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

U of Nebraska Press
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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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About 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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Publisher
U of Nebraska Press
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Published on
May 1, 2007
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Pages
615
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ISBN
9780803203921
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Features
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Language
English
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Genres
History / Holocaust
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Content Protection
This content is DRM protected.
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The prevailing image of European Jews during the Holocaust is one of helpless victims, but in fact many Jews struggled against the terrors of the Third Reich. In Defiance, Nechama Tec offers a riveting history of one such group, a forest community in western Belorussia that would number more than 1,200 Jews by 1944--the largest armed rescue operation of Jews by Jews in World War II. Tec reveals that this extraordinary community included both men and women, some with weapons, but mostly unarmed, ranging from infants to the elderly. She reconstructs for the first time the amazing details of how these partisans and their families--hungry, exposed to the harsh winter weather--managed not only to survive, but to offer protection to all Jewish fugitives who could find their way to them. Arguing that this success would have been unthinkable without the vision of one man, Tec offers penetrating insight into the group's commander, Tuvia Bielski. Tec brings to light the untold story of Bielski's struggle as a partisan who lost his parents, wife, and two brothers to the Nazis, yet never wavered in his conviction that it was more important to save one Jew than to kill twenty Germans. She shows how, under Bielski's guidance, the partisans smuggled Jews out of heavily guarded ghettos, scouted the roads for fugitives, and led retaliatory raids against Belorussian peasants who collaborated with the Nazis. Herself a Holocaust survivor, Nechama Tec here draws on wide-ranging research and never before published interviews with surviving partisans--including Tuvia Bielski himself--to reconstruct here the poignant and unforgettable story of those who chose to fight.
Marcus Smith was the sole medical officer attached to a small displaced person (DP) team that was sent to the Dachau concentration camp the day after it was liberated by Allied troops and several days before the shocking conditions of the camp were publicized throughout the world.

Several years after his experience at Dachau, believing that we must never forget what happened, Smith unearthed his notes and the daily letters he wrote to his wife and used them as source materials for Dachau: The Harrowing of Hell. From the perspective of a young physician, Smith describes his experiences, shedding light on the immense difficulties and complexities of the large-scale tasks the small DP team completed, against great odds, to combat epidemic diseases and starvation and repatriate the former prisoners. Smith also describes some of the people the team tried to help—men, women, and children from all walks of life, of many nationalities and religions. Smith tells his moving story objectively, with simplicity and grace.

While this book is the story of man’s inhumanity to man, it is more than an account of Nazi persecution. It is about how Smith, whose previous experience had not prepared him for the immense horror of what he encountered at Dachau, quickly became a public health expert; how a small team improvised relief and combated a typhus epidemic; and how the soldiers of different countries had to get along with each other while dealing with the prejudices of some of the displaced people they were trying to help.

Mirrors of Destruction examines the relationship between total war, state-organized genocide, and the emergence of modern identity. Here, Omer Bartov demonstrates that in the twentieth century there have been intimate links between military conflict, mass murder of civilian populations, and the definition and categorization of groups and individuals. These connections were most clearly manifested in the Holocaust, as the Nazis attempted to exterminate European Jewry under cover of a brutal war and with the stated goal of creating a racially pure Aryan population and Germanic empire. The Holocaust, however, can only be understood within the context of the century's predilection for applying massive and systematic methods of destruction to resolve conflicts over identity. To provide the context for the "Final Solution," Bartov examines the changing relationships between Jews and non-Jews in France and Germany from the outbreak of World War I to the present. Rather than presenting a comprehensive history, or a narrative from a single perspective, Bartov views the past century through four interrelated prisms. He begins with an analysis of the glorification of war and violence, from its modern birth in the trenches of World War I to its horrifying culmination in the presentation of genocide by the SS as a glorious undertaking. He then examines the pacifist reaction in interwar France to show how it contributed to a climate of collaboration with dictatorship and mass murder. The book goes on to argue that much of the discourse on identity throughout the century has had to do with identifying and eliminating society's "elusive enemies" or "enemies from within." Bartov concludes with an investigation of modern apocalyptic visions, showing how they have both encouraged mass destructions and opened a way for the reconstruction of individual and collective identifies after a catastrophe. Written with verve, Mirrors of Destruction is rich in interpretations and theoretical tools and provides a new framework for understanding a central trait of modern history.
“A remarkable—and singularly chilling—glimpse of human behavior. . .This meticulously researched book...represents a major contribution to the literature of the Holocaust."—Newsweek 

Christopher R. Browning’s shocking account of how a unit of average middle-aged Germans became the cold-blooded murderers of tens of thousands of Jews—now with a new afterword and additional photographs.

Ordinary Men is the true story of Reserve Police Battalion 101 of the German Order Police, which was responsible for mass shootings as well as round-ups of Jewish people for deportation to Nazi death camps in Poland in 1942. Browning argues that most of the men of RPB 101 were not fanatical Nazis but, rather, ordinary middle-aged, working-class men who committed these atrocities out of a mixture of motives, including the group dynamics of conformity, deference to authority, role adaptation, and the altering of moral norms to justify their actions. Very quickly three groups emerged within the battalion: a core of eager killers, a plurality who carried out their duties reliably but without initiative, and a small minority who evaded participation in the acts of killing without diminishing the murderous efficiency of the battalion whatsoever.

While this book discusses a specific Reserve Unit during WWII, the general argument Browning makes is that most people succumb to the pressures of a group setting and commit actions they would never do of their own volition.  

Ordinary Men is a powerful, chilling, and important work with themes and arguments that continue to resonate today.  

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