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J. Gordon "Critic and skeptic" (UK)
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L'album obcène d'un photographe anonyme
L'album obcène d'un photographe anonyme
by Alexandre Dupouy
Edition: Paperback

5.0 out of 5 stars Delightfully naughty-naughty plus, 7 Dec 2013
There is a good, brief introduction in French on the background, followed by an English translation, and the rest is devoted to good reproductions of photos from the interwar period in France. The photographers in this collection are anonymous.

The images are very broadly in the style of Grundworth, Yva Richard (and Biederer), often with a whiff of something extra - in many cases a certain raw quality. Some are, however, sophisticated rather than raw. The images are astoundingly explicit, even shameless, and yet remain tasteful (just about). Images of individual nude (or near nude) women and lesbian couples predominate, but there are also some fetish photos. Many of the images are unusual and imaginative, and most are of artistic merit. All in all, five stars.


Commandant Of Auschwitz (Age of Dictators 1920-1945)
Commandant Of Auschwitz (Age of Dictators 1920-1945)
by Rudolf Hoess
Edition: Paperback
Price: £6.99

0 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An Archetypal Authoritarian Personality, 2 Nov 2011
This book is profoundly unnerving. One expects a flamboyant monster revelling in his own depravity and finds instead a man who in many ways is very ordinary, for whom rising up the concentration camp ladder was a career. In many ways Höß might almost have been 'the man round the corner' and was extraordinary in his ordinariness. (That said, there is evidence that he was more brutal than he admits in the book).

What emerges is the archetypal authoritarian personality. His upbringing was blinkered and far too strict - much too focused on the demands of his meddlesome and obsessively disciplinarian father. There seems to have been a lot of discipline for discipline's sake.

For Rudolf Höß, 'secondary virtues', especially a mindless sense of duty without ethics, unquestioning obedience to authority and getting on zealously with allotted tasks, became the supreme virtues, and he lost sight of right and wrong. He treated mass murder as if it was (almost) a perfectly normal thing for an administrator to organize. He had long before abandoned any willingness to think for himself and instead accepted the clichés and stereotypes and bits of ideology from his peers and those above him. Without a moment's hesitation he threw his energies wholeheartedly into establishing and running Auschwitz and later into turning part of it into a vast and efficient killing centre - and was proud of his successful career. Morally, he was spineless.

This book exemplifies what Hannah Arendt later called 'the banality of evil'. That is the key significance of this document and it is for this reason that I have given it five stars


The Confusions of Young Torless (Penguin 20th Century Classics)
The Confusions of Young Torless (Penguin 20th Century Classics)
by Robert Musil
Edition: Paperback
Price: £8.99

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Dark Foreshadowing ...?, 29 Oct 2011
Although the book has some features of a 'novel of formation' about a short period in the life of confused young Torless, interest has tended to focus on the outrageous bullying of the hapless Basini.

The bullying - mainly by two other boys, with Torless generally as an onlooker - is described in terms of explicitly homoerotic cruelty. Not content with whipping, humiliating and tormenting the victim, the bullies also make him go to bed with them afterwards; and to cap it all, much of the cruelty is accompanied by pseudo-philosophical and pseudo-mystical verbiage.

The novel adheres to the conventions for school stories: the bully boys get away with their actions, and it is the victim who is expelled.

Musil was a highly astute observer of Mitteleuropa, and in the 1940s and beyond it was fashionable to claim that he had in some sense predicted or at least foreshadowed the horrors of Nazism. Nowadays one is much more sceptical of such specific claims. However, it is unsurprising that his books were burnt and banned by the Nazis and that Musil fled to Switzerland when they annexed Austria. There is a whiff of foreshadowing ...

When the book first appeared in German in 1906 it was considered shocking on a whole range of counts, and it still has the capacity to shock. An earlier review describes the book as 'raw and oddly heavy metal'. Agreed. I'm not so sure about the earlier reference to 'bdsm': that is generally done by mutual consent for the pleasure of all concerned. What Musil describes is systematic and intensifying sadism without the victim's consent for the sexual gratification of the sadists only. Yes, there are indeed very 'dark angels' here.


The Coming of the Third Reich: How the Nazis Destroyed Democracy and Seized Power in Germany
The Coming of the Third Reich: How the Nazis Destroyed Democracy and Seized Power in Germany
by Richard J. Evans
Edition: Paperback
Price: £10.39

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An Excellent Account, 23 Aug 2011
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Richard Evans condenses a vast range of very interesting material into a book of manageable proportions. At the same time, the book is well structured, very well written and scholarly. It has a clear, firm conclusion and is reader-friendly.

There is something of a focus on the dying days of the Weimar Republic (1930 onwards) and the extremely violent consolidation of Nazi rule in 1933. However, in earlier chapters the book goes back to 1870s in order to describe relevant background issues.

(To avoid misunderstanding, it should be stressed that the book is not - and does not claim to be - a general history of Weimar Germany).

All in all, an excellent book on a very complex subject.


Holocaust: A History
Holocaust: A History
by Deborah Dwork
Edition: Paperback

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Very Useful History, 31 July 2011
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This review is from: Holocaust: A History (Paperback)
This book provides a very good history of the Holocaust and includes a brief but useful treatment of key relevant historical background issues.

Individual survivors' accounts are woven unobtrusively and very effectively into the main narrative.

Occasionally, the authors confidently make assertions that are open to debate. For example, they say (p. 13) that the Reign of Terror 'introduced a politics based on mass murder' - surely, there are earlier examples? - and (p. 67) that the Reichstag fire was '[o]rganized by Göring'.

The most problematical claim of all is to be found in the Epilogue. It is true that in the period c. 1945 till the 1960s (and beyond) there was very little public discussion of the Holocaust. While it was known (though not by this name), there was a tendency to regard the genocide of the Jews primarily as simply the worst of many Nazi atrocities - and there was certainly no memorialization at the time. However, to describe this as denial - see, for example, the statement 'Public silence about the Holocaust was just one of many forms denial assumed after the war' (p. 376) - is a controversial view that needs more nuance and more discussion. The expression 'Holocaust denial' is generally reserved for deliberately malicious denial, coupled with conspiracy theories: simply not wanting to know about the Holocaust is definitely not the same thing.

Despite these criticisms, four stars.


The Nazi Dictatorship: Problems and Perspectives of Interpretation: 11
The Nazi Dictatorship: Problems and Perspectives of Interpretation: 11
by Ian Kershaw
Edition: Paperback
Price: £15.39

7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Historiography of the Third Reich, 17 July 2011
This book, which has appeared in various editions (with significant changes from one edition to another) is first and foremost an account of key issues and debates that have arisen in writing the history of the Nazism and the Third Reich. The book can be read profitably by non-specialists, but it is not suitable for people simply wanting an introduction to the Third Reich. In fact, one needs a good prior knowledge of the subject, and it is definitely not for beginners.

As a history and discussion of the historiography of the Third Reich, Ian Kershaw's book is excellent. (Make sure you get the most recent edition, though, as some matters discussed in the 2nd edn such as the 'Historikerstreit', have by now become largely non-issues).

One of the previous reviews focuses on the 'intentionalism versus structuralism (or functionalism)' debate on the Holocaust. However, this is only one of many issues discussed in the book. I think it's worth pointing out that for 25 years plus dogmatic 'intentionalist' views of the Holocaust have been rejected by professional historians of Nazi Germany and the Holocaust as it simply isn't supported by the evidence and has been a non-issue. However, this kind of intentionalism lingers on at the popular level, alas.

I'd recommend the book to people with a prior good knowledge of the Third Reich .


The Anatomy of Fascism
The Anatomy of Fascism
by Robert O. Paxton
Edition: Paperback
Price: £8.39

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An Outstanding Overview, 15 July 2011
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This review is from: The Anatomy of Fascism (Paperback)
Paxton's "Anatomy of Fascism" is, in fact, more than an overview or introduction. It is focused on real Fascism in Italy and Germany from c. 1919-45 (but with adequate consideration of later developments and possible 'Fascisms' elsewhere). It is a scholarly and highly perceptive analysis of Fascism - by far the best that I've encountered so far anywhere. In a word, it is brilliant.


Germans, Jews, and Antisemites: Trials in Emancipation
Germans, Jews, and Antisemites: Trials in Emancipation
by Shulamit Volkov
Edition: Paperback
Price: £18.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars From High Hopes to Destruction, 11 Feb 2011
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This is a wide-ranging, scholarly, very readable and fascinating account of key areas in the history of the Jews in Germany and other German-speaking lands of Central Europe from about 1780-1930.

The book covers an impressive range of issues - from contact between educated Jews and the German Enlightenment to matters such as `self-hatred', tensions between established Jews and Ostjuden, and the outstanding German Jewish contributions to the natural sciences and medicine. By the 1870s many Jews had embarked on their highly successful dash for modernity - something in which they rapidly pulled ahead of the rest of the population: they were reducing the size of their families (with concomitant improvements in the position of women) and making maximum use of available educational opportunities. Though the Gentile population caught up (more or less) in the early 20th century, the Jews of Central Europe were unambiguously identified with that modernity so heartily detested by the extreme Right. The best known German-speaking Jews of the period included people some of the most audacious contributors to modernity, such as Freud, Einstein and Kafka.

However, the book is not only concerned with the professions and the elite but also discusses the position of the Jewish lower middle classes, such as the owners of small, often very small businesses.

It emerges from the book that there was more antisemitism in Wilhelmine Germany than has traditionally been conceded, though such things are impossible to quantify in any meaningful way.

It would have been helpful if the author had defined the term "cultural code" for the benefit of those who have not read her earlier work on the subject. A bibliography would have been useful, too, though full bibliographical details are given in the footnotes. There are also more misprints than one would expect from a book published by the CUP.

Without any hesitation - five stars.


The Origins Of The Final Solution: The Evolution of Nazi Jewish Policy September 1939-March 1942
The Origins Of The Final Solution: The Evolution of Nazi Jewish Policy September 1939-March 1942
by Christopher Browning
Edition: Paperback
Price: £8.91

17 of 17 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Outstandingly scholarly, 19 Dec 2010
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The scholarship is outstanding and deals with many neglected areas (at least for non-specialists), such as the Lublin reservation and the creation and function of the Nazi ghettos.

My one criticism is that the book could have done with a fuller and firmer conclusion. The book goes into great detail about the various anti-Jewish "initiatives" of different agencies in the polycratic Third Reich and the various decisions - some of them rubber-stamped after the event. The book is not a particularly easy read, and some readers could just end up with the impression that Germany somehow stumbled into the Final Solution, which is certainly not what the author is saying. (Rather, it arose out of a total and overwhelming obsession). Despite this, five stars.


Night (Penguin Twentieth Century Classics)
Night (Penguin Twentieth Century Classics)
by Elie Wiesel
Edition: Paperback
Price: £6.29

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Night - from Transylvania to Buchenwald via Auschwitz, 30 Jun 2010
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This short account of the author's experiences in Sighet (then in Hungary), Auschwitz and Buchenwald is a very powerful book. The style is succinct and terse; the book is very readable and the narrative is brisk.

Many of the experiences described are horrific. We read about extreme inhumanity combined with grotesqueries. For example, when the prisoners are forced to watch hangings at Auschwitz the order rings out, `Caps off!' and then, `Cover your heads!' It is a ritualistic gesture to a more civilized world.

The forced evacuation from Auschwitz to Buchenwald (in January 1945) is even more horrific than Auschwitz itself.

The inability or refusal of the Sighet Jews to believe the stories they heard is intriguing, but one should bear in mind that for a long time the British and American governments were reluctant to trust the reports reaching them from Poland about the Holocaust.

The book describes the author's loss of faith. Where was God at Auschwitz? This question arises again and again in different forms.

I'd recommend the book highly to anyone interested in the Holocaust. It would also be very useful reading when teaching the Holocaust in schools - at least to pupils aged 15+.


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