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Hitler, the Germans, and the Final Solutionby Ian Kershaw
Synopses & Reviews
This book is the culmination of more than three decades of meticulous historiographic research on Nazi Germany by one of the periodand#8217;s most distinguished historians. The volume brings together the most important and influential aspects of Ian Kershawand#8217;s research on the Holocaust for the first time. The writings are arranged in three sectionsand#151;Hitler and the Final Solution, popular opinion and the Jews in Nazi Germany, and the Final Solution in historiographyand#151;and Kershaw provides an introduction and a closingand#160;section on the uniqueness of Nazism.
Kershaw was a founding historian of the social history of the Third Reich, and he has throughout his career conducted pioneering research on the societal causes and consequences of Nazi policy. His work has brought much to light concerning the ways in which the attitudes of the German populace shaped and did not shape Nazi policy. This volume presents a comprehensive, multifaceted picture both of the destructive dynamic of the Nazi leadership and of the attitudes and behavior of ordinary Germans as the persecution of the Jews spiraled into total genocide.
The second of Kershaw's preoccupations has been with assessing popular opinion in Nazi Germany, again focusing on the Holocaust. Here, too, he charts a course between two extremes. Most Germans, he argues, were neither rabid anti-Semites nor innocent bystanders. They knew, or could have known, what was happening to Europe's Jews. Few actively opposed their government's murderous policies. Nevertheless,... Washington Post Book Review (read the entire Washington Post review) while the "Jewish question" was of paramount importance to Hitler and those around him, for a majority of Germans it was not an important issue. "The road to Auschwitz was built by hate," Kershaw wrote in 1983, "but paved with indifference." In the past decade, Kershaw has somewhat revised his views about the intensity of the public's anti-Semitism, but he remains convinced that ordinary Germans were what he calls "morally indifferent" to the mass murder being carried out in their name. Indifference does not describe the attitudes of the Roman Catholic priests in Kevin P. Spicer's deeply researched and deeply disturbing book, "Hitler's Priests." A priest and member of the Congregation of Holy Cross, Spicer has an insider's grasp of the church's organization and governance. He has combed through an impressive number of diocesan and government archives to assemble a list of 138 "brown priests," who were either members of the Nazi party or at least active supporters of its program. His book is devoted to a detailed account of the radical nationalism and virulent anti-Semitism that led these men to believe they could be followers of both Hitler and Christ. Spicer's treatment of "Hitler's priests" is absolutely convincing. He is less successful in illuminating the issue promised by his subtitle, the relationship between the Catholic clergy in general and National Socialism. Spicer's sample represents a tiny minority of Germany's 34,000 Catholic priests (in 1932, there were more that 21,000 diocesan clergy and an additional 13,000 members of various religious communities). Moreover, as Spicer himself shows, the brown priests frequently had serious problems with their superiors, sometimes because of their opinions, more often because they disobeyed instructions to avoid political agitation. Spicer cites copious evidence demonstrating the enormous amount of time and energy that diocesan authorities spent trying to control these priests. Abbot Albanus Schachleiter, for instance, who is pictured on the cover of Spicer's book wearing his Benedictine habit and giving the Nazi salute, caused his bishop endless trouble before he was finally exiled to a remote village. A friend of Hitler's, the abbot was honored with a state funeral when he died in 1937, but by then he had lost all ecclesiastical influence and authority. Twenty of Spicer's 138 left the priesthood altogether, including Albert Hartl, who married a leading member of the League of German Girls and occupied an important position in Himmler's SS. The question of how representative these brown priests were haunts Spicer's book, raising without resolving the complex and painful questions about Catholicism's relationship to Nazism. As for ordinary Germans, Kershaw, after a quarter century of scholarship, is skeptical that we will ever know for sure what they thought about Nazism. But one thing remains depressingly clear: However we calculate the relative weight of conviction, hostility and indifference among the German public, the regime was able to carry out its policies of foreign aggression and racial murder without serious internal resistance. It was military defeat, not domestic opposition, that finally brought the nightmare of Nazism to an end. James J. Sheehan teaches history at Stanford University. His most recent book is "Where Have All the Soldiers Gone? The Transformation of Modern Europe." Reviewed by bringing together 14 essays written mostly for academic conferences or scholarly journals between 1983 and 2006, 'Hitler, The Germans, and the Final Solution' provides a splendid summary of his accomplishments. In a characteristically candid and thoughtful introduction, Kershaw reflects on how his views have changed in response to new scholarly challenges and opportunities., Washington Post Book World (Copyright 2006 Washington Post Book World Service/Washington Post Writers Group)
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About the Author
Ian Kershaw is a highly acclaimed historian and professor of modern history at the University of Sheffield. He is well known for his writings on Nazi Germany, especially his definitive two-volume biography of Adolf Hitler, Hitler, 1889and#150;1936: Hubris and Hitler, 1936and#150;1945: Nemesis. He lives in Manchester, GB.
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History and Social Science » Europe » Germany » Nazi Germany