The Long View: Hitler's Willing Executioners

John linked to this early book review in his blog post about Goldhagen's slander of Pope Pius XII. John clearly changed his mind about the quality of Goldhagen's work in between the two. John does note in his earlier work that Goldhagen was given to reading his thesis into the evidence, rather than extracting his thesis from the evidence.

Hitler's Willing Executioners: Ordinary Germans and the Holocaust
by Daniel Jonah Goldhagen
Alfred A. Knopf, 1996
619 pp., $30.00
ISBN 0-679-44695-8

Convicted of the Wrong Crime

This book is a bit of a rant. It is a good rant, an expanded doctoral dissertation by a young professor of political science at Harvard. The book exemplifies how creative writing that is bolstered by 125 pages of footnotes can be put to telling effect. Certainly you are likely to learn a great deal from it that you might not already know, principally about the gruesome tactics of the Holocaust. It also makes short work of some of the academic nonsense on the subject that has become fashionable in recent years, such as the hypothesis that the Jewish communities of Europe were killed by an accidental confluence of local initiative and administrative negligence. It proves to any reasonable judge that the extermination of the Jews was an act of high policy by the German government during the Nazi era. It also shows that the government's public antisemitic measures were not unpopular and that ordinary Germans did not need to be coerced to carry out the Holocaust itself. What the book does not prove is its thesis, which is that "eliminationist antisemitism" was a long-standing peculiarity of German culture to which the Nazi regime simply gave free rein.

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