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Hitler's Willing Executioners: Ordinary Germans and the Holocaust [Paperback]

Daniel Jonah Goldhagen
2.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (28 customer reviews)
RRP: 14.99
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Book Description

3 Mar 1997
Daniel Goldhagen re-visits a question which history has treated as settled, and his research leads him to the inescapble conclusion that none of the answers holds true. That question is: How could the Holocaust happen? His response is an exploration of German society and its ingrained anti-semitism that demands a fundamental revision of our thinking about the years 1933-1945. The author marshals fresh, primary evidence - including extensive testimony from the actual perpetrators - to show that the killers were ordinary Germans who were not compelled to act as they did (they knew they could refuse without retribution) yet they killed willingly and zealously.

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Hitler's Willing Executioners: Ordinary Germans and the Holocaust + Ordinary Men: Reserve Police Battalion 11 and the Final Solution in Poland: Reserve Police Battalion 101 and the Final Solution in Poland + The Origins Of The Final Solution: The Evolution of Nazi Jewish Policy September 1939-March 1942
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Product details

  • Paperback: 656 pages
  • Publisher: Abacus; New Ed edition (3 Mar 1997)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0349107866
  • ISBN-13: 978-0349107868
  • Product Dimensions: 12.6 x 19.7 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 2.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (28 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 23,355 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

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Review

** 'A monumental achievement. (SUNDAY TIMES)

** 'Powerful and well-researched... this book stimulates thought... It is a serious book written by a gifted scholar. (TLS)

** 'As stomach churning in its grueseome detail as it is mind-blowing for its radical façade stripping of one of the ghastliest episodes of human history. (DAILY MAIL)

** 'There is enough material here to disturb the human race to the end of time. (ROBERT KEE)

About the Author

Daniel Goldhagen is Associate Professor of Government and Social Studies at Harvard University. His doctoral disseration, which is the basis for this book, won the Gabriel A. Almond Award for the best dissertation in the field of comparative politics.

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CAPTAIN WOLFGANG H0FFMANN was a zealous executioner of Jews. Read the first page
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
46 of 53 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Read Browning instead 14 Oct 2010
Format:Paperback
Goldhagen's book is a response to Christopher Browning's book "Ordinary Men". I suggest reading that first, and the afterword in the second edition, where Browning responds to Goldhagen's criticisms. It is a pity that while Godlhagen's book was racked-out on tables in branches of Waterstones, Browning's book is little-read outside academic circles.
Browning's book is a stunning example of how good forensic history writing can have genuine ethical import. Goldhagen's book is an equally stunning example of how not to write a history book.
I would not tell anyone that they ought not to read Goldhagen. However, I would say read Browning first (including the Afterword to the second edition) and then read Goldhagen with a critical eye.
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29 of 34 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Laughably bad 18 Feb 2006
Format:Paperback
"Barely rises to the comical" is Norman Finkelstien's view of Goldhagen's work,and it's hard to disagree with that verdict.The basic thesis is that Germans,alone of the peoples of Europe,had such an ingrained anti-semitism that they alone were capable of the mass murder of Europe's Jews in the 1940s.
Apart from the racism implicit in this idea(racism somehow is fine when directed at Germans)there are several major issues that undermine this view.Why did any Jews live in Germany before 1933 if they were surrounded on all sides by anti-semites?Why were many of the perpretators of the Holocaust pro- German collaborators,but not themselves Germans?Finally,if the German people were somehow almost genetically anti-semitic,why did anti-semitism virtually disappear from Germany after 1945?Goldhagen has no answers to these questions.
Finally,and bizarrely,Godhagen talks at one point of "philosemitic anti-semites".This seems to mean Germans who supported Jewish assimilation into German culture and so contributed to Jews distancing themselves from their Jewish roots.If you took Goldhagen seriously,you'd believe that Jews themselves had nothing to do with this process,that assimilation was somehow a dastardly anti-semitic plot.
"Abysmal rubbish" is putting it mildly,and it's a pity,as the Holocaust is an imprtant subject that deserves serious study.Try Martin Gilbert's one volume history of the Holocaust if you want a good introduction to the subject.Avoid this,and warn your friends and family against it too.
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56 of 68 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating But Sensationalist and Flawed. 9 Dec 1999
By A Customer
Format:Paperback
The debate is growing regarding the place of ordinary Germans in the Holocaust. From the publication, to critical acclaim, of "Hitler's Willing Executioners - Ordinary Germans and the Holocaust" (USA: 1996) (hereinafter "HWE"), Goldhagen has shifted from relative obscurity, to the central figure in what has become known as the Goldhagen Debate. His argument, as the title of the book suggests, is first that the German people share a collective responsibility for the Holocaust, and second, that the death camp systems 'exposes not just Nazism's, but Germany's true face'. For the Holocaust to have happened the Nazis 'had to induce a large number of people to carry out the Killings'. With the premise that this had thus far been ignored in the academic literature, he makes it his focus. The intent of his methodology is to partially dash conventional explanations of the Holocaust, believing that they ignore the willingness of the perpetrators, ordinary German, to make a moral decision regarding mass murder. He advocates the 'eschewing' of convenient labels for the killers, such as Nazis and SS men and their replacement with Germans, going on that some were Nazis and SS men, some were not, but he argues, they 'were overwhelmingly and most importantly Germans [...] this was above all a German enterprise'. To this end, he forms his overarching argument that:
'[T]he perpetrators, "ordinary Germans," were animated by antisemitism by a particular type of antisemitism that led them to conclude that the Jews ought to die.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars A somewhat flawed treatise about the Holocaust 18 Oct 2013
Format:Paperback
Goldhagen's "monocausal explanation" of the Holocaust is inadequate and implausible. He argues that the Holocaust can be explained solely by the Germans' age-old "demonological" antisemitism and that therefore the Nazi regime merely made it possible for this antisemitism to express itself in real acts of murder and mayhem, whereas earlier it had remained at the level of an all-pervasive desire to commit such acts. Goldhagen's theory therefore shifts the blame from Nazism to the German culture and German people which isn't realistic even though there is undoubtedly some truth in it.

Much more balanced books have been written about the subject, for example Browning's excellent "Ordinary Men: Reserve Police Battalion 101 and the Final Solution in Poland" which deals with one of the subjects that the Goldhagen book also investigates, but does it infinitely better.

I nonetheless give this book a two star rating (instead of just one) because it is quite comprehensive and not badly written, only seriously one-sided.
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33 of 41 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars The anti-christ of history 29 Sep 2009
Format:Paperback
I once had to write a 5000 word piece for my history degree and this utter tosh was mentioned several times. The topic I was researching was West German memory in the post-war period, looking at how the German public aligned itself with its Nazi past. As part of this I looked at different historians views on how involved "ordinary" Germans actualy were.

Goldhagen's problem is he does not understand the German soceity of the time, it's different groups, attitudes and responsibilities within the regime. The result is he groups "Germans" as one united regime with one opinion and role within the war; much like a fourteen year old would.

Goldhagen thus groups the nation as all involved in the Hollocaust in some way, and thus responsible for it, and should feel guilt within the post-war period.

"Goldhagen implied that the whole nation was involved; phrases such as `the Germans' slaughter of Jews; were left uncontextualised." Taken from Bill Niven's 'Facing The Nazi Past' (p129), which is well worth a read.

This is worth reading if you need an example of how not to be a historian. Otherwise it is misleading and almost racist in its conclusions. If you would like a true insight into the period, then this is a miss. Read the book I have mentioned.

Ironically the German public, perhaps trying to distance itself from its past, liked the book!
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Very good quality for used book...
Excellent read, though sad and disturbing reading of course. Would recommend to anyone interested in how so many Germans could act as they did.
Published 2 months ago by Aidan C.
3.0 out of 5 stars Actually, you need to read Alice Miller first!
Following on from other customer's comments, yes Browning is a better writer, & Goldhagen tends to be a bit overstated, BUT he does have a point, but lacks the necessary context to... Read more
Published 15 months ago by J. D. W. Lyon
5.0 out of 5 stars hitler's willing executioners
very scholarly. goldhagen does not mince his words. his review of the beginnings, spread and stranglehold of anti-semitism in european society from the earliest times is pointed... Read more
Published 21 months ago by Mr. Moshe Elias
3.0 out of 5 stars Caution! Controversial...
Goldhagen's work should not be dismissed but should be read with caution. I suggest, alongside Chris Browning's 'Ordinary Men' as they both rely on much the same source material.
Published 24 months ago by Gully Foyle
1.0 out of 5 stars Not even worth one star, utter garbage!
This man is a hate-mongerer who should be locked up for disgracing an entire nation.
If I where Germany I would sue this idiot's arse. Read more
Published on 25 Jun 2012 by P. Geeroms
5.0 out of 5 stars have any of you actually read this book
goldhagen wiites about an emotive issue: was the german nation complicit in the machinations of a drive to eliminate europe of its native jewish inhabitants

as it... Read more
Published on 9 Mar 2012 by highdigger
1.0 out of 5 stars A racist rant
Anyone who has read this book, and those who haven't, should read Finkelstein's A nation on trial.
This is a splendid critique of Daniel Goldhagen's much-hyped book, Hitler's... Read more
Published on 21 Nov 2011 by William Podmore
2.0 out of 5 stars Based on some faulty assumptions
This book states what is often stated and only mentions the Jews who were tortured and murdered by the Nazis while completely ignoring the 6 million other people who were also... Read more
Published on 9 July 2011 by J. E. Swenson
5.0 out of 5 stars Pope Pius XII, the Holocaust and the closed Vatican archives
This book raises questions about the complicity of many, possibly the majority of germans in Hitler's endeavours to conquer Europe, enslave it and destroy the jews. Read more
Published on 14 Jun 2011 by Gamla
4.0 out of 5 stars Worthy but flawed...
This book has been described as one of the most important books ever written on the Holocaust, and I'd have to agree with that statement, but not necessarily because I agree with... Read more
Published on 3 Oct 2010 by C. Ball
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