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Hitler's Willing Executioners: Ordinary Germans and the Holocaust Paperback – 28 Feb 1997

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Product details

  • Paperback: 656 pages
  • Publisher: SOS Free Stock; Reprint edition (28 Feb. 1997)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0679772685
  • ISBN-13: 978-0679772682
  • Product Dimensions: 13.1 x 3.2 x 20.3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 2.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (31 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 243,903 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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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) --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

About the Author

Daniel Jonah Goldhagen is Associate Professor of Government and Social Studies at Harvard University and an Associate of Harvard's Minda de Gunzberg Centre for European Studies. He was awarded Germany's Democracy Prize for HITLER'S WILLING EXECUTIONERS. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Inside This Book

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First Sentence
IN THINKING ABOUT German antisemitism, people have a tendency to make important, unacknowledged assumptions about Germans before and during the Nazi period that bear scrutiny and revision. Read the first page
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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index
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Customer Reviews

2.7 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

52 of 60 people found the following review helpful By Phil Cheshire on 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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38 of 45 people found the following review helpful By Franz Bieberkopf on 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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58 of 71 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 9 Dec. 1999
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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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Oksa Jaakko on 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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20 of 25 people found the following review helpful By L. J. Nicholson on 6 Aug. 2010
Format: Paperback
Well...I was not going to review this book but felt I had to. As the daughter of a German Holocaust survivor I have spent much of my adult life trying to understand how it was allowed to happen.
A friend bought me this book as a present thinking that I would be interested in examining Goldhagen's `it could only have happened in Germany' theory - I was because I had always refuted this idea in any discussion I had with friends or family on the Holocaust - this is exactly the sort of stereotyping which, in my opinion, brought about the Shoah in the first place.
I would like to tell you about my findings and opinion on this book but I have not managed to finish it in the 10 plus years I have had a copy in my possession. I am not a stupid woman and have read some quite challenging works in my time but this... it is so badly written that it is very difficult to get through more than a couple of pages at a time. I could continue to tell you about the writing style, the American Sociologist verbose clap-trap but other reviewers have said it all.
There are many other books more worthy of your attention if the subject is of interest to you - try "Freud, Jews and Other Germans - Masters and Victims in Modernist Culture" Peter Gay (1978)
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