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Rethinking the Holocaust (Yale Nota Bene) Paperback – 19 Mar 2002

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Product details

  • Paperback: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Yale University Press; New edition edition (19 Mar. 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0300093004
  • ISBN-13: 978-0300093001
  • Product Dimensions: 2.5 x 12.7 x 19 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 293,522 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


"An eye-opening synthesis of the whole historiography of the Shoah ... The meat of the book is a brilliant review of vexed issues like Jewish resistance (armed and unarmed), the role of the Judenräte, or Nazi-imposed Jewish Councils, and the plans to rescue Jews by buying their freedom ..." -- Morris Dickstein, New York Times Book Review

"Bauer is the preeminent student of Jewish resistance and rescue efforts ... Bauer's book also reaches beyond issues of rescue, offering a strong introduction to many of the analytic debates on Nazi genocide." -- Paul Breines, Washington Post Book World

"In this original and compelling book Bauer considers all the major issues of Holocaust historiography. Everything Bauer touches he illuminates." -- Michael Berenbaum

About the Author

Yehuda Bauer, Academic Advisor to Yad Vashem, Jerusalem, is the recipient of the Israel Prize. He is the author of many books, including Jews for Sale (0 300 06852 2, pb. [pound]12.95*), published by Yale University Press.

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The objectivity of the historian becomes an issue with subjects besides the Holocaust, but a historian dealing with the Holocaust cannot avoid the issue. Read the first page
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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful By observer100 on 25 April 2008
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This is not a history of the Holocaust (Bauer, like so many others, has written one, but I have not read that) but the reflections of a respected scholar who has devoted his professional life to the subject and tries to draw together and comment on the conclusions. It is however full of source references and comments on those, so could make a good starting point in reading this subject up. This is not to say that I or anyone would necessarily agree with all his conclusions. Indeed one of the lessons is that the work is unfinished after 60 or so years.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: 8 reviews
16 of 18 people found the following review helpful
A profound reconsideration of the Holocaust 6 Dec. 2005
By Shalom Freedman - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
This work is written by one of the major Holocaust historians. In it he summarizes the work of a lifetime. He in this work attempts to understand the unprecedented character of the Holocaust. His conclusions are that the Holocaust is truly unique, distinguished from other genocides in that those involve real disputes, usually by neighbors over land and territory. The Holocaust , the murder of the Jews of Europe, the murder of over one third of the Jews of the world, was unique in that its perpetrators had the goal of eliminating the Jews wherever they were, every place on earth.. A Jew simply by being born was a target of the Nazis.

Bauer points out that there was a strong ideological component in the Shoah, and that the Nazis dream was to create a new order of the world free of Jews, Gypsies, Poles, and a whole variety of others they considered inferior races.

Bauer points out that thre was a strong irrational element in Nazi Ideology. The Jews in Germany had not been enemies of German culture but rather had made most significant contributions to it. The insane hatred of the Nazis for the Jews, their determination to murder all Jews ,was pursued even when it undermined the German war effort.

Bauer provides many stories that point out the enormous cruelty of the Shoah.

In his concluding chapter which is an address he gave to the German Bundestag he speaks forcefully about the importance of education in preventing a similar evil coming to the world.
16 of 23 people found the following review helpful
Excellent Historical Overview 31 Oct. 2002
By Fred M. Blum - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
Rethinking the Holocaust by Yehuda Bauer is an excellent historical review of the various issues that are raised by the Holocaust. Bauer is one of the preeminent holocaust historians and this book will only reenforce his place in historical studies.
The book reviews most of the recent historical issues ranging from the holocausts place in history to a comparison with more recent genocides. The central thesis is that what seperates the holocaust from the more recent genocides is not the necessarily the evil of the act. What has happened in Africa or Bosnia is not less evil or horrible than what the Nazis did. However, the African and Bosnian genocides were more significanly limited in scope. The Nazi plan was to hunt down the Jews where ever they lived and to eliminate them as a race. This desire seperates the holocaust from all other genocides.
The most interesting chapter discuses the theology of the holocaust. The central theological difficulty of the holocaust is how to reconcile an all powerful God with one that is just. The question being how could a just God who had the power to stop the death of millions not stop that murder. One conclusion is that God is all powerful or just, but not both. Bauer does not have any real answers, and there might not be any; however, the discussion is thought provoking and leads to furhter readings. This chapter was worth reading the book.
Prof Bauer is a living legend in Israel and one ... 7 Jan. 2015
By Arthur Miller - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Prof Bauer is a living legend in Israel and one of the most knowledgeable, recognized and respected authorities on Holocaust history. I will read anything and everything he writes. If you are a student or teacher of Holocaust studies, this is a "must read".
1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
Very important book 13 Jun. 2012
By Efraim Zadoff - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This book presents the SHOA - the Holocaust - the genocide of the Jewish people in the Second World War, in a wide perspective of other genocides in the 20th century.
Bauer presents, besides its own ideas, the opinion of some of the most prominent scholars, some of them non Jewish.
He also presents a diversity of subjects and considerations in the research of the SHOA.
23 of 37 people found the following review helpful
Good Information Along with an Exclusively Judeocentric View of the Holocaust 14 Aug. 2006
By Jan Peczkis - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
Unlike much of the west's media, Israeli scholar Yehuda Bauer has the basic integrity of repudiating the phrase "Polish death camps" because of the absurdly false connotation that Poles had anything to do with them (p. 285). He presents a wealth of seldom-discussed information, such as the existence of Jewish Gestapo agents throughout Europe (p. 148), the killings of fugitive Jews by Soviet partisans (p. 138, 141), and the beliefs of some Orthodox Jews that the Holocaust was God's punishment for Jewish sins (pp. 193-194, 207).

Bauer comments: "Testimonies taken down after decades are not necessarily less reliable than those taken immediately after the war...in the immediate postwar period many people still suffered from the shock of their experiences, whereas now some can view them with greater detachment. Thus, the present testimony may be more truthful than the former."(p. 24). This contradicts Jan Thomas Gross, who would like to discount recent testimonies because of the fact that these are more likely to contradict his Polonophobic thesis on the Jedwabne massacre.

While acknowledging the fact that Christian society never led to genocide of Jews (p. 105), Bauer contends that the Nazis incorporated the Jews-as-Satan view of Christianity while rejecting Christianity as a whole (p. 43). In actuality, traditional Christian theology saw Jews not as Satan but as sinners who had rejected their Messiah but who nevertheless could still be redeemed by the grace of God.

Bauer contends that the genocides of non-Jews had pragmatic motives while those or the Jews had none. In doing so, Bauer seems to be replacing the omnipotent-Jew myth with the innocuous-Jew myth. In actuality, Jews and Germans were rivals in many ways. Among Europeans at least, the Jews and Germans were variously first and second in economics, industrialization, and in many scholarly and cultural endeavors. In addition, the irrationality of Nazi anti-Semitism begs the question about the irrationality of other German actions. For instance, in what sense was poor, backward Poland rationally a threat to Germany? If the real issue had been Danzig (Gdansk), the Polish Corridor, and surrounding areas with large German minorities, why not just conquer those areas and leave the rest of Poland alone?

Bauer is a strong exponent of the view that the genocide of Jews (for which uses the term Holocaust exclusively) was an absolutely unique event because it was the only time in history that an ENTIRE group was deliberately targeted for extermination (p. 27, 49, 56, etc.). He does not, however, discuss the practical implications of this supposed fact. Does it mean, for instance, that the 5-6 million Jews are entitled to 100 times the attention of the 2-3 million murdered Poles, in the American educational system, or only twice as much?

Bauer (p. 164) points out that western European Jews were not confined to ghettos. Does this not in itself point to the fact that the killing of western European Jews was not as serious a Nazi undertaking as the killing of eastern European Jews? In addition, Bauer undermines his position by acknowledging the sparing of the remnants of the Lodz ghetto (p. 132), of Jewish husbands of German gentiles (p. 37), and of those Jews protected by the Kastner-Eichmann deal (p. 239). The "Not all of the Victims of the Nazis were Jews, but all Jews were victims of the Nazis" argument is fallacious in other ways. Finland's (Germany's ally) Jews were never molested, and Bulgaria's Jews were only pursued halfheartedly. The neutrality of Switzerland and Sweden was consistently respected despite their Jewish populations (notably the famous escaped Danish Jews sheltered by the latter). Known Jewish Allied POWs were spared. Thousands of European Jews were used by Germany for forced labor and, with some exceptions, were not killed in the latest days of the war. In fact, Bauer estimates that 200,000 such Jews emerged alive (p. 246). As for permanent acceptance of known Jews by the Nazis, thousands of full-blooded German Jews were arbitrarily declared Aryans, and thereby spared (the Schutzjuden). While a variety of factors were involved in these events, the central fact remains that all the foregoing Jews were allowed to live as a deliberate choice of the Nazis.

To further propound the notion of the unique victimhood of Jews, Bauer not surprisingly tries to de-universalize the genocides of Armenians, Gypsies and Slavs. Bauer (p. 298) cites a German source that speaks of the intent to starve 30 million locals (Jews and Slavs). Otherwise, can it seriously be supposed that exterminatory German attitudes and tactics would have been the same had there existed a few hundred million European Jews but only a few million Slavs? Bauer (p. 57) cites Erhard Wetzel, who stated that Poles could not be liquidated in the same manner as Jews because, among other things, it would be a standing accusation against Germans. Obviously, Wetzel's statements refer to tactics and matters related to international politics, not long-term goals. Ironically, as recently as May 1940, Himmler had repudiated the idea of physically destroying nations (Poles OR Jews) because "it was a Bolshevik concept unacceptable to Germans."(p. 4)! Finally, Bauer ignores strong evidence, from the repeated statements of various Nazis, that the Poles and other Slavs were in fact targeted for eventual extermination.

In conclusion, Bauer's thinking seems to be rather limited in scope. Imagine a situation where equal attention was paid to the genocides of Poles and Jews, for instance. That would be a REAL rethinking of the Holocaust!
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