A skillful, persuasive blend of history and polemic, sure to incite controversy and to earn its author much attention.



Goldhagen’s Hitler’s Willing Executioners (1996) may have “unwittingly provoked a moral uproar,” but there’s nothing unwitting about this provocative work, an unblinking consideration of the role of Catholic doctrine in the machinery of the Holocaust.

Goldhagen’s debut, angrily debated in Germany and elsewhere, dismissed the notion that the Germans and other Europeans were “herdlike, simply frightened, optionless people,” incapable of opposing or even comprehending Hitler’s savage war against the Jews. Here, he extends his argument to show that much of Catholic (and, by extension, other Christian churches’) doctrine provided justification for that war in the eyes of its faithful perpetrators. For centuries, after all, priests had been preaching that the Jews were the tainted murderers of Christ and “an insufferable devilish burden,” and few earlier bloodlettings had been without the blessings of popes and prelates; small wonder, then, that although German bishops protested the state’s euthanasia program against the ill and infirm, they never publicly spoke against the elimination of their Jewish compatriots. Extending with better evidence the arguments of John Cornwell and other recent scholars, Goldhagen sheds particularly harsh light on Pope Pius XII, who suppressed his immediate predecessor’s encyclical condemning Nazi anti-Semitism and professed a “special love” for Germany as against a special hatred for the godless Bolshevism that he suspected the Jews of spreading; Pius, he adds, knew all about the gas chambers and yet lent the Church’s support to Italy’s consent to the deportation of its own Jewish population as late as 1943. The Church must acknowledge its complicity in the Holocaust, insists Goldhagen. Moreover, he adds, “if the Catholic Church is to undo the harm it has produced, then it must work assiduously to combat, to reduce, and to teach people the falseness and, in its terms, the sinfulness of anti-Semitism”—a hateful doctrine whose origins lie in New Testament passages depicting Jews as “a brood of vipers” and worse.

A skillful, persuasive blend of history and polemic, sure to incite controversy and to earn its author much attention.

Pub Date: Nov. 3, 2002

ISBN: 0-375-41434-7

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2002

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The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...


Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

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For Howard Zinn, long-time civil rights and anti-war activist, history and ideology have a lot in common. Since he thinks that everything is in someone's interest, the historian—Zinn posits—has to figure out whose interests he or she is defining/defending/reconstructing (hence one of his previous books, The Politics of History). Zinn has no doubts about where he stands in this "people's history": "it is a history disrespectful of governments and respectful of people's movements of resistance." So what we get here, instead of the usual survey of wars, presidents, and institutions, is a survey of the usual rebellions, strikes, and protest movements. Zinn starts out by depicting the arrival of Columbus in North America from the standpoint of the Indians (which amounts to their standpoint as constructed from the observations of the Europeans); and, after easily establishing the cultural disharmony that ensued, he goes on to the importation of slaves into the colonies. Add the laborers and indentured servants that followed, plus women and later immigrants, and you have Zinn's amorphous constituency. To hear Zinn tell it, all anyone did in America at any time was to oppress or be oppressed; and so he obscures as much as his hated mainstream historical foes do—only in Zinn's case there is that absurd presumption that virtually everything that came to pass was the work of ruling-class planning: this amounts to one great indictment for conspiracy. Despite surface similarities, this is not a social history, since we get no sense of the fabric of life. Instead of negating the one-sided histories he detests, Zinn has merely reversed the image; the distortion remains.

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1979

ISBN: 0061965588

Page Count: 772

Publisher: Harper & Row

Review Posted Online: May 26, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1979

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