As but one strain of the author's argument goes,"ordinary Germans had to know what was going on" and thus should have rebelled against Hitler's criminal regime and its murderous machinery of death. However, this argument is undercut by the reality of the fact that most German's were in lockstep with Hitler's virulent anti-Semitism. Yet, the fact that they were silently complicit, does not mean that their share of the responsibility was equal to that of the Nazi regime itself.
In his unstated but implied thesis, the author strongly insinuates that the German people allowed their anti-Semitic emotions to get the better of them; and that this clouded their moral judgment so much so that it was easy for Hitler's soothing nationalistic oratory to seduce them. And then Hitler used this seduction to further lower their moral inhibitions and further confuse their moral compasses. Their moral compasses had already veered so far off course that they were reduced to willingly engaging in mass murder along side Hitler's henchmen, all with the Fuhrer's permission and moral protection.
And while there is much to be said for this thesis, I believe it obscures subtleties that when raised to higher visibility in the analysis, could alone constitute an even more robust alternative explanation.
The alternative explanation I speak of is that of connecting the dots between several not so obvious variables and then assessing their combined role in producing the holocaust. To wit: Hitler being a tool of Germany's rightwing ruling clique of businessmen, professionals, and the military officers corps -- all rightwing ideologues; his virulent racism and anti-Semitism that grew more and more rabid over time; and most important of all the fact that all of the murders were carried out behind a wall of secrecy; one erected by a criminal/Fascist "national security state" specifically designed to engage in the business of genocide.
The ideological manifesto that Hitler executed to perfection was a "carbon copy" of the Pan- German Heinrich Class' own manifesto. And thus, even though Hitler's regime was a legitimate government, the very fact that it had a formally acknowledged policy of genocide against Jews, rendered it little more than a criminal enterprise. The mere existence of plans for genocide rendered the Third Reich, both legitimate and criminal.
The author seemed more than just a bit reluctant to accept the fact that governments can be both criminal and legitimate. In fact, he seemed to have willfully ignored this distinction altogether. But the distinction is important not only to better expose the Nazis criminal element and criminal intent, but for another reason.
All orders to kill Jews were always issued verbally so as not to leave a paper trail, and always behind a wall of secrecy, (usually at the "Top Secret" level) so that the outside world would never know about it. Moreover, like in any criminal organization, (and as Franz Stangl found out upon discovering that he could not resign his job as sentry at a Euthanasia murder factory), the penalty for exposing one's "guilty knowledge," was the same as in the Mafia for refusing to carry out an order of murder: the perpetrator is allowed to exit the wall of secrecy only in a pine box. The fact that there were instances where Germans were excused from this ultimate threat, does not mean that the Germans in question were any less intimidated by it. Nor, does excusing them from time to time, make the Nazi regime any less a criminal enterprise.
It seemed to me that the author went to great pains to minimize both the criminality of the Hitler regime and, the rightwing ruling clique that handpicked and backed him, as well as the severity of the implicit threat the criminal Nazi system held over the heads of anyone who refused an order or chose to reveal "state secrets" about the murders.
Again, Gitta Sereny's Franz Stangl (in her book "Into the Darkness") seems to be the perfect case in point: While an Austrian police, Stangl hated and was rewarded for hunting down Nazis. Then, after Austria was annexed to Germany, Stangl, cleverly erased his past as a Nazi-Hunter, and became a Nazi. And as mentioned above, Stangl ended up as a Security Guard at a Euthanasia facility where he balked after learning what actually went on inside that facility.
But by then it was already too late, as when he sought to resign or get reassigned, he was presented with an unexpected life-threatening fait accompli. He was told that he was already beyond the point of no return, deep inside the Nazi inner sanctum, and could leave only via a pine box. So what did Stangl do? He kept his head down and became the best Nazi he could be, eventually ending up as the commandant of both Treblinka and Sorbibor.
Not to belabor the point, but I believe that a criminal racist rightwing regime that is allowed to erect a screen of secrecy, behind which it can then operate without impunity, as it carries out murder, is by definition a criminal regime -- even if it might also be legitimate.
This arrangement of factors arguably is a much more potent set of variables that invariably predict to genocide than those offered by the author. In fact, I would argue that in modern forms of genocide, this configuration of factors is more often the rule than the exception, and is much more important than just having a nation of willing executioners. Five Stars
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