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by Christopher R. Browning

Pub Date: March 1st, 2000
ISBN: 0-521-77299-0
Publisher: Cambridge Univ.

w Given the recent headlines about the slave-labor reparations settlement in Germany, this new study from distinguished

Holocaust historian Browning (Ordinary Men, 1992, etc.) is an important event.

The six pieces herein, an expansion of Browning's 1995 Trevelyan lectures, fall, as the author notes, into three pairs. The

first two consider policy-making processes that led to the Final Solution; the middle two focus on the tensions between

pragmatism and ideology in the Reich’s treatment of Jewish slave labor; and in the final pair Browning returns to the topic of

Ordinary Men, using fresh evidence to re-examine the behavior of those who committed mass murder. The field of Holocaust

studies changes by leaps and bounds, with new evidence becoming available almost daily as files from the former Soviet bloc

and still unread materials from the Nazis themselves are evaluated by scholars. Much of what Browning has to say here grows

out of such newly available materials. Although the conclusions he comes to are not significantly different from positions he has

previously held, new details emerge that allow him to add nuance and depth. Hence, although he still persuasively maintains that

the decisions leading to the Nazi attempt to murder all of Europe's Jews were an incremental, ongoing decision-making process

that stretched from the spring of 1941 to the summer of 1942," his access to previously unavailable diaries of Joseph Goebbels

and communications among Nazi leaders enrich our understanding of the ongoing internal tug-of-war over when and how to

achieve that gruesome goal. Similarly, recent studies of regional decision-making give a fuller picture of the interplay of local

and national interests in the carrying out of the mass murders. Browning is a methodical, if somewhat dry, writer and the result

is an indispensable addition to the Holocaust bookshelf, though most valuable to specialists.

Estimable scholarship, intelligently presented, but not a casual reader's book.

Chiefly valuable in raising some important issues, but disappointingly uncritical in discussing them. (3 b&