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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant, 20 Aug. 2010
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This review is from: Nazi Germany And the Jews: The Years Of Extermination: 1939-1945: Nazi Germany and the Jews 1939-1945 (Paperback)
This remarkable book is by far the best history of the Holocaust available. Most books on the Holocaust either concentrate on the Nazis and how their policy developed (see Christopher Browning or Ian Kershaw, for example) or they mainly look at Jewish experiences (as in Martin Gilbert's standard history). Friedlander is almost unique in integrating these two sides of the story. He also shows intelligent judgements, especially about the role of anti-Semitism, and clear but properly restrained moral passion. This will be the classic history of the Holocaust for years to come.
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Heartbreaking and illuminating, 25 Nov. 2007
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R. Way "atomheartbrother" (Deal,UK) - See all my reviews
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You may be put off by the length of this book, however there are over 200 pages of notes and sources. The most comprehensive book I have read on the expulsion of Jews from German occupied territories and their allies. I say German rather than Nazi because this dispels the myth that the ordinary German did not participate or know about the actions leading up to and during the Final Solution. In many countries during this period the Germans provided the atmosphere for these countries to indulge their age old anti-Semitism with a vengeance. Few countries come out with any credit and many saw as it as a way to remove the so called 'influence' and 'corruption' of the Jew within their societies. Much of the book is made up of diaries, logs and records of the Jewish experience during these dreadful times, from day to day life in the ghettos, living in an increasingly marginalised world and of course the labour and death camps. The most heartbreaking entries are from young children and teenagers who attempted to cling onto to hope and their dreams of the future peaceful world. This major work is written in a style that informs and draws you in without burying you in technically dense detail. I highly recommend this book to both those who have a standing interest in the subject matter and the casual reader who wants to get a European wide understanding of this time rather than location specific information.
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Sobering, essential reading, 6 July 2010
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Teemacs (Switzerland) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Nazi Germany And the Jews: The Years Of Extermination: 1939-1945: Nazi Germany and the Jews 1939-1945 (Paperback)
It's difficult to imagine that Professor Friedländer's detailed account of the greatest crime in history will ever be surpassed. He combines great detail with a storyteller's talent, such that what could so easily have become a very long recitation of facts is a continuous, cohesive, fluid account, no mean achievement. His command of many different primary source materials and his fusion of these are most impressive. Interwoven into the straight historical narrative are diary entries of people of all ages and walks of life, many of whom did not survive. These voices from beyond the grave add a poignancy to the story and a reminder that this was the murder not of a race but of six million individuals, each with his or her own individual spark, his or her own potential contribution, great or small, to humankind. These accentuate the sheer unadulterated monstrousness of what the Nazis did.

The story follows on from his first volume of the story ("The years of persecution"), and shows that the road from the Kristallnacht to the gas chamber was gradual and taken in small steps. There was never a specific decision where someone said, "Let's do in the whole lot", but rather a gradual outworking of a philosophy that decreed that Europe had to be "Judenfrei". The only question was how exactly to achieve the desired "Judenfrei" state. Initially, the idea was to export them to somewhere. However, with all possible exits cut off and the General Government (the "Polish" part of German-occupied Poland) bursting at the seams with Jews forcibly evacuated there, the unthinkable became fact and the dreadful machinery of extermination came into being. It had already been decided in principle by the time of the infamous Wannsee Conference, whose primary purpose was to exert the central role of Himmler, Heydrich and the Reich security apparatus (RSHA) over the whole affair.

An interesting aspect is that the Final Solution didn't really get into gear until the USA entered the war. Hitler regarded the USA as completely Jew-ridden and -dominated, and therefore, to some extent, he went (relatively) easy on the Jews as a sort of hostage against the USA's good behaviour. This is another interesting aspect of Prof. Friedländer's account, the degree to which anti-Semitism completely distorted Nazi policy, such that rational thinking was impossible, and the extermination continued unabated, even when the thousand-year Reich was collapsing around the Nazis' ears. He makes it clear how anti-Semitism was no bolt-on extra to Nazi philosophy, but was central to it.

One of Prof. Friedländer's main points, and perhaps one of the most tragic, is how so many in the occupied territories participated actively and passively in the Nazi crime. Most turned their backs and pretended not to know, others fell over themselves to help the Nazis. For every hero(ine) of unbreakable moral compass who was prepared to help (and Prof. Friedländer lists some very odd ones, such as the Japanese consul in Lithuania), there were a thousand collaborators, indifferent and downright opportunistic people. One (this one anyway) has the clear impression that Prof. Friedländer is at heart a Zionist who believes that the Jews have no place anywhere in Europe, such was the inherent anti-Semitism there. His view appears to be that, while the Nazis ploughed the earth, sowed the seed and cultivated the crop, that earth was inherently fertile. So, although Prof. Friedländer has major problems with the thesis of Daniel Goldhagen ("Hitler's willing executioners"), he often seems to be thinking along very similar lines.

The one jarring note in this otherwise peerless account is when Prof. Friedländer pushes this point too far. As an example of British anti-Semitic feeling expressed in the press, he cites an article in, of all places, "Punch". Perhaps one needs to understand the British sense of humour, but to me the article is clearly typically "Punch", with its tongue firmly rammed in its cheek, saying one thing on the surface while clearly meaning precisely the opposite. Prof. Friedländer doesn't seem to have got the joke.

Nevertheless, the thing that really impresses is Prof. Friedländer's reasonable tone. This is no polemic (which, given the subject matter, it could so easily have become) but a rational, well-reasoned account in which the facts are allowed to speak for themselves, rather than have a particular agenda imposed on them. For example, Prof. Friedländer clearly understands the complex political undercurrents of the time, in which Allied governments and even Jewish organisations in the USA and Israel did less than they could have to rescue a people whom by 1943 everyone knew had been destined for the slaughterhouse.

In short, this account of the darkest side of human nature should be on everyone's reading list, particularly on that of the current State of Israel, which, while keen to remember this past, has not apparently learned anything from it and appears only too happy to inflict torment on others.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Wake up, 28 Dec. 2014
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Let's hope it never happens again
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4 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars a great work a bit austere, 28 Mar. 2008
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Gilbert Michaud (canada) - See all my reviews
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yes a masterpiece but a couple of pictures would have been a good idea. no pics in this book
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