THE HISTORY OF AN OBSESSION

GERMAN JUDEOPHOBIA AND THE HOLOCAUST

A striking—and potentially explosive—combination of history and psychology. Perhaps no subject lends itself more to the temptation of psychologizing than Hitler and the Holocaust. For the past 50 years, the “Final Solution” and its creator have been subjected to every school of psychoanalysis by experts and charlatans alike. This is dangerous terrain. Critics of psychohistory point out the obvious—that the analysand is no longer around to analyze. Defenders’such as historian Peter Gay—insist that the field can yield new insights if properly controlled. This new contribution to the literature is by the author of the highly praised Nazi Germany: A New History (not reviewed). Fischer attempts to psychoanalyze an entire culture over the last 900 years of its history. He traces the roots of German Judeophobia back as early as the First Crusade in 1096, with the pendulum swinging between periods of relative toleration and bestial brutality. Fischer points out that the Nazis did not invent the notion of the Jew as spiritually perverse (credit goes to St. Paul and the early Church), nor the idea of biological racism (the first grand inquisitor, Torquemada, already was speaking of mala sangre in the 15th century). Throughout, Fischer uses the more clinical word “Judeophobia” and the descriptive “Jew-hatred” rather than the more common —anti-Semitism,— thus “shifting the onus of responsibility to where it really belongs . . . removing doubts as to its destructive potential.” Equally central to his argument is that the ideological motivation for the Holocaust can be found in “human delusion” and the demons it inspires, such as “fear, paranoia, projection, scapegoating, and aggression.” As to the question of how many Germans shared the Nazis— murderous impulses, Fischer concludes that this cannot be conclusively answered, but in describing the Holocaust as the “harvest of Judeophobic hatred,” he is clearly drawing the many strands of German anti-Semitism together in a final conflagration. An important contributon, sure to fan the flames of controversy.

Pub Date: Aug. 1, 1998

ISBN: 0-8264-1089-8

Page Count: 544

Publisher: Continuum

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 1998

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A clear, useful guide through the current chaotic political landscape.

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WHY WE'RE POLARIZED

A sharp explanation of how American politics has become so discordant.

Journalist Klein, co-founder of Vox, formerly of the Washington Post, MSNBC, and Bloomberg, reminds readers that political commentators in the 1950s and ’60s denounced Republicans and Democrats as “tweedledum and tweedledee.” With liberals and conservatives in both parties, they complained, voters lacked a true choice. The author suspects that race played a role, and he capably shows us why and how. For a century after the Civil War, former Confederate states, obsessed with keeping blacks powerless, elected a congressional bloc that “kept the Democratic party less liberal than it otherwise would’ve been, the Republican Party congressionally weaker than it otherwise would’ve been, and stopped the parties from sorting themselves around the deepest political cleavage of the age.” Following the passage of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, many white Southern Democrats became Republicans, and the parties turned consistently liberal and conservative. Given a “true choice,” Klein maintains, voters discarded ideology in favor of “identity politics.” Americans, like all humans, cherish their “tribe” and distrust outsiders. Identity was once a preoccupation of minorities, but it has recently attracted white activists and poisoned the national discourse. The author deplores the decline of mass media (network TV, daily newspapers), which could not offend a large audience, and the rise of niche media and internet sites, which tell a small audience only what they want to hear. American observers often joke about European nations that have many parties who vote in lock step. In fact, such parties cooperate to pass legislation. America is the sole system with only two parties, both of which are convinced that the other is not only incompetent (a traditional accusation), but a danger to the nation. So far, calls for drastic action to prevent the apocalypse are confined to social media, fringe activists, and the rhetoric of Trump supporters. Fortunately—according to Klein—Trump is lazy, but future presidents may be more savvy. The author does not conclude this deeply insightful, if dispiriting, analysis by proposing a solution.

A clear, useful guide through the current chaotic political landscape.

Pub Date: Jan. 28, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-4767-0032-8

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Avid Reader Press

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

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Not an easy read but an essential one.

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HOW TO BE AN ANTIRACIST

Title notwithstanding, this latest from the National Book Award–winning author is no guidebook to getting woke.

In fact, the word “woke” appears nowhere within its pages. Rather, it is a combination memoir and extension of Atlantic columnist Kendi’s towering Stamped From the Beginning (2016) that leads readers through a taxonomy of racist thought to anti-racist action. Never wavering from the thesis introduced in his previous book, that “racism is a powerful collection of racist policies that lead to racial inequity and are substantiated by racist ideas,” the author posits a seemingly simple binary: “Antiracism is a powerful collection of antiracist policies that lead to racial equity and are substantiated by antiracist ideas.” The author, founding director of American University’s Antiracist Research and Policy Center, chronicles how he grew from a childhood steeped in black liberation Christianity to his doctoral studies, identifying and dispelling the layers of racist thought under which he had operated. “Internalized racism,” he writes, “is the real Black on Black Crime.” Kendi methodically examines racism through numerous lenses: power, biology, ethnicity, body, culture, and so forth, all the way to the intersectional constructs of gender racism and queer racism (the only section of the book that feels rushed). Each chapter examines one facet of racism, the authorial camera alternately zooming in on an episode from Kendi’s life that exemplifies it—e.g., as a teen, he wore light-colored contact lenses, wanting “to be Black but…not…to look Black”—and then panning to the history that informs it (the antebellum hierarchy that valued light skin over dark). The author then reframes those received ideas with inexorable logic: “Either racist policy or Black inferiority explains why White people are wealthier, healthier, and more powerful than Black people today.” If Kendi is justifiably hard on America, he’s just as hard on himself. When he began college, “anti-Black racist ideas covered my freshman eyes like my orange contacts.” This unsparing honesty helps readers, both white and people of color, navigate this difficult intellectual territory.

Not an easy read but an essential one.

Pub Date: Aug. 13, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-525-50928-8

Page Count: 320

Publisher: One World/Random House

Review Posted Online: April 28, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2019

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