RAUL HILBERG

An excerpt from Raul Hilberg's "The Goldhagen Phenomenon" published in Critical Inquiry.

"Anti-Semitism was widespread in Europe during the late nineteenth century and in the years before the outbreak of World War I...In Russia it was dangerous enough to bring about pogroms.

German anti-Semitism, on the other hand, was not only weaker than the eastern European variety, but by 1914 it began to decline. Although the Nazis revived it in their propagandistic literature, it never became altogether respectable or truly prevalent. In his heavy book, Goldhagen does not discuss the many organizations that made up the Gestalt known as Nazi Germany. The bureaucratic apparatus was led by lawyers, engineers, accountants, and other professionals. These functionaries were modern men with clear eyesight and a necessary

understanding of complexity. The railways, which transported the Jews to their deaths, or the finance offices, which confiscated their property, or the nearly two hundred private firms that were involved in the construction of Auschwitz, were not staffed by pure anti-Semites, and neither were the urban police forces. 

Goldhagen overstates the extent and depth of German anti-Semitism. At the same time he underplays two factors that greatly weaken his basic thesis. One is that not all the shooters were Germans, the other that not all the victims were Jews. 

The killers included ethnic Germans, who were drawn from a population that had lived outside Germany. The "executioners" were also Romanians, Croats, Ukrainians, Estonians, Latvians, and Lithuanians in significant numbers. The Romanian and Croat formations implemented policies of their own governments...Baltic auxiliaries were absolutely essential to the Germans, as in the case of Latvian street and harbor police who participated heavily in the massive shooting of Jews in Riga.

It would be manifestly impossible to connect any anti-Semitism with the origination of killing operations directed at non-Jewish people. Such operations, however, did take place. Approximately a fourth of Germany's own mental patients were gassed....thousands of Gypsies were shipped to the Lodz and Warsaw ghettos. They were shot at the same time or somewhat later than the Jews...and they were gassed in the same chambers.

MANAGING THE DEATH MACHINE

"Basic knowledge of the Holocaust is the essential first step to understanding its meanings and its lessons. For nearly a quarter of a century we have been in debt to Raul Hilberg for having made much of that knowledge available in reliable and readable form in ''The Destruction of the European Jews,'' published in 1961..."

RAUL HILBERG OBITUARY

"In his landmark work, “The Destruction of the European Jews,” Mr. Hilberg said the Holocaust had been the result of a huge bureaucratic machine with thousands of participants, not the fulfillment of a preconceived plan or a single order by Hitler..."