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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The most illuminating writer on the darkest period in history, 7 Jan 2013
By 
R. J. Farrer (London) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Perpetrators Victims Bystanders: The Jewish Catastrophe 1933-1945 (Paperback)
Raul Hilberg is regarded as one of the foremost experts on the Holocaust.
His writing is clear, there is no baggage or ideology, just a simple desire to tell the story of the 20th century's worst atrocity.

The book is systematic, dealing first with the ideology of Hitler and the senior Nazis who planned the Holocaust and moving on to look at the victims and the perpetrators. Hilberg also describes how so many people, within and outside Germany, who were aware of the process of attempted mass murder of all European Jews, did little to stop it.

The Russian writer and journalist Vassily Grossman, who was among the first to enter the death camp at Treblinka after liberation, was shocked to learn that just a few dozen SS and a slightly larger group of local armed helpers could gas and bury several thousand victims each day. Hilberg goes further than Grossman to explain how many of the victims were tricked into thinking they were going to resettlement in the East. He also explains how even those who knew their fate were 'broken' long before they were rounded-up for the transports.
The erosion of health and self-worth was not sudden; for German Jews the process began in 1933 with Hitler's rise to power and the removal of Jews from the civil service. But Hilberg points out that even by 1936, most German Jews still felt 'German', especially those who had fought with honour in the First World War. For many the turning point, the moment of awful awareness, was in 1938, by which time refuge or escape from the growing violence was harder to achieve.

Some Jews made temporary conversion to Catholicism in the hope of being spared. Sometimes this was successful more often the attempt was exposed. Hilberg describes the revulsion of one atheist Jew, fully aware of his fate, for those who sought protection through false conversion.

Personally I found the most disturbing passage was Hilberg's description of how so many non-Jewish nationals in Nazi occupied Europe; Croats, Dutch, Latvians, Estonians, Poles and Ukrainians were eager to help the Nazis to clear ghettos, drive gassing vans, shoot women and children in forest clearings and 'finish-off' the Jewish, Gypsy and Russian wounded. Yet Danes did not 'turn-in' their Jewish neighbours, it seems. Some collaborators were motivated by bitterness and hate, especially those who had experienced Russian domination and cruelty before 1941. Many of these people had been victims of Russian excess in their turn and they held Jews responsible for Soviet 'bolshevism'.

Some of the perpetrators were reluctantly drawn into killing and soon tired of it, making feeble attempts to disengage themselves from the murder machine. But a similar number had a sadistic thirst for it, setting-up gladiatorial contests between inmates, in which both would die. Sometimes the work-camp controllers made prisoners lift huge rocks from one place to another until the strain of this useless work exhausted them. (In his own memoir of being a prisoner in Buchenwald, Bruno Bettleheim points out that this 'hopeless work' was also used by the SS in their own physical training. The difference being that the SS recruit was fit, strong and well fed, the camp inmate starving, weak and louse-ridden).
I found the book too grim to read straight-off. It requires concentration then reflection. It is a dire warning to us that the most mundane of people can be drawn into serving a pathological and vicious regime.
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31 of 35 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Thought-provoking overview of the people of the Holocaust, 14 Dec 2002
By 
Dobester (Istanbul, Turkey) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Perpetrators Victims Bystanders: The Jewish Catastrophe 1933-1945 (Paperback)
Raoul Hilberg is perhaps best known for his huge, scholarly history of the murder of Europe's Jews by the Nazis and their slavic helpers. This book delves less deep, but is just as horrifying. Unlike many products of the "holocaust industry", Hilberg's book gives space to both the killers and their victims, stressing the banal murderousness of the former and the cruel self-delusion and bravery of the latter. Where this book really shocks its readers is in the section on the "bystanders": the individuals, organisations and nations - from German neighbours of the oppressed Jews to the US and Britain - who did absolutely nothing to help. THAT is something that we are rarely told: that the Allies couls have done much to save the Jews, and without necessarily slowing down the march to military victory over the "third reich".
This is therefore an extremely useful introduction to the topic; readers who have already read serious works on the subject might find it slightly "superficial", though it is not to be ignored for that.
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4.0 out of 5 stars why this book is a must read?, 28 July 2014
This review is from: Perpetrators Victims Bystanders: The Jewish Catastrophe 1933-1945 (Paperback)
the lucifer effect should be mentioned. there is no clear difference between perpetrators and bystanders and victims ?
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5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars, 17 Oct 2014
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This review is from: Perpetrators Victims Bystanders: The Jewish Catastrophe 1933-1945 (Paperback)
Received in good condition. Excellent standard work.
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