How Could This Happen : Explaining the Holocaust
Overview - The Holocaust has long seemed incomprehensible, a monumental crime that beggars our powers of description and explanation. Historians have probed the many sources of this tragedy, but no account has united the various causes into an overarching synthesis that answers the vital question: How was such a nightmare possible in the heart of western civilization? Read more...
More About How Could This Happen by Dan Mcmillan
The Holocaust has long seemed incomprehensible, a monumental crime that beggars our powers of description and explanation. Historians have probed the many sources of this tragedy, but no account has united the various causes into an overarching synthesis that answers the vital question: How was such a nightmare possible in the heart of western civilization?
In How Could This Happen
, historian Dan McMillan distills the vast body of Holocaust research into a cogent explanation and comprehensive analysis of the genocide's many causes, revealing how a once-progressive society like Germany could have carried out this crime. The Holocaust, he explains, was caused not by one but by a combination of factors--from Germany's failure to become a democracy until 1918, to the widespread acceptance of anti-Semitism and scientific racism, to the effects of World War I, which intensified political divisions within the country and drastically lowered the value of human life in the minds of an entire generation. Masterfully synthesizing the myriad causes that led Germany to disaster, McMillan shows why thousands of Germans carried out the genocide while millions watched, with cold indifference, as it enveloped their homeland.
Persuasive and compelling, How Could This Happen
explains how a perfect storm of bleak circumstances, malevolent ideas, and damaged personalities unleashed history's most terrifying atrocity.
Publishers Weekly Reviews
Publishers Weekly® Reviews
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While many books have been written on the Holocaust, this volume claims to be the “first comprehensive analysis” of its causes. McMillan, a specialist in German history, addresses multiple factors, including an authoritarian tradition in German politics dating to the 1860s, a long history of German anti-Semitism, the demoralizing loss of WWI, the weakness and collapse of the Weimar Republic, the influence of Darwinian thought on notions of a German “racial struggle” against the Jews, and Hitler’s rise “from dictator to demigod.” McMillan’s best chapter, “The Absent Moral Compass,” surveys postwar psychological experiments to explain how even non-ideologues in the German bureaucracy and army could be led to murder, thanks to “automatic obedience to authority; conformity to the behavior of a group, and adaptation to a role and situation.” McMillan’s analysis is succinct, yet its relative brevity is occasionally a weakness, as when he claims, without sufficient evidence, that a “genocidal cohort” of men, hardened by their experience in WWI, were instrumental in implementing the “Final Solution.” Despite this flaw, and the idea that no truly comprehensive explanation for the Holocaust seems possible, this thoughtful work examines both why the Nazis came to power and how they could engage in murder on such an unprecedented scale. (Apr.)