Most helpful critical review
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
Good - up to a point
on 2 May 2012
I like the 'A Very Short Introduction' series. Some of the titles in the series give a very refreshing view that makes you consider the subject anew.
The whole subject of Holocaust [i.e. systematic slaughter of Europe's jews during the 2nd World War] denial interests me. I find it vaguely disconcerting to read opinions of people who use various weasel words and specious logic to try to convince others that what they see on TV or read in recognised history books is just a massive cover up. When I ask myself why people do this, I come up with 3 main reasons; 1. They are admirers of Hitler and want to exonerate him from such a massive and heinous crime against humanity, 2. They just like being perverse and holding unconventional views or 3. They genuinely don't like jews and regard them as promoting their 'alleged' victimhood as some kind of tool against the rest of society. In other words, Holocaust Denial is in reality a form of antisemitism.
With these thoughts in mind, I thought I would look at the subject of antisemitism in its wider historical, philosophical and social context. This book is as its title suggests a very short introduction. For this reason it was a very quick whistle stop story taking interesting ideas of irrationalism and modernism, church and state repression, various bits of exile. A large number of unfamiliar names get mentioned without any proper explanation who these people were or how significant their contributions were, and surprisingly, found the book a bit of slog to read considering its brevity. I found that it was a bit unsatistying in the end.
The one thing that seems clear is that there are many different and often exclusive and contradictory reasons for people being antisemitic. Another thing that came out is that the jews could not really win. They could maintain their separate and distinct culture and become a target for others or they could assimilate and then be regarded as an insidious force to be rooted out.
I would have liked things to be a bit more fleshed out. For instance, I would liked to have more descriptions of the though processes of prominent antisemites like Richard Wagner, Martin Luther and Henry Ford as well as Adolf Hitler. I would like to have had a more descriptive coverage of the contents of 'Protocols of the Elders of Zion', which seems to have been a highly influential publication for antisemites throughout the World. Furthermore, it would also have been nice if the writer had tried to give a few logical rebuttals - he does tend to sit on the fence.
I am glad I have read the book but feel that there must be better books covering this terrible subject.