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Product details

  • Paperback: 672 pages
  • Publisher: Abacus (1 Oct. 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0349115575
  • ISBN-13: 978-0349115573
  • Product Dimensions: 12.8 x 4.3 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 466,964 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Review

** 'What no one can deny him is the range and depth of his knowledge or the courage involved in many of his judgements . . . his book is masterful (Anthony Howard, DAILY TELEGRAPH)

** 'Impressive, scholarly and thoroughly unsettling (GQ)

** 'Disturbing and impassioned . . .A powerful and affecting study of man's inhumanity to man (and woman and child) (Ian Pindar, Guardian)

** 'Worse Than War makes a compelling and brave argument that our world must heed if we are to see sanity restored . . . Magnificent [and] inspiring (Michael Gove, Daily Mail)

Book Description

A landmark book about genocide from the prize-winning author who brought us the explosive Number 1 international bestseller Hitler's Willing Executioners

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Well researched and written on a very powerful subject. A difficult read, as was 'Hitler's Willing Executioners', his powerful and controversial study of the holocaust.
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Dr Barry Clayton TOP 1000 REVIEWER on 10 Jan. 2013
Format: Hardcover
This book should be read by all who are appalled by the use of genocide down the ages. Millions have died but very few have ever been punished.
Goldhagen demonstrates, as he did in his previous book 'Hitler's Willing Executioners', his ability to write a fearless, highly provocative analysis of a murderous human activity. Clearly written it offers a model for genocide that has been lacking for far too long. The author uses an interdisciplinary perspective to examine how and why millions have been murdered by the likes of Hitler, Stalin, Mao, Pol Pot and numerous lesser-known monsters. He offers recommendations for remedial action while admitting that these are very hard to implement given the vagaries of international law.

Goldhagen has many strongly held beliefs that inevitably invite equally opposite ones. Many of his views are sound and can be supported by a great deal of evidence. However, he occasionally strays. On page 6 of this long book he states that the use of atomic bombs against Japan in 1945 ranks with the crimes of tyrants like those mentioned above. This is absurd, and like many others he provides no serious evidence to support his argument. The evidence now available shows there were many sound military reasons why Truman decided, after much discussion, to end the war by using the nuclear weapon. He did so to end a terrible war against a fanatical enemy. Monsters like Hitler and Stalin deliberately murdered millions for ideological reasons and personal gratification.

New threats of genocide in Africa and the Middle East are emerging. This book is a very welcome attempt to focus our attention on a hideous and barbarous human activity.
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1 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Sergey Zhukov on 28 Jun. 2011
Format: Hardcover
My opinion is actually the opposite of the only previous reviewer, and for two simple reasons:

1. There IS enough information on the doings in Israel/Palestine for anybody who is interested, and if Prof. Goldhagen decided not to state, or understate, his opinion on the subject in this book, that is most certainly his right as an author.

2. An acclaimed American author who starts his book with pointing out that the atomic bombing of Japan was, in fact, mass murder/genocide for no military reason, with the popularly elected US President gloating over it, deserves applause.

Bravo, Prof. Goldhagen!
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18 of 39 people found the following review helpful By GeorgeMK on 28 May 2010
Format: Hardcover
Fortunately I didn't buy this book but borrowed it from the library. I got as far as page 20 when I decided I needed to consult some reviews before possibly wasting any more of my time. Since there were no reviews for this book on Amazon I consulted the reviews for the same author's Hitler's Willing Executioners, which also sounded interesting.
There I had all my suspicions confirmed. Despite setting out in his opening pages a case for complete objectivity, Goldhagen immediately begins to demonstrate his own subjectivity as a Jew and apologist for Israel. So, he talks about "Apartheid - a legal system of domination, political disenfranchisement, economic exploitation, and physical separation of a subordinate group" with reference to the historical cases of South Africa and segregation in the southern states of America but neglects to mention the present case of Israel's repression of the Palestinians.
Then he talks about expulsion, where he admits that "...in 1948 the Jews partly created the Palestinian diaspora by expelling the Palestinians from their homeland" although he does not explain his use of the word `partly'. But even then he thinks he may have gone too far, so attempts balance with "This coincided with many Arab countries expelling Jews beginning 1948", which was of course not a coincidence at all but a consequence.
Next he feels the need, in a footnote, to tell us that there is a difference between `actual resettlement' rather than expulsion. "Resettling Israelis from settlements in Gaza to Israel proper" was because of "geostrategic necessities", presumably for those now so confused by Zionist propaganda that they think Israel was somehow ethnically cleansing Gaza of Jews.
At this point I turned to the index.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: 20 reviews
68 of 73 people found the following review helpful
Essential, but irksome 30 Nov. 2009
By R. Schwenk - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This book is essential reading for anyone interested in a comparative study of twentieth-century genocides. Goldhagen includes some mass murders of which I previously knew nothing such as the Germans' treatment of the Herero in South-West Africa and the British suppression of the Kikuyu in Kenya. All future analyses of genocide's causes and characteristics will have to reference this book. (Note: it is not necessary to have read Hitler's Willing Executioners: Ordinary Germans and the Holocaust prior to reading this book.) Now for the bad news: 1) The book is mind-numbingly repetitious at times. Goldhagen must make the point over and over that the perpetrators are willing and eager participants in the slaughters. 2) He invents terms (eliminationism for genocide; Political Islam for Islamo-fascism; genocide bomber for suicide bomber) that do not add much clarity to his arguments. 3) His utter contempt for the work of Milgram and Zimbardo reeks of unprofessional axe-grinding. 4) He condemns Harry Truman as a mass murderer (for the atomic bombs) but includes not a word about the Vietnam War. 5) The chapter on Political Islam assumes a unity among Sunni, Shia, Wahabbi, etc. that exists only in the minds of neo-cons. 6) The chapter on What We Can Do proposes actions that are either utterly unrealistic or utterly horrifying. See The Lucifer Effect: Understanding How Good People Turn Evil for another angle on explaining perpetrators' behavior. See For Your Own Good: Hidden Cruelty in Child-Rearing and the Roots of Violence for an exploration of the connection between child-rearing and cruelty.
45 of 56 people found the following review helpful
Goes Deep Into The Human Condition 14 Oct. 2009
By David Campbell - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
This book goes way beyond talking about numbers. It looks deep down into the heart of darkness. There have been many genocides. Goldhagen explains that they all share common elements. I read this book and came to a deeper understanding of the planet and the people on it. Ultimately this book is about the human condition. What's in people's hearts. What's it like to mobilize others to kill, what's it like to be a killer, to be a victim, to be a bystander. The book is breathtaking in its scope. Panoramic. It opened my eyes.

This book makes the incomprehensible understandable -- that more people have died in genocides than in all military combat combined is breathtaking to think about, and is just the start. That huge, abstract number frames the book. To kill large numbers of people means large numbers of other people are mobilized to do the job. Goldhagen looks into the hands, the hearts and the minds of those who are pulling the triggers and holding the machetes. He examines the local and global conditions at the moment a man, a woman, or a child is felled. He makes it very real, very personal. At the very core of genocide is hate. The perpetrators hate their victims for reasons simple and complex, and the spark of killing is ignited time and again by a political decision, a political calculus, usually by a tyrant in one place or another to mobilize local hatreds for his own political purposes. The killing usually stops when all or substantially all of the victims are gone. The world watches. Time and again, it does nothing or not enough.

This is a hugely important book. Because by reading it, you realize, it's not the world that's watching anymore. It's us. It is each one of us looking, knowing, understanding that somewhere not just one child is being killed, but ultimately millions. Goldhagen points out that if a child were killed on a suburban street in the United States or in England or in France there would be outrage, and a call for action. Good people do not want killing like this to happen. Yet no action is taken when it is half a world away. Nearly ALL the children, the men and the women of the targeted group die.

This book is what happens in places far from our everyday lives. The sanctity of life. Of human suffering. Of the hate in people's hearts. Of the failure of good people and their institutions to protect the weak. After reading it, you can no longer say that you don't know, or don't understand. This book is a very important work that makes sense of the world. It looks evil in the eye and it makes you think.
24 of 30 people found the following review helpful
Important, Horrific and Horrible 12 Oct. 2011
By Ed Telfeyan - Published on Amazon.com
Verified Purchase
"Worse Than War" is One Tough Read
by Edward H. Telfeyan

Can a book be important, horrific and horrible? You wouldn't think so, but Daniel Jonah Goldhagen's "Worse Than War: Genocide, Eliminationism, and the Ongoing Assault on Humanity" fits that description.

The title tells all, starting with the obvious passion that the author brings to the subject. At a full 600 pages, plus 30 pages of notes (most of which are cites to referenced works and authorities) and a closing "Thoughts and Thanks" that runs another five pages, the book is ponderous from the outset.

But the topic of the book is most definitely important, if perhaps not quite as important as Mr. Goldhagen, in his obsession with the subject, would have it be. The propensity for genocide and its cousin, eliminationism (a word Mr. Goldhagen uses to distinguish non-lethal forms of human violence against other humans), is certainly a major character flaw in the human condition. To be specific, and Mr. Goldhagen is nothing if not specific, he conservatively accounts for 175 million deaths by genocidal acts in the span of the twentieth century (and the first few years of the twenty-first; the book was published in 2009).

In chronicling those episodes, the author spares no details. And that aspect of the book is what earns it the second adjective: horrific. It's one thing to relate generally how mass murders were effectuated in the numerous genocides of the last century. It's quite another to provide the grisly specifics, to include the blood and guts (literally) spilled by the perpetrators in each of those genocides.

Thus, for example, we learn of the Hutus genocide of the Tutsis in Rwanda, which Mr. Goldhagen seemingly delights in describing over and over again, with each description including the fact that the victims were attacked with machetes and made to suffer as body parts and limbs were cut off before they were actually killed, as if the perpetrators were engaged in a form of perverse artistry in their killing.

Those and countless other forms of mass murder are described ad nauseam throughout the book. In this regard, the author is presumably intent on making the reader feel the horror of the events he describes. In that task he succeeds beyond all measure.

The third adjective - horrible - is intended to describe the actual writing a reader will encounter. For openers, the book is far too long. Although it is divided into four discrete parts and eleven distinct chapters, the same ideas permeate most of it. Those ideas (the horrific quality of these events, how they are perpetrated, why they are perpetrated, how frequently the same patterns lead to their perpetration) are repeated incessantly for the first 515 pages.

But the book's length isn't the only problem. Mr. Goldhagen also writes excessively long paragraphs; indeed, he seems to revel in them. Long paragraphs, while occasionally necessary, are a turn off for readers. They make the reading burdensome. But in this book, long paragraphs are de rigueur. Many run over a page, and those that don't take up the better part of a page. In almost every instance, they could easily be broken up into three or four separate paragraphs, each with its own obligatory topic sentence.

But the length problem extends even beyond the long paragraphs. Mr. Goldhagen, also an apparent lover of long sentences, the kind that often ramble on for in excess of 100 words to offer a description of an event or a study that then morphs into a second thought or secondary idea and that then includes a parenthetical addition, will, only at the very end of the entire monstrosity (assuming the reader has had the patience to stick with the sentence to get that far), provide the necessary verb to tell the reader what the subject of the sentence was doing in the first place.

And if you've just read the entire previous sentence you have an idea of what I am describing. Consider how little enjoyment can be gained in reading an entire book that is replete with such sentences (in the aforementioned interminable paragraphs) dealing with the gruesome descriptions that are the heart of the book.

In addition to these problems, the book also suffers from a lack of clear definitions. Calling Harry Truman a mass murderer is one thing (he did unleash the horror of atomic weapons in the assault on Japan at the end of World War II, thereby killing a quarter of a million civilians), but equating that decision with the regimes of Adolph Hitler, Joseph Stalin, and Pol Pot suggests a lack of clarity.

Similarly, the Al Qaeda 9/11 attacks, outrageous though they were, probably fall outside of the kind of systematic butchery that characterizes the many full scale genocidal campaigns that the book focuses on. Yet, not only does the author put Osama bin Ladin (and Harry Truman) in the same general category as history's genocidal leaders, but he also makes a case for equating the current "political Islam" (another term he creates, preferring it to radical Islam) with Hitler's Third Reich.

Those attempts to equate actions and actors run afoul of his more clearly articulated condemnation of the true perpetrators of genocide and of his offer of an explanation for why those acts repeatedly occur throughout history.

In the last section of his book Mr. Goldhagen provides his solutions to the problem, albeit he still weaves more grotesque historical accounts into even this part of his tome. His solutions are both simplistic and unrealistic.

The simplistic solution is for the civilized nations of the world to condemn eliminationist actions by any who perpetrate them. He would enlist the media in those countries and thereby call upon the masses to demand action by their governments whenever eliminationist policies are threatened.

The unrealistic solution calls for dissolving the United Nations (which he regards as completely incompetent and even corrupt) in favor of a body he calls the United Democratic Nations (dictatorships, monarchies and other totalitarian countries would be excluded). That body would enforce the anti-eliminationist laws of civilized nations.

Not much of a payoff for such a heavy read, but it is an important topic.
23 of 30 people found the following review helpful
Attributing putative noxious qualities to any ethnic group leads to WORSE THAN WAR 21 Dec. 2009
By Alter Wiener - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
Goldhagen narrates the atrocities that had been committed throughout recent history. In South Africa,Turkey,British Occupied Kenya, Indonesia,Burundi,Cambodia,Guatemala,Bosnia,Rwanda,Darfur,Germany and its occupied lands. Mass murder of innocent people has indeed been the scourge of humanity prior to the Holocaust,during and after the Holocaust.

It is shocking and disturbing that so many of the broader populace had been willing to collaborate with the perpetrators, to join rather than contest or protest. Most people became aware when mass murder was carried out by their countrymen on helpless victims who posed no physical or military threat to the perpetrators or to themselves, the bystanders. The apathy of so many within Germany, as well as all over the world, in effect enabled the perpetrators to continue the mass murder during WWII.

According to Goldhagen, (p.149) "during the Holocaust no German perpetrator was ever killed, sent to a concentration camp, imprisoned, or punished in any serious way for refusing to kill Jews. Many knew they did not have to kill, because their commanders explicitly told them so. Some men accepted their commander's offer and removed themselves from the task of killing. Nothing happened to them; they were given other duties." Apparently most mobilized Germans chose to take part in the murder of innocent men, woman and children. Their leaders' planted seeds of hatred sprouted in the minds and hearts of those who succumbed to their bestiality lurking inside.

I have often been asked: "Did German civilians know about the ongoing annihilation of the Jewish people?" My response to my life audiences or readers of my autobiography (From A Name to A Number) is in the affirmative: Every German family had somebody or knew somebody serving in the police, military, government etc. Furthermore, there were twenty thousand forced labor and concentration camps in Germany. More than 600 of them were located in Berlin, the capital. In four camps (out of five) that I had been incarcerated, local civilians saw our haggard bodies marching to work, and back. In one camp, I worked at the same factory where German employees worked. In Death Marches, as Goldhagen depicts so eloquently "created the broadest permanent imprint on a human landscape precisely because they cover much territory, with the dying, broken, and unwanted strewn in columns over main roads, past cities and towns, announcing to the countless bystanders unmistakably what their leaders and countrymen do in their name, and leaving indelible images in mind."

I survived the Holocaust with a stabbed soul and traumatic memories. Still, I do not deem the entire German people culpable for the Holocaust. There was one German woman who risked her life, thirty times, for me. She was definitely not the only compassionate German. I witnessed the best of humanity alongside its worst. Regrettably, I saw many devils, but very few angels. Nevertheless, the Bible tells us in Genesis 18.23, "Will you sweep away the righteous and the wicked, the innocent and the guilty?" If there is one righteous person in a village where everybody else is wicked, the entire village must not be destroyed.

WORSE THAN WAR is a very important book! It alerts the reader to realize how prejudice leads to the un-sanctification of life. Xenophobia encourages one people to hate and sometimes eliminate its unwanted people. The Germans under Hitler's fascistic regime became wanton and murderous conquerors. They stigmatized peoples that they deemed to be racially inferiors. They demeaned the Jews, and some other targeted groups, as subhumans of diminished intellectual capabilities. They called their subjects lazybones, cursed, cockroaches, rats, bacilli etc. In the occupied lands, the Germans' collaborators had a history of a long-standing deeply rooted anti-Semitism. The Germans dehumanized (deprived of basic human rights) and demonized (held to be evil) the European Jewry and subjugated it all the elements of Elimination, as defined by Goldhagen: Transformation, Repression, Expulsion, Extermination and the Prevention of Reproduction.

Anti-Semites might find in WORSE THAN WAR support for their contentious assertion "There were many calamities much worse than the Holocaust; it is just Jewish propaganda" They turn a blind eye on the fact that the Nazis were determined to eradicate the entire European Jewry and succeeded to annihilate one third of the Jewish people. Mass murder wherever it occurred is a tragic event in history. No peoples should let it happen: "Never Again"
17 of 22 people found the following review helpful
Connects All The Dots 23 Oct. 2009
By Rachael S. - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
I heard this book covers a lot of ground when it comes to genocide. It does, for sure. I was surprised though, but I shouldn't have been, that thematically, it's bigger than that. It goes deep into the human psyche and the way nations behave towards its citizens and each other.

I've read a bit on the subject, and am something of an activist. I've come across many fine books about genocide. In general, they are very specific in the attention they give. Be it Bosnia, Cambodia, Armenia, or any of the other places or peoples that genocide has affected. It's quite remarkable that in this one volume, Goldhagen has connected all the dots. He looks at genocide as a phenomenon. Played out in one venue or another, they share common characteristics. Most important of all for all of us to remember is that genocide as a human enterprise can be understood, and can be explained. It is a hate crime. The UN calls it a crime against humanity. That it is. But when it comes to the killing, it's personal. It is brought about because one group of people hates another group of people so much -- that mass murder seems to the perpetrators logical and just, and the killing is done under the auspices of a government, usually a dictator. Unfortunately we read and write books about it, and we have not done a good job of saving people's lives.

I'd love for all good people to read this book. Goldhagen does a brilliant job. He's arranged it thematically. You don't plod from one country to the next. You visit the big picture issues. Each chapter has a theme: "Why They Begin", "How They are Implemented", "Why The Perpetrators Act", "Why They End", "Prologue For The Future". By the end of it you understand a lot about genocide, a lot about human nature and a lot about world affairs.

He leaves no stone unturned. It's genocide from A to Z. Even though I have read many books on the subject, this book helped me fill in the blanks, and make sense of it all. Because it's organized thematically, I didn't even have to read it in order. I read it one theme at a time, and the ones I wanted to cogitate on I re-read. This is a really great book.
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