Date: Fri, 17 May 1996 14:30:30 EST
From: "H-German Ed. Norm Goda" 
Reply to: H-NET List on German History 
To: Multiple recipients of list H-GERMAN 
Subject: Goldhagen Finale



                  Submitted by: Paul Lawrence Rose

One  of the main features of  Goldhagen's book is its insistence that
German  antisemitism is a peculiar  phenomenon and linked directly to
the  Holocaust.  My  own book "Revolutionary  Antisemitism in Germany
from  Kant  to Wagner"  (Princeton,   1990) argued  strongly  for the
existence  of  a  peculiar  German  antisemitism,  rooted  in  German
concepts  of freedom and  humanity (viz.  in the  desire for a "human
revolution").   Though Goldhagen cites this book  as the sole book in
English  on German antisemitism  with which he  concurs,  he does not
mention the Afterword which was attached to the new edition, retitled
"German Question/Jewish Question..." (Princeton, 1992).

The   Afterword  deals  with  the   Holocaust's  relation  to  German
antisemitism.    The  question  of  the   continuity  of  the  German
antisemitisms   of  the  19th  and  20th  centuries  is  rather  more
complicated   than  Goldhagen  would   allow.   There  are  certainly
connections  from Wagner  to the  Holocaust,  though  not perhaps the
obvious   ones  usually   alleged,   but   rather  hidden,   devious,
subterranean,  "deep" ones.  I mention this bcause I have lately been
accused  of Goldhagenism.  Though I did indeed anticipate his concept
of a German "eliminationist" approach to the Jewish Question (which I
termed  "destructionist")  and  though  I  also  approve  his  book's
redirection  of historical focus for understanding the Holocaust back
where it belongs, namely to German culture and mentality, I would not
agree with all of his arguments and would appreciate it if my current
critics  would take the time to look  at my Afterword on the subject,
or  indeed at  my subsequent book  on Wagner (just  reissued by Yale)
where it is taken further.

Paul Lawrence Rose
Penn State University



                    Submitted by: Michael T. Allen

            *****A Very Qualified Defense of Goldhagen*****

It  may  indeed be  true  that Daniel  Goldhagen's  _Hitler's Willing
Executioners_  will go the  way of Arno Mayer's  _Why Did the Heavens
Not  Darken?_ as  Yehuda Bauer  warns,  but  I would  like to  post a
qualified  defense  of Goldhagen.   In the  paragraphs below  I argue
that  we  should  take  the  following  aspects  of  Goldhagen's work
seriously:   1) his emphasis on  the moral engagement and ideological
motivation of perpetrators and 2) his methodical and graphic analysis
of cruelty.

Even  if  Goldhagen's  main  thrust  is  preposterous,   his  use  of
historical   scholarship  contemptuous,   and   his  media  promotion
obnoxious,   nevertheless  I  think _Willing  Executioners_  has some
useful  aspects.  In light of the  tendentious way in which Goldhagen
uses  secondary literature,  his  specious methodological approach to
primary sources,  and his repeated lectures delivered in footnotes to
we  woefully  misguided and  perniciously obfuscating  historians,  I
personally find it hard not to respond in kind.  In spite of this,  I
question  both  the  intellectual merit  and  effectiveness  of,  for
instance,   telling Goldhagen in front of  a public audience that his
Harvard advisors should not have granted him a PhD,  of claiming that
he wrote _Willing Executioners_ only to garner fame, etc. Furthermore,
some  of the questions and methods  that Goldhagen deploys are worthy
of  serious consideration.

For  one,  I believe there  can be little doubt  that scholars of the
genocide   have   neglected  ideological   motivations   in  National
Socialist society.  Few would want to return,  as Goldhagen does,  to
pin   the   sole   motivation   for   genocide   on   a  monomaniacal
"eliminationist," "demonological," and "hallucinatory" anti-Semitism.
Yet  what does  existing scholarship offer  as riposte?  "Polycratic"
interpretations  of  National  Socialist  institutions  have  largely
reduced  complex issues  of human  agency in  modern organizations to
petty  infighting and Machterweiterungen to  be accounted for by game
theory.   The many flaws  of Hannah Arendt's  _Eichmann in Jerusalem_
have long been exposed, but the image of banal actors devoid of moral
conscience lingers. Perhaps no other scholarly movement has done more
to  point to the mass complicity/passive acceptance of German society
in Nazi crimes than Alltagsgeschichte.

Ian  Kershaw's  _Popular Opinion  &  Political Dissent  in  the Third
Reich_  is  likely the  most  widely used  text  in this  genre.  His
contrast  between Bavarian complaisance toward  the transport of Jews
as  opposed to their  strident opposition to  euthanasia deftly shows
that  people's belief in what was right  and wrong set limits on Nazi
programs.   Nazi  activists enjoyed  success  only when  they pursued
goals  that the vast majority of the  public had,  at a very minimum,
_nothing_  against  ideologically.  "Their  latent  anti-Semitism and
apathy  sufficed to allow the  increasingly criminal 'dynamic' hatred
of  the  Nazi regime  the autonomy  it  needed to  set in  motion the
holocaust" (372). Yet my 20th century German students at Case Western
Reserve  University  in Cleveland  invariably responded  to Kershaw's
emphasis  on material interest among  "ordinary Germans," the ebb and
flow  of their disgruntledness,  and their overwhelming indifference.
The  most profound conclusions of  Alltagsgeschichte seem to be those
that  _are  not  there_.   Having  set  out  to  investigate  popular
resistance and opposition,  it has found almost none.  Its assertions
about  what was there  seem more tenuous.   Ideological motivation is
never  denied  by Kershaw,   but he  downplays its  importance:  "The
evidence  we consider suggests strongly  that the material conditions
directly affecting everyday lives of the population provided the most
continuous,  and  usually  the  most  dominant,  influence  upon  the
formation of political opinion." (373)

When  I was in  Berlin in 1993,  Peter  Fritzsche commented upon this
trend   in  Alltagsgeschichte   with  a   paper  at   the  Technische
Universtaet titled "Where did All the Nazis Go?" The audience did not
respond  with favor.   I had  my students  read an  article by Robert
Gellately  in order  to contrast  his emphasis  on participation with
Kershaw's  focus  on  dissent..  _The  Gestapo  and  German  Society:
Enforcing Racial Policy 1933-45_ has unified an institutional history
of  the Gestapo,  popular  participation,  and social  history in one
study.   Yet  here again,   the  book seldom  offers  judgments about
ideological  motivation.  In various articles Gellately warns against
searching  for a  "manageable set  of motives"  that may  have driven
perpetrators  to  cooperate  in  and  prosecute  Nazi  policies  ("'A
Monstrous  Uneasiness':  Citizen Participation and Persecution of the
Jews  in Nazi Germany," in _Lessons and Legacies:  The Meaning of the
Holocaust  in  a  Changing World_).   There  need not  be  merely ONE
Sonderweg  but any number of Wege. Yet, in the end, Gellately opts to
stress the banality and petty interest of perpetrators instead of any
shifting  plexus of values  that may have  mobilized their collective
action  ("Gestapo und Terror.   Perspektiven auf die Sozialgeschichte
des nationalsozialistischen Herrschaftssystems," in _"Sicherheit" und
"Wohlfahrt"  Polizei,  Gesellschaft  und Herrschaft  im 19.   und 20.

Little  over  a  year  ago  a  Goldhagen-like,  Holocaust  media  hit
appeared  in Germany,   Wolfgang Sofsky's _Die  Ordnung des Terrors_.
Like the American Political Science Association did for Goldhagen,  a
professional  society  in the  social  sciences awarded  this  book a
prize.   Yet Sofsky's conclusions are diametrically opposite to those
of  _Willing  Executioners_  Sofsky  goes  even  further  than either
Kershaw  and  Gellately  and warns  that  any  historical conclusions
whatsoever  about ideological motivation are delusions.  _Ordnung des
Terrors_  argues that the concentration camp,  as a structure for the
realization  of absolute power,  "gruendet auf sich selbst" (p,  33),
that  is without intellectual basis or human initiative.  In only one
of  many contradictions,   he cites  Theodor Eicke  to illustrate the
importance  of consensus in the  concentration camps:  "Die Grundlage
unseres  inneren Zusammenhalts  ist die Kameradschaft,   wie sie sich
unter  Nationalsozialisten auf  Grund unserer  Weltanschauung zwangs-
lauefig ergeben muss" (342ff); yet Sofsky claims from the outset that
"Der Rekurs auf die Ideologie [i.e. despite all Eicke's assertions to
the contrary] ist eine hilflose Fehldeutung post festum, gespeist von
dem  Irrglauben,  dass es fuer alles eine intellektuelle Begruendung,
einen  historischen Sinn geben muesse"  (33).  Instead of ideological
motives,  Sofsky resorts to the stock image of banal actors motivated
by  petty gain and the pursuit  of power to explain their involvement
in  genocide:  "Keiner  der Kommandanten  hat das Konzentrationslager
primaer  als historische Mission  begriffen.  Sie waren Karrieristen,
Technokraten,   korrupte  Kriminelle,  beflissene  Befehlsempfaenger"
(32).  It seems to matter as little to Sofsky as it does to Goldhagen
that  plenty  of  historical  evidence  exists  which  disproves  his
overdrawn conclusions.

Therefore,  in qualified defense of Goldhagen,  I hope that we do not
dismiss  his  questions even  if  we discredit  his  answer.  Sofsky,
Kershaw  and Gellately  would seem  to point  toward consensus rather
than disagreement concerning the genocide. Goldhagen is right to seek
ideological  grounds among  the vast  majority in  German society who
either  willingly  participated in  or  raised no  objections against
inhumane  crimes.  Historians should take up the challenge and search
for  more credible insights into  consensus and motivation than those
Goldhagen  profers.

Methodologically  Goldhagen's work is also  of interest.  He analyzes
cruelty  as evidence of perpetrator's identification with their work.
He also concludes, based on his analysis, that quite ordinary Germans
generally amplified their cruelty even though they attempted to avoid
or  lessen their  complicity in other  aspects of  their duties.  His
graphic presentations of Nazi atrocities is,  to my mind,  novel.  Of
course,   gory details are nothing  new to Holocaust literature,  but
usually  authors deploy details  only in order  to evoke an emotional
response in their readers or in the hopes that suffering shall not be
forgotten.   A book from which Goldhagen  probably first took some of
his  photographic evidence, Ernst  Klee, et al.,  eds., _The Good Old
Days_,   uses graphic detail in  exactly this way.  Such conventional
gore  may augment our empathy with the victims but adds little to our
understanding  of  the perpetrators.   No  doubt many  of Goldhagen's
readers  are  acting like  the "ghoul  tourists"  who have  rushed to
Bosnia to witness its devastation after years of war;  they will seek
and  find the  emotional charge  of horror  in the  pages of _Willing
Executioners_.  But  Goldhagen  aims  at  a  legitimate  intellectual
point.  The brutality of the Holocaust was visceral and revolting. In
many cases,  it was also unordered and at times forbidden.  To engage
in  it day after day took some degree of will power when perpetrators
had  ample  opportunity  to desist.   That  perpetrators acclimatized
themselves  to  horror  in  order to  remain  perpetrators  is indeed
evidence  of  their  active--not  passive  or coerced--identification
with the tasks of genocide.

Contrary  to much current criticism,  this aspect of Goldhagen's work
is  based  on substantial  if  not impressive  primary  research into
post-war trial records deposited at Ludwigsburg. Some of his research
is  also original in the three  sections on forced labor,  the Police
Battalions, and death marches--including his use of photographs. Even
if  he has couched his criticism  of Christopher Browning (whose work
Goldhagen  caricatures) in such shrill terms  that we find it hard to
take  him seriously,  Goldhagen rightly criticizes _Ordinary Men_ for
_not_  using visual evidence in  the way _Willing Executioners_ does.

In   contrast  to   Goldhagen's  Police   Battalions  chapters,   his
presentation  of death marches and  forced labor treats subjects that
have  seldom appeared in  English and never,  to  my knowledge,  in a
text  accessible to a  wide audience.  Yehuda  Bauer suggested at the
USHMM  that  Goldhagen's book  will go  the way  of Arno  Mayer's.  I
sincerely  hope that this will not  be the case.  Mayer's emphasis on
the  importance of the war for  the radicalization of the genocide is
still  quite topical and relevant,  if not for the reasons that Mayer
foresaw.   In addition,  Mayer's emphasis  on anti- Bolshevism in the
mobilization  of mass  support for policies  of murder  has been born
out:   Christopher Browning,   Christian Streit  (in the  case of the
Wehrmacht),   Avraham Barkai (in  the case of  business elites),  and
others  have shown  how easily Nazi  elites conflated anti-Bolshevism
and  anti-Semitism and thus built bridges to crucial communities that
might not have otherwise participated so eagerly in genocide.  I hope
that  historians will not take Goldhagen's most inane conclusions and
methods as his only conclusions and methods.

Michael Allen
Georgia Institute of Technology



                    Submitted by: Alastair Thompson

I  very much agree with Richard Levy's comments on Daniel Goldhagen's
distorted  and  frequently  ignorant  depiction  of  the  position of
German  Jews in the Kaiserreich.  Literature central to the subject -
like  Levy  on Anti-Semite  political parties,   David Peal  on rural
anti-Semitism,   Delores Augustine on the  Jewish business elite - is
passed  by  in  blissful  ignorance,   in  favour  of  a  tendentious
source-mining   of  anything   that  might  appear   to  support  his

In  addition to  the errors and  shortcomings justifiably highlighted
by  Levy  the following  Goldhagen  claims are  false  or misleading.

1.   'Professional  and economic  organizations  were institutionally
antisemitic'  (p.60) This  is true  of the  Agrarian League  (but not
necessarily  of  all  its 300,000  members)  and many,   but  not all
student  associations.  It  is  untrue  for  the  great  majority  of
commercial, industrial, and professional associations. Indeed Jews or
those  of Jewish  descent played an  important role  in the national,
regional  and  local  leadership  of  many  of  these  organisations.
Goldhagen  cites Shulamit Volkov's work on Master Artisans to support
his  assertions,  obviously  unaware  that  Volkov  has  subsequently
accepted  the arguments of David Blackbourn and Friedrich Langer that
most   German  artisans  did  not  share  and  follow  the  views  of
anti-Semitic  functionaries.  Goldhagen provides no credible evidence
for  his assertion  that popular  associational life  revolved around
'the Jewish question'.  Nor,  in passing,  is it plausible to suggest
that most Wilhelmine Germans had never met a Jew.

2.   It is by  no means 'incontestable  that racial anti-Semitism was
the salient form of antisemitism in Germany' (p. 74). Many Wilhelmine
Germans,   from Wilhelm II down,   viewed Jews primarily in religious
terms.   Similarly the statement 'racial  antisemitism was already de
rigueur  in Protestant circles.   And it had  made inroads even among
Catholics'  (p.   74) is  doubly  misleading.  It  greatly overstates
racial  anti-Semitism amongst German Protestants.  Similarly,  whilst
German  Protestants  accounted  for  most  anti-Semitic  writing  and
anti-Semitic party voting,  anti- Semitism as a popular sentiment was
probably  more widespread  amongst German  Catholics,  who  were more
rural  and had  fewer shared  cultural assumptions  with German Jews,
than German Protestants.

3.   Goldhagen appears  to lack even  a rudimentary  knowledge of the
geography of nineteenth century Germany ('across Germany from Prussia
to the Rhineland to Bavaria' p. 60). He certainly has no grasp of its
political  structures and culture.  It was not German popular opinion
which  determined the composition  of the Prussian  officer corps (p.
73),   but  the the  Prussian king  and military  elite.  As  well as
excluding  Jews they barred political opponents and favoured those of
noble  rather than bourgeois  background.  These discriminations were
repeatedly denounced by the majority in the Reichstag. Goldhagen also
misinterprets  debates in Wilhelmine Germany  about the 'Volk'.  In a
large  majority of cases this had nothing to do with race,  but was a
critique   of  authoritarian  aspects  of  Prussia-Germany  demanding
greater  public influence  and accountability,   and attacking Junker
privilege.   True,  obligations  were  also  placed  on  the  citizen
(Staatsbuerger),  but only a very small minority of commentators felt
German  Jews  were  in  any way  unable  to  meet  these obligations.
Goldhagen   grossly  overstates   the  popular   support  for  German
Conservatism  (pp.   75-76)  The share  of  the vote  for  the German
Conservative  Party continually declined since 1893,  sinking to 9.3%
in  1912,  barely a quarter of SPD  support,  and almost a third less
than the left liberals whom Goldhagen dismisses as a tiny ineffectual
minority.  Goldhagen's  conversion  of  the  National  Liberals  into
supporters  of 'eliminational anti-Semitism' by the 1890s (p.  59 and
p.  74) is equally preposterous. If this were so, why would the party
elect as leaders Ernst Bassermann and Gustav Stresemann, who both had
Jewish wives?

In summary, Goldhagen's chapters on anti-Semitism demonstrate little,
apart  from  his limitations  in  absorbing and  analysing historical
evidence.   Just as the sections on the Holocaust itself are far less
original  than they pretend,   the material in part  one does not add
anything  to what is already generally  known and accepted:  that the
elements  of  Nazi ideology,   including racial  anti-semitism,  were
already  being  voiced,  but  that  they attracted  relatively little
popular credibility and resonance in Wilhelmine Germany.

As  far  as  general reactions  to  Goldhagen's book  in  Britain are
concerned  the  booksellers I  know seem  pleased that  the publicity
efforts  of the  author and his  publisher have  have increased their
turn-over.  However, public debate seems  relatively muted, with much
media  coverage largely reporting comments  from America and Germany.
As  elsewhere,  those with  a specialist knowledge  of German history
have  been  overwhelmingly critical,   and Goldhagen  was justifiably
described  on the BBC as offering an unconvincing 'new simpliticism'.
The  German Historical Institute in London  is organising a debate on
the  Holocaust on 21st May 1996  at 5pm,  with speakers including Ian
Kershaw,   Lothar Kettenacker,   Arnold Paucker  and Reinhard Ruerup.

Alastair Thompson




                        Submitted by: Roland Wagner

David Lindenfeld commented:

     >>....I   do  not   mean  to   endorse  Goldhagen's  overly
     simplistic reading of German history and political culture.
     But  I do believe he poses some important *questions* about
     the  Holocaust  and the  prevalent explanations  of it.....
     Goldhagen   questions  the  adequacy  of  the  conventional
     explanations  as  to  why  large  numbers  of  perpetrators
     participated  in genocide (pp.379-85).  The explanations of
     peer  pressure  and the  tendency  to obey  authority  a la
     Milgram,  on which Browning heavily relies, are too general
     to fit the specific and extreme case of the Holocaust. They
     may  explain the  motives of  ordinary men,   but not their
     extraordinary  deeds...  Goldhagen rightly points us in the
     direction  of  what  he calls  "cognition  and values....<<

Some comments on the points raised by David Lindenfeld:

Christopher Browning identified several factors that were relevant to
explaining  the  behavior of  the  Ordnungspolizei --  such  as their
demographic   background  (limited  education,   marginal  employment
status),   the possibility that they were  selected by the SS because
they  may have been more malleable and vulnerable to authority,  peer
pressure,   the social bond that  forms between soldiers in stressful
situations,   the feeling  that requesting transfer  to less horrible
duties  would  have been  tantamount to  moral condemnation  of one's
fellows,   the need  to display  "strength," the  fear of  the public
brow-beating  and harrassment that they  would have been subjected to
if they requested transfer,  the fear of the overt threats by some of
the  commanding  officers,  desensitization  to  the  horror  through
repetition, and so on.

Why, precisely, are these factors too general to explain the behavior
of  the Ordnungspolizei? And further, why, precisely, would an appeal
to  cognition and values offer any more *specific* an explanation?  I
often  wonder,   when I  hear  people ponder  how  "inexplicable" the
Holocaust  was,   exactly what  type of  explanation they  are really
searching  for.  I also  wonder if there will  be such puzzlement for
decades  about the  factors underlying  the genocides  in Rwanda,  or
Bosnia,   or  about  the genocidal  policies  enacted  against ethnic
minorities in the Soviet Union.

A  phenomenon  as complex  as the  Holocaust requires  a multi-causal
approach,   as Omer Bartov so admirably  pointed out in his review of
Goldhagen in the April 29 issue of _The New Republic_.  A fundamental
weakness  of Goldhagen's  model is  that he  ignores the multi-causal
approach  to human behavior (which has become a virtual truism in the
social  sciences) in favor of a sweeping unicausal model,  fixated on
 national character.

No  one has  denied the  crucial importance  of anti-Semitism  in the
Holocaust.   The issue  is whether anti-Semitism  can legitimately be
inflated  into  some  hypothetical  missing-link  in  German national
character,  a  centuries-old  integrating  theme,  and  whether  this
cognitive  factor was a sufficient condition,   in and of itself,  to
explain the Holocaust.

-- Roland Wagner, San Jose State University