Hitler's Willing Executioners

Topics: The Holocaust, Nazi Germany, Germany Pages: 7 (2538 words) Published: August 22, 2005
Daniel Jonah Goldhagen born in 1959 is an American political scientist most famous for his book, Hitler's Willing Executioners: Ordinary Germans and the Holocaust, which hypothesizes that all ordinary Germans were actively in favor of the holocaust because of the supposedly unique and virulent "eliminationist" anti-Semitism that was a part of the common consciousness in Germany throughout history. He claims that this special mentality cannot be fully understood by non-Germans and that it was unique to Germany; eliminationist anti-Semitism grew out of medieval attitudes that were religiously based. Later they became more secularly based, but the anti-Semitism remained the same. Goldhagen holds a Ph.D. in Political Science from Harvard University and was a professor at Harvard for many years. He is the winner of Germany's highly prestigious triennial Democracy Prize and currently a member of Harvard's Minda de Gunzburg Center for European Studies.

In the book Hitler's Willing Executioners, Daniel Goldhagen uses primary and secondary sources. Goldhagen traces origin & scrutinizes essence of anti-Semitism from its origins over 1,000 years ago, manifest in non-Jewish Christian civilization at beginning of the Crusades (Jews characterized as non-Christian Christ killers); throughout the Middle Ages into early modern Europe. He gives a clear insight of how Jews were tortured describing every gruesome detail. Though Goldhagen utilizes many original sources, some sources seem to come from his head. For example: The author titled the book Hitler's "Willing" Executioners assuming that all Nazi's were enthusiastic to kill Jews. It seems as though he carefully gathered all the information he could find about the Holocaust to make this piece of art into such a great novel. He allows the reader to comprehend how he fells personally about different situations mentioned throughout the book. Though he states his opinion on several occurrences throughout the book, he backs them up with credible facts.

Hitler's Willing Executioners is well written, easy to read and clearly defined. The issue is not the fact that the Germans were anti-Semitic, but rather that any human or group of humans could turn against a group of people so vehemently and so horribly. The vocabulary is somewhat easy to comprehend. Goldhagen's thesis, which he rides awfully hard, is that ordinary Germans were quite likely to be anti-Semitic because anti-Semitism, abetted by the Nazi high command, so thoroughly pervaded German culture. Goldhagen's account is centered on events in World War II and does not, foreground his thesis. This is not an elegantly written book. Reshaped and reduced by a half, the argument might have had more force. He brought up such a strong argument but could not back up all of his information. Toward the end, Goldhagen circles around the mystery of how humans could believe such tripe and act so evilly. This question he does not satisfactorily answer.

In 1941, Adolph Hitler's Germany began to kill the entire Jewish population under its physical control, some seven million men, women and children, and by 1944 had largely finished the job, having successfully murdered approximately six million people. That the government of a civilized nation could not only undertake but successfully conclude such a nightmarish policy without encountering significant domestic social opposition, particularly in a country as politically literate as was Germany, is one of the great puzzles of twentieth century European history wanted.

The consideration of Judaism as a corollary of Christianity is imperative to understand the inherent anti-Semitic nature of Germany. Jews and their faith were seen as an affront to Christianity. If the Jews, the people of God , shunned the promised messiah, then something was awry. Either the Jews were right, and Jesus was a false prophet, or the Christians were right, and the Jews had been led astray. This theological impasse...
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