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A Nation on Trial: The Goldhagen Thesis and Historical Truth [Kindle Edition]

Norman G. Finkelstein , Ruth Bettina Birn
3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)

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Book Description

No recent work of history has generated as much interest as Daniel Jonah Goldhagen's Hitler's Willing Executioners. Purporting to solve the mystery of the Nazi holocaust, Goldhagen maintains that ordinary Germans were driven by fanatical anti-Semitism to murder the Jews. An immediate national best-seller, the book went on to create an international sensation.

Now, in A Nation on Trial, two leading critics challenge Goldhagen's findings and show that his work is not scholarship at all. With compelling cumulative effect, Norman G. Finkelstein meticulously documents Goldhagen's distortions of secondary literature and the internal contradictions of his argument. In a complementary essay, Ruth Bettina Birn juxtaposes Goldhagen's text against the German archives he consulted. The foremost international authority on these archives, Birn conclusively demonstrates that Goldhagen systematically misrepresented their contents.

The definitive statement on the Goldhagen phenomenon, this volume is also a cautionary tale on the corruption of scholarship by ideological zealotry.

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Product Description


Attempts to refute the claim that Germans supported the Jews' executions during the Holocaust.

Product details

  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • File Size: 992 KB
  • Print Length: 176 pages
  • Publisher: Metropolitan Books (4 Feb. 2014)
  • Sold by: Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
  • Language: English
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Not Enabled
  • Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled
  • Average Customer Review: 3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #496,886 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

3.6 out of 5 stars
3.6 out of 5 stars
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fine critique of Goldhagen's extremist thesis 21 Nov. 2011
This is a splendid critique of Daniel Goldhagen's much-hyped book, Hitler's willing executioners. Goldhagen blamed the Holocaust on Germany's uniquely `extraordinary, lethal political culture'.

Goldhagen absurdly claimed that even the smallest manifestation of anti-Semitism, even philo-Semitism, `tends strongly towards a genocidal `solution'.'

Goldhagen asserted that anti-Semitism `has been a more or less permanent feature of the western world', which is untrue. It also contradicts his main thesis, that Germany was uniquely anti-Semitic. It is odd that he did not accuse the rest of the world of anti-Semitism too, though perhaps by now he is asserting that the whole eastern world is also innately, ineradicably, anti-Semitic.

Germany did not have a single, unchanging monolithic culture. Goldhagen admitted that in the late 19th century German Jews experienced a `meteoric rise from pariah status'. How could they, if Germany was always fanatically committed to anti-Semitism? Nor did all Germans think the same way at any point. Other, more objective, historians have noted that the Social-Democratic party in the 1920s was `a committed opponent of organized anti-Semitism' (Peter Pulzer) and that `all Social Democrats' proved `consistent' in their `advocacy of the civil rights of German and East European Jews' (Donna Harsch).

By demonizing the German people, Goldhagen was promoting the Zionist lie that Jews are only safe in Israel, that they can never be safe in Germany, or by extension in Europe, or even in the whole Western world. Of course, the truth is that nowhere are Jews less safe than in Israel.

He wrote that the Nazis ruled `without massive coercion and violence' and that their regime `was on the whole, consensual'.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Compelling 29 Sept. 2014
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
This book contains two essays which are effectively extended reviews of the the Daniel Goldhagen book "Hitler's Willing Executioners". Goldhagen presented a monocausal thesis which explained the holocaust as resulting from a uniquely German strand of virulent anti-semitism which dismissed the attempts of other writers to place the holocaust in a much more complex context including consideration of a wide range of factors. In particular, one of the examples used by Goldhagen is that of Reserve Police Battalion 101, the same battalion studied by the eminent historian of the holocaust Christopher Browning in "Ordinary Men". Goldhagen and Browning arrived at radically different conclusions. Goldhagen summarised German history, finding that anti-semitism was the dominant theme of German social and political life. Goldhagen's work was widely acclaimed by many at the same time as being dismissed by others, and in particular the debate between Goldhagen and those historians who criticised his work became marked by a rather unpleasant aggressive campaign to undermine the critics despite these critics including almost all of the recognised serious historians of the holocaust (eg. Hilberg, Browning, Kershaw etc etc). Goldhagen's book is itself full of disparaging references to almost all other scholars of the holocaust and claims for itself new and hitherto unknown insights, placing itself above all other works on the subject and claiming to have answered the question of why the extermination of the Jews took place. Read more ›
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8 of 11 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Essential for lay readers of Goldhagen 23 July 1998
By A Customer
As a non-historian, I found Goldhagen's book interesting and sometimes convincing, but I also sensed that something was not quite right about his argument. Those vague misgivings were made clear to me in Finkelstein's and Birn's essays. Although Finkelstein's glee in demolishing Goldhagen's thesis is un-called-for and unprofessional, I think that anyone who read "Hitler's Willing Executioners" needs to take an unbiased look at "A Nation on Trial" in order to have an informed opinion on this controversial matter.
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18 of 31 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars This is a must read. 8 Nov. 2000
By A Customer
These two articales completely shattered the foundation of Goldhagen's book as a scholary work and the reliability of his intellectual honesty. As an explanation for the reason why this unscholary and misleading work (Goldhagen's book)did receive such high media attention, a much more interesting subject than the debate about its scholarly value, these two articles did fail to provide. Although this was not the stated objective of the articles.
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17 of 32 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent 21 July 1999
By A Customer
As a German-American whose grandmother fled the Nazi regime to come here I am sickened at the claim people like Goldhagen or whatever his name is make that Germans are an evil people. The real revisionism is the leftist attention-grabbing media that wants to make the Jews the only victim of a madman. Yes, Hitler was a madman, as were his underlings, but Germans are a great people and I'll be da**ed if I'm ashamed to say as much.
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