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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Adolf Hitler's `Chosen Men'
Our author Mr Ingrao uses primary sources such accounts, letters, interviews and résumé of former SS officers who were university educated and, for the many who were academics in order to try and comprehend the mind-set that turned them into mass murderers.
His work suggests that there demeanour as unfeeling killers were moulded in their childhood...
Published 12 months ago by Sussman

versus
4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant in places - overly dense in others...
Worth reviewing on two levels: depth of research, and accessibility. Anything less would be disrespectful, given the amount of work that went into this book. Ingrao has done a masterful job of trawling back through records and archives, looking to understand how it was that otherwise smart and educated German youth became inhuman SS murderers. However, if you're looking...
Published 11 months ago by Apollo 11


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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Adolf Hitler's `Chosen Men', 29 Aug 2013
By 
Sussman "Sussman" (London CA) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Believe and Destroy: The Intellectuals in the SS War Machine (Hardcover)
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Our author Mr Ingrao uses primary sources such accounts, letters, interviews and résumé of former SS officers who were university educated and, for the many who were academics in order to try and comprehend the mind-set that turned them into mass murderers.
His work suggests that there demeanour as unfeeling killers were moulded in their childhood informative years during the First World War, in which their fathers fought and died. He shows them as children, and thus were innocent victims of the harrowing consequences of that war. There is the added bitter after taste that the Austro- German forces had been stabbed in the' back', that was a prevailing sentiment after the Great War.
We see the `language' used at the time of WWI by their parents and teachers; there is insight into the `Prussian-style' of rearing their lives through something akin to indoctrination.
They were programmed with a strong sense of discipline, manly behaviour and an almost religious zeal towards the concept of "fatherland" and the role of war as a way forward.
There were continual updates of various battles and almost daily bulletins in schools and town centres and the boys read them as if there were the latest sporting results.

While the author provides some interesting and relatively new material evidence for the development of their mentality and behaviour, as well as their attempts after the war to either contextualise or flatly deny the atrocities they committed. Mr Ingrao does seem to ignore other social, cultural and economic environments which played such key roles in created a generation of Nazis.
The undertaking that the author has done seems to be more in line as an academic paper and designed for other academics to read and understand and at times, the lay reader may find themselves bogged down in academic `jargon'.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars 'The best lack all conviction, while the worst are full of passionate intensity.' W.B.Yeats, 14 Oct 2013
By 
Sebastian Palmer "sebuteo" (Cambridge, England) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Believe and Destroy: The Intellectuals in the SS War Machine (Hardcover)
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This book has a horrible cover (the infamous picture was found in a German soldier's photo album, with the inscription 'the last Jew in Vinnitsa' written on the back), and covers a horrible subject. The history of humanity's inhumanity continues, and probably always will do so, to exert a baleful and morbid fascination. But anyone approaching this book from a purely salacious interest probably won't get past the first chapter, as this is very much an academic work.

One might then ask what is the point of such studies? Obviously for Ingrao it served the function of his PhD thesis. But why should we choose to read it? Do we hope or expect that such studies might, by helping cultivate a better understanding, enable us to avoid allowing history to repeat its darker moments? I'd like to think that was possible. But, as Ingrao himself points out, in his Conclusion, if WWI begat WWII, one can see WWII begetting further conflicts: he cites the actions of 13th SS Div. Handschar in the Balkans, under Hermann Behrends (one of the eighty or so SS intellectuals he studies), as feeding into the terrible 'paroxysmal violence' that erupted in that area more recently.

In this book one gets the sense that to be a believing Nazi was, despite the charge that Nazism was a godless/materialist creed, very much a matter of belief, and a form of belief that was highly religious in character, with what Ingrao refers to the 'eschatological' fear of an end to 'Germandom', from which Hitler's millenarian völkisch utopian vision - it's uncomfortable reading such terms as utopia and genocide together, but in the Nazi vision, the former rested on the latter (and indeed, this forms one of the 'legitimising' themes Ingrao explores) - offered a form of deliverance, if only to the 'chosen few'.

In discussing the 'strange alchemy of the Nazi creed ... which only [an] ... anthropology of emotion ... will enable us to grasp' Ingrao frequently invokes such terms as fervour, liturgy, and crusade, developing an image of immersion in a devoutly held faith, a belief so strongly internalised that Otto Ohlendorf could, in his closing Nuremberg trial statement refer to his fellow murderers as 'these same good men'. It's this kind of faith Sam Harris wishes to see an end of, wherein the pot and the kettle swap places in a utopian/dystopian flip, with aggressors believing that they are acting defensively, simultaneously committing barbarous acts whilst painting their adversaries as subhuman.

Ingrao refers several times to a fellow French historian, Crouzet, whose writings (at least as quoted in this book) appear to be even more stodgily larded with academic-speak than Ingrao's, and who's written about similar issues in relation to the religious wars in France. Sadly - and despite all the information this book brings to light it remains a simple enough observation - clever people throughout history have, just like everybody else, lined up behind stupid ideas.

This book tackles a fascinating if disturbing subject, and, despite some issues - a rewrite for the lay reader that dispenses with the wordy academic rhetoric, and a much better and more comprehensive glossary, both strike me as essential - is, I think, a worthwhile read. I'm not sure it tells us anything, outside of certain historical facts, i.e. in general terms, that we didn't already know. I think I tend to agree with the rather good Los Angeles Review of Books article about it, in that, for all his evident scholarship, and acknowledging that he doesn't fall into the pseudo-Freudian trap some have, Ingrao fails to comment upon or generalise from what he presents. But perhaps that's a good thing, leaving us space to form our own judgements?

Hmmm? Not an easy read, and tricky for me to judge as to how others might find it. In places this is five star work, but his choice of favouring dry exposition over narrative, the still too academic state of the text, and the combination of overuse of technical terms and a frankly very poor glossary push a four star work towards three star territory.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant in places - overly dense in others..., 28 Sep 2013
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Apollo 11 (UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Believe and Destroy: The Intellectuals in the SS War Machine (Hardcover)
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Worth reviewing on two levels: depth of research, and accessibility. Anything less would be disrespectful, given the amount of work that went into this book. Ingrao has done a masterful job of trawling back through records and archives, looking to understand how it was that otherwise smart and educated German youth became inhuman SS murderers. However, if you're looking for anything less than an educational work, this is no leisurely read.

Originally written as a thesis, this, unfortunately reads like one - no fact is left unquantified; the cross-referential jargon is considerable, and, subsequently, the narrative is sparse. Which is a real shame, because this is a great, great book idea: too many books, especially about the seemingly bottomless subject that is the rise and fall of Nazism, focus on the atrocity - the spectacular. Yet Ingrao goes one further: attempts, with the aid of retrospect and a wealth of research, to answer (and illustrate) the timeless question of how, and why, war transforms men into monsters.

Arguably, the first chapter 'A World Of Enemies' is hugely valuable - of the best efforts I've encountered to show how radicalism takes hold. In this case, via a blend of standard human denial and the insidiousness of propaganda. Picking up after WW1, the author movingly defines how the upcoming generation of German youth reacted, and were altered, by conquest; demonised at the hands of their victors, and how, subsequently, the curdling of their patriotic pride became so outwardly venomous. Ingrao is so effective that it becomes clear how easy it is to turn entire nations onto otherwise dubious notions of war by the right brand of propaganda.

Yet, having succeeded at getting such a complex and contentious notion down, Ingrao then veers into incredibly complex research which, sadly, turns Believe & Destroy into a bit of a slog. I battled on, but I have to admit that I eventually gave up halfway through this book. Which is a shame, because I really did want to take in the author's commendable studies.

So, in short: brilliant study, and crucial (I would imagine) to anyone looking to understand and/or integrate insight of the Nazis into any historical study. But if you're looking for a new book in line with, say, All Hell Let Loose: The World at War 1939-1945, you may find this overly dense.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Impenetrable and woodenly translated., 19 Oct 2013
By 
Ronald Haak (Cork, Ireland) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Believe and Destroy: The Intellectuals in the SS War Machine (Hardcover)
I returned this book the same day it arrived. Aside from the opening pages (viewable on Amazon) reading the text is like swimming under water --- and against the current. It shares the common fate of PHD dissertations levered onto the market --- it's trapped in dense, impenetrable, congealed prose. The translator never escapes this straight jacket and inflicts it on us in unadulterated form. AND IT'S WORSE THAN THAT! There's a paragraph deep in the book that begins with the statement that individuals found it difficult to make the "transaction" between high flown SS ideology and the realities they were participating in. Later in the same paragraph we get a repeat of this sentence, with the translator again using "transaction" when the only word that makes sense in both cases is "transition". And even with the reader twice making this correction while struggling through the clotted writing, the point being made is a platitude that's been made hundreds of times before in hundreds of books. I'm a PhD myself who's accustomed to wooden writing styles and have a lot of experience extracting meanings from unpalatable writing, but this is stupifying. So let me sound the alarm against this particular text and its ever diminishing rewards. What's even more sobering is even if through great pains a reader does manage to crack loose some of the material clinkered together, I suspect the book's findings are not all that great a contribution after all. Anyone who's read SPEER:A BIOGRAPHY: The Final Verdict by Joachim Fest, and Hitler's Hangman: The Life of Heydrich will find their time better spent, the key issue covered in more illuminating depth and the reading experience a breeze. Go for these alternatives.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Heavy going - but worth it, 9 Oct 2013
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This review is from: Believe and Destroy: The Intellectuals in the SS War Machine (Hardcover)
As a history of one aspect of WW2 it appears to be well researched. It does seem to miss out some of the more notorious "intellectuals" such as Wernher von Braun - the leading figure in the V1 and V2 programmes and who is credited with being the central figure behind the US space programme. It also misses Konrad Lorenz, who made a substantial theoretical contribution to the Nazi policy of "ethnic cleansing". He subsequently won a Nobel Prize.

Heavy going, and somewhat heavy with names, but interesting nevertheless. For someone interested in less well known aspects of WW2, well worth ploughing through. Be warned: not for the faint hearted!
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5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent book, fascinating subject, 9 Oct 2013
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This review is from: Believe and Destroy: The Intellectuals in the SS War Machine (Hardcover)
I bought this book to try to understand why people did what they did and to try and figure whether I would have done the same. It's well written - it reads a bit like a thesis but I like that robust structure - and its treatment of the subjects, people who went from education to einsatzgruppe, is rigorous, detailed and dispassionate. One of the best books I've bought.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Complex examination, 17 Oct 2013
By 
All of them Witches (UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Believe and Destroy: The Intellectuals in the SS War Machine (Hardcover)
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I really agree with one of the other 3 star reviewers in particular that 'A World of Enemies' the initial chapter provides a very saluatory example of how a downtrodden defeated and humiliated population were inbued with such nationalistic and insular fervour via a process of clinically applied propaganda indoctrination and radicalisation and how this contributed towards their involvement in unspeakable acts of depravity.
Unfortunately I didn't really get too much from the rest of the book. The subject matter was great and some of the stats mindblowing but the uber academic writing style left me cold which was a real shame as I just found elements of it a tad impenetrable. I'd love to see it in a more accessible format, nearly half the book is notes and sources.
Maybe appreciated more by hard-core military historians or doctorate students.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars genuinely disturbing, 24 Oct 2013
By 
Mr. Nadim Bakhshov "Nadim Bakhshov" (Bloomsbury, London) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Believe and Destroy: The Intellectuals in the SS War Machine (Hardcover)
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The complicity of the ordinary German in the Nazi Machinery is disturbing. That ordinary people could, for various reasons, collude and disavow their participation in a system that sent millions of ordinary fellow human beings to their deaths is a disturbing fact that we must keep alive in memory.

But for someone like me, who values the role of the intellect reading this book was even more disturbing. How was it that those who developed their intellectual skills - perhaps not unlike Heidegger - entirely amoral in their outlook found themselves not only participating in the Nazi Machinery but actually supporting and disseminating the Ideology that drove it and the German population into hell.

This is like a horror story that you cannot switch off. Once the idea of the degree of complicity and cruelty enter your minds you might never sleep the same. In some ways the more intellectual Germans became the more barbaric their actions.

This should come with a health warning - if you do not want sleepless nights leave it alone.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars excellent but not for the casual reader, 25 Sep 2013
By 
Mr. Pj Williams (cardiff uk) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Believe and Destroy: The Intellectuals in the SS War Machine (Hardcover)
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teh first point I have to make is dont bother even reading this reveiw if your an casual history reader. Its not written in a style you are used to. It is an PHD thesis expanded to book form, however it is structured as such and it doesnt make for great bedtime reading...unless your like me and have constatntly asked teh question of...why?

The third riech motivation to liquidate vast groups of people has always bothered me when someone just rights them off as mad. Thats just someone saying I cant be bothered to find out why. Now this book gets us a little closer to the reasons why your highly educated German would find themselves in southern Russia killing other humans and being able to justify it to themsleves. I wont say this book covers all the ground needed- you would have to go into more depth with each person involved- but I beleive it is an important question and the author has amde a great start in the direction this needs to go for future research. So if your like me and want to get a bit closer to that answer then this is a great place to start If not a little too academic for mass market appeal. I would suggest however reading in conjunction with Christopher hales book Hitlers Foreign executioners, which delves into some of this in the motivation behind countries who provided SS units to the reich and is a much more accessible book to begin from.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An academic study of a fascinating subject, 13 Sep 2013
By 
marcoscu "marcoscu" (Chorley,UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Believe and Destroy: The Intellectuals in the SS War Machine (Hardcover)
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Yes, this is a good and worthwhile book and fully explores the subject. However, bear in mind that this is an expanded Phd thesis translated from French and at times reads like it. There is masses of new information here and the role of the intellectual and privileged in the SS elite is explored in painstaking detail. I doubt if there is a better researched book on the subject available in French, English or any other language.

If you are looking for a bit of light reading on a heavy subject then keep on looking as this may not be the book for you.
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Believe and Destroy: The Intellectuals in the SS War Machine
Believe and Destroy: The Intellectuals in the SS War Machine by Christian Ingrao (Hardcover - 28 Jun 2013)
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