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Daniel Jonah Goldhagen born June 30, [1] is an American author, and former associate professor of government and social studies at Harvard University. Goldhagen reached international attention and broad criticism as the author of two controversial books about the Holocaust : Hitler's Willing Executioners , and A Moral Reckoning He is also the author of Worse Than War , which examines the phenomenon of genocide , and The Devil That Never Dies , in which he traces a worldwide rise in virulent antisemitism. He grew up in nearby Newton. Daniel Goldhagen's father is Erich Goldhagen, a retired Harvard professor. Erich is a Holocaust survivor who, with his family, was interned in a Jewish ghetto in Czernowitz present-day Ukraine.

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Hitler's Willing Executioners: Ordinary Germans and the Holocaust is a book by American writer Daniel Goldhagen , in which he argues that the vast majority of ordinary Germans were "willing executioners" in the Holocaust because of a unique and virulent " eliminationist antisemitism " in German political culture which had developed in the preceding centuries.

Goldhagen argues that eliminationist antisemitism was the cornerstone of German national identity, was unique to Germany, and because of it ordinary German conscripts killed Jews willingly. Goldhagen asserts that this mentality grew out of medieval attitudes rooted in religion and was later secularized. The book challenges several common ideas about the Holocaust that Goldhagen believes to be myths.

These "myths" include the idea that most Germans did not know about the Holocaust; that only the SS, and not average members of the Wehrmacht, participated in murdering Jews ; and that genocidal antisemitism was a uniquely Nazi ideology without historical antecedents.

The book, which began as a Harvard doctoral dissertation, was written largely as an answer to Christopher Browning 's book Ordinary Men: Reserve Police Battalion and the Final Solution in Poland. Much of Goldhagen's book is concerned with the actions of the same Reserve Battalion of the Nazi German Ordnungspolizei and his narrative challenges numerous aspects of Browning's book.

Almond Award for the best dissertation in the field of comparative politics. Goldhagen's book stoked controversy and debate in Germany and the United States. Some historians have characterized its reception as an extension of the Historikerstreit , the German historiographical debate of the s that sought to explain Nazi history. The book was a "publishing phenomenon", [2] achieving fame in both the United States and Germany, despite its "mostly scathing" reception among historians, [3] who were unusually vocal in condemning it as ahistorical and, in the words of Holocaust historian Raul Hilberg , "totally wrong about everything" and "worthless".

The Harvard Gazette asserted that the selection was the result of Goldhagen's book having "helped sharpen public understanding about the past during a period of radical change in Germany". In , the American historian Christopher Browning published a book titled Ordinary Men about the Reserve Police Battalion , which had been used in to massacre and round up Jews for deportation to the Nazi death camps in German-occupied Poland.

The conclusion of the book, which was much influenced by the Milgram experiment on obedience, was that the men of Unit were not demons or Nazi fanatics but ordinary middle-aged men of working-class background from Hamburg , who had been drafted but found unfit for military duty.

In the course of the murderous Operation Reinhard , these men were ordered to round up Jews, and if there was not enough room for them on the trains, to shoot them. In other, more chilling cases, they were ordered simply to kill a specified number of Jews in a given town or area.

In one instance, the commander of the unit gave his men the choice of opting out of this duty if they found it too unpleasant; the majority chose not to exercise that option, resulting in fewer than 15 men out of a battalion of opting out. Browning argued that the men of Unit agreed willingly to participate in massacres out of a basic obedience to authority and peer pressure , not blood-lust or primal hatred.

In his review of Ordinary Men published in July , [8] Goldhagen expressed agreement with several of Browning's findings, namely, that the killings were not, as many people believe, done entirely by SS men, but also by Trawnikis ; that the men of Unit had the option not to kill, and — a point Goldhagen emphasizes — that no German was ever punished in any serious way for refusing to kill Jews.

That view was the mainspring of what was, in essence, voluntary barbarism. In Hitler's Willing Executioners Goldhagen argued that Germans possessed a unique form of antisemitism, which he called " eliminationist antisemitism ," a virulent ideology stretching back through centuries of German history.

Under its influence the vast majority of Germans wanted to eliminate Jews from German society, and the perpetrators of the Holocaust did what they did because they thought it was "right and necessary. Goldhagen charged that every other book written on the Holocaust was flawed by the fact that historians had treated Germans in the Third Reich as "more or less like us," wrongly believing that "their sensibilities had remotely approximated our own. His approach would be anthropological, treating Germans the same way that an anthropologist would describe preindustrial people who believed in absurd things such as trees having magical powers.

Goldhagen's book was meant to be an anthropological " thick description " in the manner of Clifford Geertz. Hitler's Willing Executioners marked a revisionist challenge to the prevailing orthodoxy surrounding the question of German public opinion and the Final Solution.

As such, to prove his thesis Goldhagen focused on the behavior of ordinary Germans who killed Jews, especially the behavior of the men of Order Police Reserve Battalion in Poland in to argue ordinary Germans possessed by "eliminationist antisemitism" chose to willingly murder Jews. Using Geertz's anthropological methods, Goldhagen argued by studying the men of Battalion one could engage in a "thick description" of the German "eliminationist antisemitic" culture. Goldhagen argued that it "strains credibility" to imagine that "ordinary Danes or Italians" could have acted as he claimed ordinary Germans did during the Holocaust to prove that "eliminationist" anti-Semitism was uniquely German.

What some commentators termed "The Goldhagen Affair" [35] began in late , when Goldhagen visited Berlin to participate in debate on television and in lecture halls before capacity crowds, on a book tour.

Goldhagen's book tour became, in the opinion of some German media voices, "a triumphant march", as "the open-mindedness that Goldhagen encountered in the land of the perpetrators" was "gratifying" and something of which Germans ought to be proud, even in the context of a book which sought, according to some critics, to "erase the distinction between Germans and Nazis".

Goldhagen was awarded the Democracy Prize in by the German Journal for German and International Politics , which asserted that "because of the penetrating quality and the moral power of his presentation, Daniel Goldhagen has greatly stirred the consciousness of the German public. Debate about Goldhagen's theory has been intense. Finally, Mommsen criticizes Goldhagen for errors in his understanding of the internal structure of the Third Reich.

It stifled protests by conservatives against persecutions of the Jews, as well as Hitler's proclamation of a "racial annihilation war" against the Soviet Union. The Catholic Church maintained its own "silent anti-Judaism" which "immuniz[ed] the Catholic population against the escalating persecution" and kept the Church from protesting against persecution of the Jews, even while it did protest against the euthanasia program.

Christopher Browning wrote in response to Goldhagen's criticism of him in the "Afterword" to Ordinary Men published by HarperCollins :. Goldhagen must prove not only that Germans treated Jewish and non-Jewish victims differently on which virtually all historians' agree , but also that the different treatment is to be explained fundamentally by the antisemitic motivation of the vast majority of the perpetrators and not by other possible motivations, such as compliance with different government policies for different victim groups.

The second and third case studies of Hitler's Willing Executioners are aimed at meeting the burden of proof on these two points.

Goldhagen argues that the case of the Lipowa and Flughafen Jewish labor camps in Lublin demonstrates that in contrast to other victims, only Jewish labor was treated murderously by the Germans without regard for and indeed counter to economic rationality.

And the Helmbrechts death march case, he argues, demonstrates that Jews were killed even when orders have been given to keep them alive, and hence the driving motive for the killing was not compliance to government policy or obedience to orders, but the deep personal hatred of the perpetrators for their Jewish victims that had been inculcated by German culture. About Goldhagen's claims that the men of Order Police Reserve Battalion were reluctant to kill Polish Catholics while being eager to kill Polish Jews, Browning accused Goldhagen of having double standards with the historical evidence.

Goldhagen cites numerous instances of gratuitous and voluntaristic killing of Jews as relevant to assessing the attitudes of the killers. But he omits a similar case of gratuitous, voluntaristic killing by Reserve Police Battalion when the victims were Poles. Only elderly Poles, mostly women, remained in the village, as the younger Poles had all fled. Word came, moreover, that the ambushed German policeman had been only wounded, not killed. Nonetheless, the men of Reserve Police Battalion shot all the elderly Poles and set the village on fire before returning to the cinema for an evening of casual and relaxing entertainment.

There is not much evidence of "obvious distaste and reluctance" to kill Poles to be seen in this episode. Would Goldhagen have omitted this incident if the victims had been Jews and an anti-Semitic motivation could have easily been inferred? About the long-term origins of the Holocaust, Browning argued that by the end of the 19th century, antisemitism was widely accepted by most German conservatives and that virtually all German conservatives supported the Nazi regime's antisemitic laws of —34 and the few who did object like President Hindenburg only objected to the inclusion of Jewish war veterans in the antisemitic laws that they otherwise supported but that left to their own devices, would not have gone further and that for all their fierce anti-Semitism, German conservatives would not have engaged in genocide.

The Israeli historian Yehuda Bauer wrote that Goldhagen's thesis about a murderous antisemitic culture applied better to Romania than to Germany and murderous anti-Semitism was not confined to Germany as Goldhagen had claimed. Formally, at least, the Jews had been fully emancipated with the establishment of the German Empire, although they were kept out of certain influential occupations, enjoyed extraordinary prosperity Germans intermarried with Jews: in the s some 50, Jews were living in mixed German-Jewish marriages, so at least 50, Germans, and presumably parts of their families, had familial contact with the Jews.

Goldhagen himself mentions that a large proportion of the Jewish upper classes in Germany converted to Christianity in the nineteenth century. In a society where eliminationist norms were universal and in which Jews were rejected even after they had converted, or so he argues, the rise of this extreme form of assimilation of Jews would hardly have been possible.

Despite having a generally critical view of Goldhagen, Bauer wrote that the final chapters of Hitler's Willing Executioners dealing with the death marches were " Little is new in the overall description, but the details and the way he analyzes the attitude of the murderers is powerful and convincing". Concerning Order Police Reserve Battalion , the Australian historian Inga Clendinnen wrote that Goldhagen's picture of Major Trapp, the unit's commander as an antisemitic fanatic was "far-fetched" and " The Israeli historian Omer Bartov wrote that to accept Goldhagen's thesis would also have to mean accepting that the entire German Jewish community was "downright stupid" from the midth century onwards because it is otherwise impossible to explain why they chose to remain in Germany, if the people were so murderously hostile or why so many German Jews wanted to assimilate into an "eliminationist anti-Semitic" culture.

Hoffmann contended that what happened was that on April 9, , the Deputy Mayor of Leipzig, the National Socialist Rudolf Haake, banned all Jewish doctors from participating in public health insurance and advised all municipal employees not to consult Jewish doctors, going beyond the existing antisemitic laws then in place.

V Middle German Regional Association of the Central Association of German Citizens of Jewish Faith complained to Goerdeler about Haake's actions and asked him to enforce the existing antisemitic laws, which at least allowed some Jewish doctors to practice.

Others have contended that, despite the book's "undeniable flaws", it "served to refocus the debate on the question of German national responsibility and guilt", in the context of a re-emergence of a German political right, which may have sought to "relativize" or "normalize" Nazi history. Goldhagen's assertion that the almost all Germans "wanted to be genocidal executioners" has been viewed with skepticism by most historians, a skepticism ranging from dismissal as "not valid social science" to a condemnation, in the words of the Israeli historian Yehuda Bauer , as "patent nonsense".

This is his revenge In , the American historian David Schoenbaum wrote a highly critical book review in the National Review of Hitler's Willing Executioners where he charged Goldhagen with grossly simplifying the question of the degree and virulence of German Antisemitism , and of only selecting evidence that supported his thesis.

Hitler's Willing Executioners also drew controversy with the publication of two critical articles: "Daniel Jonah Goldhagen's 'Crazy' Thesis", by the American political science professor Norman Finkelstein and initially published in the UK political journal New Left Review , [72] and "Historiographical review: Revising the Holocaust", written by the Canadian historian Ruth Bettina Birn and initially published in the Historical Journal of Cambridge.

The Jewish establishment has embraced Goldhagen as if he were Mr Holocaust himself. All this is absurd, because the criticism of Goldhagen is backed up so well.

The Austrian-born American historian Raul Hilberg has stated that Goldhagen is "totally wrong about everything. Totally wrong. Exceptionally wrong. Holocaust Memorial Museum that "The book is advertised as something that will change our thinking. It can do nothing of the sort. To me it is worthless, all the hype by the publisher notwithstanding". Bauer also argued that these linguistic limitations substantially impaired Goldhagen from undertaking broader comparative research into European antisemitism, which would have demanded further refinements to his analysis.

What is striking among some of those who have criticized my book — against whom so many people in Germany are openly reacting — is that much of what they have written and said has either a tenuous relationship to the book's contents or is patently false. Some of the outright falsehoods include: that little is new in the book; that it puts forward a monocausal and deterministic explanation of the Holocaust, holding it to have been the inevitable outcome of German history; that its argument is ahistorical; and that it makes an "essentialist," "racist" or ethnic argument about Germans.

None of these is true. Ruth Bettina Birn and Volker Riess recognised the need to examine the primary sources the Police Battalion investigation records Goldhagen had cited and determine if Goldhagen had applied the historical method in his research. Their task was complicated by the way that "Goldhagen's book [had] neither a bibliography nor a listing of archival sources". This is the problem. He prefers instead to use parts of the statements selectively, to re-interpret them according to his own point of view, or to take them out of context and make them fit into his own interpretative framework.

He does not allow the witness statements he uses to speak for themselves. He uses material as an underpinning for his pre-conceived theory. Several critics, including David North, [3] [78] have characterized Goldhagen's text as adopting Nazi concepts of identity and utilizing them to slur Germans.

Hilberg, to whom Browning dedicated his monograph, wrote that "Goldhagen has left us with the image of a medieval-like incubus, a demon latent in the German mind Guttenplan , author of The Holocaust on Trial also dedicated to Hilberg, wrote that the only difference between Goldhagen's claims of an eliminationist culture and those of Meir Kahane was that Goldhagen's targets were the Germans, whereas Kahane's targets were the Arabs.

Guttenplan argued that the Nazi theories about "Judo-Bolshevism" made for a more complex explanation for the Holocaust than the Goldhagen thesis about an "elminationist anti-Semitic" culture. Goldhagen has said that there is no racist or ethnic argument about Germans in his text. Some of his critics have agreed with him that his thesis is "not intrinsically racist or otherwise illegitimate", including Ruth Bettina Birn and Norman Finkelstein A Nation on Trial.

When the English edition of Hitler's Willing Executioners was published in March , numerous German reviews ensued. Goldhagen arrived in Germany in September for a book tour, and appeared on several television talk shows, as well as a number of sold-out panel discussions. The book had a "mostly scathing" reception among historians, [3] [84] [85] [86] who were vocal in condemning it as ahistorical. Steve Crawshaw writes that although the German readership was keenly aware of certain "professional failings" in Goldhagen's book,.

Instead, Goldhagen became a bellwether of German readiness to confront the past. The accuracy of his work was, in this context, of secondary importance. Millions of Germans who wished to acknowledge the undeniable and well-documented fact that ordinary Germans participated in the Holocaust welcomed his work; his suggestion that Germans were predestined killers was accepted as part of the uncomfortable package.

Goldhagen's book was treated as a way of ensuring that Germany came to terms with its past. Crawshaw further asserts that the book's critics were partly historians "weary" of Goldhagen's "methodological flaws", but also those who were reluctant to concede that ordinary Germans bore responsibility for the crimes of Nazi Germany.

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