By Norman G. Finkelstein, Ruth Bettina Birn

No fresh paintings of heritage has generated as a lot curiosity as Daniel Jonah Goldhagen's Hitler's prepared Executioners. Purporting to unravel the secret of the Nazi holocaust, Goldhagen keeps that standard Germans have been pushed through fanatical anti-Semitism to homicide the Jews. a right away nationwide best-seller, the publication went directly to create a global sensation.

Now, in A country on Trial, top critics problem Goldhagen's findings and express that his paintings isn't really scholarship in any respect. With compelling cumulative influence, Norman G. Finkelstein meticulously records Goldhagen's distortions of secondary literature and the interior contradictions of his argument. In a complementary essay, Ruth Bettina Birn juxtaposes Goldhagen's textual content opposed to the German information he consulted. the main foreign authority on those information, Birn conclusively demonstrates that Goldhagen systematically misrepresented their contents.

The definitive assertion at the Goldhagen phenomenon, this quantity is additionally a cautionary story at the corruption of scholarship via ideological zealotry.

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Additional info for A Nation on Trial: The Goldhagen Thesis and Historical Truth

Sample text

Auschwitz was a merciless world where if the prisoners were “lucky enough” to escape the initial selections, they were ground in the machine unto death. ”3 The learning that takes place under tragic circumstances is important to Levi both as a survival mechanism and a recurring source of ideas, but it does not provide sufficient compensation for what happened to him. The conditions of the Lager were unique and tended to nullify the life strategies the prisoners had become habituated to and brought with them—strategies carefully thought out in their lives prior to the Holocaust.

We will see how different strategies of survival emerged in the Lager, where the market provided a few opportunities for extending a doomed life. The second set of boundary conditions that defined the miserable life in the Lager for Levi is the godless, irrational universe. From his earliest years to his death, Levi’s views on the existence of God never changed: “Like [philosopher Jean] Améry, I too entered the Lager as a nonbeliever, and as a nonbeliever I was liberated and have lived to this day.

This is why Levi does not want to know the motives of his captors—knowing might diminish the bad feelings. He does not want to diminish the evil. The cruelty is all the more inexplicable because it was done by formerly ordinary citizens and not by easily labeled monsters. From the point of view of the prisoners who know that they are destined to die in the camps, the extra cruelty is completely unexplainable. Still, Levi attempts to understand the basis for this violence. He struggles to find anything in Nietzsche that he agrees with, for while he finds his thoughts repugnant, for him, even Nietzsche does not go nearly as far as the Nazis on gratuitous violence: “His [Nietzsche’s] oracular tone irritates me, yet it seems to me 38 Primo Levi and the Politics of Survival that a desire for the sufferings of others cannot be found in it.

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