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4.8 out of 5 stars16
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on 19 December 2010
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.
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on 16 December 2013
When my father passed away recently he left behind an interesting collection of historic, religious and cultural literature. One of the books I picked up, and found difficult to put down was "The Origins of the Final Solution - The Evolution of Nazi Jewish Policy, September 1939 - March 1942" by Christopher Browning and published by the University of Nebraska Press for Yad Vashem.
The book starts with describing the transition from religious based anti-Semitism, which had existed for thousands of years, to racial and political anti-Semitism. How hating and mistreating Germany's assimilated Jews, who were contributing commercially and culturally to their host country's society, could develop into denigration, forced emigration and expulsion. The book clearly details projects like the Madagascar Plan and transfer to Eastern Europe.
The conquest of Western Poland enabled Himmler to implement his policies of racial transfer, to expel Jews and Poles and bring in ethnic Germans from the Baltic States in the North to the Black Sea in the South, in agreement with the Soviets who had invaded Poland from the East.
The policy of ghettoization of the Jews was not predetermined prior to the invasion, it arose more out a desire to vacate Jewish properties in order to house the invading Germans from the Reich and repatriated ethnic Germans from elsewhere. The ghettos were to be temporary holding camps until other destinations could be prepared.
Then Germans regulated the inflow of resources to the ghettos in exchange for whatever tradable assets the Jews owned. The governors of the ghettos had two different approaches to their management. The first was to harness the Jewish productivity towards to the war effort while letting the weaker ones atrophy. The second was to starve the inhabitants until deportation or death.
When the Germans invaded, it was the non-Jewish polish leadership and intelligentsia who were the main target of German genocidal activity, the Jews were second on their list. It was at this juncture that the army could have protested that the murdering went beyond what was acceptable when conquering territories, and Mr Browning concludes that had the marshals and generals remonstrated instead of turning a blind eye perhaps the outcome of the holocaust would have been less severe. The fantastic victory over the French changed the mood of the soldiers and made any dissent unpatriotic.
The scientific approach to mass murder ironically started in Germany on Germans when they developed gassing vans to murder the mentally ill Germans. The experience gained was subsequently applied on a much larger scale.
Operation Barbarossa and the invasion of the Russia in Sumer 1941 increased the numbers of Jews and POWs coming under their control. It is easy to forget the millions of Soviet POWs who were left to starve to death in primitive camps. The Einsatzgruppen which went around murdering Jews, communists and partisans were suffering from emotional trauma from shooting so many people and the Nazi leadership saw the need to develop a more sterile and less public mode of murder.
The book shows clearly how the main architects of the holocaust went from experimentation to mass murder, how the bureaucrats actively cooperated in the development and implementation of the Final Solution and how Germany's civilians went from indifference at Kristallnacht's violence and pillaging to apathy about mass murder.
The last chapter is about the infamous Wansee Conference in January 1942, who attended, who spoke even what Heydrich drank.
A well-researched and written book, which leaves the reader with a deep understanding how it all happened. My only reservation is that the three maps were insufficient for the scope of the book.
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on 12 July 2013
This book challenges many preconceived ideas and provides an extremely well argued and persuasive case that whilst the Nazis were consistent in their anti-semitism and desire to develop a final solution to the Jewish problem (in their view, clearly an appalling idea) the actual road to the mass exterminations of the Jews was a tortured path and at points both rather improvised and marked by indecision. The book clearly recognises the shift in attitudes which resulted from the war with the USSR and makes the case that it was the invasion of the USSR that really moved the Nazis from a position of cruel and inhumane treatment of the Jews where deaths resulting from brutality, malnutrition and other causes was prevalent but which was not one of systematic mass murder to one where it was deliberate policy to exterminate the Jews by means of efficient, bureaucratically managed genocide. The book acknowledges the crucial role of the euthanasia program against the handicapped and disabled in developing the tools of genocide and the part it played in moving attitudes closer to the final solution. Despite many modern works dismissing the pre-war and early war ideas of emigration as a solution to removing the Jews from Germany and later on from Europe as a sham this book does highlight that the Nazis were serious in finding a solution through emigration. The infamous Madagascar idea whilst obviously doomed to failure when viewed with the benefit of hindsight was taken seriously by some in the Nazi regime. Whilst very well written the story is complex and some of the twists and turns, the proliferation of names and organisations involved and just the scope and scale of the book mean it can be quite heavy reading at times however it repays the effort and is an outstanding work of history. Deeply disturbing but a book that deserves to be read widely, 5*.
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on 14 July 2008
The popular perception of Hitler is that "he made the trains run on time", and that the Holocaust was meticulously planned from the early days of Nazi power.

This book shows how nothing could be further from the truth. Browning's compelling theory is that Nazi Germany was a "polycracy", where vague directives and pronouncements from Hitler were enthusiastically developed and "ratcheted up" by subordinates and the bureaucracy.

Thus the institutionalised mass slaughter of the Jews developed from Nazi frustration at the failure of various deportation initiatives from 1939-41, and the new possibilities opened up by the Einsatzgruppen in the USSR from June 1941.

There is a massive amount of detail, but the book is extremely readable for the layperson. Highly recommended.
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on 20 June 2013
A really interesting read, written by authors who are clearly knowledgeable and who have referenced their work superbly. Not the lightest of reads, but an in-depth study of events leading up to the start of the mass exterminations in the death camps. I have just finished the book and was appalled by the number of errors - admittedly mostly typos and formatting errors, but I have just reported 140 of them. I did not expect to have to work out what the authors meant, and unless the printed version is as bad, the translation to the electronic version has not worked very well. If I hadn't spent so long reporting the errors I would have given the book 5 stars.
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on 7 September 2013
Haven't read it all yet, but very thought provoking, gives a good analysis of the varying factors that influenced the "final solution"
excellent for those studying A level history. what did I not like - well I suppose it is a long read but so far worth it.
Another few good points are the speedy delivery, good value for money and in excellent condition
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on 5 August 2014
A great book for degree level study of the process leading up to the Holocaust and the decision making process as well as the various events. Browning at his best. As always though it is worth comparing with other writers to get a more rounded knowledge base as he does come down on the other side of the argument to Ian Kershaw, so I recommend reading both guys.
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on 21 July 2014
As one would expect from an academic expert of Browning's ability and experience, this is a detailed and probing book that examines the roots of the Nazi genocide against the Jews. By looking at the early years of the war (1939-42) Browning argues that the mass murder of the Jews arose out of long standing Nazi racial policies that were radicalised yet further by the events and possibilities created by World War Two. He further argues that the experiences of implementation of racial policies in Eastern Europe prepared Germans for radical eliminationalist methods that would have appeared highly unlikely on the outbreak of war in 1939 (for all its brutality). This careful study of the historical and ideological processes that led to genocide is a challenging and disturbing book that should be required reading for those studying Nazi racial policy and mass murder and the interpretations regarding its implementation.
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on 27 May 2013
The origins of the Final Solution.... is a political study of the madness of the Nazi mind and the total lack of human love. I found the overuse of paragraphs broke up the flow of reading and, to non-german speakers, there was too much german!
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on 12 March 2013
delivered ahead of schedule
many thanks - excellent scholarly work.
recommended to anyone who has a genuine interest in an unbiased record of the holocaust and its origins.
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