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 THERE ARE FOUR MESSAGES BELOW. A REMINDER: BARRING UNUSUAL CIRCUMSTANCES, THIS WILL BE THE LAST POSTING ON GOLDHAGEN TO THE LIST. FUTURE SUBMISSIONS WILL BE WELCOMED, BUT POSTED AT THE H-GERMAN WWW SITE -- ng 1. 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 ********************************************************************** ********************************************************************** 2. Submitted by: Michael T. Allen firstname.lastname@example.org *****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. Jahrhundert_). 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 email@example.com ********************************************************************** ********************************************************************** 3. 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 assertions. 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 (firstname.lastname@example.org) ********************************************************************** ********************************************************************** 4. 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