Despite the outpouring of books, movies, museums, memorials, and courses devoted to the Holocaust, a coherent explanation of why such ghastly carnage erupted from the heart of civilized Europe in the twentieth century still seems elusive even seventy years later.Read more...
Despite the outpouring of books, movies, museums, memorials, and courses devoted to the Holocaust, a coherent explanation of why such ghastly carnage erupted from the heart of civilized Europe in the twentieth century still seems elusive even seventy years later. Numerous theories have sprouted in an attempt to console ourselves and to point the blame in emotionally satisfying directions--yet none of them are fully convincing. As witnesses to the Holocaust near the ends of their lives, it becomes that much more important to unravel what happened and to educate a new generation about the horrors inflicted by the Nazi regime on Jews and non-Jews alike.
Why? dispels many misconceptions and answers some of the most basic--yet vexing--questions that remain: why the Jews and not another ethnic group? Why the Germans? Why such a swift and sweeping extermination? Why didn't more Jews fight back more often? Why didn't they receive more help? While responding to the questions he has been most frequently asked by students over the decades, world-renowned Holocaust historian and professor Peter Hayes brings a wealth of scholarly research and experience to bear on conventional, popular views of the history, challenging some of the most prominent recent interpretations. He argues that there is no single theory that "explains" the Holocaust; the convergence of multiple forces at a particular moment in time led to catastrophe.
In clear prose informed by an encyclopedic knowledge of Holocaust literature in English and German, Hayes weaves together stories and statistics to heart-stopping effect. Why? is an authoritative, groundbreaking exploration of the origins of one of the most tragic events in human history.
Publishers Weekly® Reviews
- Reviewed in: Publishers Weekly, page .
- Review Date: 2016-10-10
- Reviewer: Staff
Hayes (How Was It Possible?), professor emeritus of Holocaust studies at Northwestern University, answers eight questions relating to the Shoah in order to show that it is no less historically explicable than any other human experience. Particular themes frame the chapters, which have subtitles such as Why the Germans?, Why Didnt More Jews Fight Back More Often?, and Why Such Limited Help from Outside? An economic historian by training, Hayes delves into the day-to-day functioning of the Nazi slave-labor system. He also examines the fraught nature of the relationship between Polish Jews and gentiles during the Holocaust. His analysis of Jewish leaders diverse survival strategies shows that none had much effect against the relentless Nazi murder machinery. In Minsk, for example, the two heads of the ghetto actively supported armed resistance, yet that availed them little as the ghettos population dropped from 100,000, in October 1941, to 12,000, in August 1942. In his concluding chapter on legacies and lessons, Hayes sturdily debunks a number of Holocaust myths. But its also the books weakest section; his lessons there focus on prevention of the Holocausts recurrence and are stated vaguely: e.g. Be self-reliant but not isolationist. Hayes reveals the virtues of dealing with this overwhelming subject in a topical rather than a chronological way. (Jan.)