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The Terrible Secret: Suppression of the Truth About Hitler's 'Final Solution' [Paperback]

Walter Laqueur
3.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)

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Product details

  • Paperback: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Books Ltd; New edition edition (26 Aug 1982)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0140061363
  • ISBN-13: 978-0140061369
  • Product Dimensions: 19.8 x 12.7 x 1.5 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,441,486 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


Explores the Nazi extermination of the Jews between 1941 and 1942, particularly when the genocide became known and what the reactions were to this information.

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0 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars It was filled with a lot of facts 23 Nov 1998
By A Customer
I had to read this book for a history project and it really interested me because of the subject. It was defintely filled with a lot of information about all of the concentration camps and infomation being put out at the time of the holocaust. I thought it was genereally written well, but hard to follow because each of the subjects within the chapters seemed choppy. They were all related but not always transitioned well. Other wise, it was good.
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Amazon.com: 4.4 out of 5 stars  5 reviews
29 of 31 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Provocative And Interesting Look At Holocaust! 30 Aug 2002
By Barron Laycock - Published on Amazon.com
This is a quite provocative and immensely fascinating investigation into the long-standing controversy over the degree to which the Polish people were complicit in the holocaust. This an issue that has been hotly debated for decades, in fact since it was first raised as a possibility ion the late 1940s. Given the degree to which millions of otherwise persecuted Jews had fled to the more tolerant attitudes of the Poles during the decades before the war, it was somewhat surprising that the accusations arose in the first place. Yet the way in which the Holocaust first began to flourish and spread throughout the small villages and hamlets of rural Poland made many observers suspicious of the degree of involvement by local peasants, who did in fact benefit from the dislocation of Jewish farmers by taking over their property and possessions.
The investigation described in this new and updated version of this book is hardly a dispassionate or disinterested effort; the author is a Polish patriot who has long denied such accusations, and who turned his considerable investigative efforts toward disproving this claim. What he discovered substantiates his argument that far from being the active participants in the Holocaust others have claimed, many Poles were among the first to raise alarm over the suspicious activities of the Wehrmacht and the Special Forces to begin preparations for what became the "Final Solution" to the so-called `Jewish Question". In fact, Laqueur argues, many Germans, as well as international Jewish organizations, and top government officials in the western democracies first learned of the atrocities being perpetrated on the indigenous Polish Jews from other concerned Poles. What he reveals in doing so paints a devastating picture of apathy, disregard, and callousness on the part of the watching world.
In what has since been described as a conspiracy of silence, much of the so-called civilized world stood by passively as the Holocaust gathered momentum and became a widespread and well organized mechanism for murdering millions of Jews, communists, gypsies, and other malcontents by the Nazi forces of occupation. This murderous campaign was conducted under the veil of a screen of lies, euphemisms, and political evasions, one in which the political expediencies for the western democracies became more important than dealing with the systematic annihilation of millions of human beings. The author's point is well taken. Responsibility for what happened in the death camps must be widely shared, and by a cast that includes not only the Nazi perpetrators but also the relatively disinterested and dispassionate indifference with which the rest of the political world dealt with the evolving situation.
This deals quite passionately with what has become almost a cottage industry in the realm of books dealing with the social, economic, and political background that allowed the holocaust to be possible, to be probable, and then to occur. It is, along with a number of other and much more recent books on the subject, and interesting excursion into a shadowy world in which no hands are left clean of guilt or culpability in this monstrous historical event. It is by no means easy reading, or even pleasant reading, but it is a riveting and convincing look at one of this century's most unbelievable phenomena, the systematic murder of the European Jews. I highly recommend it for World War Two and Holocaust scholars.
11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars How the West Learned About Nazi Germany's Unfolding Genocide of the Jews 11 Sep 2010
By Jan Peczkis - Published on Amazon.com
This encyclopedic work, by a French Jew, covers many details about the emergence of news about what has become to be known as the Holocaust. Some of the early information is valuable and correct only when viewed in hindsight.

Several factors stood as immediate barriers to the appreciation of the information that came in. One of these was the recalling of WWI-era mass-atrocity accounts that later turned out to be bogus. For instance, the DAILY TELEGRAPH published an article, in March 1916, stating the gassing of 700,000 Serbs by the Austrians and Bulgarians. (p. 9). Second, Polish Jews were not, for a long time, particularly afraid of the Germans, whom they regarded as the Kuturvolk. In fact, Laqueur estimates that the Jews who voluntarily moved from Soviet-occupied Poland to German-occupied Poland numbered in the "many thousand(s)." (p. 124).

The first stage of the Holocaust--the mass shootings of Jews by the Einsatzgruppen units in the wake of Operation Barbarossa--was regularly publicized by Polish sources. (p. 68, 72, 83, 109). Similar information came about the death camps at Chelmno, Belzec, and Sobibor. Later, the OSS (American intelligence) was kept informed about the Treblinka death camp, before August and September 1942, by Polish sources. (p. 97).

The flames in the Auschwitz crematories were said to rise 5 meters above the chimneys (p. 24), and to be visible 15-20 km away. (p. 23). The odors were said to be noticeable not only in the kilometers around the camp, but even at Katowitz (Katowice) (p. 23), some 25 km away. [I knew an eyewitness, Jerzy Gnat, who lived in Katowice at the time, and he scoffed at this notion.]. Laqueur does not make it clear how, in the absence of hindsight, distantly-originating sights and smells by themselves translate into certainty about human bodies being cremated, the scale of these acts, and the nationality of the people being cremated.

Although bits and pieces of information about the systemic murders of the Jews trickled in from many sources, the author is unambiguous in his identification of the German-occupied nation that did the most to alert the world about the unfolding Holocaust: "The first authentic and detailed news about the `final solution' came from inside Poland." (p. 101). "The records, to repeat, show that the first authentic news about the `final solution' was transmitted to the West by couriers and the radio station of the [Polish] Home Army...The Polish case is very briefly that they did what they could, usually at great risk and in difficult conditions. If the news about the mass murders was not believed abroad this was not the fault of the Poles." (p. 106). "The record of the Polish Underground and the Polish Government-in-exile was not perfect, as far as the publication of news about the `final solution' is concerned. But the long report submitted by Edward Raczynski, the Polish representative of the Allied governments, of 9 December 1942 contained the fullest survey of the `final solution'. No other Allied government was remotely as outspoken at the time and for a long time after." (p. 121).

The author reviews certain insinuations about Poles being tardy in disclosing what they knew (p. 106, pp. 200-201) (accusations later revived by, for example, David Engel). He leaves these insinuations an open question and comments: "If the Poles showed less sympathy and solidarity with Jews than many Danes and Dutch, they behaved far more humanely than Romanians or Ukrainians, than Lithuanians and Latvians. A comparison with France would be by no means unfavorable for Poland. In view of the Polish pre-war attitudes towards Jews, it is not surprising that there was so little help, but that there was so much." (p. 107). [In making the last statement, Laqueur evidently does not appreciate the essential difference between the conventional anti-Semitism practiced by some Poles and the exterminationist anti-Semitism practiced by the Nazis.]

Pointedly, Laqueur also realizes that there was plenty of blame to go around: "The Poles did not realize immediately the scale of the Nazi plot to exterminate all Jews. But most Polish Jews were even slower in understanding that they were not facing isolated pogroms but something infinitely worse." (p. 107). "If one finds fault with them [Poles], what is one to say about the Russians, who deliberately played it down from the beginning to this day? What about the British Foreign Office which decided in late 1943 to delete any reference to the use of gas chambers because the evidence was untrustworthy? What about the American officials who tried to suppress the `unauthorized news' from Eastern Europe? What about the Jewish leaders who continued to doubt the authenticity of the news well after it should have been obvious that there was no more room for doubt?" (pp. 121-122).

As for the conduct of the Vatican, Laqueur characterizes its alleged inaction as follows: "Probably it was a case of pusillanimity rather than anti-Semitism. If the Vatican did not dare to come to the help of hundreds [actually, thousands] of Polish priests who also died in Auschwitz, it was unrealistic to expect that it would show more courage and initiative on behalf of the Jews." (p. 55).
20 of 25 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Debunks Polonophobic Myths about the Holocaust 1 Jun 2001
By John Woodmorappe - Published on Amazon.com
Walter Laqueur, a French Jew, discusses how the Polish underground and the Polish government in exile reacted to the unfolding extermination of the Jews by the Germans during World War 2. Owing to the fact that Jews had lived in relative tolerance for centuries in Poland, a large fraction of the world's Jews had made Poland their home. It was therefore logical for most of the death camps built and operated by the Germans to be erected in German-occupied Poland. Insinuations are periodically hurled against the Polish underground, accusing it of silence about what the Germans were doing to the Jews. The implication is that Poles did not care about, or even secretly approved of, the extermination of Polish Jews by the Germans. Laqueur debunks all of these Polonophobic myths. He shows in detail that the Polish government promptly relayed information about the mass murder of Jews by Germans to the British government. There was not the slightest hesitancy or delay, on the part of Poles, in revealing this terrible secret to anyone who would listen.
4.0 out of 5 stars Great primary and secondary source notes. Tough to read. 10 Sep 2014
By Stephen Rifkin - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Laquer is a fantastic archivist but his writing is tough to get through. The book is a huge and dense collection of foot notes and sources. Which is great and wonderful as a research tool but the slog of reading it is tough. It would be a great companion to say, David Wyman's "The Abandonment of the Jews" which covers much of the same material but in a more 'historically' written style. For something akin to Laquer you can also refer to the books of Richard Abzug on the same topic.
8 of 19 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars It was filled with a lot of facts 23 Nov 1998
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
I had to read this book for a history project and it really interested me because of the subject. It was defintely filled with a lot of information about all of the concentration camps and infomation being put out at the time of the holocaust. I thought it was genereally written well, but hard to follow because each of the subjects within the chapters seemed choppy. They were all related but not always transitioned well. Other wise, it was good.
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