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Masters of Death: The SS-Einsatzgruppen and the Invention of the Holocaustby Richard Rhodes
Synopses & Reviews
A major contribution to the history of the Holocaust from the acclaimed author of the Pulitzer Prize–winning The Making of the Atomic Bomb.
In Masters of Death, Richard Rhodes gives full weight, for the first time, to the part played by the Einsatzgruppen--the professional killing squads deployed in Poland and the Soviet Union, early in World War II, by Himmler's SS. And he shows how these squads were utilized as the Nazis made two separate plans for dealing with the civilian populations they wanted to destroy.
The first plan, initiated in July 1941, condemned the Jews of eastern Europe to slaughter by the Einsatzgruppen, who went on to execute 1.5 million men, women and children between 1941 and 1943 by shooting them into killing pits, as at Babi Yar--massive crimes that have been underestimated or overlooked by Holocaust historians. Rhodes documents the organizing and carrying out of this program and introduces the professional men--economists, architects, lawyers--who were the program’s commanders and officers, as well as the "ordinary men" who did most of the actual killing.
The second plan, initiated in December 1941, was directed at the Jews of western Europe. By then, Rhodes shows, the face-to-face killing of hundreds of thousands had so brutalized the SS that even Himmler was shocked into ordering the development of a less "personal" means of murder--the notorious gas chambers and crematoria of the Holocaust’s second wave. Rhodes shows, further, that Hitler and Himmler intended the Jews to be only their first victims; their plan was to open up Russia to German colonization by destroying more than 30 million Slavs and members of other ethnic groups.
Drawing on Nuremberg Tribunal documents largely ignored until now, and on newly available material from eyewitnesses and survivors, Richard Rhodes has given us a book that is essential reading on the Holocaust and World War II.
"To read Richard Rhodes's book on the infamous SS murder squads is to follow him to the brink of absolute evil and its cold, calculated and blood-chilling brutality. What made normal citizens, some of them with college degrees, into mass murderers of children and their parents? This haunting question fills these pages with pain and anguish. This is an important and enormously powerful book." Elie Wiesel
Book News Annotation:
It is a grizzly story popular historian Rhodes tells, but he says it is an important part of the larger picture of the Holocaust, and the victims deserve some notice by history. The Einsatzgruppen were special task forces that followed the Nazi armies into eastern Poland and the Soviet Union in late June 1941, and murdered Jews by the thousands—gunning them down and burying them in mass graves dug by prisoners of war.
Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)
Drawing on newly available material, Pulitzer Prize winner Rhodes offers a major addition to the history of the Holocaust that challenges traditional interpretations. Rhodes demonstrates that, in addition to the Jews, Hitler and Himmler planned to destroy more than 30 million Slavs and members of other ethnic groups. of photos. 6 maps.
Includes bibliographical references (p. -319) and index.
About the Author
Richard Rhodes is the author of nineteen books. His The Making of the Atomic Bomb won a Pulitzer Prize, a National Book Award and a National Book Critics Circle Award. He has received Guggenheim, Ford Foundation, MacArthur Foundation, National Endowment for the Arts and Alfred P. Sloan Foundation fellowships, and lectures frequently to college and professional audiences. Rhodes and his wife live in California.
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