This type of simultaneous representation—at all levels and in all different places—enables the reader better to grasp the magnitude, depth, and multilayered evolution of the events, and to perceive correlations and comparisons hardly apparent beforehand. Though, at times, they do repeat the known, they do so with unmatched forcefulness. Moreover, such personal chronicles, such individual Jewish voices, restore to these events a sharpness of focus that had been progressively lost in recent years through the emphasis in historiographical writing on interpretations essentially foregrounding abstract structures and mindless bureaucratic dynamics.
They also add a crucial dimension to the understanding of previously persistent questions about the behavior of the victims and thus about the unfolding of the killing process as such: The reading of diaries and letters, for example, clearly shows that while the populations throughout Europe were becoming aware of the extermination of the Jews, the victims themselves, with the exception of a tiny minority, did not know what was ultimately in store for them.
In Western and in Central Europe the Jews were somehow unable to piece the information together; in the East, the Jewish populations in their immense majority did not believe the precise details that trickled into their segregated communities. Some major trends in present-day historiography of the Third Reich perceive the criminal policies of the regime within a global context in which the Jewish question becomes but a secondary, almost derivative, issue: The extermination of the Jews is interpreted as the consequence of a Nazi plan to achieve economic and demographic equilibrium in occupied Europe by way of murdering surplus populations among whom Jews were but one of the targeted groups.
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Otherwise, as he saw it, the Jews would destroy Germany and the new Europe from within. The lethal image of the Jew as an irreducibly destructive force did not come from nowhere.
Nazi Germany and the Jews, 1933-1945
During the immediate pre-Nazi decades, the anti-Semitism of diverse national, social, and re- x FOR EWORD ligious groups in Germany and throughout Europe expressed itself in different constructs under changing circumstances and in distinct political frameworks. Yet, whatever its manifold facets, anti-Semitism in the modern era represented but a late development of a common evolution, essentially originating in Christian anti-Judaism.
Though this Christian anti-Jewish hatred remained particularly virulent in Central-Eastern and Eastern Europe, its core myths survived throughout the continent either in their original form or in their secularized garb. Thus the accusation that the Jews were plotting to destroy Christian ity became, by a series of metamorphoses, a widespread belief in Jewish attempts to achieve world domination.
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In the West the upsurge of anti-Semitism in those same years had a distinctly political-nationalist hue, stemming in large part from the crisis of liberalism in Continental Europe. Liberal society was attacked by revolutionary socialism that was to become bolshevism in Russia and communism throughout the world , and by a revolutionary right that, on the morrow of World War I, turned into Fascism in Italy and elsewhere, and into Nazism in Germany.
Nazi Germany and the Jews by Saul Friedlander (ebook)
In that sense antiliberal and antisocialist or anticommunist movements targeted the Jews as representatives of the political ideologies they fought and, more often than not, tagged them as the instigators and carriers of those beliefs. The very crisis of liberal society and its ideological underpinnings left the Jews increasingly weak and isolated throughout a Continent FOR EWORD xi where the progress of liberalism had allowed and fostered their emancipation and rapid social mobility. To Sue Llewellyn, my heartfelt thanks for her wonderful copyediting and insights.
Library Subject 3 Holocaust, Jewish ; Germany.
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