Rethinking the Holocaust

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Yehuda Bauer, one of the world's premier historians of the Holocaust, here presents an insightful overview and reconsideration of its history and meaning. Drawing on research he and other historians have done in recent years, he offers fresh opinions on such basic issues as how to define and explain the Holocaust; whether it can be compared with other mgenocides; how Jews reacted to the murder campaign against them; and what the relationship is between the Holocaust and the establishment of Israel.

The Holocaust says something terribly important about humanity, says Bauer. He analyzes explanations of the Holocaust by Zygmunt Bauman, Jeffrey Herf, Goetz Aly, Daniel Goldhagen, John Weiss, and Saul Friedl"nder and then offers his own interpretation of how the Holocaust could occur. Providing fascinating narratives as examples, he deals with reactions of Jewish men and women during the Holocaust and tells of several attempts at rescue operations. He also explores Jewish theology of the Holocaust, arguing that our view of the Holocaust should not be clouded by mysticism: it was an action by humans against other humans and is therefore an explicable event that we can prevent from recurring.

About the Author:
Yehuda Bauer is director of the International Institute for Holocaust Research, Yad Vashem, Jerusalem. He is the author of many books, including Jews for Sale? published by Yale University Press

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Editorial Reviews

Michael Berenbaum
In this original and compelling book Bauer considers all the major issues of Holocaust historiography. Everything Bauer touches he illuminates.
Morris Dickstein
Eloquent. . . . An eye-opening synthesis of the whole historiography of the Shoah. . . . The meat of the book is a brilliant review of vexed issues like Jewish resistance (armed and unarmed,the role of the Judenräte,or Nazi-imposed Jewish Councils,and the plans to rescue Jews by buying their freedom. . . . With the skill of a sleuth and the assiduous patience of a born scholar,Bauer reconstructs the schemes,characters and motives in a spirit of factual inquiry,keen empathy and,of all unlikely things,common sense.
New York Times Book Review
Morris Dickstein
Eloquent... . An eye-opening synthesis of the whole historiography of the Shoah... . The meat of the book is a brilliant review of vexed issues like Jewish resistance (armed and unarmed), the role of the Judenräte, or Nazi-imposed Jewish Councils, and the plans to rescue Jews by buying their freedom... . With the skill of a sleuth and the assiduous patience of a born scholar, Bauer reconstructs the schemes, characters and motives in a spirit of factual inquiry, keen empathy and, of all unlikely things, common sense.
New York Times Book Review
Paul Breines
Bauer's book . . . reaches beyond issues of rescue, offering a strong introduction to many of the analytic debates on Nazi genocide.
Washington Post Book World
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
The title of this latest contribution from Bauer is slightly misleading; as valuable as it is, the volume is not really a rethinking of the Holocaust but rather a revisiting of the major problems and interpretations in Holocaust studies. Bauer, director of the International Institute for Holocaust Research at Yad Vashem in Jerusalem, begins with a short discussion of what exactly historians do. He quite rightly departs from standard practice when he asks such moral and "what if" questions as what could have been done? and what should have been done? Contrary to what he calls Elie Wiesel's "mystification" of the Holocaust, he insists that the catastrophe was a human invention and therefore historically and "rationally" explicable. Separate chapters deal with Jewish armed and unarmed resistance, and with rescue attempts--he examines, for instance, the case of Gisi Fleischmann, a Zionist leader who worked to get as many Jews out of Slovakia as possible, which Bauer uses to discuss issues of gender, arguing that women did not fight for the status of women separately but for collective and individual survival and for honor. Most fascinating for non-Jewish readers are the chapter on Jewish theological attempts to explain the Holocaust and Bauer's valuable synthesis and reexamination of some of the major interpretations of the Holocaust. Bauer ends by looking at how the Holocaust is related to the creation of the state of Israel in 1948 (he rejects, for instance, the notion that "a guilt complex" on the part of Western countries led them to vote for partition of British Palestine). (Jan.) Forecast: This book will become a staple of Holocaust literature and should enjoy a long, if quiet, life in print. Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.
In this work, historian Bauer, former director of the International Institute for Holocaust Research, Yad Vashem, Jerusalem, and now its academic advisor, does not intend to write another history of the Holocaust, but rather seeks to "rethink categories and issues that arise out of the contemplation of that watershed event in human history" (from his introduction). He looks at the causes of the Holocaust, compares it with other genocides, looks at various overall interpretations, and discusses such topics as Jewish resistance, the problem of gender, rescue attempts, and the state of Israel. His 1998 speech to the Bundestag is appended. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (
Morris Dickstein
An eye-opening synthesis of the whole historiography of the Shoah. Bauer's writing is stringently matter-of-fact, altogether free of the fear and trembling of those who approach the subject in the spirit of Adorno or Wiesel . . .
New York Times Book Review
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780300093001
  • Publisher: Yale University Press
  • Publication date: 2/28/2002
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 352
  • Product dimensions: 5.68 (w) x 6.84 (h) x 0.94 (d)

Table of Contents

Preface vii
Introduction ix
1 What Was the Holocaust? 1
2 Is the Holocaust Explicable? 14
3 Comparisons with Other Genocides 39
4 Overall Interpretations 68
5 Overall Interpretations 93
6 Jewish Resistance--Myth or Reality? 119
7 Unarmed Resistance and Other Responses 143
8 The Problem of Gender: The Case of Gisi Fleischmann 167
9 Theology, or God the Surgeon 186
10 Rescue Attempts: The Case of the Auschwitz Protocols 213
11 From the Holocaust to the State of Israel 242
Appendix Speech to the Bundestag 261
Notes 275
Bibliography 311
Index 321
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