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Hitler and the Holocaust (UNIVERSAL HISTORY) Hardcover – 11 Oct 2001


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Product details

  • Hardcover: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Orion; Swedish Language edition (11 Oct. 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0297643738
  • ISBN-13: 978-0297643739
  • Product Dimensions: 14 x 3 x 20.5 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,634,356 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Review

Robert Wistrich is a highly distinguished scholar of Jewish history - the author of books on Dreyfus and on the history of anti-Semitism, among other subjects. In The Holocaust he has written a lucid, relatively short account of the Nazis' attempt to exterminate Europe's Jews. At the same time he has managed to tellingly factor in the currents of other anti-Semitisms which made the Nazis' sinister project possible - and focuses tellingly, too, on the actual collaborations which enabled it to take place. Though arguing for the uniqueness of the Holocaust, one of the book's virtues is that it is open at both ends - aware both of its origins and of how subsequent genocides remain a potential in human history. It reads like the product of a lifetime spent digesting the evidence and thinking about the significance of its subject. It's both an ideal single volume 'summary' and an original addition to its field.

Book Description

A superb short historical analysis of the Holocaust, by one of the world¿s leading authorities on the subject.

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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Barron Laycock on 31 Dec. 2002
Format: Hardcover
This interesting book by Robert Wistrich is an attempt to concentrate on the question as to why the Nazis placed so much emphasis on the extermination of the European Jews, often when doing so meant endangering the other goals they were surging toward during the conduct of the war. The author, of course, understands that the whole of the national Socialist movement sprang from the discontent and absurd racism of the Volkist history of the Reich, much of it dating back centuries. From the time Germany was forged out of the crucible of Prussia and its environs, the collection of Germanic peoples looked for those unifying themes that would untie them as distinct people and extend to them the greatness that had so eluded them and their culture. Given their history of cultural insecurity, it seems as no surprise that an entity like the Jews had to found and scapegoated to justify their grandiloquent dreams.
As the author points out (and as others such as Lucy Dawidowicz so famously in "The War Against The Jews'), this scapegoating effort was no only an expediency arising from the discontent and chaos of the Weimar years after World War One, but also a deep-seated cultural tradition extending back hundreds if not thousands of years. Indeed, questions regarding Jewish claims to citizenship had been hotly debated both officially and unofficially every place from the many legislative forums to the floors of the local pubs as long as anyone could recall. There was nothing new or novel about German prejudice against and antipathy for the Jews. And as he adds so succinctly, this was (and indeed is) a problem extending far beyond German borders.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Roffey on 10 July 2007
Format: Paperback
After more than 25 years of studying the holocaust, I seemed to be going round and round in circles. The question why ? always seemed to recur. Robert Wistrich provides a well written and researched survey of this period which brings out all the main themes and historical explanations. Why did the holocaust happen ? Robert Wistrich provides a lucid but partial answer. The explanation is that there were substantial numbers of deviant people living in the morally bankrupt societies of 30s & 40s Germany and Austria. The Nazi horror was possible because an evil philosophy found so many willing recruits and passive hangers-on. German and Austrian society was rotten even before Hitler came to power. Thankfully, we have learnt from this.
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By Peter Uys HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWER on 24 Aug. 2008
Format: Hardcover
In the introduction, Wistrich provides an overview asking the big Why. He disagrees with Daniel Goldhagen, pointing out that prior to 1933 antisemitism had been worse in countries like Russia, Romania, Poland and Austria and that the rule of law applied in Germany until that year. The Holocaust was a pan-European event in which millions of people participated. The times were evil; even Britain and the USA experienced a rising tide of antisemitism. Unimaginable horror results when a society does not distinguish between good & evil. The lessons of this abyss are that evil must be resisted in its early stage and that individuals are responsible for their actions.

The first chapter briefly reviews Jewish history from the Hasmoneans to the Roman yoke in which era a new religion was born. Its foundational documents contain calumnies and demonizations of the Jewish People. The "Church Fathers" perpetuated this hostility in their writings; the victory of Constantine Christianity ensured ever increasing oppression. Martin Luther amplified the hatred in his writings. This chapter also covers Europe in the 1930s as night was coming on. Wistrich also considers various atrocities and genocides like that of the Armenians, the Gulags of Stalinist Russia and the suffering of the Roma.

Disillusionment in Europe after the First World War was profound.
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Format: Paperback
This book is a non fiction account of how the Holocaust started, with the history of anti-semitism in Germany, how Hitler came upon his theories about Jews, what happened in countries other than Germany, and the reaction of Britain and the USA all discussed. It was quite heavy to get through, but it was very good. It was very clearly laid out how Germany came to have its anti-Jewish laws etc, and why Hitler thought it was a good idea. The chapters on the actions of countries other than Germany, and then on Britain and the USA were quite shocking in how some of them had so little involvement in getting the Jews out of Germany and the occupied countries, even though they knew they were being killed! The whole book was shocking really, when it described the numbers of Jews taken from each place, how they were fully integrated into society in some cases and were still killed. The refusal of the Pope at the time to condemn the Nazi actions was shocking as well. It good as when it came to key phrases in Nazi policies - for example there was one which said something like "in one way or another we will get rid of the Jews" - it had the German phrase as well, which I liked. Overall I would recommend this to anyone with more than a casual interest in the Holocaust, and a background knowledge of what happened, as although it does describe what happened, its useful to know a bit more about it to put it in context.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: 18 reviews
19 of 20 people found the following review helpful
There was no one to help 24 Aug. 2008
By Peter Uys - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
In the introduction, Wistrich provides an overview asking the big Why. He disagrees with Daniel Goldhagen, pointing out that prior to 1933 antisemitism had been worse in countries like Russia, Romania, Poland and Austria and that the rule of law applied in Germany until that year. The Holocaust was a pan-European event in which millions of people participated. The times were evil; even Britain and the USA experienced a rising tide of antisemitism. Unimaginable horror results when a society does not distinguish between good & evil. The lessons of this abyss are that evil must be resisted in its early stage and that individuals are responsible for their actions.

The first chapter briefly reviews Jewish history from the Hasmoneans to the Roman yoke in which era a new religion was born. Its foundational documents contain calumnies and demonizations of the Jewish People. The "Church Fathers" perpetuated this hostility in their writings; the victory of Constantine Christianity ensured ever increasing oppression. Martin Luther amplified the hatred in his writings. This chapter also covers Europe in the 1930s as night was coming on. Wistrich also considers various atrocities and genocides like that of the Armenians, the Gulags of Stalinist Russia and the suffering of the Roma.

Disillusionment in Europe after the First World War was profound. The pointless death & destruction spurred the growth of revolutionary movements like fascism and communism. The history of Austria and Germany in the 1920s & 1930s, Mein Kampf, the political parties & the reaction to Jewish refugees arriving from Eastern Europe are discussed. The depression hit Germany in 1930; that year the Nazi vote increased dramatically. In 1933 Hitler took power and German Jews started leaving.

The destruction of Crystal Night followed, the most violent attack on Jews since the crusades; 100 people were murdered. The international conference held at Evian in France encouraged Hitler since he noticed it was all talk; no country was prepared to welcome Jewish refugees. The discriminatory racial laws did not encounter resistance from any sector of German society. The German annexation of half of Poland in 1939 and the later invasion of Russia placed millions more Jews under Nazi rule. Terrible massacres occurred on the front.

Hitler's apocalypticism was a blend of Christian and anti-Christian Judeophobia, a secular salvationist ideology. He referred to New Testament passages during his speeches in Catholic Bavaria, saw himself as a messianic figure and claimed that Christ had pioneered the struggle against the Jews. Thus in the early years the Nazis mined the ancient vein of Christian Antisemitism. Only the Confessional Church openly defied the Nazis and in the 1937 Encyclical "Mit Brennende Sorge" Pope Pius XI objected to Nazi supremacism and paganism. Nazism co-existed with the Roman Catholic and Protestant churches but its bestial heart harbored contempt for Judeo-Christian values and ethics. Leading Nazis were fanatically anti-Christian. As the evidence of atrocities accumulated, including reports from Croatia & Slovakia, the Vatican's reaction was muted. It still viewed Jews as representing its modernist enemies like liberalism, freemasonry, secularism, etc.

Chapter 6 was almost unbearable, were it not for the exceptions where the Angel of the Lord must have drawn his sword or the Spirit moved the hearts of the people. Collaboration - particularly cruel in countries like Ukraine, Romania and Slovakia - occurred throughout Europe. Jews were safe in Hungary until March 1944 when the Germans invaded. Despite the efforts of especially Calvinists, more than 80% of Holland's Jews were deported to Poland. Belgium fared better - people deliberately undermined the German efforts but 44% was lost. In the areas controlled by the collaborationist Vichy Regime, French Jews were protected to an extent but not recent arrivals. In 1942 the Germans occupied all of France. I'm not sure if Wistrich mentions it, but General Franco of Spain accepted refugees.

In this demonic darkness of indifference, hostility & complicity with the Nazis, there were three areas where the divine light was not extinguished. Protection was provided in the north, east & south of Europe. Bulgaria was a German ally but the people, never antisemitic, stood firm: King, government, civil society and church! Orthodox Metropolitan Stephan of Sofia declared that men had no right to persecute Jews, whilst the King supplied many reasons why its citizens could not leave. Denmark saved almost its entire Jewish community by ferrying them across to Sweden. Of course the proximity & willingness of Sweden made it possible. In their absence, Danes tended their homes & gardens and cared for their pets. Finland flatly refused German demands. Italians openly sabotaged the Holocaust; the Italian army shielded and protected Jews in places like France, Croatia, Albania and Greece. Later when the Germans invaded, Italians hid and protected Jews to a degree unseen anywhere else but in the aforementioned countries.

One recognizes the sacrifice of Britain & Americans whose soldiers fought and died, but these countries do not have clean hands. First, they instituted restrictive immigration policies. At that time, the American Jewish community was weak, divided and afraid of antagonizing its fellow citizens. The worst action of Roosevelt was turning away the ocean liner St Louis with its Jewish refugees. Back in Germany they were all murdered. Perhaps even worse from the quantity angle, the UK established quotas for Jewish immigration to the Levant. Not only that, but the British navy intercepted refugee ships en route to the homeland, and that under Churchill! It is incomprehensible. Moron me who thought the Prime Minister had more authority than the State Department. So in the Atlantic Anglo-Saxon sphere political hypocrisy and heartless bureaucracy triumphed over mercy.

Sensitive people beware! The final chapter, on modernity and genocide, evaluates various theories and provides examples of sadism and torture in the death camps. One can skip it, just reading the last two pages which are safe. Wistrich concludes that the Holocaust was inspired by a millenarian apocalyptic ideology of annihilation that cannot be separated from the dominant religious tradition of Western Europe. But unlike Christianity, Nazism was a death cult that saw human sacrifice as the road to redemption. The book contains maps, notes arranged by chapter, 3 timeline charts covering 1933 - 1945, and an index.
22 of 25 people found the following review helpful
Great book 7 July 2002
By Christopher J. Martin - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
Wistrich does a wonderful job of condensing information about a huge topic into a very useful small volume. It doesn't go into a huge amount of detail about every aspect of the Holocaust or the anti-semitism leading up to it, but it is a great book for beginners, particularly high school or college undergraduates looking for an introduction to this horrible subject.
As the previous reviewer said, Wistrich does do a wonderful job of documenting his sources and I too got a lot of further reading and research ideas from this book.
26 of 31 people found the following review helpful
A Magisterial Summary 6 Mar. 2002
By Werner Cohn - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
What makes this fine book such an outstanding achievement is that it combines two qualities that rarely go together: a) an authoritative introduction to a complex subject, suitable for a beginner; and b) a summary of the most current technical findings, suitable for the expert. This book can confidently be given to a high school student, whose knowledge of modern history will, with this book alone, take a qualitative leap forward. And it should be read by those who have already read everything else on the subject, whose knowledge will be brought up-to-date. As always, Professor Wistrich's style is fluent and engaging, and the Modern Library has done its part by producing a physically attractive object.
I do have just two little quibbles. It would have been useful, particularly for the beginner, to include suggestions for further readings in a special section. Professor Wistrich does make such suggestions, but they are somewhat buried in his Notes. And for the serious student, an alphabetic list of all the cited references would have made life just a little easier.
21 of 25 people found the following review helpful
Loaded 3 July 2002
By Wallace V. French III - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
This is a nice little volume. A small book with a lot of information. I consider myself well read on this subject and ended up learning a lot from this book. It was so easy to read I finished it in a little over a week. Wistrich has some great endnotes too. He has documented everything and I got some great suggestions for further reading from the notes. The cover and the type font make this a very attractive volume as well. As stated in previous reviews this is a very good volume for the learned person. Wistrich will bring you up to date and refresh your memory of past details. However, I disagree with it being for the absolute beginner. You still need to be familiar with the non-fiction format and have some subject knowledge in order to get the most out of this book. It also looks great on a bookshelf.
8 of 10 people found the following review helpful
Not as good as it could be 3 Jan. 2005
By Dorylus - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
Although some might say this is good for introduction to Holocaust study, I'm not convinced it succeeds on that level as it should. First, the title was a bit misleading. I expected it to focus on Hitler's involvement in the Holocaust, yet there is little discussion of Hitler compared to what other angles the book delves into. I also thought that jumping to different issues, it is not focused enough to be effective as a whole as compared to other books that might be longer in reading but you come away with much more understanding. Too much is just touched upon, but not conveyed. I found "Auschwitz" by Deborah Dwork and Robert Van Pelt to give a much clearer perspective than what I read here, and it's not that much longer than this.

And I think, contrary to the author, that the entire extermination of the slavic population was practical for the Nazi's and it did serve a major ideological agenda. From reading Hitler's "table talk," it seemed to me like that was the future plan.

Also, the author says that "When Himmler instructed Rudolf Hoss to establish the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp, the reason given was expressly ideological; the need to extirpate the biological roots of Jewry." In something as serious as this, I think it's important that every fact is presented where there can be no confusion- otherwise, if they learn otherwise, it can cause problems. This would lead me to believe that Auschwitz was erected at the time of this talk with Himmler, when actually, the talk with Himmler happened in 1941, and Hoss had been camp commandant since 1940- and that Auschwitz was first established as a labor camp and turned INTO a death camp for the purpose of extirpating the biological roots of Jewry." that might be nitpicking on my part and it could be said that the Birkenau addition implies the time, but since the Nazi's crime is so terrible, every word is important, every sentence is a voice from the Holocaust crying out, so you have to make sure everything is clearly said. That's what I think, anyway.

This is a good book, but something like "Never Again" by Martin Gilbert might be a better introduction than this,
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