelberg dissertation by Klemens Felden. Felden's already vague "content analysis" of 51 prominent antisemitic writers and publications, 1861-1895, is subjected to Goldhagen's own analysis. He finds that twenty-eight of the fifty-one individuals proposed solutions to the Jewish question. Of these, he says, nineteen called for the physical extermination of the Jews. Talk of murdering the Jews was, despite Goldhagen's inferences, rare in the Kaiserreich (far more common in France and Austria). It ought not be ignored or trivialized because it may well have revealed the real conscious and unconscious desires of antisemites. But this is an example of Goldhagen's exaggeration, his drawing important conclusions from dubious facts. I know of no case where genocide was proposed as a systematic solution to the Jewish question before 1914. Rare threats of physical violence came in the form of "jokes" or fantasies or poorly veiled wishes, usually appeared as parenthetical remarks, and in almost every case were subject to denial, disavowal, and wide public disapproval. Goldhagen cites "with erroneous attribution" only one such parenthetical remark in his main text. He also alludes, this time in the footnotes, where he often makes his most insupportable claims, to mad Count Pueckler, a certifiably insane aristocrat who performed murderous charades with imaginary Jews as his victims. Perhaps, this was a portent of the Holocaust, as Goldhagen, citing his father, wants to believe. But what does it tell us of the obsessive, eliminationist, and murderous antisemitism that Goldhagen sees already and everywhere in place well before Hitler arrived to turn it loose? Why doesn't he find it worth mentioning that Pueckler was tried, convicted of fomenting hatred (I believe), and rejected as an embarrassment to the serious business of antisemitism by almost every antisemitic politician and publicist? Instead, the lunatic is taken as bespeaking the true but as yet unrealizable desires on the part of "many Germans" to murder Jews. This is arbitrary and unfounded.

Where the data does not exist or will not bear much weight of generalization, Goldhagen blithely reads minds, emotions, and "cognitive maps." For example, Felden mentions that of his fifty-one subjects, nearly half of them (twenty-three) presented no programmatic solutions to the Jewish problem at all. Goldhagen refuses to register this fact as evidence arguing against pervasive, obsessive, eliminationist antisemitism. No, he cites pragmatism, ethical inhibition, limited imagination in the pre-Holocaust era as reasons for the lack of programmatic solutions, but then concludes that many wanted what they "dared not utter." Even the absence of evidence becomes part of the argument.

My biggest difficulty with Hitler's Willing Executioners is not its polemical excesses, willful lack of balance, many errors of fact, or trashing of illustrious scholars. All these are aggravating lapses, product of an annoying personal style with some sloppy research thrown in. "I'm sure he wouldn't like me that much either." I find most problematical Goldhagen's floating, infinitely malleable definition of antisemitism.

Early in the book, he puts forward a slightly modified version of the Ackermann/Jahoda clinical definition of antisemitism: "...negative beliefs and emotions about Jews qua Jews." (p. 34) Goldhagen laments that the phenomenon has "typically been treated in an undifferentiated manner" and then proceeds to make numerous busy distinctions. He gives the reader three dimensions, two continuums; he assures us that in any 20-50 year period antisemitism can be latent or overt, but that it never disappears -- "neither waxing nor waning." Even when there is no physical evidence of antisemitism, it's still there, only waiting for the proper social and political conditions to be unleashed. (p. 39) He cautions that "any analytical scheme 'of antisemitism must keep the cognitive and action dimensions distinct" (p.485, n.21) -- a position I have been arguing for many years. This crucial distinction and the many others he enjoins us to make he himself soon abandons.

Goldhagen commits the very crime he warns against. He uses "antisemitism" in its broadest, most undifferentiated construction, embracing emotions and actions without distinguishing between them, as an indictment of Germans (up to but not after 1945; last Sunday he said they "had cured themselves"). Only if German antisemitism is permanent, all-pervasive in its latent or manifest forms, and anything from a matter of snobbery to genocidal impulses, can one float the sort of charges upon which the book rests. For one by no means critical but nonetheless illustrative example, Goldhagen tells us that the Reichstag of 1893 already had an antisemitic majority. If antisemitism is as amorphous and omnipresent a phenomenon as he contends, then this, every previous, and every subsequent Reichstag might well be called antisemitic. But by any less universalist definition of antisemitism, there were in the Reichstag of 1893 16 deputies from parties that called themselves antisemitic and perhaps a dozen more fellow-travelers who campaigned antisemitically but then joined with the Conservatives; they received perhaps 400,000 votes according to the estimate of Theodor Fritsch, a noted antisemite. This comes to about 6% of the seats in the Reichstag and about 5% of the vote.

Operating on such a flexible definition, there is little that Goldhagen cannot "prove" about the depth, breadth, and growing dangerousness of German antisemitism. His "conservatively" estimated 100,000 executioners were but stand-ins for millions more of Germans. But such a definition is also self-defeating. Would not nearly everyone in Europe or where the offspring of Europeans were to be found qualify as an antisemite, if antisemitism were simply "negative beliefs and emotions about Jews qua Jews"? Would not, in all honesty, most Jews be covered by this blanket definition? Would French, Romanian, or Hungarian antisemitism look very different from the German variety?

It is absolutely essential for Goldhagen to blur the distinction between the willingness to act against Jews and the harboring of negative attitudes about them. One can concede that Germans who liked, respected, and valued Jews were few in number well before the Third Reich sanctioned their persecution. But labeling them antisemites, that is, people who wanted to act against what they imagined to be enormously dangerous Jewish power and therefore thought it was right and good to murder Jews is unwarranted. Goldhagen must make prejudiced Germans into executioners or would-be executioners in very large numbers. This, too, is self-defeating, if the objective is to understand the Holocaust.

By insisting on the universality of eliminationist antisemitism Goldhagen can show that the development to the Final Solution is an ineluctably logical one instead of one of many possibilities. Denying that the variations among antisemites and their solutions (to say nothing of the ubiquity of antisemitism among the Germans) counts for anything, means there is no alternative possibility that needs to be considered. The Final Solution takes on the aura of a fatality, no longer the product of human choices. It becomes a mystery of monstrous Germanic evil-- unavoidable, predictable from an early date, and basically unfathomable.

It is interesting, I think, that the Nazis were far less convinced about the depth of German antisemitism than Goldhagen. They, with Hitler in the forefront of the complainers, never ceased whining about the lack of seriousness in ordinary Germans when it came to the Jewish question. They recognized what Goldhagen does not. Prejudice was not enough to "solve" the Jewish question. It did not translate into the sort of consistent, ideologically-based action that was required for the genocide of the Jews. Doubtless the indifference of the great majority of Germans to the fate of Jews was useful in the Final Solution, and the Nazi leadership correctly reckoned on little popular opposition to their escalating oppression. This is an enormous burden of guilt to bear. I don't see why Goldhagen wishes to add to it.


Retrieved on H-GERMAN, 15 May 1996.

Die Zeit

Die Deutschen - Hitlers willige Mordgesellen


von Volker Ullrich

Die grossen historischen Debatten beginnen immer mit einer Provokation. Das war Anfang der sechziger Jahre so, als der Hamburger Historiker Fritz Fischer mit seinem Buch "Griff nach der Weltmacht" die konservative Zunft herausforderte. Das war so Mitte der achtziger Jahre, als Juergen Habermas in dieser Zeitung mit seiner Antwort auf Ernst Nolte und andere Geschichtswissenschaftler den Anstoss gab fuer den "Historikerstreit" um die Einmaligkeit und Vergleichbarkeit der nationalsozialistischen Verbrechen.

Zehn Jahre spaeter ist nun der Auftakt gesetzt fuer den zweiten, fuer einen noch schaerferen Historikerstreit. Das gerade erschienene Werk des jungen Harvard-Professors Daniel Jonah Goldhagen, "Hitler's Willing Executioners" (Hitlers willige Vollstrecker), ist eine der Provokationen, die mitten in die grossen Debatten fuehren. Im August wird es bei Siedler in deutscher Uebersetzung herauskommen. In den Vereinigten Staaten hat das Buch schon jetzt fuer Aufregung gesorgt. Kein Wunder, denn Goldhagen beansprucht, endlich eine schluessige Antwort zu geben auf die beiden Fragen, die uns auch ein halbes Jahrhundert nach Ende des "Dritten Reiches" immer noch umtreiben: Wie konnte der Holocaust, dieses entsetzlichste aller Menschheitsverbrechen, geschehen? Und warum gerade in Deutschland?

Nach 1945 waren die Historiker schnell geneigt, alles auf Hitlers Wahnideen zu schieben und auf die kleine Clique fanatischer SS-Maenner, die sie in die Tat umsetzte. Spaeter, in den siebziger Jahren, erhielt die "intentionalistische" Deutung Konkurrenz durch eine "funktionalistische": Sie suchte den Schluessel in den inneren Systembedingungen der NS-Herrschaft, in der unkontrollierten Dynamik eines Regimes, die in einem Prozess "kumulativer Radikalisierung" (Hans Mommsen) den Voelkermord gezeugt habe. Neuerdings ist versucht worden, die "Endloesung" in Zusammenhang zu bringen mit den ethnischen "Flurbereinigungen", welche die Nazis in dem von ihnen beherrschten osteuropaeischen Grossraum planten und praktizierten.

Alle diese Interpretationen greifen nach Ansicht Goldhagens zu kurz: Der Holocaust - so sein Ansatz - koenne nur erklaert werden, wenn er systematisch bezogen wird auf die Gesellschaft des "Dritten Reiches" und auf den Antisemitismus als ihren integralen Bestandteil.

Im Mittelpunkt des Buches stehen nicht die Opfer, sondern die Taeter, und zwar nicht die "Schreibtischtaeter", sondern diejenigen, die als Mitglieder der Einsatzgruppen, der Polizeibataillone, des Wachpersonals in den Lagern und Ghettos, als Angehoerige von Wehrmachteinheiten direkt an Toetungs- und Vernichtungsaktionen beteiligt waren. Ihre Zahl war viel groesser als gemeinhin angenommen; der Autor schaetzt sie auf mehrere hunderttausend. Es waren keine fanatischen SS-Leute, sondern freundliche Familienvaeter, gewoehnliche Deutsche, ein repraesentativer Querschnitt der Gesellschaft. Und sie mordeten laut Goldhagen nicht, weil sie dazu gezwungen waren, nicht aus blindem Gehorsam oder Angst vor Bestrafung, sondern aus freien Stuecken, eifrig und ohne jede moralische Skrupel.

So ganz neu ist dieser Befund nicht. Vor einigen Jahren hat Goldhagens amerikanischer Kollege Christopher Browning am Beispiel des Reserve-Polizeibataillons 101 gezeigt, wie aus "ganz normalen Maennern" (so der Titel seines Buches) Moerder wurden. Und nichts anderes hat die vielbesuchte und vieldiskutierte Ausstellung des Hamburger Instituts fuer Sozialforschung ueber den Vernichtungskrieg der Wehrmacht zutage gefoerdert. Doch Goldhagens Fallstudien ueber die Taeter und ihre Motive sind breiter fundiert und gruendlicher reflektiert als alle bisherigen Untersuchungen. Allein dies ist eine bedeutende Forschungsleistung.

Des Autors Ehrgeiz reicht jedoch weiter. Die Analyse der "gewoehnlichen" Taeter dient ihm als Fenster zur Erkenntnis, warum in Deutschland, und nur in Deutschland, das monstroese Verbrechen moeglich war. Seine Kernthese lautet: Nirgendwo sonst hatte sich seit Ende des 19. Jahrhunderts der rassistisch motivierte Antisemitismus so tief in die politische Kultur und alle Poren der Gesellschaft eingefressen, nirgendwo sonst hatte er sich zu einem eliminationist mind-set, zu einer Ausgrenzungs- und Ausmerzungsmentalitaet verfestigt. Der Boden fuer das Vernichtungsprogramm waere demnach laengst bereitet gewesen, als Hitler an die Macht kam. Zwischen der Nazifuehrung und einer grossen Mehrheit des deutschen Volkes herrschte so gesehen ein stillschweigendes Einverstaendnis darueber, dass Deutschland und spaeter Europa "judenrein" gemacht werden muesse. Goldhagen spricht von einem gemeinsamen "nationalen Projekt". Das erklaert fuer ihn, warum es trotz sehr verbreiteter Kenntnis des Massenverbrechens keine groesseren Proteste gab. Und darauf fuehrt er schliesslich auch zurueck, dass die Mitglieder der Polizeibataillone ihr Mordhandwerk ohne jedes Unrechtsbewusstsein ausuebten.

Kein Zweifel: Gegen diese These wird sich heftiger Widerspruch regen (er hat sich zum Teil schon in Amerika geregt). So muss man zum Beispiel fragen, ob der Antisemitismus im Kaiserreich sich tatsaechlich so deutlich von dem anderer Laender unterschied. Und wenn man die juengst veroeffentlichten Tagebuecher Victor Klemperers, dieses genauesten aller Beobachter des NS-Alltags, zum Vergleich heranzieht, dann wird man gegenueber dem Bild einer durch und durch antisemitisch infizierten Gesellschaft selbst fuer die Jahre der Diktatur Zweifel anmelden. Dann wird man auch allen Kollektivanschuldigungen gegenueber skeptisch bleiben. Von "Kollektivschuld" ist bei Goldhagen zwar nicht die Rede, doch in der Sache kommt seine Ableitung dem Vorwurf sehr nahe.

Wie manche Wissenschaftler, die glauben, alle gaengigen Lehrmeinungen umstuerzen zu koennen, neigt auch Goldhagen zur simplifizierenden Eindeutigkeit. Er argumentiert eher wie ein Staatsanwalt denn als Historiker. Fuer Gegenstimmen und Gegenkraefte, fuer Widersprueche und Widerstaende ist in seinem duesteren Gemaelde kaum Platz. So erweckt seine Darstellung den Eindruck, als habe sich das furchtbare Geschehen mit geradezu zwingender Logik vollzogen. Indes, so wichtig der Antisemitismus im Kaiserreich als gesellschaftliche Bedingung fuer den Holocaust war - von ihm fuehrte kein gerader Weg nach Auschwitz.

Trotz aller Einwaende handelt es sich um ein sehr wichtiges, diskussionswuerdiges Buch. Die Radikalitaet, mit der Goldhagen seine These entfaltet, zwingt zum =DCberdenken bisheriger Sichtweisen. Die heftige Bewegung, die das Buch mit seinem Erscheinen in den Vereinigten Staaten ausgeloest hat, zeigt, dass es einen Nerv trifft. Vielleicht drueckt sich darin auch ein Unbehagen vieler Amerikaner gegenueber dem wiedervereinigten Deutschland aus.

Und hierzulande? Da hatte sich so mancher schon in der Gewissheit gewiegt, nach den Gedenkfeiern zum 50. Jahrestag des Kriegsendes das leidige Thema endlich los zu sein und sich unbeschwert der neuen "Normalitaet" hingeben zu koennen. Und nun kommt ein brillanter Harvard-Dozent und belehrt uns, dass wir mit dem schrecklichsten Kapitel unserer Vergangenheit noch laengst nicht fertig sein koennen. Wie sein aufstoerendes, verstoerendes Buch bei uns aufgenommen wird - daran wird sich viel ablesen lassen ueber das historische Bewusstsein dieser Republik.


Posted on H-GERMAN on 12 April 1996, without a proper date of publication. Source given as:


Addition by an American scholar visiting Germany at the time:

Yesterday the debate over Goldhagen's book hit Germany with the publication of an excerpt by 'Die Zeit', which in a front-page article announced that a new 'Historikerstreit' could be expected -- and was already underway in the U.S. It also gave excerpts from reviews in the U.S. by Gordon Craig, Paul Johnson and others. These excerpts and the front-page article were basically positive toward the book's claims, though reservations were voiced. There were also apparently dissenting opinions at 'Die Zeit', which is not unusual there.

Today (Friday) the left-liberal 'Frankfurter Rundschau' also had a front-page article, as well as an editorial and a page-three feature. These were all more negative than the coverage in 'Die Zeit'. They quoted German holocaust experts who trashed the book -- at least according to the summary, though I find it hard to believe that they rejected it so thoroughly as the authors report (saying that there was "nothing" of value in the book), and of course there was no indication that these were experts whose theses were being questioned in the book. They also indicated that the book had been turned down by several publishers in Germany, and quoted the negative comments by one of the 'Lektoren', from Fischer-Verlag. (The book will be published in September by Seider, which is generally known for more conservative books.)

The part that I found most disturbing was the following sentence in the 'Rundschau' page-three article by Matthias Arning and Rolf Paasch (the latter is the FR U.S. correspondent, and is thus probably responsible for this part); in discussing the U.S. reactions to the book, they write: "Was und wieviel daran 'i.e., in the book's theses unter Geschichtswissenschaftlern wirklich neu ist, wird dabei in der US-Debatte bisher nur selten gefragt, diskutieren hier doch meist juedische Nicht-Historiker, sprich Journalisten und Kolumnisten unter sich." It's beyond me what the Jewishness of the journalists has to do with their judgements, unless one assumes that the authors mean 1) that the Jewish journalists are biased, or 2) that there is some kind of Jewish control of American media -- an idea which, of course, simply demonstrates the persistence of the kind of ideology that Goldhagen is concerned with. At the very least, the remark demonstrates the propensity among even some 'enlightened' Germans to think in 'racial' terms.


W. Daniel Wilson, University of California, currently in Goettingen.

H-GERMAN, 12 April 1996

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