Top positive review
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"They acted in ways that were predicated on `not seeing'... on `not knowing' what the outcomes of their actions really were"
on 9 September 2012
This is a subtle, devastatingly honest and very humane book that takes an oblique look at the Holocaust - not so much the perpetrators of genocide, but the thousands of `facilitators', civilian administrators, who were complicit with Nazi ideology while giving themselves the psychological get-out clause that they were 'decent' people, that they didn't know the full story of what was happening and so were never guilty of mass murder.
Fulbrook focuses on Udo Klausa, the chief administrator of Bedzin, a small town twenty-five miles from Auschwitz, and explores the way in which he strives in his memoirs to distance himself from the Final Solution, even while being responsible for the rounding up, ghettoization, and transportation of all the Jews from his town.
The book is given an added weight since the author knew Klausa who was married to her godmother. Fulbrook isn't so concerned with pointing the finger (though she can't help but make moral judgements) but with understanding the psychological processes, the preconditions which allowed the Holocaust to happen, and it's this which makes the book so important, such a living exploration of things which matter today.
This is, inevitably, a disturbing, distressing book and one which it's impossible to read without getting choked up and emotional. But despite the author's own emotions (which do, rightly, break through into the text), this is essentially a cool and rational exploration of the kind of myths which allowed `ordinary, decent' Germans to separate themselves from the `real Nazis'.
As a professional academic historian, Fulbrook is almost apologetic for allowing her own moral and ethical judgements to have space in this book but that's precisely what makes this so powerful.
So, in summary, this is an important book which reveals the way in which academic Holocaust studies are not just about understanding the past, as important as that is, but also about projecting that knowledge into our present and future. Essential reading and highly recommended.
(This review is from an ARC courtesy of the publisher).