An able analysis by Breitman (History/American Univ.) of Heinrich Himmler and the Holocaust he helped to spawn. By examining the roles played by major Nazis other than Hitler-Goering, Frank, Goebbels, and particularly Himmler- Breitman seeks to shed light on some of the major points of contention among historians: Was the Final Solution always in contemplation, or was it improvised? Was it planned by Hitler, or did he merely set the engine in motion? Breitman concludes that the idea of executing Jews was an essential element of Nazi strategy from the beginning, but a comprehensive plan-The Final Solution-came only later. The evolution of the Holocaust had more to do, Breitman believes, with the terrain the Germans were fighting for (and the peoples that land contained), and the subsequent scope and methods of killing, than with any change from a moderate to radical goal. The author finds Himmler a much more formidable bureaucratic infighter than has previously been thought, easily outmaneuvering Goering and Frank and using his close relationship with Hitler-whom he consulted on matters large and small-and his ability at concealment and deception to attain his objectives. It is particularly striking to note the extreme care with which Himmler concealed what was actually happening in the Holocaust. This, Breitman shows, reflected Himmler's own attitude, which combined an accurate assessment of the political damage knowledge of the Holocaust would cause with an utterly unrelenting pursuit of his final objective. Chilling, expert history, which fails only in Breitman's apparent-and understandable-difficulties in trying to comprehend human beings capable of a Holocaust.
Read full book review >