by William Brustein ‧ RELEASE DATE: Sept. 1, 1996
A study of the rise of the Nazi Party that is sure to stir controversy. Traditional interpretations of National Socialism have stressed its irrational character: its mythial evocation of the Teutonic past; its pseudo-science of race and eugenics; and above all, its murderous anti-Semitism. Brustein (Sociology/Univ. of Minnesota) challenges us to reconsider who joined the Nazi Party before 1933 and why. Based on an examination of millions of documents and membership files from the Berlin Document Center, Brustein and his associates have compiled profiles of the millions of Germans who supported Hitler's rise to power. The theoretical framework for the study is the ""rational-choice"" model of social scientists: the idea that individuals and groups will act in accordance with their economic self-interest. As he states early and often: Before 1933, when the Germans still had free choice, millions supported the National Socialist party on the basis of rational factors rather than Hitler's charisma or the irrationalism of Nazi ideology. But the author makes a fundamental confusion between acting rationally and acting in one's best interest. Millions of Germans may have very calmly concluded that the irrational Nazi program was in their best interest, having been told for decades, if not centuries, that the Jew was the bane of their existence. Equally contentious is Brustein's assertion, as stated in the title, that evil can have logical or rational roots. Further, he argues that the Germans could not foresee the horrors of the war and the Holocaust between 1925 and 1933; yet anyone who has read Hitler's speeches or Mein Kampf cannot avoid the conclusion that the Germans knew exactly what the logical outcome of a Nazi society would be. Since anti-Semitism was deeply rooted in Germany, Brustein's contention that ""Hitler was astute enough as a politician to realize that his rabid anti-Semitism lacked the drawing power among the German masses"" seems bizarre. A fundamentally flawed work, yet one that demands consideration and response.
Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1996
Page Count: 256
Publisher: Yale Univ.
Review Posted Online: N/A
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 1996
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