THE WAR AGAINST THE JEWS, 1933-1945 by Lucy S Dawidowicz


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Some readers may ask, ""Isn't it pure necrophilia to have another book on this subject?"" Yet Dawidowicz's scholarly contribution is substantial. Her biases are also substantial and she bypasses the problem, increasingly raised in the 1960's, of the Allied governments' refusal to enable the mass of European Jews to emigrate before 1941, or to save numbers thereafter. However, on the question of the Judenraten, the Jewish leadership councils under Gestapo control, Dawidowicz presents a powerful range of material, while herself insisting that ""only a handful"" of leaders are blameworthy. She shows how, in the early days of Nazi rule, the German Jewish representatives begged for ""group rights"" as an economically valuable constituency, while the Zionist minority demanded ""ghetto autonomy within the racial national state."" The latter, of course, was achieved in Eastern Europe, with many rightist Zionists among the hated ""autonomous"" ghetto police, according to Dawidowicz. The book in effect suggests that the few ghetto leaders who strove for contacts with outside resistance movements (notably in Warsaw) were the most successful in stalling the Nazi machine, while the others who, sadly or eagerly, leaped to provide slave labor and sort out non-productive Jews for death only hastened the annihilation and encouraged the Jewish inhabitants to sink into infantile passivity. Like Isaiah Trunk (Judenrat, 1972), Dawidowicz describes what happens to ""community control"" under conditions of extreme scarcity and brutality. Unlike William Shirer, William Manchester, Trunk and others, she plays down, however, the essential cannibalization of the Jews through slave labor. The disputes between the S.S. and the Army as to who should get the slaves are slanted to indicate that the Nazis (and some did) simply possessed an irrational compulsion to kill the Jews. The text itself undercuts Dawidowicz's inclination to see all non-Jewish Eastern Europeans as anti-Semites who were at best no help. She accuses the Polish Bund's class view of the ghetto of undermining Jewish solidarity, and then records that the Gestapo encouraged that very charge. She also notes that it was leftists who died under torture without revealing underground secrets while ghetto spies and sycophants established nightclubs within the walls. But the question remains, need anyone have died--and that lies beyond the scope of this extremely valuable book.

Pub Date: May 19th, 1975
ISBN: 1453203052
Publisher: Holt, Rinehart & Winston