Masters of Death: The SS-Einsatzgruppen and the Invention of the Holocaust

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In Masters of Death, Pulitzer Prize-winning author Rhodes gives full weight, for the first time, to the Einsatzgruppen’s role in the Holocaust. These “special task forces,” organized by Heinrich Himmler to follow the German army as it advanced into eastern Poland and Russia, were the agents of the first phase of the Final Solution. They murdered more than 1.5 million men, women, and children between 1941 and 1943, often by shooting them into killing pits, as at Babi Yar.

These massive crimes have been generally overlooked or underestimated by Holocaust historians, who have focused on the gas chambers. In this painstaking account, Pulitzer Prize-winning author Richard Rhodes profiles the eastern campaign’s architects as well as its “ordinary” soldiers and policemen, and helps us understand how such men were conditioned to carry out mass murder. Marshaling a vast array of documents and the testimony of perpetrators and survivors, this book is an essential contribution to our understanding of the Holocaust and World War II.
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About the author

Richard Rhodes is the author or editor of twentytwo books, most recently the author of The Twilight of the Bomb, the last volume in a quartet about nuclear history.  The first, The Making of the Atomic Bomb, won the Pulitzer Prize, a National Book Award, and a National Book Critics Circle Award.  He has received numerous fellowships for research and writing, including grants from the Ford Foundation, the Guggenheim Foundation, the MacArthur Foundation and the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation. He has been a visiting scholar at Harvard and MIT and a host and correspondent for documentaries on public television's Frontline and American Experience series. An affiliate of the Center for International Security and Cooperation at Stanford University, he lectures frequently to audiences in the United States and abroad.
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Additional Information

Publisher
Vintage
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Published on
Dec 18, 2007
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Pages
368
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ISBN
9780307426802
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Language
English
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Genres
History / Europe / Germany
History / Holocaust
History / Military / World War II
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Content Protection
This content is DRM protected.
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Eligible for Family Library

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Why do some men, women and even children assault, batter, rape, mutilate and murder? In his stunning new book, the Pulitzer Prize-winner Richard Rhodes provides a startling and persuasive answer.

Why They Killexplores the discoveries of a maverick American criminologist, Dr. Lonnie Athens -- himself the child of a violent family -- which challenge conventional theories about violent behavior. By interviewing violent criminals in prison, Dr. Athens has identified a pattern of social development common to all seriously violent people -- a four-stage process he calls "violentization":
-- First, brutalization: A young person is forced by violence or the threat of violence to submit to an aggressive authority figure; he witnesses the violent subjugation of intimates, and the authority figure coaches him to use violence to settle disputes.
-- Second, belligerency: The dispirited subject, determined to prevent his further violent subjugation, heeds his coach and resolves to resort to violence.
-- Third, violent performances: His violent response to provocation succeeds, and he reads respect and fear in the eyes of others.
-- Fourth, virulency: Exultant, he determines from now on to utilize serious violence as a means of dealing with people -- and he bonds with others who believe as he does.

Since all four stages must be fully experienced in sequence and completed to produce a violent individual, we see how intervening to interrupt the process can prevent a tragic outcome.

Rhodes supports Athens's theory with historical evidence and shows how it explains such violent careers as those of Perry Smith (the killer central to Truman Capote's narrative In Cold Blood), Mike Tyson, "preppy rapist" Alex Kelly, and Lee Harvey Oswald.

Why They Kill challenges with devastating evidence the theory that violent behavior is impulsive, unconsciously motivated and predetermined. It offers compelling insights into the terrible, ongoing dilemma of criminal violence that plagues families, neighborhoods, cities and schools.
This book is a study of the reports of the Einsatzgruppen, the four SS extermination squads that followed in the wake of the German attack on the Soviet Union on 22 June 1941. It was the Einsatzgruppen that began the systematic massacre of Jews, communist officials, and other "undesirables" in the territories overrun by the Germans. More than one million people, mostly Jews, ultimately perished at the hands of the Einsatzgruppen Kommandos. This horrific destruction was recorded in great detail in the top-secret reports of the Einsatzgruppen, which were compiled in Berlin based on material sent in from the east by the Kommandos. No other documents discovered offer such an extensive and precise day-by-day account of mass killings written while these killings were actually taking place. The killings are the principal focus of this book and are analyzed in the central chapters from several perspectives. Included among these are descriptions of the main features of the reports and the various stages in their compilation, examples and methodology of presentation of the killings, and comparisons of reporting procedures and totals of victims shot by each of the four Einsatzgruppen.
The study begins by noting the post-war discovery of the reports and then assumes a roughly chronological sequence in its overall treatment. An outline of the major National Socialist agencies and general reporting practices before the war is followed by the events of the war as reflected in the reports. Then the postwar "life" of the reports is examined with particular reference to their use as legal evidence at Nuremberg as well as a consideration of their reliability as historical source material.
In addition to the descriptive and comparative information mentioned above, this study places the reports within the historical context of the reporting practices, complex rivalry, and self-aggrandizement of the leading German agencies. Certain questions of concern to historians are also explored in light of the reports. These include: the reactions of the indigenous eastern population to the German presence; the active collaboration of members of the local population and the German army in the killing operations; and the role of the Einsatzgruppen in relation to the current intentionalist-functionalist debate concerning National Socialism and Hitler's attempt to exterminate the Jews.
Among the wealth of Nazi material that survived the war, the Einsatzgruppen reports occupy a significant place. As a virtually complete and self-contained body of documents, the reports are a fertile source for historians of the Third Reich and the Holocaust. In what they reveal directly about the destruction and what they tell us indirectly about the men who perpetrated this destruction, the reports provide us with important insight into the process of mass murder.
Twenty-five years after its initial publication, The Making of the Atomic Bomb remains the definitive history of nuclear weapons and the Manhattan Project. From the turn-of-the-century discovery of nuclear energy to the dropping of the first bombs on Japan, Richard Rhodes’s Pulitzer Prize-winning book details the science, the people, and the socio-political realities that led to the development of the atomic bomb.

This sweeping account begins in the 19th century, with the discovery of nuclear fission, and continues to World War Two and the Americans’ race to beat Hitler’s Nazis. That competition launched the Manhattan Project and the nearly overnight construction of a vast military-industrial complex that culminated in the fateful dropping of the first bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

Reading like a character-driven suspense novel, the book introduces the players in this saga of physics, politics, and human psychology—from FDR and Einstein to the visionary scientists who pioneered quantum theory and the application of thermonuclear fission, including Planck, Szilard, Bohr, Oppenheimer, Fermi, Teller, Meitner, von Neumann, and Lawrence.

From nuclear power’s earliest foreshadowing in the work of H.G. Wells to the bright glare of Trinity at Alamogordo and the arms race of the Cold War, this dread invention forever changed the course of human history, and The Making of The Atomic Bomb provides a panoramic backdrop for that story.

Richard Rhodes’s ability to craft compelling biographical portraits is matched only by his rigorous scholarship. Told in rich human, political, and scientific detail that any reader can follow, The Making of the Atomic Bomb is a thought-provoking and masterful work.
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