The Origins of the Final Solution: The Evolution of Nazi Jewish Policy, September 1939-March 1942 [NOOK Book]

Overview



Published by the University of Nebraska Press, Lincoln, and Yad Vashem, Jerusalem

In 1939, the Nazi regime’s plans for redrawing the demographic map of Eastern Europe entailed the expulsion of millions of Jews. By the fall of 1941, these plans had shifted from expulsion to systematic and total mass murder of all Jews within the Nazi grasp. The Origins of the Final Solution is the most detailed and comprehensive analysis ever written of what took place during this crucial ...

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The Origins of the Final Solution: The Evolution of Nazi Jewish Policy, September 1939-March 1942

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Overview



Published by the University of Nebraska Press, Lincoln, and Yad Vashem, Jerusalem

In 1939, the Nazi regime’s plans for redrawing the demographic map of Eastern Europe entailed the expulsion of millions of Jews. By the fall of 1941, these plans had shifted from expulsion to systematic and total mass murder of all Jews within the Nazi grasp. The Origins of the Final Solution is the most detailed and comprehensive analysis ever written of what took place during this crucial period—of how, precisely, the Nazis’ racial policies evolved from persecution and “ethnic cleansing” to the Final Solution of the Holocaust.

Focusing on the months between the German conquest of Poland in September 1939–which brought nearly two million additional Jews under Nazi control—and the beginning of the deportation of Jews to the death camps in the spring of 1942, Christopher R. Browning describes how Poland became a laboratory for experiments in racial policies, from expulsion and decimation to ghettoization and exploitation under local occupation authorities. He reveals how the subsequent attack on the Soviet Union opened the door for an immense radicalization of Nazi Jewish policy—and marked the beginning of the Final Solution. Meticulously documenting the process that led to this fatal development, Browning shows that Adolf Hitler was the key decision-maker throughout, approving major escalations in Nazi persecution of the Jews at victory-induced moments of euphoria. Thoroughly researched and lucidly written, this groundbreaking work provides an essential chapter in the history of the Holocaust.

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Editorial Reviews

The New York Times
One of the merits of The Origins of the Final Solution is that it shows how important the question of land and minorities really was. This magisterial work does offer us something new -- an unrivaled account of how the Nazi leadership ended up with a policy of industrialized mass murder of Jews as it fought a war of territorial expansion against the threats supposedly posed by Polish nationalism and Soviet Bolshevism. Probably no one is better qualified for this task than Christopher R. Browning. — Mark Mazower
Publishers Weekly
An internationally renowned historian of the Holocaust, Browning explains the evolution of Nazi anti-Jewish policies from discrimination and expulsions to outright systematic murder. Once the Nazis had seized power in 1933, the exclusion of Jews from German and European society was inevitable, but there initially existed no premeditated plan for genocide. Based on a superb mastery of the archival sources and the secondary literature, Browning leads his readers through the step-by-step radicalization of Nazi policies in the critical months after the outbreak of WWII. Occupied Poland was the "laboratory of racial policy," where Nazi functionaries experimented with expulsions and shootings of Jews while regular army officers essentially caved in to the brutalities of the SS. But all the plans for expulsion ran aground, Browning shows, due to the exigencies of war. In the wake of the invasion of the Soviet Union, mass killings became the policy of choice to solve the Nazis' self-imposed "Jewish problem." Browning argues that at every stage, the "euphoria of victory" in the war led to a radicalization of policies against Jews. Even though Hitler rarely issued explicit orders, Browning shows he was intimately involved each step of the way. Not every reader will want to wade through the immense detail that Browning (Ordinary Men: Reserve Police Battalion 101 and the Final Solution in Poland) so skillfully lays out, and some may find bewildering the array of individuals and agencies involved in the Final Solution. Still, this book is sure to become the standard work on the emergence of the Holocaust. 3 maps not seen by PW. (Mar. 1) FYI: This volume is the first in a new series, the Comprehensive History of the Holocaust, copublished by University of Nebraska Press and Yad Vashem, Israel's Holocaust museum and memorial. Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Foreign Affairs
This enormous volume explores in exhaustive detail the evolution of a policy aimed at expelling German and Eastern European Jews or locking them up in ghettoes into a policy of extermination that quickly became "the wholesale destruction of Jewish life." The signal seems to have been given by Hitler as early as July 1941: "by the end of October 1941 the conception of the Final Solution had taken shape," with "full-scale implementation" beginning, and gas ovens replacing mass shootings, in March 1942. Browning shows both the complexities of Nazi decision-making, a product of overlapping bureaucracies, and the determining role of the Fuhrer. He also points out that the public reaction in Germany turned from negative to positive once Germany was at war-there, as elsewhere, war meant "the suspension of critical stance." Browning does not say just how much antisemitism shaped Germans' commitment to building a racial empire under German control-an issue Daniel Goldhagen has handled with vigor-but his massive account is utterly convincing in its historical detail, even if interpretation is not what he and most other historians do best.
Library Journal
Browning (history, Univ. of North Carolina, Chapel Hill) argues that while the Nazis' effort to find a Final Solution to their self-created Jewish Question was inherent in their ideology, we cannot understand Hitler's policy as a linear process from Mein Kampf to Auschwitz. Browning examines how Hitler's racial and political vision moved from a desire to create a "Jew-free" Germany toward mass slaughter throughout Nazi-dominated Europe. The critical period, according to Browning, was between September 1939 and March 1942, when Nazi policy underwent a process of "radicalization," brought on primarily by Nazi military success. Although German and Polish Jews suffered first, it was the mass extermination of Soviet Jews, beginning in summer 1941, that provided the final push for a general European-wide massacre. While Hitler provided ideological impetus to the reorganization of the demographic map of Europe, Browning demonstrates that his subordinates attempted to translate his political and racial visions into concrete actions. As Browning argues, "If one wants to know what Hitler was thinking, one should look at what [Reichfuher-SS and police chief administrator Heinrich] Himmler was doing." Just as important is Browning's analysis of the role of bureaucrats, eugenicists, and technicians, who realized that advancement meant implementing Hitler's ideological goals. Browning's volume is essential reading for all students of the Shoah. [History Book Club main selection.-Ed.]-Frederic Krome, Jacob Rader Marcus Ctr. of the American Jewish Archives, Cincinnati Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Journal of Modern History
"Christopher Browning has produced a standard of historical work, which is accordingly characterized by scholarly precision and intellectual honesty."

— Gerhard Hirschfeld, Journal of Modern History

Atlantic Monthly

“Extraordinary. . . . Browning has obviously mastered every pertinent document available—from archives in Germany, the United States, the former Soviet Union, and Israel—and assimilated them all into his sometimes day-by-day account of the development of Nazi policy. In sifting the evidence he makes clear what’s known and what’s not, what’s probable, what’s possible, and what’s unlikely; with rigor and unusually incisive writing style he places events, decisions, and debates in a precise historical context. . . . And above all, with exactitude he lays bare his own suppositions as he transparently builds his arguments and his narrative. A masterpiece of the historian’s art.”—Benjamin Schwarz, Atlantic Monthly

— Benjamin Schwarz

Foreign Affairs
"[Browning's] massive account is utterly convincing in its historical detail."
New York Review of Books

"The definitive work on the road Germany took toward the Final Solution during the crucial first three years of the war."— István Deák, New York Review of Books

— Istv�n De�k

New York Times Book Review

"This magisterial work does offer us something new—an unrivaled account of how the Nazi leadership ended up with a policy of industrialized mass murder of Jews as it fought a war of territorial expansion against the threats supposedly posed by Polish nationalism and Soviet Bolshevism. Probably no one is better qualified for this task than Christopher R. Browning. . . . In this summation of more than 20 years of research, he explains how the grand design emerged. . . and points the way to a reintegration of the whole subject in a much broader history of nationalist conflict, forced population movements and colonial settlement."—Mark Mazower, New York Times Book Review

— Mark Mazower

Wall Street Journal

"Superb. . . .[Browning] has created an eloquent, painstaking narrative of how the Final Solution evolved until it 'could evolve no further in concept. It remained only to be implemented through action.'"—Joshua Rubenstein, Wall Street Journal

— Joshua Rubenstein

The New York Review of Books

"The definitive work on the road Germany took toward the Final Solution during the crucial first three years of the war."

— István Deák, The New York Review of Books

The New York Times Book Review

"This magisterial work does offer us something new—an unrivaled account of how the Nazi leadership ended up with a policy of industrialized mass murder of Jews as it fought a war of territorial expansion against the threats supposedly posed by Polish nationalism and Soviet Bolshevism. Probably no one is better qualified for this task than Christopher R. Browning. . . . In this summation of more than 20 years of research, he explains how the grand design emerged. . . and points the way to a reintegration of the whole subject in a much broader history of nationalist conflict, forced population movements and colonial settlement."

—Mark Mazower, The New York Times Book Review

— Mark Mazower

The Wall Street Journal

"Superb. . . .[Browning] has created an eloquent, painstaking narrative of how the Final Solution evolved until it 'could evolve no further in concept. It remained only to be implemented through action.'"

—Joshua Rubenstein, The Wall Street Journal

The Atlantic Monthly

“Extraordinary. . . . Browning has obviously mastered every pertinent document available—from archives in Germany, the United States, the former Soviet Union, and Israel—and assimilated them all into his sometimes day-by-day account of the development of Nazi policy. In sifting the evidence he makes clear what’s known and what’s not, what’s probable, what’s possible, and what’s unlikely; with rigor and unusually incisive writing style he places events, decisions, and debates in a precise historical context. . . . And above all, with exactitude he lays bare his own suppositions as he transparently builds his arguments and his narrative. A masterpiece of the historian’s art.”

—Benjamin Schwarz, The Atlantic Monthly

Times Literary Supplement

“The more Nazi leaders talked of radical solutions, fundamental solutions, total solutions, eradication, total liquidation and final solutions, the more obvious it became what finality would consist of. Browning takes us there, step by step, false lead by false lead, with never-failing intellectual mastery. It is difficult to see this work being superseded in the foreseeable future.”—Times Literary Supplement
The New York Times

"Christopher R. Browning firmly ties what the Nazis called their ''war of destruction'' against the Soviet Union to the Holocaust. In Mr. Browning's view . . . Germany''s mass murders of Jews and non-Jews alike on the Eastern Front crystallized Nazi policy regarding the eradication of European Jewry."

The Jerusalem Report

"Compellingly reconstruct[s] German policy toward the Jews in the war's first years, shedding new light on its evolution and the role Hitler played in implementing it. . . . Christopher Browning's arguments present a complex and subtle portrait of how policy was transformed and radicalized by the war."

Booklist

"Browning recounts the sequence of events that led from 'ethnic cleansing' to the mass murder of Europe's Jews. . . . This book is the first in the University of Nebraska Press' new series, The Comprehensive History of the Holocaust, copublished with Yad Vashem. It is the most detailed examination of this aspect of the Holocaust yet published." —Booklist
American Historical Review

“This book is clearly structured, well-written, and free of intentionalist determinism. Its strength lies in the author’s remarkable precision and eye for detail…. He analyzes its history as a fully open, multifactored, and contingent political process.”—American Historical Review
Jewish Press

"Browning has sifted the available documentation…with a punctilliousness that reflects a deep knowledge of the German language and a commitment to ferreting out the complete truth about a complex historical event."—Arnold Ages, Jewish Press

— Arnold Ages

New York Times

"Christopher R. Browning firmly ties what the Nazis called their 'war of destruction' against the Soviet Union to the Holocaust. In Mr. Browning's view . . . Germany's mass murders of Jews and non-Jews alike on the Eastern Front crystallized Nazi policy regarding the eradication of European Jewry."—The New York Times
Jerusalem Report

"Compellingly reconstruct[s] German policy toward the Jews in the war's first years, shedding new light on its evolution and the role Hitler played in implementing it. . . . Christopher Browning's arguments present a complex and subtle portrait of how policy was transformed and radicalized by the war."—The Jerusalem Report
First Things

“How, when, and why the Nazis’ decision to exterminate Europe’s Jews was made remains one of the most vexed and disputed of all important questions concerning the Holocaust. . . .The Origins of the Final Solution by the universally respected historian Christopher R. Browning . . . is a magisterial examination of this subject. . . .While new interpretations are, of course, likely to be offered in the future, it is most unlikely, barring the discovery of new documents of great importance, that we will ever have a clearer picture of this process than the one Browning offers.”—William D. Rubinstein, First Things

— William D. Rubinstein

Choice

“The prodigious scholarship and comprehensive bibliography that inform this volume makes it indispensable for understanding the origins of the Final Solution.”—Choice
Holocaust and Genocide Studies

“The choice of Browning as primary author of this volume speaks to his central position in the past three decades of scholarly debate. Although other prominent scholars will differ over significant details, his evolutionist position includes the consensus that exists among them and transcends the old intentionalist-functionalist dialectic. His sources strikingly reveal just how far and deep scholars have delved into the subject. The accumulated wealth of such detailed studies contributes equally with primary sources to produce this comprehensive overview.”—George C. Browder, Holocaust and Genocide Studies

— George C. Browder

Virginia Quarterly Review

"Effective and powerful. . . . Not a cheerful book but one of the most profound meditations, however indirect, on the character of human wickedness in the 20th century. Read it and weep."—Charles T. Mathewes, Virginia Quarterly Review

— Charles T. Mathewes

Midstream

“In his analysis of the sources, Browning has turned up a rich mine of information, which nuances and enhances our understanding. . . . Browning has made an heroic effort to explain the inexplicable and if he has faltered in this attempt, this does not, in any way, detract from what is arguably the best book to appear yet on the Holocaust.”—Midstream
Martyrdom and Resistance

"An impressive contribution to understanding the origins of the Final Solution."—Charles Patterson, Martyrdom and Resistance

— Charles Patterson

Journal of Interdisciplinary History

“With his characteristically meticulous research and reasoning, Browning has written what will quickly become a classic in Holocaust studies.”—Journal of Interdisciplinary History
Canadian Jewish News

“Historians still grapple with one of the central questions of the Holocaust: When and why did the Nazis move from a policy of random killings and forced emigration to the systematic murder of Jews? Christopher Browning. . . . provides compelling answers in a first-rate study, The Origins of the Final Solution.”—Canadian Jewish News
Central European History

“Faced with difficult problems of interpretation, good scholars examine the relevant documentation carefully, consider the alternatives, and set forth clearly why they have reached their views. Browning and Matthäus have both done this and more in this splendid volume.”—Richard Breitman, Central European History

— Richard Breitman

The Historian

"In The Origins of the Final Solution, Browning has produced a landmark narrative of the unfolding of the Final Solution in its early stages."—Simone Gigliotti, The Historian

— Simone Gigliotti

New York Review of Books - Istv�n De�k
"The definitive work on the road Germany took toward the Final Solution during the crucial first three years of the war."— István Deák, New York Review of Books
New York Times Book Review - Mark Mazower

"This magisterial work does offer us something new—an unrivaled account of how the Nazi leadership ended up with a policy of industrialized mass murder of Jews as it fought a war of territorial expansion against the threats supposedly posed by Polish nationalism and Soviet Bolshevism. Probably no one is better qualified for this task than Christopher R. Browning. . . . In this summation of more than 20 years of research, he explains how the grand design emerged. . . and points the way to a reintegration of the whole subject in a much broader history of nationalist conflict, forced population movements and colonial settlement."—Mark Mazower, New York Times Book Review
Wall Street Journal - Joshua Rubenstein

"Superb. . . .[Browning] has created an eloquent, painstaking narrative of how the Final Solution evolved until it 'could evolve no further in concept. It remained only to be implemented through action.'"—Joshua Rubenstein, Wall Street Journal
Atlantic Monthly - Benjamin Schwarz

“Extraordinary. . . . Browning has obviously mastered every pertinent document available—from archives in Germany, the United States, the former Soviet Union, and Israel—and assimilated them all into his sometimes day-by-day account of the development of Nazi policy. In sifting the evidence he makes clear what’s known and what’s not, what’s probable, what’s possible, and what’s unlikely; with rigor and unusually incisive writing style he places events, decisions, and debates in a precise historical context. . . . And above all, with exactitude he lays bare his own suppositions as he transparently builds his arguments and his narrative. A masterpiece of the historian’s art.”—Benjamin Schwarz, Atlantic Monthly
First Things - William D. Rubinstein

“How, when, and why the Nazis’ decision to exterminate Europe’s Jews was made remains one of the most vexed and disputed of all important questions concerning the Holocaust. . . .The Origins of the Final Solution by the universally respected historian Christopher R. Browning . . . is a magisterial examination of this subject. . . .While new interpretations are, of course, likely to be offered in the future, it is most unlikely, barring the discovery of new documents of great importance, that we will ever have a clearer picture of this process than the one Browning offers.”—William D. Rubinstein, First Things
Holocaust and Genocide Studies - George C. Browder

“The choice of Browning as primary author of this volume speaks to his central position in the past three decades of scholarly debate. Although other prominent scholars will differ over significant details, his evolutionist position includes the consensus that exists among them and transcends the old intentionalist-functionalist dialectic. His sources strikingly reveal just how far and deep scholars have delved into the subject. The accumulated wealth of such detailed studies contributes equally with primary sources to produce this comprehensive overview.”—George C. Browder, Holocaust and Genocide Studies
Corriere della Sera - Sir Ian Kershaw

"The strength of the book is in the meticulous and painstaking research, carried out over many years in scattered archives, and clearly demonstrating that the ‘Final Solution’ emerged not as the culmination of a long-term plan, a vision pre-conceived by Hitler many years earlier and now logically implemented, but out of the Nazis’ own incapacity to realise their utopian dream of a ‘Jew-free’ Europe to be brought about by expulsion and deportation. . . . This is a work of a historian at the peak of his powers, a magisterial study, a profound analysis of how the darkest chapter in human history could come about."—Sir Ian Kershaw, Corriere della Sera
Raul Hilberg

"This work is by far the most incisive analysis of the decisions that gave rise to the annihilation of the Jews in Nazi Europe."—Raul Hilberg, Appointee to the President's Commission on the Holocaust and to the United States Holocaust Memorial Council, and author of The Destruction of the European Jews
Virginia Quarterly Review - Charles T. Mathewes

"Effective and powerful. . . . Not a cheerful book but one of the most profound meditations, however indirect, on the character of human wickedness in the 20th century. Read it and weep."—Charles T. Mathewes, Virginia Quarterly Review
Jewish Press - Arnold Ages

"Browning has sifted the available documentation…with a punctilliousness that reflects a deep knowledge of the German language and a commitment to ferreting out the complete truth about a complex historical event."—Arnold Ages, Jewish Press
Martyrdom and Resistance - Charles Patterson

"An impressive contribution to understanding the origins of the Final Solution."—Charles Patterson, Martyrdom and Resistance
H-German H-Net Book Reviews

“Anyone familiar with Browning’s work knows his books are a pleasure to read. Not only is he one of the foremost experts on the Nazi ‘Final Solution’ to the Jewish question, but in transmitting his arguments, he is always eloquent and articulate, and judicious in his use of language. . . .Who made the decision to murder all of Europe’s Jews? When was the decision made? Why and how was it made? The Origins of the Final Solution is an answer to these questions and for this reason is an extremely important book.”—H-Net Book Reviews, H-German
Central European History - Richard Breitman

“Faced with difficult problems of interpretation, good scholars examine the relevant documentation carefully, consider the alternatives, and set forth clearly why they have reached their views. Browning and Matthäus have both done this and more in this splendid volume.”—Richard Breitman, Central European History
The Historian - Simone Gigliotti

"In The Origins of the Final Solution, Browning has produced a landmark narrative of the unfolding of the Final Solution in its early stages."—Simone Gigliotti, The Historian
New York Review of Books - Istvan Deak
"The definitive work on the road Germany took toward the Final Solution during the crucial first three years of the war."— István Deák, New York Review of Books
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780803253117
  • Publisher: UNP - Nebraska
  • Publication date: 12/1/2013
  • Sold by: Barnes & Noble
  • Format: eBook
  • Pages: 616
  • Sales rank: 366,862
  • File size: 2 MB

Meet the Author


Christopher R. Browning is Frank Porter Graham Professor of History at the University of North Carolina–Chapel Hill. He is the author of numerous books on Nazism and the Holocaust, including Nazi Policy, Jewish Workers, German Killers and Ordinary Men: Reserve Police Battalion 101 and the Final Solution in Poland.
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Read an Excerpt

The Origins of the Final Solution

The Evolution of Nazi Jewish Policy, September 1939-March 1942
By Christopher R. Browning

Univ. of Nebraska Press

Copyright © 2004 Univ. of Nebraska Press
All right reserved.

ISBN: 0-8032-1327-1


Chapter One

Background

In a brief two years between the autumn of 1939 and the autumn of 1941, Nazi Jewish policy escalated rapidly from the prewar policy of forced emigration to the Final Solution as it is now understood-the systematic attempt to murder every last Jew within the German grasp. The mass murder of Soviet Jewry had already begun in the late summer of 1941, and only one-half year later the Nazi regime was ready to begin implementing this policy throughout the rest of its European empire and sphere of influence. The study of these 30 months-from September 1939 through March 1942-is crucial for understanding the genesis of the Final Solution and constitutes the core of this book. At this time the Nazi regime stood on the brink of a true watershed event in history. But why, after two millennia of Christian-Jewish antagonism and one millennium of a singular European anti-Semitism, did this watershed event occur in Germany in the middle of the 20th century?

Christians and Jews had lived in an adversarial relationship since the first century of the common era, when the early followers of Jesus failed to persuade significant numbers of their fellow Jews that he was the Messiah. They then gradually solidified their identity as a new religion rather than a reforming Jewish sect. First, Pauline Christianity took the step of seeking converts not just among Jews but also among the pagan populations of the Roman Empire. Second, the Gospel writers-some 40 to 60 years after the death of Jesus-sought to placate the Roman authorities and at the same time to stigmatize their rivals by increasingly portraying the Jews rather than the Roman authorities in Palestine as responsible for the crucifixion-the scriptural origin of the fateful "Christ-killer" libel. Finally, the Jewish rebellion in Palestine and the destruction of the Second Temple motivated early Christians not only to disassociate themselves completely from the Jews but to see the Jewish catastrophe as a deserved punishment for the stubborn refusal to accept Jesus as the Messiah and as a divine vindication of their own beliefs. Christians and Jews, two small sects that had much more in common with one another by virtue of their monotheism and scriptures than either had with the rest of the tolerant, syncretic, polytheistic pagan Roman world, developed an implacable hostility to one another.

This hostility became historically significant in the course of the fourth century when, following the conversion of the Emperor Constantine, Christianity became first the favored and then the official religion of the Roman Empire. The religious quarrel between two small and relatively powerless sects, both at odds with the pagan world in which they lived, was suddenly transformed into an unequal relationship between a triumphant state religion and a beleaguered religious minority. Even so, the Jews fared better than the pagans. Triumphant Christians destroyed paganism and tore down its temples; but the synagogues were left standing, and Judaism remained as the sole legally permitted religion outside Christianity. Without this double standard of intolerance-paganism destroyed and Judaism despised but permitted-there would have been no further history of Christian-Jewish relations.

Seemingly triumphant Christianity soon faced its own centuries-long string of disasters. As demographic and economic decline eroded the strength of the Christianized Roman Empire from within, the western provinces fragmented and collapsed under the impact of the numerically rather small Germanic invasions from the north. The later invasion of the Huns from the east dissipated, but not so the subsequent Muslim invasion, which stormed out of the Arabian Peninsula and conquered half the old Roman world by the end of the seventh century. In the area destined to become western Europe, cities-along with urban culture and a money economy-disappeared almost entirely. A vastly shrunken population-illiterate, impoverished, and huddled in isolated villages scraping out a precarious living from a primitive, subsistence agriculture-reeled under the impact of yet further devastating invasions of Vikings from Scandinavia and Magyars from central Asia in the ninth and tenth centuries. Neither the Christian majority nor the Jewish minority of western Europe could find much solace in these centuries of affliction and decline.

The great recovery-demographic, economic, cultural, and political-began shortly before the millennium. Population exploded, cities grew up, wealth multiplied, centralizing monarchies began to triumph over feudal anarchy, universities were invented, cultural treasures of the classical world were recovered, and the borders of western Christendom began to expand.

But the great transformation did not bring equal benefits to all. Europe's first great "modernization crisis," like any such profound transformation, had its "social losers." A surplus of disgruntled mounted warriors-Europe's feudal elite-faced constricted opportunities and outlets. A new money economy and urban society eroded traditional manorial relationships. Expanding literacy and university education, coupled with an intoxicating discovery of Aristotelian rationalism, posed a potential and unsettling threat to traditional Christian faith. Growth, prosperity, and religious enthusiasm were accompanied by bewilderment, frustration, and doubt.

For all that was new and unsettling, incomprehensible and threatening, in this modernization crisis, the Jewish minority provided an apt symbol. The anti-Judaism (and "teaching of contempt") of Christian theologians that characterized the first millennium of Christian-Jewish antagonism was rapidly superseded by what Gavin Langmuir has termed "xenophobic" anti-Semitism-a widely held negative stereotype made up of various assertions that did not describe the real Jewish minority but rather symbolized various threats and menaces that the Christian majority could not and did not want to understand. A cluster of anti-Jewish incidents at the end of the first decade of the 11th century signaled a change that became more fully apparent with the murderous pogroms perpetrated by roving gangs of knights on their way to the First Crusade. In the words of Langmuir, "These groups seem to have been made up of people whose sense of identity had been seriously undermined by rapidly changing social conditions that they could not control or understand and to which they could not adapt successfully."

Urban, commercial, nonmilitary, and above all nonbelievers, the Jews were subjected both to the immediate threat of Europe's first pogroms and to the long-term threat of an intensifying negative stereotype. Barred from the honorable professions of fighting and landowning, often also barred from the prestigious economic activities controlled through guilds by the Christian majority, the Jewish minority was branded not only as unbelievers but now also as cowards, parasites, and usurers. Religiously driven anti-Semitism took on economic, social, and political dimensions.

In the following centuries the negative stereotype of xenophobic anti-Semitism was intensified and overlaid by fantastical and demented accusations, such as the alleged practices of ritual murder and torturing the Host. Such accusations seem to have originated in the actions of disturbed individuals finding ways to cope with their own psychological problems in socially acceptable ways. In the fertile soil of xenophobic anti-Semitism, such chimeras multiplied and spread, and were ultimately embraced and legitimized by the authorities. As the Jews were increasingly dehumanized and demonized, the anti-Semitism of the medieval period culminated in the expulsions and the widespread massacres that accompanied the Black Death.

Anti-Semitism in western Europe was now so deeply and pervasively embedded in Christian culture that the absence of real Jews had no effect on society's widespread hostility toward them. In Spain, the land of the last and greatest expulsion of Jews, even conversion was increasingly felt to be inadequate to overcome what was now deemed to be innate Jewish evil. The Marranos were subjected to ongoing persecution and expulsion, and notions of pure-blooded Christians-eerily foreshadowing developments 500 years later-were articulated.

Europe's Jews survived this escalating torrent of persecution because the Church, while sanctioning it, also set limits to it. And permeable boundaries allowed expelled Jews to escape and settle elsewhere. (The 20th century, in contrast, would not feature such permeable boundaries and effective religious limits.) The eventual slow decline in the virulence of anti-Semitism was due not so much to the relative absence of Jews in many parts of western Europe but rather to the gradual secularization of early modern European society-Renaissance humanism, the fracturing of religious unity in the Reformation, the scientific discoveries of Galileo and Newton in the 17th century, and the Enlightenment. Western Europe was no longer a Christian commonwealth with religion at the core of its culture and identity.

During this relative respite, Jews filtered back into some areas of western Europe from which they had previously been expelled. However, the demographic center of European Jewry was now clearly anchored in the east. Jews had begun settling in eastern Europe in the medieval period, often welcomed by local rulers for the complementary economic functions they performed, and by the 18th century there had been a veritable Jewish population explosion. All Europeans-Jews and non-Jews-were profoundly affected by the "Dual Revolution" of the late 18th and early 19th centuries. The French Revolution signaled the emergence of liberalism and nationalism; the Industrial Revolution set in motion a profound economic and social transformation.

Initially the Dual Revolution seemed a great boon to Europe's Jews. With liberalism came "Jewish emancipation." In a few brief decades, the centuries-long accumulation of discriminatory, anti-Jewish measures gave way to the liberal doctrines of equality before the law and freedom of conscience-not just in England and France but even in the autocratic German and Austro-Hungarian empires. And the Industrial Revolution opened up unprecedented economic opportunities for a mobile, educated, adaptable minority with few ties to and little nostalgia for a declining traditional economy and society in which they had been so restricted and marginalized.

But ultimately Europe's second great "modernization crisis" was fraught with even greater danger for the Jews than the first, nearly a millennium earlier. Once again the "social losers" of the modernization crisis-traditional elites and small-scale producers in particular-could find in the Jews a convenient symbol for their anguish. If the Jews were benefiting from the changes that were destroying Europe's traditional way of life, in the minds of many it seemed plausible that they had to be the cause of these changes. But in the far more secular and scientific world of the 19th century, religious beliefs provided less explanatory power. For many, Jewish behavior was to be understood instead as caused by allegedly immutable characteristics of the Jewish race. The implications of racial anti-Semitism posed a different kind of threat. If previously the Christian majority pressured Jews to convert and more recently to assimilate, racial anti-Semitism provided no behavioral escape. Jews as a race could not change their ancestors. They could only disappear.

If race rather than religion now provided the rationale for anti-Semitism, the various elements of the negative anti-Semitic stereotype that had accumulated during the second half of the Middle Ages were taken over almost in their entirety and needed little updating. The only significant addition was the accusation that Jews were responsible for the threat of Marxist revolution. With little regard for logical consistency, the old negative image of Jews as parasitical usurers (updated as rapacious capitalists) was supplemented with a new image of Jews as subversive revolutionaries out to destroy private property and capitalism and overturn the social order. After 1917 the notion of menacing "Judeo-Bolshevism" became as entrenched among Europe's conservatives as the notion of Jews as "Christ-killers" had been among Europe's Christians.

These developments in the history of anti-Semitism transcended national boundaries and were pan-European. Why then did the Germans, among the peoples of Europe, come to play such a fateful role in the murderous climax that was reached in the middle of the 20th century? Scholars have offered a number of interpretations of Germany's "special path" or Sonderweg, with England and France usually being the standard or norm against which German difference is measured. One approach emphasizes Germany's cultural/ideological development. Resentment and reaction against conquest and change imposed by revolutionary and Napoleonic France heightened Germany's distorted and incomplete embrace of the Enlightenment and "western" liberal and democratic ideals. The antiwesternism of many German intellectuals and their despair for an increasingly endangered and dissolving traditional world led to a continuing rejection of liberal-democratic values on the one hand and a selective reconciliation with aspects of modernity (such as modern technology and ends-means rationality) on the other, producing what Jeffrey Herf terms a peculiarly German "reactionary modernism."

According to another, social/structural approach, Germany's prolonged political disunity and fragmentation-in contrast to England and France-provided an environment less conducive to economic development and the rise of a healthy middle class. The failed liberal-national revolution of 1848 put an end to Germany's attempt to develop along the lines of, much less catch up with, France and England in concurrent political and economic modernization. Thereafter, the precapitalist German elites maintained their privileges in an autocratic political system, while the unnerved middle class was both gratified by national unification through Prussian military might, something they had been unable to achieve through their own revolutionary efforts, and bought off by the ensuing prosperity of rapid economic modernization that this unification unleashed. Fearful of rising socialism and manipulated by an escalating "social imperialism," the German middle class never became the mainstay of a strong liberal-democratic center as it did in the political culture of England and France. Germany became a "schizophrenic" nation-an increasingly modern society and economy ruled by an autocratic monarchy and traditional elites-incapable of gradual democratic reform.

Continues...


Excerpted from The Origins of the Final Solution by Christopher R. Browning Copyright © 2004 by Univ. of Nebraska Press . Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Table of Contents

List of Illustrations
Preface
1 Background 1
2 Poland, Laboratory of Racial Policy 12
3 The Search for a Final Solution through Expulsion, 1939-1941 36
4 The Polish Ghettos 111
5 Germany and Europe 169
6 Preparing for the "War of Destruction" 213
7 Operation Barbarossa and the Onset of the Holocaust, June-December 1941 by Jurgen Matthaus 244
8 From War of Destruction to the Final Solution 309
9 The Final Solution from Conception to Implementation, October 1941-March 1942 374
10 Conclusion 424
Notes 435
Bibliography 549
Index 579
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