The Holocaust in Germany
- LAST REVIEWED: 18 July 2016
- LAST MODIFIED: 30 July 2014
- DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199840731-0091
- LAST REVIEWED: 18 July 2016
- LAST MODIFIED: 30 July 2014
- DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199840731-0091
The Holocaust is one of the most researched events in modern history, but it is nevertheless still one of the most disputed. This article covers the origins and the development of anti-Jewish persecution in the Third Reich by exploring books about the early efforts to isolate and marginalize German Jewry during the 1930s, changes in persecution strategy after the notorious pogrom of 1938 known as Kristallnacht (“Crystal Night”), as well as the decision about forced relocation and mass murder during the Second World War. First, after the war, most works aimed at judgment, and later at documentation; only since the 1990s have analyses prevailed. While historians, mostly survivors, started 1945 with a more European perspective of the Holocaust, during the next decades more and more isolated national narratives evolved in Germany (where it was a subfield of Third Reich studies), in Israel, or in Anglo-Saxon countries. Only after 1989 did an international historiographical approach emerge from a new global network of scholars. This bibliographical article concentrates on Germany and Austria, though many of the books also contain a European dimension. The studies annotated here either influenced the historical debate, raised new questions, started new research agendas, or covered a subject in hitherto not reached depth. Beginning in the 1990s a lot of advanced research was undertaken in Germany itself, so that many more German books are part of the article than one would suspect would be the case. If they are translated into English, both versions are mentioned, since the original German was often studied by English-speaking specialist years before a translation followed. Some works are also taken from Hebrew and French.
General Historical Overviews
Up to now, dozens of works have been published that cover the Holocaust in Germany in a general way. It had started already during the war with books such as Hitler’s Ten-Year War on the Jews (Institute of Jewish Affairs 1943), and it reached a first climax in the 1960s with Hilberg’s classic work The Destruction of the European Jews (Hilberg 2003). Hilberg 1992 shifted the focus from the analysis of institutions to the actors, a view that was adopted by newer accounts, as in the two volumes by Saul Friedländer (Friedländer 1996, Friedländer 2007). While Longerich 2010 focuses on the development of Nazi politics, Zimmermann 2008 illuminates the life of German Jews under persecution. Bloxham 2009 offers a grounded view of the Holocaust as one of several genocides in the 20th century, which believers in the uniqueness of the former contested.
Bloxham, Donald. The Final Solution: A Genocide. Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press, 2009.
The British historian places the Holocaust in a European context of mass violence. His synthesis, based on an intimate knowledge of the Holocaust and the Armenian genocide, explores the violent ethnopolitics around World War I, analyzes the German and European dimensions of the Holocaust, compares the motives of the perpetrators of mass murder, and concludes by investigating the scholarly explanations of the Holocaust.
Friedländer, Saul. Nazi Germany and the Jews. Vol. I, The Years of Persecution, 1933–1939. New York: HarperCollins, 1996.
The prominent scholar provides a seminal work, in which he focuses on the Jewish experience, by providing individual stories from diaries, yet loses neither the oversight of the historical process nor the decision-making process. His first volume describes in full detail the persecution in Germany and Austria between 1933 and 1939, and explains it with a “redemptive anti-Semitism” of the perpetrators.
Friedländer, Saul. Nazi Germany and the Jews. Vol. 2, The Years of Extermination: 1939–1945. New York: HarperCollins, 2007.
In his second volume, Friedländer extends his focus beyond the German borders, focusing on occupied Poland and the Soviet Union. He uses the same technique of introducing Jewish voices from diaries and testimonies, while also paying close attention to the historical and decision-making processes.
Hilberg, Raul. Perpetrators, Victims, Bystanders: the Jewish Catastrophe, 1933–1945. New York: Aaron Asher, 1992.
This study of the US historian shifts the perspective from the administrative system to the actors on all sides. Hilberg explores motives of perpetrators as well as resisters, Jewish representatives, and ordinary Jews. In contrast to his standard work (Hilberg 2003), he also includes examples of Jewish resistance.
Hilberg, Raul. The Destruction of the European Jews. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2003.
This book by the survivor and renown US historian Hilberg is a standard reference on the topic. Originally published in 1961, it deals in a sophisticated manner with the decision-making process and many then unresearched facets of the Holocaust: its personnel, its bureaucracy, and its financial aspects. The study uses the Nuremberg trial materials, newspapers, and testimonies, and it covers Germany, Austria, and the rest of Europe.
Institute of Jewish Affairs, ed. Hitler’s Ten-Year War on the Jews. New York: Institute of Jewish Affairs of the American Jewish Congress, 1943.
Various authors provide the chapters for this first account, which investigates the extermination of the Jews and mentions already a number of over 5 million lost Jews. Based on law gazettes, newspapers, reports of Jewish institutions, reports of diplomatic personnel, underground press, and materials of exile governments, the study describes in detail the persecution in Germany as well as in the annexed and occupied countries.
Longerich, Peter. Holocaust: The Nazi Persecution and Murder of the Jews. New York: Oxford University Press 2010.
In his study, the German historian complements his analysis of the central anti-Jewish policy with a large number of local examples of violent actions and official measures. He discusses the existing arguments about how anti-Jewish policy developed and how the decision-making process fit into the practices of extinction. Originally published as Politik der Vernichtung: Eine Gesamtdarstellung der nationalsozialistischen Judenverfolgung in 1998.
Zimmermann, Mosche. Deutsche gegen Deutsche : Das Schicksal der Juden 1938–1945. Berlin: Aufbau-Verlag, 2008.
The Israeli historian offers a synthesis on the persecution from a perspective of the German Jewish experience. He focuses on the less well-researched period of 1938–1945, which often is overshadowed by the events in occupied Poland and Soviet Union. Based on the state of research, testimonies, and diaries, Zimmermann introduces the reader to many aspects of German Jewish life and thought under Nazi persecution.
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